The name Edward Bess is probably familiar to those interested in elegant makeup. In the early days of his eponymous line Edward himself used to man the Bergdorf Goodman counter and help his customers and admirers choose the right colors. If you were lucky he'd do your makeup, which was always a wonderful experience that would have left you feeling beautiful and understood. Mr. Bess has always talked about having his own perfume line one day. I remember him telling me that he mixes his own personal fragrance out of some oils, and the blend worked beautifully as a skin scent you could only smell when he was right there wielding his brushes on your face.
It took a few years and a false start (a massive gardenia called Eau La La, 2012), but now that Edward Bess hired perfumer Carlos Benaim to create the first three fragrances in the rebooted line he has matched the aesthetics of his makeup. It's the equivalent of a taupe eye shadow, black liner, and a red lipstick. I do know that not all of you reading this care about makeup. It doesn't matter. The perfumes are great on their own merit and bring to mind the golden age of beauty counters when you could get excellent and courteous service while picking your items and smelling the few highly-coveted perfumes that completed the glamorous atmosphere.
Spanish Veil was a love at first sniff for me. It's a woody oriental and only three notes are listed: tonka bean, sandalwood, guiac wood. There's a lot more there, obviously, and I smell a sheer but prominent incense in the core of the perfume. The opening is very perfumy. Not powdery, nor is it sweet or aldehydic. But it says PERFUME in the best possible way. The wood notes are subtle. I'm not sure I would have picked sandalwood had I not known it was supposed to be there, because despite the smoothness the wood is neither creamy nor has it the pepperiness of a cedar (sandalwood's common companion). I might have said cashmeran, but it doesn't matter: there are smoothed down woods like a well-worn banister railing in a beautiful old house, lace and silk worn close to the body on a hot day, capturing the scent of skin and the afternoon sunlight sneaking i through the French doors and gliding over slightly dusty potted palm trees, and the sweet scent of incense kept in a family heirloom box in one o the bedroom upstairs.
I marvel at the technical balance of using just enough tonka bean to create the "oriental" effect. It must have been tempting to go with a sweeter, more commercial vanilla (do you remember the trend of wood steeped in sugar water that was induced by Lauder's 2008 Sensuous?). instead we get a grownup and sexy perfume that wafts around, stays on skin, scarves, and coats, invites you for a hug and whispers a naughty secret in your ear.
Edward Bess- Spanish Veil ($175, 3.4oz) is exclusive to Aedes and select Edward Bess counters.
Photo of model Julia Stegner by Alexi Lubomirski for Vogue Germany, 2008.