Estée Lauder Estée, 1968

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(Jane Fonda before 1968 and after.)

Perfumers Bette Bussy & Bernard Chant

1968 was a pivotal year in American culture. Depending on where you stood, it was a time of the advancement of liberation or the loosening of morals. Estée was released in 1968, but the sensibility belongs to the 1950s. It matches a starched dressed, shellacked hair, caked make-up and suppressed desire. By 1969 Estée would have defined the conservative side of the brewing culture war, at least in terms of perfume.

Very few fragrances have such a qualitative difference between a light dose and a drenching. If applied heavily, Estee has the definitive “bug spray accord” that gets discussed in ‘old lady’ perfumes. I don’t deny that, and in fact I enjoy it. For the benefit of those I love, though , I wouldn’t wear Estée at this dosage unless I were home alone, with no plans to see anybody before my next shower. But with a light hand, this is a beautiful dry, aldehydic, woody floral. At this volume, Estée has moderate sillage, excellent endurance and becomes pleasantly soapy. I know some see this as a floral chypre, and they likely have more discriminating noses than I, but I don’t find it characteristically mossy so much as woody-floral. I do wonder, though, if it’s there behind the long-lasting aldehyde in Estée and I just can’t see it.

With this quality and concentration Estée, along with AliagePrivate Collection and Azurée, represent the best-spent money in perfumery. Remarkable that this stuff is so inexpensive.

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