Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise, 2003

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(Paradise Beyond by Yinka Shonibare)

Perfumer Calice Becker

Beyond Paradise is as alien as Mugler’s Angel, if not more. But Lauder hides its freak in a way that Mugler wouldn’t consider. The chief accord in Angel is synthetic in that it resembles food, but is poisonous. Beyond Paradise gives you a floral nosegay, but one made of shards of glass, sugar-coated with laundry powder. Angel was a novel concept when it was released, with an accord that leaned on the jarring side of juxtaposition and therefore read as synthetic. Beyond Paradise smells like so many things you’ve smelled before, most of them scented, functional commercial products. But it’s teased together into what some would call an idealized flower. I’d call it a floral least common denominator.

Our noses learn over the years of sniffing cleaning products and the like to equate so-called “floral” with flowers. Beyond Paradise relies on this implied language of commercial scent, whispers a translation to us in press-release English and we believe that this scent is based on the Utopia Flower that grows Somewhere or other. I don’t think this is a particularly jaded view of corporate perfumery.

As to the actual creation of this scent, it is impeccably composed, and I can only imagine the work that went into it. But again, least common denominator. Beyond Paradise is a bit like a predictable but popular Broadway show. It speaks in a theatrical language that we’re all guaranteed to understand and doesn’t advance the state of the art an inch. We talk of perfumery as art, and we should. Beyond Paradise is entertainment, but is it art?

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