Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lidl Suddenly Woman 1 review: the fifth women's scent from the discount chain is no No 5

For some years now I have been a big champion of the own brand range of perfumes from European discount chain, Lidl. I have followed the releases with interest, from Suddenly d'Or and Suddenly Fleurs through Suddenly Madame Glamour to Suddenly Diamonds - respectively very creditable dupes of Ghost Luminous, Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle and BOSS Orange. Not forgetting the men's scent, G Bellini X-Bolt, which is a fine imitation of Hugo BOSS Bottled.

In my Suddenly Diamonds post I expressed disappointment that Lidl had gone from copying the iconic Coco Mademoiselle to a fairly middle of the road BOSS perfume, instead of going for 'the big one', ie Chanel No 5. Along with the likes of Guerlain Mitsouko and Shalimar, No 5 is regarded as one of the leviathans of the perfume scene. And thanks to a tip off from an anonymous reader I learnt that the store had now taken on Goliath(!) and brought out Suddenly Woman 1, an apparent knock off of Chanel No 5... Well, it seems I had missed Suddenly Woman 1 in stores first time round, for it had already been and gone by the time I caught up with the news. However, the same reader kindly alerted me to the relaunch on 27th November, carefully scheduled to catch the run up to Christmas.

So I hotfooted it down to my local store the other day, where there is currently an offer on of two for £7 as opposed to the usual price of £3.99 each for 50ml. And assuming I would be as impressed as I have been up to now with the other scents in the Lidl stable, I bagged a couple of bottles, thinking I might give the other one away to a friend who loves Chanel No 5, and fancies something inexpensive she can splash around during the day.

It took me a few minutes to find the product, mind, as Lidl seems to have a habit of initially showcasing its perfume releases in a prominent spot nowhere near the toiletries aisle. I was about to beard an assistant about why they weren't stocking Woman 1 though it was comfortably after 27th November when I stumbled upon a display right next to some condiments and cruets. But of course!



Before getting into the scent itself, a word about the packaging. Like No 5, the box is monochrome and pretty classy-looking - with added silver edging. The bottle is the best yet - a pleasing rectangular yet elliptical shape, with a thick glass base and chunky black top. I could believe the packaging is worth £3.50 on its own, and to think it might not be makes you realise how big a profit margin is built into some high end scents.

But as for how Suddenly Woman 1 smells, that is where it all begins to unravel. I first tested it blind against actual Chanel No 5 edp on a friend in the next street whose cat I feed. She is a completely 'normal' member of the public (ie not a raging perfumista like me and many Bonkers readers). My friend owns a few bottles (eg Shalimar, Gucci Envy) but isn't nuts about scent as such. Anyway, she immediately spotted which was No 5 and which the imitation. She described the Lidl scent as flat and monotone, like a 'single malt' (but not in a good way ie with the emphasis on 'single', or one-trick-ponyness!). The No 5 she said was multi-layered and fresher.

From my own subsequent trials I would add to that that No 5 was more floral, and more cleanly soapy - in a luxury milled soap sense - whereas Suddenly Woman 1 was sort of 'musty'. The aldehydes seemed rougher - less finely milled if you will! - and the base (to which the scent immediately defaulted) reminded me slightly of an Estee Lauder scent you don't see around much for very good reasons - Spellbound. I remember that one as a dark, spicy, sticky number, which Luca Turin dubbed 'medicinal treacle'. The base of Suddenly Woman 1 is nowhere near that bad, but it has an odd borderline 'off' character. I'd liken it to those 70s orientals (Lentheric Mystique is one that springs to mind) that have a challenging bottom end if you know what I mean - and which if you do come across them now, might not be in perfect nick either.

Source: fragrancedirect.co.uk

After an hour, Suddenly Woman 1 does mellow considerably, but there is simply not much going on on my skin by now other than a vague prickle of aldehydes and a faint murky undertow. No 5 meanwhile continues on its soapy way, less fizzy now, with more pure soap at this juncture. Suddenly Woman 1 was a bit brighter on my friend, so it is quite possible that YMMV.

That all said, Suddenly Woman 1 is arguably a perfectly good take on a retro style of perfume that just isn't to my taste. I would love people to try it to see what you DO think it smells like, especially during the crucial first hour. Something vintage, a bit spicy - maybe with moss?, musk? I really ain't sure - I am so bad at deconstructing scents that we need keener noses on the case. And when you think how complex the formulation of No 5 is said to be - for it is reputed to contain no fewer than 250 ingredients, of pretty high quality one may infer - it was always going to be a big ask to come up with a decent dupe in nice packaging for £3.99...

Source: fragrantica.com

One and a half hours in and Suddenly Woman 1 has lost all its bite and darkness and is just a gentle hum on my skin - nothing remotely objectionable about it now, but nor could I tell you what it smelt of at this point. It's soft, with this puzzling vintage vibe. I am not 'high fiv-ing' it, that's for sure. Or 'high No 5-ing' it, even. I do like my perfumes to smell actively pleasant long before this point. ;)

I tried to find some other views on Suddenly Woman 1 and at the time of writing I only came up with was this thread on Mumsnet - note that all the comments are favourable except one. That person got a terrible migraine from Woman 1 and thought it smelt ghastly. So I guess my experience of the opening is more aligned with hers. And as I say, if you are prepared to sit out the first hour or so, it is much more congenial, and as both the No 5 and the Lidl scent are more indistinct at this point, there is a greater resemblance from this point on, though I wouldn't overplay it.

Definitely something you have to try for yourself and make your own mind up, so for the sake of four quid, please don't be put off by my review, but buy a bottle if you can and come back and tell us how you got on.

I say, you don't suppose it could be a copy of Mitsouko, by any chance? Nah, surely not....;)

UPDATE!

Last night I was round at my mate Clare's, helping her retrospectively cost dog cakes, since you ask. She happens to own a used bottle of No 5 - a bit longer in the tooth than the sample I had been using as a control, but still very nice. I got her and her husband Tony to comment on how the Lidl scent smelt vs both the No 5s (on my wrists), and the findings were interesting: Tony thought the two scents were somewhat similar, but that Suddenly Woman 1 was 'sharper', as in spiky, and also a bit 'old lady'. Clare preferred the Lidl perfume, and promptly gave me her old bottle of No 5(!), partly as a reward for my financial services, but also because she rarely feels a yen to wear it these days.

I must also say that I was surprised to find that neither version of actual No 5 is anything like as fizzily aldehydic as I remembered (I owned it myself in the 80s). I really do think Suddenly Woman 1 will appeal too fans of vintage scents from the 70s - or earlier? And of course it may behave quite differently on other people's skin.


44 comments:

  1. I applaude your commitment to investigate the Lidl fragrances- I'm pretty sure I just couldn't be asked. I mean I need to wear a lot of fragrance to make sure I use up my collection in my life-time, so why let skin space go to waste ;-)
    And out of curiousity; do you ever wear your other Lidls?

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    1. Hi Asali,

      You are quite right that the last thing I need in my life is more perfume, but at the price - as with F & B tester pots - there is that thrill of the first sniff / colour swatching. Will it / won't it smell like the scent it is supposed to smell like / look right on my wall? That lucky dip sensation is worth £3.99 (the price of both, as it happens) of anyone's money! ;)

      And no, I don't wear the other ones, for the reasons you describe! Actually, I never bought Suddenly Diamonds in the end...

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  2. We do a big Lidl every two weeks, but so far I have resisted the allure of their perfume. I know it's the price of a high end niche sample, but effetively a 2.5ml vial of something nice holds more excitement than a 50 ml of something I will probably never wear. I'll stick to Lidl's Lebkuchen, Stollen and other christmassy delights.

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    1. Hi Sabine,

      Haha - Lidl is very good at those kind of Christmas goodies. And their Deluxe range of generally gourmet stuff is second to none. I will bring you a sample to try when I see you - after the first hour the scent it becomes might well appeal to fans of vintage chypres and orientals. (Can't make up my mind which this is.)

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    2. Just back from a massive Lidl shop. They had testers in store and I sprayed it on my coat sleeve. Not too bad at the very beginning, but after half an hour I wanted to scrub it off.. It's turning into something quite unpleasant now. It wants to smell 'perfumy' if that makes sense.

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    3. Oh, I say, great to get your feedback. Your 'perfumey' might be Tony's 'old lady'. There's this darker, muddy aspect that I can't describe or put my finger on, but which may be what puts some people off vintage scents?

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  3. V, I meant to tip you off about this but it totally slipped my mind. Should have known you'd be all over it in any case. From the fuss in the papers I would expect it to have more of a resemblence but Chanel do generally put the good stuff into No.5 I would say.

    Normally though you'd expect the base to be the real test, rather than the first hour.

    I thought it was telling your civilian neighbour clocked the difference straight away.

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    1. I laughed at "civilian neighbor" :)

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    2. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for thinking of me! If the base is the real test, and you are probably right there, then after a while it is quite pleasant if a little too quiet, even by my standards! But it lacks that clean soapy quality of No 5 altogether, to my nose.

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    3. Hi Undina,

      I loved that line in T's comment too! ;)

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  4. Jennifer Croissant3 December 2014 at 21:57

    Vanessa, do you really think Chanel No 5 is worth 95 nicker for 100ml ?, be honest ! ! !.

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    1. Hi Jennifer (or whoever you are ;) ),

      I don't believe I said that?

      As for what a perfume is 'worth', this is an extremely subjective matter. I have bought scents costing more than that for half the quantity, and felt quite happy with my purchase because I loved it that much. There is a large profit margin in most perfumes on the market, but actually your average bottle in Boots - thinking of fine fragrances here - costs about £50 for 50ml, so it is very much in the ballpark. Indeed, in terms of the quality of the materials used, Chanel No 5 is probably superior to some of the usual suspects.

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  5. Perfume Shrine reminded me of this brand (and your experiments) just a couple of days ago - not sure if you've seen it (http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2014/11/bullshiting-bullshiter-chanel-damage.html).

    Chanel No 5 still doesn't work for me so it's out of question spending any skin RE on testing this one but I love the story itself.

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    1. Hi Undina,

      Thanks! I had not clocked that article, though I had seen the Daily Mail piece. I will go back and read it properly.

      The story of the creation of No 5 you mean? A happy accident in the lab all right, given its subsequent success. ;)

      I must say that I used to find it too aldehydic, but both the sample vial a friend gave me and Clare's old bottle I have inherited now are not very fizzy at all by comparison. The Lidl one is, mind.

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    2. I meant your story of finding the perfume and running the tests. I love your stories - perfume-related and not (or even bad-perfumes-related).

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    3. Oh right, and thanks a lot! As I said in another comment, with these Lidl scents it is very much about the four quid 'thrill' of finding out if it is a credible copy of whatever.

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  6. I think both the original Suddenly and the new Woman 1 are fantastic. If you can afford the Chanel fragrances, then I am sure you will disagree. I, however, cannot and when I have worn both fragrances, people have asked if I have been wearing Chance (yes I know the original Suddenly is supposed to be Madamoiselle, but it obviously reminded someone more of Chance) and asked if I was wearing No5 with the more recent addition. I can only say that to others these perfumes, on me, obviously do smell like Chanel. For that, me, and my bank manager, are eternally grateful!

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    1. Hi Unknown,

      I am delighted the latest addition to the Suddenly stable works for you and that you have received compliments about it.

      I am a big champion of the other four Suddenly scents that have preceded Woman 1, and my reasons for not finding it similar to Chanel No 5 are wholly to do with how it plays on my skin, not about the fact that I can afford No 5, (which I can't really either).

      This being the first time the Lidl range has not got a thumbs up from me, I was keen to get other people's views, given that 'your mileage may vary', as it clearly does in your case.

      I can imagine both scents smelling more alike after a while, but they were sharply divergent on my skin for the first hour or more.

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    2. PS LOL at it being a great result for you and your bank manager. ;)

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  7. I think I am with Sabine in the way of looking at this. I would rather have a good sample of something I really want to wear, than a big bottle of something I would not wear regularly. The only exception would be the cheapest colognes for use in summer (a burst of citrus or tea for a little while, then the possibility to apply something more interesting later, no risk of a real scrubber).

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    1. Hi Ingeborg,

      I do understand where you and Sabine are coming from, also you complementary cheap summer cologne strategy!

      See my latest comment to Undina above about my own motivation in continuing to pursue this line. ;)

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  8. "Cost dog cakes"? Please translate!

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    1. Hi nbh,

      My friend Clare has a start up business, making cakes and treats for dogs. It is called Cakes for Dogs, no less. So far she only has a Facebook page.

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cakes-for-Dogs/286286358162479?ref=br_tf

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  9. I freaking love your blog.

    Sorry, that wasn't nearly as classy as anything you've ever said here.

    Anyway, I'm disappointed that these discount fragrances aren't available (to my knowledge) in the US. It's so nice that you've covered a range of products that some may be tempted to overlook due to the price.

    I will confess to having a fondness for Spellbound. I remember similarly syrupy, berry fragrances--yes, and on thinking about it with a hint of "medicinal" note as well--being popular when I was a pre-teen. So, for me it carries a bit of nostalgia and evokes the big impression that elegant, beautiful grown-up ladies would have made on me at that time. Something akin to adoration. I can even picture what said grown-up ladies would have been wearing: a crisp, dressy, button-down white blouse with a high-waisted, black satin pencil skirt and heels. Perfect curls and dangly earrings would have been involved as well. Ah, how I miss 1988!

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    1. Hi Nora,

      Lovely to hear from you, and please don't apologise for your language. Only this week on Facebook I referred to a particularly cruel mirror in T K Maxx as 'freaking subcutaneous' in its zealous showcasing of bodily flaws.

      I don't believe Lidl has made the hop across the pond, although it is making massive inroads into the UK grocery market and is well established in mainland Europe, so who knows where it will all end...?

      I am pleased to find someone who is familiar with Spellbound, and your description captures it to a 't'. My recall - from a tester in an airport a few years back - is a little fuzzy, but I got a syrup and cough medicine vibe for sure. I also enjoyed your nostalgic evocation of 1988. I was nearly 30 at the time, but not very grown up or in tune with the fashion or the perfume scene. I remember wearing terribly unflattering colours together like royal purple and jade. I even owned pairs of white and purple shoes! In my defence, such clothes must have been available for purchase in shops at the time.

      And as I tried to explain in the post, it is more that vintage-y, 'have the top notes of this perfume gone off?' kind of feel in its loosest sense that I was trying to convey - Woman 1 doesn't smell like a clone of Spellbound or anything.

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  10. Not everyone is rich, to buy perfumes from rich people, and to make them richer, the opinions here are pathetic, Woman 1, is a quite nice perfume (I do not work at Lidls or own any shares), remains on my clothes for not hours but days.... comments here are from people that think that expensive everything are better than low prices products, people that think that famous names as Gucci, D&G, Hugo Boss, etc are like gods... people that pays for a pair of sunglasses £1000 even if a £10 sunglasses do the same, pathetic people living in a pathetic world... geting rich people richer...

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Speaking for myself, I am a big champion of the Lidl perfume range and have been featuring them on this blog since 2009, in the hope that it will raise awareness of these cost-effective alternatives to the more expensive designer scents. I treat each perfume I come across *anywhere* on its own merits, whether it cost £10 or £100, and I thought Suddenly Madame Glamour and Diamonds were excellent.

      This latest one is not so nice on my skin, or as like the scent it is meant to be imho, but everything is subjective. I am just telling it as I see it.

      The comments on my post are mixed, I would say, and I doubt whether any of these readers are in fact the slaves to designer brand accessories - including perfumes - that you imagine.

      I will continue to try the Lidl scents as they are released, and if I like them, I will recommend them, but if I don't think they are as good a copy as their forerunners, I will call them out. I am happy you liked Suddenly Woman 1, as it will save you a bob or two! I am meanwhile reverting to small amounts of No 5 - a hand me down nearly used bottle and a roller ball sample off eBay - but that is just how it worked out this time.

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  11. the most incredible fact is, in my opinion, that it smells as an high-cost, high-quality scent despite his ridiculously low price.

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    1. Hi Andre,

      I am glad this one worked for you!

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    2. I agree with you. Also if you need discount on perfume visit shopchakra.com. You can get attractive deals on perfume, cosmetic products, makeup products, health care and baby care products.

      I personally suggest you to visit once, I am not saying to buy, just have a look at the website and compare price.

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  12. I wish someone would do the F&G Red that has now stopped being produced. that is my all time favourite and I can't find anything like it anywhere. maybe Lydl could do that one next?

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    1. Hi Jane,

      Maybe they will get round to it. Or you could write to Lidl and make the suggestion?

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  13. yeah! After well-crafted Suddenly Glamorous, I have to try this too!

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    1. Hi Andre,

      Let us know how you get on! Sadly I didn't this was in the same league as SMG. ;(

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  14. Replies
    1. Original Coco? Maybe they will, you never know.

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  15. I came across your website after I bought a bottle of Suddenely (Women 1) which i instantly thought smelt very much like Channel Number 22 and abit like No 5 I can still smell it now after 4 hrs I then read up on your reviews that they have other fragances that smell like Boss etc. I also want to recommend to you my fave perfumes I adore Ruffles by Oscar De Leranta which no longer exists real shame Ive looked on Ebay and Amazon but cant find it but i was in an independent perfume shop ans saw this really beautiful shaped bottle which is gold and pink so I tried it it smelt very similur I bought it for £12.00 Its called Twin Flower by AL HARAMAIN I will let people know about your cool website all the best Heidi

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    1. Hi Heidi / essy111,

      Thanks for dropping in - I should try Suddenly Woman 1 again to see if I can make out the No 22 resemblance. I am still pretty sure they would have tried to copy No 5 first and foremost, as it is the better known scent of the two.

      Yes, do try Suddenly Madame Glamour in particular for its close resemblance to Coco Mlle, and the X-Bolt one is awfully like Hugo Boss Bottled if the man in your life is game to try it!

      Am also glad you found a good replacement for your lost Ruffles - those happy accidents are great when they happen. Actually I am sure I know someone locally who also lamented the passing of Ruffles to me, so I will mention that dupe to her.

      Thanks lastly for spreading the word about Bonkers - much appreciated! And Happy New Year to you!

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  16. Hi, I can honestly say I have been very pleased with the Lidl perfumes I have bought....Suddenly and Suddenly Women 1. I am going to buy Diamonds next as well.

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    1. Hi Bev Trefz,

      I am pleased to hear it's a thumbs up from you to the Lidl perfumes. At that price, you can afford to buy the lot!

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