Well, I’m horribly neglectful of this blog, I fear. My only excuses are: A) I never promised to be a super-regular blogger and B) my other blog has been a ton of work lately, in some cases sucking up all my leisure time. OK, enough with excuses. On to a review.
You may remember back in February I reviewed the first perfume in the Tableau de Parfums line, Miriam, along with the accompanying Woman’s Picture film portrait of Miriam. In March, Brian Pera and Andy Tauer, the creators of Woman’s Picture and Tableau de Parfums, respectively, ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Brian’s film Only Child. For the Kickstarter, I pledged to receive three purse-sprays-worth of perfume: 7 mLs of Miriam, the second Tableau de Parfums portrait, Loretta, and a limited edition “snapshot” fragrance called Dark Passage. Today I’ll be reviewing Loretta, which will go up for sale as part of the regular Tableau de Parfums line in the Fall.
(The film portrait of Loretta was released last year as part of the Woman’s Picture feature, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a way to view the Loretta film portrait yet – although I believe I will be able at some point soon as part of my Kickstarter perks. What this means, though, is I can’t contextualize the Loretta perfume with the Loretta film as I did with Miriam.)
When I first read about the Loretta fragrance, I felt that I must try it. It’s a tuberose fragrance, and it’s an Andy Tauer. Either one of those characteristics is apt to make me want to try a fragrance, but the combination of both is undeniable. Tuberose, in all its heady glory, is one of my favorite notes in perfumery, and Andy Tauer just may be my favorite perfumer of all time. OF ALL TIME!
Let’s start by saying that Loretta was not quite what I expected. I knew that Loretta wasn’t going to be a bright, tropical tuberose. On the Only Child Kickstarter page, the notes of Loretta were given thusly:
Tauer describes Loretta as being on the rich, sensual and dark side. Notes are ripe dark fruit, a velvet rose, a spicy tuberose, a note of sparkling orange blossom, all nicely arranged on a queen sized bed of dark patchouli and woody notes with vetiver, ambergris, a touch of leather, and sweetened orris root.
Sounds like an oriental tuberose, right? Yes. Those curious to learn even more background on the fragrance should check out Andy going on the record about Loretta on Brian’s Evelyn Avenue blog (conceptual analysis of Loretta as it relates to the Loretta character) and his own Tauer Perfumes blog (much more about the specific chemicals and notes of the fragrance). At Brian’s blog, he says that “Loretta references the fragrances of the eighties.” OK. Oriental tuberose that references the 80s, with a dose of fruit? I think all perfumistas’ minds immediately rush to Dior’s Poison. I have only a passing familiarity with Poison, but I admire it and have wanted to get a mini for a while. Still… I don’t think I had really wrapped my head around the idea of really experiencing a big oriental tuberose from Andy Tauer. It was a bit shocking at first. But over the course of three wearings, my view of Loretta has already evolved greatly.
First wearing: first moments of Loretta are almost a little musty – just a pop of mothballs. Then. FRUIT and some flowers. Why wasn’t I expecting this? Big, abstract fruit. This fruit is like that of an abstract Picasso still life or maybe even a Klee still life (is there fruit there?? maybe not. doesn’t matter). It’s neon, neon purple – the plastic stickers that secure the Loretta sample are purple, and there’s a reason for that. I’m not sure I can recognize any individual fruit notes. It’s seriously hallucinogenic fruit. After it settles down, I still smell the fruit, and a mix of florals… tuberose… and then the woody drydown.
Second wearing: Between the first and second wearing of Loretta, I got a cold and I didn’t wear any perfume for a few days. In the meantime, I saw two brief reviews or write-ups of Loretta. I know some people who write about perfume try not to read reviews of the perfume they’re reviewing before they write, feeling that they might let the views of others alter their views or feelings about the scent. I’ve never avoided reading about perfume, and will admit to being influenced by many of the reviews I read, but not in a way I find problematic. I feel reading others’ take on the scent often helps me refine my thinking and writing or helps me pick out a note that is there but maybe hiding below the surface. In this case, the review of Loretta by Tama at CaFleurebon at first didn’t connect with me at all. Wearing psychedelic purple fruit in the desert? I’m not sure. I agree with her that it’s NOT a tropical tubey. But I see it as a boudoir tubey, a tubey for a steamy harem and rough sex. Or maybe not quite those things, but the erotic orientalist fantasy of those things. (That’s part of the point right? That the character Loretta lives in a fantasy world?) Really, here, as I write, I think Tama’s on to something, maybe, but it’s not the actual desert, but the fantasy desert with a Byronic hero. I know I quoted some artworks above, and I probably did it horribly, but to use a genre of art that I actually know a bit about, Loretta is the passionate Byronic hero portrayed by my beloved Nureyev – perhaps with a backdrop of the desert, but also doomed, feral, and wet, dripping with passion and sensuality.
OK! So what was the second review I read? Well, I can’t really call it a review, because I’m sure she wouldn’t, and I’m also fairly sure she’ll try to write something polished about Loretta soon. But Mals (of Muse in Wooden Shoes fame) and I had a brief conversation in the comments on NST about Loretta. Let’s just say, Mals is a lot better at parsing notes than I am. Mals quickly listed a lot of notes that had escaped me on the first wearing. Patchouli. Camphor. Bubble gum. YES. The fruits are so overblown, they do resemble bubble-gum a bit. Not as overtly as in the bubble-gum tuberose Honoré des Prés Vamp à NY, a perfume which I still can’t make up my mind about – I found it delightful on the first wear and crass on the second – but the fruits do verge on a bubble-gum scent at time. And that hit of mothballs that I caught at first? BINGO! Now, on the second wear, I’m smelling an intense spicy patchouli that verges on camphor, that undergrids the whole composition from start to finish. At times it may be obscured by the fruit and flowers, but it’s there the whole way through.
Third wearing: My feelings after the third wearing are much the same as the second, only with more nuance. I can start to notice the rose a bit, interweaving with the tuberose – honestly, if I hadn’t gone into this knowing it was “a tuberose,” would I even have thought that it was a tuberose? And I begin to think of the fruit as sort of plummy or grapey… perfumery plum often seems to wear on my skin as grape. The drydown I begin to appreciate more and more. I’ve always loved Robin of NST’s coinage of the fragrance category of “wood pudding;” she originally devised the term, I believe, to describe the divine Givenchy Organza Indecence. Well, in the late stages, Loretta has a wood pudding aspect, for sure. It’s warm and round and sensual wood with some spice – not the kind of intimidating BDSM woods that have been popping up all over the niche market lately. Interestingly, the drydown may end up being my favorite part of Loretta, just as it is with Miriam. I’m still not picking up half the notes in the wonderful description of Loretta that Andy gave for Kickstarter, but I fear that’s par for the course with me.
Final verdict? Loretta is an intense perfume. It’s a wild ride. It’s really not of this world; I see it as a fantasy perfume. It’s not quite sexual, but maybe it harbors unrequited and misdirected passion. (Should I just link to Nureyev again? NUREYEV.) I think it would be easy to dismiss it on first wear as “OMG BUBBLEGUM FRUITY TUBEROSE,” if you’re a person who only gives one chance to a perfume sample (I know you’re out there). To me, it’s more than that. I do think the closest reference I have for it is Poison, but I don’t think even Poison has quite the wicked insanity that Loretta does. (I may be spending more time with Poison soon). I’ll be really curious to revisit Loretta in cooler weather (it’s been in the 90s-100s here in Texas as I’ve been testing this) or after I’ve seen the Loretta film, to see if my perception of Loretta changes. I don’t know yet, honestly, if Loretta is something I would add to my collection. I’ll certainly use up the purse spray, and maybe swoon a few times.