Perfumer Anatole Lebreton.
Perfumes that smell like lipstick have a special appeal. For some they are nostalgic, for others they are a femme fetish. When combined, violet, iris root and rose replicate the swirl of freshly applied lipstick. Musks, vanilla, sweet woods and resins bridge the florals to the cold, powdery waxiness that defines lipstick’s olfactory ‘feel.’
A lipstick ‘note’ has been common to many perfumes since the early 2000s when new, less expensive iris materials came online, even sneaking its way into masculine and ‘unisex’ perfumes like Dior Homme and Histoire de Parfums 1889. Previously, lipstick scents had been the province of girly florals like Yves St. Laurent Paris and l’Artisan Parfumeurs Drole de Rose.
Incarnata follows in the line of a few other lipstick perfumes, namely ELDO Putain des Palaces, Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose and Chanel Misia, but it doesn’t copy them. Incarnata reaches past scent and finds the cold, creamy texture of lipstick. Compared to Incarnata, most ‘lipstick’ perfumes come off as basic variations on the mixed floral. Incarnata is lipsticky from stem to stern, even in the basenotes, by which point most lipstick fragrances struggle to maintain the freshly applied appearance that they had out of the bottle. Floral notes have been used to mask the scent of wax and cosmetic cream. They keep lipstick from smelling like crayons. Incarnata doesn’t mask anything. It smells like a complete vintage dressing table set with lipstick, face powder and cold cream.
The scent of lipstick brings to mind a particular range of color. Putain and Lipstick Rose land squarely in the pink/red spectrum. Even perfumes with a minor lipstick note, such as Guerlain Nahema and Chanel 18 tend to have traces of the same hues. Incarnata takes Chanel Misia’s grey-pink a step further with a cyanotic grey tone that implies a cool temperature as well as a cool palate. The papery iris topnote segues believably into the suede heart and waxy base and give Incarnata its frosty edge.
A friend’s grandmother had an endearing habit of touching up her lipstick as she’d head out the door. She’d flash us a girlish, conspiratorial look through the mirror as if she were tossing down a big sip of a martini and say, “Can’t face the world without lipstick now, can we?” She would have loved Incarnata.
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