by MARC JACOBS
ingredients: plum, papyrus, amber
Decadence exemplifies the corner that mass-market fragrance has painted itself into. First, I have never seen a more complete disconnect between what a fragrance smells like and what allegedly went into it to justify the asking price: iris, saffron, plum, jasmine, rose, papyrus, vetiver, and liquid amber. It smells like someone was tasked with putting together a perfume using deodorants as raw materials.
That someone is Annie Buzantian, a perfumer rightly revered in the trade, who among her many achievements over the years lists Tea Rose (1971), Pleasures (1995), and Puredistance 1 (2008).
With this Marc Jacobs fragrance, the practice of front-loading top notes reaches a new, frenetic high. For the first couple of minutes, thanks to Buzantian’s marvelous skill, Decadence sputters brilliantly, like one of those firework fountains that you rest on the ground and which ejects balls of fire of different, vivid colors while making a hissing noise. Lychees, apple, mint, violets fly out at mad speed and each flares for a few seconds.
Then there is a sudden scene change, and for another five minutes, Decadence decides to impersonate a disheveled version of the original pre-reformulation Dolce Vita (Dior, 1995) brought back from the dead. Just as you are about to say, “Hey, that’s nice,” the furious combustion peters out. What happens next I can only describe as a man’s cheap, cloying aftershave of the sort that comes in a black bottle with red lettering, and Turbo in the name. An attempt is made to save what little is left by adding to the drydown (remember, this thing is so meteoric we’re now only 15 minutes into the smelling strip) a weird and rather beautiful note of violet leaf that smells like a rusting ship. By then, if you sprayed this thing on just before going out, your taxi has arrived, while your fragrance already smells like you’re on the way home, and your mascara is all over the place. Enjoy.