Beyond Paradise (Estée Lauder)

When I think of floral perfumes, images of dowdy old ladies and the golden bygone days of yesteryear flood my imagination. There's no reason for this to happen really, as the older women I've encountered tend to wear powdery fruity florals by Liz Taylor. My grandmother is addicted to Violet Eyes, for example. And I've never really experienced the golden bygone days of yesteryear. I was born in 1981. The term "yesteryear" doesn't apply to me in any way.

I often find myself yearning for a good floral perfume, probably because they were popular years ago. They are not as popular today, and certainly aren't popular with the women I regularly encounter. Foody fragrances have overtaken the female market, and everything is loaded with sugar. The collective sweet tooth, with its abysmal brown sugars and cake batter vanillas, has overtaken our olfactory landscape and driven greenness into the sea, where it can no longer challenge anyone. 'Tis a pity.

Few have offered to update the lush floral arrangements of the '40s, '50s, '60s. Things like Or et Noir, Fleurissimo, Capricci. If you browse the history of perfume, you'll be surprised by how few florals there are. There are many floral chypres, and even more floral orientals, but not as many pure floral fragrances for either sex. This is why Beyond Paradise is a breath of fresh air in the world of contemporary perfumery - it allows the traditional floral fragrance to step into the twenty-first century's marketplace, and be alive. There aren't very many perfumes that can match its brilliance, or share sunlight with its garden of open buds. It's a true masterpiece.

Its opening is a bit strange, a heavy whiff of alcohol and sweetness, but this quickly becomes a moist floral arrangement, so tightly bound as to resemble just one magnificent flower. This supernova of pollen can be dissected into jasmine, honeysuckle, gardenia, and tuberose. Moistness tinges the entire scent, and makes it feel like I'm standing in a humid greenhouse, where blasts of cold water are being sent across every leaf and petal. Estée Lauder's perfumes share a "house note" that isn't particularly good - it's a kind of synthetic sweetness that comes across as "lipsticky," - but in Beyond Paradise this note works. It infuses the full-bodied flower bed with a necessary ripeness. As things dry down, the flowers grow ever more delicate, like bulbs awash in hot sunlight. All things considered, the experience is very pleasant, has definite progression, and doesn't smell the least bit "dowdy." It doesn't smell antiquated either, which is a plus, sometimes. I, for one, am impressed.

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