Thursday, 8 August 2013

La Perla edp - A dainty basque-ing shark of a chypre

La Perla basque - source: eBay
There have been a few posts knocking around the blogosphere lately, discussing what stage people are at in their perfume trajectory - eg the frenzied acquisitive stage or a more jaded plateau stage, typically hit around the five year mark.  Well, I would describe myself as very much in that later phase, for I wouldn't necessarily cross the road to sniff the latest fragrance release unless I was pretty sure I was going to be blown away by it.  Nor do I expect any major perfume epiphanies at this point in my life as a perfumista - any more than I expect to fall madly in love again.  Oh all right then...never say never.  ;-) And that is also how I felt the other day when my good friend Gillie - my scented mentor in the bonkers herb garden challenge - mentioned that she had received a perfume sample as a gift with purchase. This happens to me from time to time, and I always accept gracefully, sometimes rehoming the sample in question if it is something Herbal Essence-y from Clarins, or one of those disappointing inbetweener perfumes like Valentina by Valentino.  On this particular occasion Gillie handed over a sample of La Perla edp, which she had doubtless been given with an underwear purchase, though I was naturally too polite to ask outright.  For La Perla is of course an Italian design house specialising in lingerie and beachwear, and La Perla edp is the brand's first foray into the fragrance market.

On its very irritating website, so typical of high end fashion brands, there is lots of flash gimmickry and sideways scrolling images hovering right over the bit you want to read.  The print is in a tiny font, white out of black - yes, even worse than my blog! - but I did manage to decipher the following background to the brand

'The designer Ada Masotti opens a corset boutique in Bologna with a promising name - La Perla. The name was inspired by the jewel-like case with red velvet in which th e first products were delivered.'

Asa Masotti, possibly wearing a corset of her own fabrication - source:

Interesting mix of tenses there.  And I have never seen an oyster with a red velvet interior, but we'll let that minor point go in the spirit of poetic licence.  Over the years La Perla gradually expanded its range, adding coloured underwear as well as flesh toned garments, introducing bodies made entirely of elastic lace and so on, and then in 1986 its first perfume was born.

I was interested to read the company's commentary on the bottle, designed by Pierre Dinant (not to be confused with the Belgian town of that name).  Its shape is described as 'winding'(??) and evocative of the feminine figure.  The fragrance itself is intended to encapsulate the essence of the La Perla brand, namely 'luxury and seduction'.  Now I have yet to meet a woman with a physique remotely like the La Perla bottle, though I do find its curves most pleasing.  As for the the scent itself, there I am in complete agreement, for I was completely smitten with La Perla from the first sniff.  This is because it niftily manages to combine two of my favourite genres in one - a wispy, soft skin scent and a subtly raunchy 'pulling scent'.  I must say I haven't found two note listings the same, but this one from a retailer called 'Clickfragrance' grabbed me as much as any...:-)

La Perla edp notes: carnation, freesia, osmanthus, light citrus floral notes, coriander, pepper, cardamom, jasmine, rose, patchouli, oakmoss, sandalwood and musk


There are very few reviews of La Perla edp, but The Non-Blonde was impressed, and likens it to 80s diva scents such as Fendi and Paloma Picasso.  I can totally see the connection with Paloma Picasso - I am not sure I have ever tried Fendi in fact - and when you compare the notes (from Fragrantica this time), there is some interesting crossover in terms of their chypre base and the presence of carnation and coriander.  However, it is important to say that La Perla is a very quiet scent, the quietest, most delicate example of a throwback chypre you could possibly imagine.  And it is a long time since I smelt Paloma Picasso, when I will have found it jolly scary on account of its multiple whammy of animalic notes.  But these days I am much more game with respect to the 'business end' of small mammals.  I am speaking metaphorically, obviously.

Paloma Picasso notes: coriander, angelica, carnation, aldehydes, ylang-ylang, jasmine, hyacinth, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, tobacco, castoreum, civet and musk

Hmm, even the Paloma Picasso bottle has that two-tone, vaguely ovoid bottle shape going on...

Go on then, how does it smell?

Word associations that spring to mind when La Perla hits the skin are 'cool, silky, feminine, light floral, mossy, ever so slightly plasticky'.  Now normally I am very anti-plastic notes in a scent, and have gunned down large swathes of the Givenchy and Jean-Paul Gaultier ranges on that very account, but a hint of plastic doesn't bother me here and it is moreover quite fleeting.

And now here's the interesting thing about La Perla.  It starts out girly and feminine, a wisp of elasticated lace if you will, a silken strap of a scent, but gradually a more animalic base asserts itself, and though there is none listed, it most certainly smells like CIVET to me.  During my googling of the notes, I came across an intriguing thread on Basenotes, in which Olfacta of Olfactarama (who is blogging again, in case anyone missed that) asks if other members have encountered a civet note in La Perla - which she herself doesn't particularly care for, I might add.  She appears to be the only one who detects it, mind, but I get a pronounced note as the scent wears on, indeed on one particular wearing the civet base (phantom or otherwise) persisted until the following morning!

And what is even more noteworthy is the fact that I didn't mind.  I wanted to keep sniffing my wrist when it got to this nice but naughty stage.  This is the scent of 'finished business', rolls in the hay, getting to fifth? base, and what might euphemistically be termed 'special cuddles'.

Source: facebook

So in summary - a new lemming and the need to revise my Basenotes moniker.  For from now on, I should be known not as 'VM I hate civet', but as 'VM I appear to have discovered a sneaking affection for civet and am as surprised as the next man'.


  1. I can only quote 99Perfume's blurb (thur's your plastic in its bold admission of "synthetic notes") and suggest that you should get some, stat, for your next trip:

    "This feminine elegant floral perfume brings a softness, refreshing attitude by its delicious spicy, citrusy, floral, sweet, woody and synthetic notes superbly blended together; a sophisticated choice for mature woman for office use or evenings or even while travelling."

    Btw, the "proof I'm not a robot" word is "nalybra". Sounds like an uncomfortable garment.

  2. Hey T,

    Well, well - I am impressed with 99Perfume's blurb (whoever they are) and am wondering if they might care to write guest reviews on Bonkers, as that description is spot on! The addition of 'or even while travelling' also intrigues me. Why should they suddenly have that afterthought? What characteristic of La Perla chimes so well with a wearer on the move? It's a puzzle.

    Your captcha word does sound a bit constricting, no question!

  3. Sounds intriguing (and I may even have a sample of that here somewhere) - and thanks for the head's up about Olfactarama.

  4. I know the name of this brand but I've never seen a single product from them - and I'd really want to see a $200+ bra in RL.

    I've also never seen any of their perfumes. I might try them if I come across them somewhere at a store but I won't be looking for it any time soon... And I'd wait changing the screen name: are you sure "your" civet isn't of the same nature as "my" oud in the recent Micallef perfume? ;)

  5. Oh, do give it a whirl if you find your sample! Funnily enough, I tried it again last night and didn't get the civet - perhaps the musky aromachemical had fallen to the bottom of the vial? :-). I do believe that not all sprays of a perfume are necessarily the same, but it's only a personal hunch...

  6. Hi Undina,

    Is RL a bra size or a place? Or a fabric even? Or Real Life maybe? ;-)

    You could be right at that about this being a rare instance for me of congenial civet, so I probably shouldn't rush to embrace the note in any long term label!

    La Perla perfume and its many flankers is fairly well known here. It is one of the few bottles my friend Clare had to her name when I met her. Though I don't think it was the original version - more like Eclix or something.

  7. haha-your last line made me laugh. I am always intrigued nowadays by the mention of chypre. I will try and sample this.

    Oh and I wanted to ask you: This December on our way back from India, we are stopping in London for a few days. This will be the last few days in December. Please tell me that that was not the craziest decision ever (especially with the baby and considering we live in Southern California)..:). We are crossing out fingers that the temperatures will be in the late 40s or early 50s like it was last year. Also hoping to visit the Roja Dove boutique at Harrods. Any other recs?

  8. Hi Lavanya,

    I hope you can find this - I like La Perla so much that I have almost drained my sample, though it is hard to tell with those opaque black vials. I do hope I win a bottle on Ebay, or else I shall have to hunt further afield. I am getting civet again today, curiously. As Tommasina pointed out, as I am undoubtedly a 'travelling woman', this has my name on it. ;-)

    And you too are very much a travelling woman, I gather - or a travelling family, more like. I can't promise you super balmy weather here in December, but it should be warmer than if you had thought to go to Germany, say, or Scandinavia, so there's that for starters. Now last winter was actually quite bitter here, but in general we have seen a trend towards milder winters and wetter, cooler summers ie a sort of homogenisation of our climate overall. Katie Puckrik came to Britain in Feb '12 and she managed to make the transition as a fellow Californian! So I would be guardedly hopeful for you on the weather front.

    Perfumewise, yes do visit the Haute Parfumerie in Harrods because there really isn't anything like it. And of course there's the regular perfume hall on the ground floor which is also worth a look.

    In terms of other stores where you can maximise 'brands for your bucks', by which I mean the biggest selection of perfume houses assembled in the most compact space, I would recommend Les Senteurs near Marble Arch, from which it is a quick toddle round the corner to Selfridges, which would be like your Bergdorf Goodman, say. Then Liberty has more niche stuff if you don't mind legging it to the area near Oxford Circus, just a stop or two away on the tube. It's fairly walkable in fact, albeit possibly not with a baby. But those three would be my chief recs, also Harvey Nichols (another upscale department store), which is just up from Harrods and has a good niche range. And there's a couple of other stores in the Harrods area - Amouage I think and a shop specialising in ouds. Someone else may be able to help here. But that might already be plenty to get stuck into. It's nice and warm in these stores, in case you are unlucky with the weather!

  9. Hi V,

    I remember Fendi being extremely loud, which doesn't sound like your experience of La Perla at all. What you get sounds much more in keeping with what you'd expect from a brand producing classy undies. Gaia is usually so on the money though, you wonder if she had a different forumulation.

    Anyway I'm glad it's proved such a hit for you. Hope you get that bottle on Ebay. I had no idea that "subtly raunch pulling scents" were one of your two favourite fragrance categories. Nice! Gives me hope :)

  10. Hi Vanessa! Thanks for the mention!

    I get woody notes from La Perla, too. Cedar, maybe Atlas cedar. And have found it for a very reasonable price on online discount sites, although not in the original bottle you picture, so maybe the juice is a little different, too. It still smells wonderful.

  11. Hi Vanessa,

    Thanks so much for all the recommendations..If you have recommendations for second hand bookstores, those would be welcome too (no rush, though). I found some on Charring Cross Road- is that a good place to stay (Covent Garden?) on a visit? My secret evil plan is to stay next door to either a bookstore or a perfume store, so I can live there if the weather sucks..;-). I am also tempted to add Ormonde Jayne to my itinerary.

    *waves to Tara if she reads this*- Tara- I wasn't sure how to contact you so posted a reply to your comment on Birgit's post on Portia (interview)..

  12. I actually own a bottle of this! It was a blind-buy that I bought based on the comparisons to Paloma Picasso (which I love) and to something else that I can't recall now. It arrived, I sprayed it on, took a few sniffs, decided I was singularly unimpressed, and put the bottle away.

    I don't think I've taken it out or tried it since, so I have little memory of its nuance or whether it has civet. I shall have to dig it out and give it another sniff to see what I detect. :)

  13. Hi Tara,

    Yes, this is absolutely a scent in keeping with a brand producing classy undies! Gaia may have been making a comparison purely with the retro chypre style of the three scents rather than how they actually smell, for La Perla doesn't smell like the modern chypres of Coco Mlle or Shalimar Parfum Initial, say.

    Ref those perfume categories to which I am drawn, I am surprised where my taste is taking me these days, frankly! ;-)

  14. Hi Olfacta,

    You are welcome!

    I will look out for the woody notes next time - cedar usually reads quite strongly to my nose. I haven't fathomed what variant of the scent is in which bottle, but the edp bottle for the 30ml appears to be a totally different shape to the 50ml (the style pictured). At least I hope so, as that is what I am bidding on on eBay!

  15. Hi Lavanya,

    On the Charing Cross Road you have got Foyle's famous bookshop, though it isn't secondhand as far as I know. Well worth a visit though. I am not sure where the secondhand bookshops are exactly - though there is that one that features in the film Notting Hill, and also one from the comedy series Black Books, which I do know is somewhere near Kings Cross if it is still trading as a bookshop. I can put out some feelers for you with London bibliophile friends of mine and see what I can find.

    In terms of accommodation near either a perfume store or a bookshop, I know Birgit stayed round the corner from Les Senteurs once, so check that angle out with her. It is fair to say that the most central accommodation can be pricy - in the West End, certainly, though possibly not at the time of year you would be going.

    Then I have just remembered there is a gorgeous flat for just £100 a night for hire round the corner from Bloom Perfumery in Spitalfields - which is like Les Senteurs but with an even more eclectic selection of brands. Not sure how many it sleeps, but it looks pretty spacious overall!

    I usually favour a B & B or a budget chain hotel in the Euston area or the East of the city such as Shoreditch etc, but it depends what you like really.

    Oh, and Ormonde Jayne is another destination perfumery if you have time. You could book a 'perfume portrait' - that's really fun. The branch off Sloane Square would be quite handy for the Harrods trip.

  16. Hi Kafka,

    I am not at all surprised this one wasn't for you, as you do prefer more 'robust' scents on the whole, so the fact that you were unimpressed will be helpful corroboration for readers familiar with our respective tastes.

    As I was saying to Tara above, I think La Perla is a very dainty and quiet scent, more of a 'slightly corrupt ingenue' vs Paloma Picasso's all-out mature diva, but it doesn't smell modern either.

  17. Hi, Vanessa! So, this is sort of a filmy, delicate take on chypre? I'm impressed that they matched the fragrance to the company so well, and by your description, this sounds not only lovely, but softly, um, intriguing. ;) With that real or phantom civet!

    (I'm all the more intrigued by your comment to Kafka, of it resembling "a slightly corrupt ingenue.")

    **Meow** says me, in a slightly more delicate way than usual.

  18. Hi Suzanne,

    Yes, that is exactly the style of chypre I am trying to evoke. :-). In case my comment wasn't clear, I was trying to say that La Perla is at the wimpy / wispy end of the spectrum with just a hint of femme fatale, while Paloma Picasso - from my vague recollection of it - is more full-bodied, more grown up, type of thing. Not the sort of chypre a newbie would probably get on with, as I didn't at the time, but I would be interested to see what I made of it now. I didn't mean to disparage PP if that is how it came across!

  19. Or, for that matter, to disparage any ingenues who may be reading! :-)

  20. And Kafka, if I don't win this on Ebay, I might be back to make you an offer for your bottle, especially if it is the edp! ;-)

  21. If there weren't those annoying issues with the Royal Mail, shipping to the UK, and perfumes being consistently destroyed (x-rayed packages even!), then I would gladly send it to you, sweetie. It's the Eau de Parfum of La Perla. No cap/lid, and I still haven't tried it yet as I'm currently testing something else, but I did pull it out from the perfume Siberia section of my armoire. It's EDP. I got it from FragranceNet (??), I think, for a very good price.

    My memory of it is quite similar to your description, minus the civet issue. I don't recall the nuances and details at all, only that it opened as quite a classic chypre with a slightly sharp citric note, which then became much, much softer and floral in nature. It was definitely whispery and discreet, so very much your style. :)

  22. Hi Kafka,

    I realise the postal regs sound more daunting these days, so please don't apologise for not feeling in a position to offload your La Perla. I think I will get it on eBay, or failing that, it's under £25 on the discount sites here, which is very reasonable.

    It seems we are on the same page in terms of our take on La Perla, just that it is much more my thing than yours. Which is a consistent finding given our individual tastes! ;-)

  23. Vanessa, I chuckled on your suggestions about what RL means but it's the least interesting out of them - real life.

    On a separate note, you do remember there is a link on your side bar to that special page with all the possible perfume shopping recommendations where London is one of the mostly represented cities? ;)

  24. Hi Undina,

    I figured Real Life was going to be the right answer... ;-)

    And you make a very good point that Lavanya should consult the London section of our Perfume Shopping Guide for a comprehensive list of suggestions. That said, we have yet to link perfumeries to hotel accommodation in the immediate vicinity - or book shops indeed, so I will make inquiries for her on that front!

  25. Hi Vanessa,
    I've just discovered your blog, recommended to to me by Kafka. I write at and it's really lovely to connect with other uk bloggers!

    As for La Perla... I have a very vague memory of my ballet teacher wearing this perfume. I was recently given a sample of La Perla In Rosa and it instantly whisked me back in time. In Rosa is a far more watery, very 'pink' interpretation of the original I think. I found it to be quite prim and more than a little plasticy. I wasn't that impressed to be honest but after reading this review I must go out and hunt down the original. It will be once to re-live memories of wooden floors, mirrored walls and satin slippers :)

  26. Hi Susannah,

    I am likewise very pleased to meet another UK blogger! Thanks for the link to your own blog and to Kafka for pointing you in the direction of Bonkers. ;-)

    How apt that your ballet teacher wore La Perla! I was interested to get your take on the In Rosa flanker. I will be honest and say I can summon up no interest in trying any of the subsequent launches to La Perla (and my Ebay quest for the original edp has confirmed that there are a few), precisely because I have a fear that they will turn out to be modern fruitchouli travesties or disappoint in some other way, like Valentina, say - which belied its promisingly decorative bottle!

  27. Call me Susie, and yes I wouldn't bother with In Rosa, it is bland in the extreme. Prissy, pink petals and other less polite p words ;) I'll be back here soon to check out more of your musings...

  28. Susie it is, which will further help differentiate you from USA-based-Suzanne-whom-I-may-meet-in-Sutton Coldfield. ;-)

    Thanks for confirming my kneejerk response to In Rosa. I would have deffed out the whole La Perla range to be perfectly truthful, had this sample not landed in my lap. And landing alone isn't necessarily enough, but I happened not to be wearing any perfume that day, so I thought I'll just whack this on and see what gives...:-)

  29. I shall have to try this one!
    I recently snagged a bottle of Paloma Picasso in a sale (woo-hoo!) and while I am a notoriously game (and gamey) old gal, it is a great big bull of a perfume that makes me step back and say 'whoa!'. So I suspect you'd say 'ew!'
    Though hey, I've got some vials now, so I can post you a dab for trial purposes if you like?

  30. Hey Birdie,

    Ooh, 'wanna swap'? as they say on MUA. I would be most curious to retry PP with my more evolved nose on. ;-) If you don't mind one of my snap on plastic test tube thingies I can send you La Perla now. Otherwise, when my atomisers come in a bit. Will FB you about it...Knowing a bit about your taste, I'd say this one could be called 'Sarah Jessica Parker Filthy' or some such.