Discount Diamonds: Calvin Klein Eternity- Bridal Lilies

When I make my monthly run through the local discount store fragrance bins I have mixed feelings when I see what I consider to be a great perfume in there. On one hand, it gives that fragrance the chance to be re-discovered by a consumer for whom $20-25 is what they can spend to add a new bottle to their dresser. The flip side is the look how far this once lauded perfume has fallen. From the bright lights of the department store beauty counter to a giant “Bin O’ Perfume”. I must admit that I was surprised to see Calvin Klein Eternity there in the last couple of months.

Calvin Klein Eternity was released in 1988 as the follow-up to their extremely successful launch of Obsession three years earlier. At this time in the 1980’s Calvin Klein was a brand which had attained the highest levels of exposure a designer brand could aspire to. Much of that had come on being provocative in a sexual way, Calvin Klein was the latest examples of the old adage “sex sells”. Which was why when the press release for Eternity came out it used as its inspiration Mr. Klein’s 1986 marriage to Kelly Rector. This was a pivot to the purity of love which by itself was interesting. Ann Gottlieb was responsible for the creative direction and she chose perfumer Sophia Grojsman to work with on Eternity.   

Sophia Grojsman

Mme Grojsman was in the middle of a twelve-year run at the beginning of her career from 1978’s White Linen through to her masterpiece Lancome Tresor in 1990. Eternity falls in the middle of that run temporally as well as aesthetically. There is a cleanliness reminiscent of White Linen and the fully rounded rose of Tresor was just beginning to take shape as she worked the same with muguet for Eternity.

Ann Gottlieb

Eternity opens with a fresh top accord of mandarin and freesia. This is some of the fresher aspects that was so prevalent during this time in fragrance. The lily of the valley comes forth and it rumbles forward with power. This kind of floral intensity will become a hallmark of many of Mme Grojsman’s constructs; Eternity is one of the earliest examples. How she builds the intensity is by also adding in smart supporting ingredients. In this case marigold to amplify the green parts with narcissus doing the same for the white flower aspect of the lily of the valley. It is supported by a sturdy sandalwood foundation as the final piece of Eternity.

Eternity has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

One of the reasons Eternity has probably fallen into the discount bins is that intensity it exudes. At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be congruent with current fragrance trends. In its heyday, Eternity was inspired by marriage which made it a popular wedding day perfume for many brides in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It is a great perfume from a great creative team and for the price it is hard to beat that marriage.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Olfactive Chemistry: Indole- The Sour Inside

In the middle of the movie America Hustle one of the characters has this quote, “It’s like that perfume you love, that you can’t stop smelling even when there’s something sour in it.” Of course I have no idea exactly what she is referring to but in my mind while watching there was only one perfume ingredient which fit this description, indole.

Indole is the “bad girl” of perfumery. Cue Donna Summer. They are found naturally in the group of floral notes dubbed “white flowers”. Jasmine is the leader of that family and in the specific species of jasmine called jasminum sambac you will find the highest amount of natural indole. It is why the synthetic jasmines exist, to remove the indole, to get a brighter fresher version of jasmine. I very often make the distinction in reviews with the essential oil being a little more experienced and the synthetic being a scrubbed-fresh debutante. Both have their place on the perfumer’s palette.

indole skatle

Indole gets a bad rep because of the methyl-substituted version of indole known as Skatole. As you can see above there is only the addition of one methyl group different between Indole and Skatole. Skatole is the smell of feces and it is what many associate with the word indole. Indole by itself in high concentration smells more like mothballs. What is particularly magical is what happens as you dilute indole down in alcohol solutions. When you have a 10% solution of indole in alcohol it smells like an old closet. Dilute it in half to 5% and you get that dirty skin smell. Dilute it again in half to 2.5% and now a subtle kind of decaying sweetness becomes evident. Take it to 1.25% and an almost floral-like quality comes out. Reduce it finally to 0.5% and you have a building block to work with.

Indole is easily synthesized in metric ton quantities and is one of the more cost-effective perfume materials to use. Once you get used to handling it in its different iterations depending on the concentration. It allows a perfumer on a budget to take synthetic jasmine and a bit of indole to create a simulation of jasminum sambac.

Good examples of indolic perfumes are naturally the jasmine-focused ones. Serge Lutens A La Nuit and Diptyque Olene really wear their indole on their sleeve. One which is composed of indoles and synthetics is the original Calvin Klein Eternity which not only sports a high concentration of indole but also Iso E Super, and Galaxolide. Eternity is one of the best-selling perfumes of all time. While the time period is not right it is the perfume I think best represents the quote I began this with.  

Mark Behnke