8/27/12

Country Chic (Bath & Body Works)



In 1999, Creed released its ill-fated supergreen chypre, Green Valley, to some critical acclaim, bringing to its logical apex the trend of fruity-green chypres that flooded the unisex fragrance world of the late nineties. Hundreds of similar feminines came before it, but only one masculine seemed to presage Olivier's masterful creation with any true prescience, and its name was Sport Field, by the maison athlète of Adidas. Isn't my French sublime?

I'm not suggesting Sport Field was the only precursor - Insensé was far more complex, and was released one year before Adidas' understated chypre. But Insensé was a startling essay on the masculine appeal of green floral notes, a failed cultural experiment about which one could write volumes, while Sport Field was an ultra-focused ginger-grass budget scent that somehow transcended its bargain basement pedigree by maintaining a hyper-realistic green profile without any embellishment. The framework for Green Valley was perfectly represented in Sport Field: bright, bitter, grassy accord on top, touched with a shimmer of ginger, and a sweetened berry-like fruit note, all of which dried down to an analog of warm hay. Simple, fresh, and snappy, it's a wonder Sport Field wasn't more widely used and appreciated, although Adidas has recently resurrected it, and it seems to be holding its own within their range.

While Green Valley perfected Sport Field's structure with violet leaf, oakmoss, blackcurrant, ambergris, and vanilla, it was almost too much of a good thing, and the market rebelled. When done well, the ubiquitous fresh-green cologne is almost impossible to variegate with any regularity. The theme must have become redundant and played out, because most of the bitter-grass experiments of the nineties were discontinued, Insensé included. But then the tacky mall-house of Bath & Body Works got creative, and released Country Chic. Presumably, this was another ditzy fruity-floral with no lineage, other than a legion of other ditzy fruity-florals. When I first smelled it, my eyes screwed up, my nose closed, my throat tightened, and I felt like I'd encountered a Vietnam-era chemical weapon, cleverly disguised as perfume. The sting of alcohol and aldehydes was pretty Kilgorian.

Then, something wonderful happened. My nasal cells pulled everything together, and presented me with a crystalline, feminine version of that archetypal bitter ginger-grass chypre of yesteryear. Bits and pieces of the nineties emerged, but streamlined for current tastes, with a brilliant fruit accord. Hints of berry, crab apple, and pear, welded and bundled together with floral notes like reams of spare piano wire, all hit the mark perfectly, and I couldn't help but grin. Its ingredients are admittedly cheap, and Country Chic lacks the focus of Sport Field, and the refinement of Green Valley, but its overdosed aldehydic opening and tenuously well-centered green heart stakes its territory in the grimly-underpopulated category of modern chypres. There are times when I smell Country Chic and think, "this is cheap and dull." Yet my nose always coerces me to give it a second chance, and on the exhale, Chic is beautiful, and reminds me of how brilliant even the most budget-bound fresh chypre can be. This fragrance is quite an achievement, and well worth seeking out.














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