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Top 20 Project: J’adore by Dior

Top 20 project banner from TheScentsofSelfThe effervescent sniffer The Scents of Self has launched a project to review the top 20 bestselling women’s fragrances of the U.S. Naturally, the Unseen Censer wants a piece of that. I’m fascinated with what sells and why, and love to think about it relationship to perfume as much as anything else that circulates.

In addition, I like smelling perfume, and I’ve smelled a number of the things that are on the top 20 list.

I could try to give capsule reviews of what I’ve smelled (perhaps I will later), but I doubt the world needs another review of Prada Candy. I thought the project might be better served if I reviewed something I have in several forms and have never written about: J’adore.

I’m seldom sucked in by advertising for perfumes; in fact I seldom remember seeing it. But even I remember the commercials for J’adore in which Charlize Theron walks through a palace shedding jewels and clothes as she goes. Something about the golden glowing goddess Charlize persuaded me to try J’adore, and in fact I have it in several forms.

For the review, I put on one wrist the juice from a standard mini of J’adore L’eau, in the longnecked bottle; on another wrist, some “vintage” J’adore that I got in a gorgeous golden purse bottle; and some J’adore D’or in my elbow, the limited edition from last year. That was hard to ask the sales associate about. We did the whole comedy routine. “Do you have Dior J’adore D’or?” I asked, giving the name its French pronunciation. “Can you say that again?” she asked, genuinely puzzled. “I’m not sure I can,” I told her. (YOU try saying Dior J’adore D’or five times fast.)

ANYway. They are all extremely different. I would imagine what comes under “bestselling” is the tentpole fragrance itself, not including the flankers, but I’m not sure, so let’s sniff some J’adore D’or versions, shall we?

J’adore L’eau is very pretty. Its glow comes from – do not run away – calone, and the calone gives the light floral bouquet with its white musk background an aura of clean water that is certainly appealing. This is the farthest from what I now think of as “the smell of J’adore”, but it’s also unmistakably in the family. In this formulation I imagine it could be worn anywhere and any time by any woman, not just an undressing Charlize Theron. There is a very tiny touch of sugar to the drydown that gives it the barest bit of teen appeal. This J’adore is not terrifically grown up, but a woman who prides herself on not smelling like perfume can and will get away with this one. If you were the type of American woman who likes pretty, clean perfumes, I can totally see how this J’adore would appeal to you. That glorious long-necked bottle gestures toward opulent elegance, but the perfume itself is ironed cotton, not velvet.

J’adore D’or is the heaviest of the three, and it brings back something one smells in the older J’adore: aldehydes. Quite a lot of aldehydes, to my nose. J’adore D’or takes the mixed-floral bouquet of J’adore and mixes it with a Chanel No. 5 dose of aldehydes, but then thickens the bottom with some fairly jammy peach and some benzoin as well. On the whole it is thicker, warmer than J’adore, and far more opulent. Not an everyday scent for the faint of heart, J’adore D’or feels special occasion. This is a woman who has had her hair done and is planning to wear a gown that is going to show some shoulder. The richness of the blend brings to mind Champagne/Y by Yves Saint Laurent, but without its fruity bubbliness. The gold here is the gold of velvet.

So let’s contrast these with “vintage” J’adore. I’m not sure how “vintage” something can be when it was only launched in 1999, but there’s no doubt that my “vintage” eau de parfum is a far cry from the L’eau and from the D’or. We can see where the D’or formulation comes from when we smell the original J’adore. It has the glow of aldehydes, less slap-your-face strong than the D’or version, but definitely there, softened by a touch of the peach that has no jamminess to it at all, it is so light. This is the skin of a fresh peach, nothing concentrated or aged. The flowers, aldehydes, and peach blend far better into a concoction that is more unified than either of the other two.

As someone who has now smelled a lot of more vintage scents, I can see how this perfume would be one that would appeal more to the vintage perfume lover. J’adore in its original formulation smells like a beautiful perfume. It’s not a chypre, but to the modern nose it recalls the floral aldehydes of vintage Chanel No. 5 while being far more wearable. It must have come as a relief to a generation of women who wanted something as fancy and pretty as No. 5 but more for everyday. As an alternative to the 80s blockbusters like Poison or Giorgio, J’adore is far more classic, extremely feminine without exploding in ruffles, and nothing of a sillage monster at all. The glow here is of real gold, the kind that enhances the sheen of a woman’s skin but does not scream for attention.

This is all very educational, but having sniffed all these J’adores, I feel like I won’t have completed this review until I actually sniff what gets sold in the store these days as “regular” J’adore. Off to sniff some!

Day 2 of J’adore:

So, an interesting story: last night I visited THREE perfume shops and a Macy’s in my near neighborhood. NONE of them had J’adore. One of them (obviously poorly informed, if only because the shop had an awful lot of bottles of Mahora in it) told me J’adore had been discontinued. The other two speciality stores told me that it had been hard to get in since Christmas.

Extremely odd, because the mall less than 10 miles away had it both at the Nordstrom and at the Sephora right next door.

So I don’t know what’s happening with J’adore distribution, but I CAN say that it is still alive and kicking. It’s in no danger of losing its Top 20 sales place yet!

I went straight to the Dior counter at Nordstrom and sprayed some on, and it immediately smelled as I expected: that mixed-bouquet of flowers with aldehydes and peach in it.

OK, I thought; it’s lighter than the vintage J’adore, but I can see its relationship to the J’adore family. This is the J’adore smell, clearly enough.

As it wore on, though, it got distinctly less attractive. I didn’t much care for the benzoin in the J’adore D’or, but the vintage J’adore was extremely linear and pretty in an average way all the way through. The J’adore I got at the mall had something of that benzoin in it (is it required to be in all modern perfumes???) but then dried down to something that had far more laundry musk in it. It flirted on the edge of what one of the perfume boards refers to as “Tampax fresh accord”, and became in fact almost indistinguishable from the Love Sweet Love from Philosophy I was testing on the other wrist, but less citrusy. There’s a faint smell of J’adore to this laundry musk, but it is, in fact, something I would not want to wear – and that’s going some (did I mention I’m perfectly willing to test Love Sweet Love on the other arm?).

If I were a lover of original J’adore, I’d be extremely annoyed at this reformulation as well. It doesn’t just smell a lot more cheap, it smells a lot more boring and frankly a lot less attractive. In the far drydown, I’d go so far as to say it smells almost nasty. I do not want this on my skin.

Which is interesting, because obviously in its other formulations, I liked it well enough to keep acquiring it and trying it. In fact, the first three formulations I tested, I would wear (though I seldom do). That’s why they’re in my collection. This version I wouldn’t.

Now that I really “know” J’adore, I understand what it is: a cross between a classic aldehydic floral like Chanel No. 5, and YSL’s Champagne. It’s very pretty in its vintage form, and I love my gorgeous gold purse bottle; I can’t imagine I will ever need more. But I can easily see why it’s still a top seller. It’s feminine and pretty, it never raises its voice, it’s all-purpose, and it has about it the sheen of a past glamour. If the women who bought it could smell it next to what it used to be, I think they’d be pissed. As it is, though, it fills its place at the Sephora sales counter.

Read more about the Top 20 Project at Arielle’s perfume blog, The Scents of Self

Or read other Top 20 Project reviews:

The Muse in Wooden Shoes capsules 5 of the top 20, including J’adore

and No Disassemble Charlie No. 5 tackles Angel. (Which I sniffed often enough during my trips to stores for this review that, yes, I bought a rollerball. Feel free to snicker.)

Are there any perfumes on the 2011 top 20 selling list of feminine fragrances that you love?

Banner for Top 20 Perfumes project from The Scents of Self, used with permission; photo by me.

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