They’re very nice at the Estee Lauder counters. It’s not that other SAs aren’t nice, but in my experience, the SAs at EL are in a class of good natured-ness of their own. They are generous with samples, and happy to make up ones if you like. Call it their corporate culture. At Tom Ford they are arch and elegant by comparison, at Jo Malone they are experimentalists and hover, even though the parent company is Lauder. But at EL itself, no one gives me a hard time for wanting Sensuous Noir instead of White Linen.
Anyway, EL’s latest is Modern Muse which I smelled yesterday having been given a sample by those nice SAs, and having sniffed so much perfume, immediately found that it closely resembled something else I’d smelled before. But what was it? Not an Estee Lauder- that was my first surprising assessment.
The second was that for a feminine Modern Muse is very woody and rather dark and on the whole unisex, with something that smells like incense or an incense base in the dry down. There is a kind of rosy material in the beginning, and the other flowers are of the chemically reconstituted sort. Nothing here ever bloomed on a stem, everything bubbled from one end of a vat to another. This is retort perfumery at its most refined and finished. But if I didn’t know better, I would, in a blind smelling, have pegged this as a masculine scent, possibly as an Amouage. After two days of sniffing like a hound at my sample, I am pretty sure that it reminds me of Amouage Jubilation XXV, the masculine one; though not so expensive smelling as XXV.
Now Estee Lauder rolled up its lab coat sleeves, and bustled into the high end Middle Eastern Market a year or two ago with an Aoud fragrance called Wood Mystique, and seem to have created a sister fragrance, Amber Mystique as well. I haven’t come across either of these. They appear to be high-end ELs meant to compete in international markets, sold in square brown tinted bottles with blowups of the original swooping EL letters on the label. Perhaps Modern Muse is one of the formulas that did not quite make the cut for this those releases? I would not be surprised, because of Muse’s distinctly Amouage tonalities. I mean, I checked the sample twice to be sure I was smelling Estee, and I was, both times, so Modern Muse is a bit of an aberration for a Lauder.
One thing is certain about this perfume marinating under a little toreador hat stopper: it is quite duplicitous. The scent looks feminine but could easily have been a guy’s, it is bottled in typical clean lined EL packaging but the smell is very UAE , and finally, although you might think this was an understated fragrance of the usual flowery Lauder sort-nope. This stuff is strong, so strong that it was headache inducing for me.
Perhaps Sensuous, which seems to have been a hit, has turned the company in a different direction. Sensuous and Sensuous Noir (a barfly fragrance that I played around with for six months before heartlessly dumping) was along these same now I’m-a-girl, now I’m-a-guy lines, only Muse has cleaned up the drag act, which, in Sensuous Noir’s case, got a little blue.
Modern Muse is Modern, all right, and this Muse has a heel clicking decisiveness about her stride that suggests business, though maybe that business originated in Marrakesh, and not Milwaukee. And although like the rest of the Lauder, she’s nice, you get the feeling you should watch your inspirations. No Lady of Shalotts for this Muse, no sir. She’d cut a poet.