This is a floral oriental trying so hard to get everything on board that the dragon end up above maximum gross weight and has to abort takeoff.
Luca Turin said this about Le Baiser du Dragon on page 87 of the “Perfumes: The Guide” book (probably not on page 87 pf the “A-Z Guide,” but I haven’t read that one so I don’t know). I find this interesting because I enjoy complex scents the most and yet rarely experience this quality. In the case of this scent, I find it heavy and dense at first, but if you like niche ones that feature strong amber, I’m not sure you will agree with Turin here. By contrast, one scent that nobody, to my knowledge, has called too complex is Cool Water, the most “overloaded” concoction I have encountered to date !
First, let me address LBdD. Here is the official “blurb” for LBdD on Fragrantica.com:
Cartier’s Baiser du Dragon (the Dragon’s Kiss) is a dangerous and powerful scent. Exotic and intense, it will transport you into the world of fairytale dragons, princesses and princes. You can hear the burning of the dragon’s fiery breath while bitter smoke envelopes you and your sense, but then, suddenly, this gentle warmth settles on the skin…
Thus, what Turin took to be a flaw in the scent seems to have been what the perfumer intended! One of Turin’s friends suggests that LBdD smelled similar to Old Spice from the 1970s, and of course a “newbie nose” might perceive this (and indeed there are some similarities), but I think the aficionado might be more inclined to view it in light of a few “masculine” scents that were released several years ago, such as Dior Homme. Let’s take a look at the notes for LBdD (again from Fragrantica):
Top notes include bitter almond, neroli, orange and gardenia. Cedar and musk are at the perfume’s heart, while the base note is composed of vetiver, patchouli and benzoin resin.
And for the newest Dior Homme formulation:
Top notes are lavender, sage and bergamot; middle notes are iris, amber and cacao; base notes are vetiver, patchouli and leather.
This is a bit deceiving, though, because the sage and lavender are not like one finds in scents like vintage Chaps, by contrast, nor is the lavender even as obvious as it is in something like Rochas Man! Moreover, “rugged, masculine” scents like Z-14 have their share of notes like gardenia (though the latest formulation may no longer have it, for all I know). In any case, when I think of LBdD relative to DH in the drydown phases, I think leather versus cedar and one kind of floral versus another, neither of which is much more “masculine” than the other. LBdD may be a touch sweeter, and that may be part of the idea that it’s close to vintage Old Spice, but I don’t see the aficionado thinking that there is a significant difference, compositionally. Instead, at least for me, what matters is if I want the leather and iris rather than wood and gardenia, or whether I think LBdD is a bit too sweeter.
And now back to Cool Water. I have said this before, but wearing Molto Smalto recently made me realize that the ancient (Aristotelian) concept of the “Golden Mean” seems to apply here, at least to some degree. With scents it seems that complexity isn’t usually a problem if the notes/accords play off each other in a complementary way. However, if there is a clash, then there is a crash, using that airplane analogy. And that’s exactly what happens with Cool Water. Note I am referring to the bottles that say Lancaster on the sticker that’s on the bottom of the bottle, not the new one that says Coty.
Molto Smalto verges on smelling like bubble gum (though not super-sweet), but never gets there. It does what the more challenging scents do in this way, but is always pleasant. For me it achieves an olfactory Golden Mean, with herbal, woody, sweet, fruity, and floral elements blending into each other at times but then at sometimes coming forward or receding, generating excellent dynamism. As you probably know, CW gets compared to Green Irish Tweed quite often, even though they don’t share much in common, but what’s hardly ever said (other than by me!) is that CW is much sweeter than GIT, which has perhaps the slightest touch of sweetness, and is compositionally quite different (along with not having several notes in common).
For me, neroli and tobacco don’t go together very well, and when you add quite a bit of sweetness, lavender, “fresh” aroma chemicals, generic woody/amber, etc., you are trying to do an awful lot in one scent. I’m not sure what the “average person” who likes Cool Water is smelling, and even as a “newbie”‘ I found it to have a harsh, “hair spray” sort of quality to it that was unappealing on every level. Now I find it to be “overloaded” in strong notes/molecules, but it also smells like a fire broke out on board, meaning the note clash is blaring. Moreover, in terms of what I call “directionality,” as I’ve discussed in a previous post, CW goes too far in an “upwards” direction, which makes the airplane takeoff analogy even more apt, as if the captain/perfumer tried to give the craft too much lift at takeoff. And if you don’t know about, that is a very bad idea with airplanes.