You can never accuse me of being a scent snob – but the same can’t be said for every ‘perfume critic’ out there. And when it comes to celebrity fragrances, the claws sometimes come out faster than you can say ‘eau de parfum’.
Yet the reality is: ‘celebrity’ scents – and they come in all guises, nowadays, as we’ll see – are created by some of the top perfumers out there. ‘Noses’ work across all sorts of fragrance categories – heck, sometimes even fabric conditioner! – and are generally only let loose on intriguing ‘niche’ brands once they’ve earned their spurs (and notched up sales) in the mass market. The more successful their fragrances are – and often, those blockbusters will have famous names attached – the more they’re allowed to hang out and be creative with the little guys.
What’s more, control freaks and accomplished image-managers that they are, there’s many a celebrity deeply engaged with the creative process, conscious that it’s their name splashed across the bottle - and they’ll be judged by the contents.
The woman who actually kickstarted the celeb scent trend was none other than Elizabeth Taylor, back in 1988, with White Diamonds – which has gone on to become a global blockbuster. Back in those days, celebrity fragrances were as rare as the hen’s egg diamond on La Taylor’s finger.
It’s true that nowadays, barely a red bus whizzes by that isn’t emblazoned with a scantily-clad starlet (or sub-starlet) cuddling her life-size ‘signature’ scent – but many really are worth sniffing out. And for me, these are the ‘stars’.
Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds, £45
As rich, opulent and over-the-top glamorous as the Hollywood legend was herself, bursting with white flower notes and showcased in – what else? – a (faux) diamond-encrusted flacon. It’s become an enduring legend, in the fragrance world – and I’m so not surprised: this is a classic floral, as blowsy as Liz herself.
Ari by Ariana Grande, £23
I readily admit I didn’t know Ariana from a bar of Palmolive till recently – but my teenage spies have filled me in and I find her really rather endearing. (Pop sensation, FYI.) I doubt you’d thrill your mother-in-law by giving her this for Christmas, but it’s a cute package with a pompom decoration (one of her signatures, we’re told): a playful fruity floral gourmand, with touches of (yes) marshmallow.
Madonna Truth or Dare, £9.95
This is now available so cheaply on the internet (£9.95, anyone?) that I can’t help thinking it’s sadly heading for the scrapheap. Madonna’s mother wore Fracas – the tuberose-and-gardenia iconic scent. So, unsurprisingly, the Material Girl’s debut fragrance evokes special memories in a loud, sexy, white floral femme fatale of a fragrance. If you’re a fan, my advice is to stockpile now.
Fantasy Britney Spears, from £25
Again, this is more for your daughter/niece than your ma – but it’s a masterful fruity-floral-gourmand creation (and an astonishing worldwide phenomenon), playfully blending ripe fruits, sensual woods, creamy musk and (yes) a ‘cupcake accord’. Slightly makes me hanker after being a teenager again, so I could get away with it.
James Bond Signature, £25
Is this a celebrity scent? Well, kinda. Originally launched in the run-up to Skyfall, this is how you want the spy who loves you to smell: sexy, smooth and refined. The aromatic fougère, gets its masculine strength from powerful vetiver and mossy notes. A new men’s classic and very, very good. There’ve been other 007s since then, but I still really like this.
Miller Harris L’Air de Rien, from £65
‘Air of nothing’ is the translation - and this understated floriental oozes laid-back-hippie-chic. Designed to conjure up ‘dusty libraries and old books’, with its soft wafts of orange blossom, earthy oakmoss, amber and vanilla, it was concocted with input from Jane Birkin and is the thinking woman’s celebrity scent, for sure.
Etat Libre d’Orange Like This, £70
This is a collaboration between the decidedly quirky Etat Libre d’Orange perfume house and the possibly even more quirky (and decidedly enigmatic) Tilda Swinton, but the result is elegant and beautiful. Citrus fruits give way to pumpkin flesh (yes, really), but it’s the soft, cosy blend of ginger, warm spices – and a teensy drizzle of maple syrup – which lingers.
Rosie for Autograph, £14
Perfume world insiders sat up and took note when it was revealed that the ‘nose’ behind this lingerie megastar’s debut scent (for M&S) was Ralf Schwieger, who also created the sublime Lipstick Rose for Frederic Malle. Rosie herself was deeply engaged in the creative process, travelling to the fragrant heartland of Grasse to explore the May rose harvest; these bloom at the heart of this so-pretty scent, which has a musky sensuality in its dry-down.
Bottom line? My feeling is that if you like a fragrance – any fragrance - it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. And if Britney Spears, Justin Bieber or Rihanna happen to float your fragrant boat, that’s frankly all that counts: I’m glad you’ve found a scent to love. And all that remains is to wish you a Happy Spritz-mas…