About a month ago, my friend Ann (who writes for the Perfume Posse) sent me an email saying she was going to send me a sample of Clive Christian C for Women in her next package. I wrote her back asking her please not to send it (even though I knew she thought it was pretty fabulous) telling her I really didn’t want to get hooked on another high-end luxury perfume house. And though I didn’t say this to her, my thought was, Those Clive Christian prices are obscene!—which is saying a lot for me, since (very privately) I harbor a love for a certain amount of obscenity (though I call it something else) and that extends to the occasional, obscenely-big perfume purchase. But Ann told me she was going to send it anyway (because I suspect she knows how twisted I am) and I spent the next week waiting for it to arrive and dithering over whether I should review it if I actually liked it—since I had a feeling I was going to like it (Ann really knows what I like)—and whether I ought to be promoting obscenity on the Internet.

And so it arrived, and…

My dear readers, you know how I usually try to spare you from anything graphic by slyly substituting a sexual double-entendre?

And how when I can’t do the double-entendre, I instead give you the lyrics to a relevant song?

(You know, one that dates back to early childhood and really has a hook, making it doubly memorable, such that when you hear the lines, “I want to tell you all a story ’bout a Harper Valley widowed wife!” you don’t have to scratch your head and rifle through the latest Billboard Top Twenty to know where I’m going.)

Well, I can’t do either of those things today—and even though as I type these words I am trying to find a way to make the song-thing work (since nothing pains me more than having to throw away a perfectly good analogy to a Jeanne C. Riley tune), there are certain facts I just can’t hide from you.

Actually, there are just two. The price, which some of you will find abhorrent, since on a per-milliliter basis, Clive Christian C for Women eau de parfum is more spendy than an Amouage or Armani Privé “limited edition” eau de parfum. It is a honking $375 for a 50-mililiter bottle (which is actually a whole lot less obscene than Clive Christian No. 1, but still!). And the second is simply that it is a Clive Christian perfume, and I know that at least half of you still haven’t forgiven Clive for buying Crown Perfumery for (what appeared to be) the sole purpose of appropriating the crown bottle for his own greedy and narcissistic means.

So here is where I am really wracking my brain for something titillating to say to distract you from these vulgarities (because sometimes the only way to fight obscenity is with obscenity … not to mention it’s a whole lot of fun), but I just can’t. I’ve sniffed Clive Christian C up and down and can only report that it is flat-out beautiful: it smells sophisticated and classy and gorgeously feminine. Whether or not it’s worth its ritzy price tag is, like most things, a matter of personal opinion. Certainly there’s a plethora of perfumes which fall into the same category that are a whole lot more affordable, and if I was giving advice to a newbie perfumista, I would try to steer them clear from buying a perfume like this when there are so many sublime treasures awaiting their discovery. Having said that, one of the first perfumes I bought as a newbie perfumista was Guerlain Jicky in the parfum concentration, and though my reasons for doing so were quite vain (I won’t go into them since I’ve already explored them here), that purchase accomplished what I wanted—to smell unique and to wear something expensive enough that not everyone else would be wearing it. And why, in heavens name, when we are talking perfume of all things, should we discount vanity as a reason not to buy something?

To my way of thinking, a perfume is worth its price tag if you fall madly in love with it and perceive that nothing else can take its place. If you’ve taken the time to honestly answer that question, then price only becomes an issue as in, Can I afford to buy it now—or do I need to put some things on hold while I save up for this little darling, mon petit choux?

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at this perfume. Clive Christian C for Women is a rich-smelling and unusual floral perfume that reminds me of Jean Patou 1000 (the two share a similar list of notes) except that C is like a less haughty, easier-to-wear version of that amazing perfume, and though quieter, has greater longevity than Patou 1000. When it first hits the skin it smells floral in a way you can’t describe, because there is no name for such a thing, but if you could assign one you’d say something like “passion-fruited anemone” to describe its stirring amalgamation of purple-tinged nectar (touched by both violet and a wine dreg note), exotic blooms (of which orange flower, ylang and jasmine are most identifiable) and the apricot-leather smell of osmanthus. It's the kind of surreal floral smell that does not make one think of sunlight but of shade, if indeed one thinks of light at all, as this enigmatic mix of violet-syrup, flowers and discreet leather smells expensively cosmetic, too, in the same way that Patou 1000 does, only sweeter and softer—mainly because it rides on a base that has a good bit of amber, creamy sandalwood and diffusive white musk. The musk has a way of making Clive Christian C play peek-a-boo: it starts out strong and then seems to fade out, only to come winking back at you ten minutes later, like a beautiful woman who wants to keep you guessing and knows just how to stage it such that she is always catching you off-guard.

If you’re wondering whether I’m tempted to buy a bottle of Clive Christian C, I sincerely was in the first couple days I wore it, but shortly thereafter decided that because of its resemblance to Patou 1000—and because I prefer the more intense and angular nature of the Jean Patou classic, which I already own—there is no need for me to lust after Clive Christian C.

But I can certainly understand how someone would, since it is every bit as distinctive as 1000 while being softer and arguably more polished. And come to think of it, if I was a Harper Valley widowed wife (not that I would want to be in that position, mind you) I think I would have to have a bottle. If you’re going to quiet your critics and march into a PTA meeting in your mini skirt, this is definitely the scent to do it in. :-)

Clive Christian C for Women: Obscenely Good

Clive Christian C for Women eau de parfum is composed of the following notes:

Top: bergamot, coriander, lie de vin (wine dregs), narcisse, geranium, mandarin, petitgrain, tagete (marigold)
Heart: tuberose, jasmine, rose, violet, osmanthus, ylang-ylang, orange flower, cistus
Base: amber, vetiver, vanilla, tonka bean, sandalwood, musk

It can be purchased from NeimanMarcus.com and Saks.com; 50 ml (1.7 oz) for $375.
My sample came from a fellow perfumista (thank you, Ann!).

Photo (top of page) of model Nadja Auermann by photographer Ellen von Unwerth is from 123movies.info.
Photo of Clive Christian C for Women bottle is from fragrantica.com.

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

April 15, 2012:

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