The One, The Only

One onlyDolce and Gabbana have the distinction of producing one of the most consistently popular perfumes of Gen X, namely, Light Blue.  Curiously, it is often not discussed on perfume fora. Why?  It’s hard to say, but D&G perfumes have never been considered particularly innovative or interesting, as opposed to those of, say, Prada, or even Donna Karan.

They are, however, popular mainstream perfumes and in wide distribution, so when I first smelled The One at Nordstrom’s, it put me in mind of a perfume from long ago that I knew well, namely, Jacques Fath’s Expression, which was in its day also mainstream.  There were of course some distinct differences as well. They were not twins, not even siblings, but they could have been cousins, once removed, let us say.

Expression, if you have never come across it, was a release from the mid 1970’s and one of my first perfumes. Less well known than other releases from Jacques Fath, like Fath de Fath or Green Water, both hits for the house, particularly the latter, Expression was the house oriental before Fath de Fath was re re-orchestrated. But the structure of The One as a floral oriental was distinctly familiar to my nose.  The One was like Expression, which was itself similar to Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit. Expression and Vol de Nuit were orientals, but take away a lily note or so from The One, and an oriental is what you would have.

Vol de Nuit is odd to begin with because of the paucity of florals in its arsenal.  Putatively a feminine, Vol has two, count ’em, two florals listed. Expression was similarly sparse in the bouquet department-  the sole floral I saw was ylang ylang. To be more precise the only notes I’ve ever found for Expression included mandarin orange and ylang-ylang, over a heart of patchouli, vetiver and coriander, and that in turn rotated slowly on a Sherman tank of an amber oakmoss base.*

To call Expression slow moving was to suggest a bit of unwarranted hurry up. It took all day to evaporate from your wrist.

The One borrowed the same basic idea of the woody oriental but made it floral by expanding the heart notes to include jasmine and lily of the valley to its otherwise Spartan choice of lily, and it also added a fruit note, plum, to the proceedings. The dry down is conventionally oriental once again, vetiver, musk, amber (a lot of amber) and vanilla.  The One does not take all day to evaporate.  It is a modern, parsimoniously dosed perfume, long on packaging, but short on longevity.  Still, what I could smell of the formula suggested a similar kind of pattern to my old friend Expression.  I wore the One around all day, re- applying periodically- and it retained the somber amber ending I recall from Expression, and although the experience was not parallel, still, it made me feel good that an old and handsome structure had re-appeared in perfumery.

But then somehow or other the best structures do re-appear, wait long enough and your old favorite will be back, just in another incarnation, you’ll still recognize it. You always do.

*All of this suggests that all three of these perfumes would wear perfectly well on males.

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6 thoughts on “The One, The Only

  1. I love your characterization of Expression’s chypre base as a “Sherman tank”– it is slow-moving, deliberate, and fascinating. When it’s coming directly at you, there’s the impulse to just freeze in your tracks and watch rather than run. I really love it– thanks for letting me experience it, from both the vial and from your own perspective.

    I have always loved the original D&G parfum, all carnations and hairspray– it will forever remind me of living in Montclair/Bloomfield in the mid-90s.

  2. What a nice place to live int he 90’s. Montclair is so pretty.

    And Expression is not the lightest perfume you ever met. I know. It is- however- instant Chutzpah!

  3. I am completely unfamiliar with all of the perfumes you mention in this post (except the uber-ubiquitous Light Blue, of course), but wanted to say that I too enjoyed the Sherman tank reference.

    • Now I know I’ve gotten ultra obscure, because you don’t know these two. The One is around- as it were. Not too bad for a modern perfume and of the D&G’s probably one of the best. Expression is a real blast from the past, and Meg writes about it in a recent post. I think I was the source of Meg’s contamination, so we know who to blame for all this!

  4. I have rejoined “the fold” of those passionate about Expression!!
    I rediscovered a long lost bottle while fossicking. A spray was all I needed to take me back to my halcyon days of passion, fun and youth!
    I will treasure my small vial ever hoping that it will be relaunched.

    • Expression is one of the handsomest scents I think. It was such a deep dark perfume but never murky. I do hope you enjoy your little vial, that was a lucky find!

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