Would you appreciate a fragrance that projected around the way knitting needles would stick inside your nostrils, the equivalent of a scent porcupine? The "needles up the nose" characterization has never found a more apt bond than the one spontaneously created in the mind of one perfume lover on the board of Perfume of Life years ago regarding White Linen. The phrase has since entered the online perfume lingo as a casual but evocative definition for the painfully sharp, supremely stinging feeling that certain perfumes heavy in aldehydes (i.e. synthesized molecules with a "bright", soapy and fizzy aspect), such as this particular Lauder perfume, produce in those who smell them.
White Linen was launched alongside Lauder's Celadon and Pavilion in 1978 as part of the makeup and scents collection "New Romantics" (in itself influenced by the music trend that was just emerging). Composed by Sophia Grojsman, White Linen bears her signature style of impressive cleanness projected via loudspeakers fit for a Guns n'Roses concert. For a Russian emigre Grojsman has acquired throughout her career a particularly American ideal of femininity, no doubt thanks to the exigencies of the American giant of aromatics who employs her, International Flavors and Fragrances; well scrubbed, athletic, spick & span, Athenian rather than Venereal.
|1993 print ad|
Although ubiquitous and always in production since its launch, without any detectable changes in its formula, it's one of those fragrances that fly under the radar, so I am archiving White Linen in my Underrated Perfume Day feature. Its monolithic structure (built on huge single blocks of materials, much like later Grojsman oeuvres such as Tresor by Lancome) White Linen packs a punch.
But the aldehydic knock-out comes with an astounding discovery: the aldehydes contribute just 1% to the formula, with equal parts of Galaxolide (synthetic clean musk, garlanded by at least 3 other synth musks) and Vertofix (giving a cedar wood note) accounting for almost half of the ingredients! The secret is that unlike most other aldehydic floral fragrances it lacks the modifying, mollifying caress of bergamot and ylang ylang.
|late 1990s print ad|
|1986 print ad|
White Linen is a powerful, titanic Aurora and although it is removed from what I (and many other people) find comfortable, I can't fail but to admire its guts and its blinding brightness, white-washed like a house directly carved out of white volcanic rock in the Aegean.
*that's actually the slogan for Enjoli.
The advertising photos are all so charmingly appealing that I decided to include them all.
|early 1980s print ad|