The good news is that Oriens, the latest Van Cleef & Arpels release in their main perfume line, smells better on skin than it did on a paper strip. The first sniff I got from it was so fruity and vile I didn't look forward to actually testing it. But the bottle was sitting there and mocking me for days upon days and I have to live up to my tag line "I try things so you don't have to", so I unwrapped the thing and cautiously sprayed Oriens on my wrist. I survived. Further tests took more skin space, finally getting brave enough for a full wearing, which while not blow me away, didn't make me scrub myself Silkwood-style.
Had Oriens come from Juicy Couture or any of those fashion houses that aim towards the young I'd be happy to tell you that good taste might still prevail. It's pleasant, not screechy or vulgar and seems to have had enough thought put into the composition that one doesn't feel insulted when wearing it. The problem is that this is a Van Cleef & Arpels perfume, and this prestigious jewelry line deserve a better representation in perfume. So do we.
Oriens is neither an oriental nor is it a chypre as the press material claims. It's a fruity-patchouli perfume just like eleventy eight other releases from recent years. It doesn't stand out among its peers and cousins that are all Angel-The Next Generation, except from being a bit rounder and well-mannered, maybe because it's airier or even more watery than Angel and its first clones. What we have here is a generic berry opening, juicy but not pulpy, that smells better on a warmer skin: running around, drinking hot tea or working out makes it bloom just enough to feel more lush than sticky. I guess it makes sense as a spring launch. There's a floral heart in which no specific note stands out but is quite pleasant, and that familiar patchouli drydown that is unavoidable these days.
Since Oriens seems to have been composed with some care, it's not as heavy and sweet as you'd fear. There's enough lightness here that would appeal to many and makes the fragrance less intrusive for your nearest and dearest, they they might still prefer not to be stuck with you in an elevator on an August day. The part that annoys me most here is that Oriens tries too hard to appear and smell young. Maybe it's geared towards a certain potential customer who knows better than to wear her daughter's Juicy Couture hoodie or perfume but wishes she could. I understand this from a marketing point of view, but considering I wore real, big chypres at 19, I'm not that person .
Unlike Féerie, a previous Van Cleef & Arpels perfume in an ambitious bottle, Oriens actually looks better in person than in the press material. The flacon designer, Joël Desgrippes, based his creation on a tourmaline ring design from jewelry collection. All I can say is that if I can't have the ring, I'd still like to put a giant factice on my dresser.
Oriens by Van Cleef & Arpels ($110 for 50 ml) is currently exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and VC&A boutiques. I received a free bottle at a Bergdorf press event.