Sometimes I think that there are two kinds of women: Those who like their fragrance to smell like food and those who don't. I normally belong to the second group. I'll never use anything that makes me smell like a fruit cup or a pie: Clinique's Happy (essence of OJ) and Simply (attacked by a giant watermelon), Chanel Chance and just about every fragrance from Comptoir Sud Pacifique. I love vanilla as a base note when combined with sexy, non-foody elements (most Guerlains), but I don't want to smell like I just bathed in McCormick.
Today I cracked open one of the samples in the little bag I got from Luckyscents. It was the Lea Extreme by Lea St. Barth. The first whiff smelled like a warning: coconut and chocolate. Normally it would be enough of a reason to send this into the "use for household purpose only" bag, but I put it on in the name of research (and because I know that the full sized bottle is a $125 indulgence).
The coconutty element was mostly gone as the fragrance touched my skin. It probably comes from the sweet almond top note, and I was glad to be rid of it. What remained was chocolate. I needed to use quite a bit to get it to stick, but when it did, it was warm and enveloping, rather than floating. The scent settled quickly into its chocolatey base, and remained the same for the entire day, which means that its actual staying power was not bad at all, though one would need to get very very close in order to smell it after the first few minutes. I know that for some, it is actually an advantage, but I prefer a stronger presence.
I didn't hate it. I didn't love it either. It doesn't smell cheap as many other chocolate-vanilla fragrances tend to be. But it's very one dimentional, single note with no twist or depth to it. And the end result is so much like cocoa butter, that here and there you are reminded of Palmer's lotion, which is not exactly the height of luxury.
ETA: It's months later and I've written about it here and there, but it's worth updating my original review. Somehow, this fragance has managed to get to me in a way very few ever did. It's nothing like the scents that would normally attract me, and yet I get cravings for Lea. Eventually, I caved and bought the full bottle which I'm using happily whenever I need its comforting coziness. It isn't very sophisticated and doesn't smell like a million bucks, but it's good.