Walk out of Victoria's Secret, past the kiosks selling silver jewelry and foreign language tapes, past the Sunglass Hut, and there it is: Bath and Body Works. I'd always though of Bath and Body Works as a sort of palace of plastic bottles and fruity hand lotions, but I have friends who swear by some of their products. It was high time to check it out.
At first, Bath and Body Works was overwhelming. Shelves of product in identical bottles but different labels covered the walls, and the center of the store was filled with tables stacked high with more product. To help the consumer who didn't know which way to turn, big signs hung over some of the shelves, signifying a particular wall of scent as "sensual" or "fresh".
The store manager informed me right away that Bath and Body Works has the top five selling fragrances in the United States. I kept my mouth shut about Victoria's Secret's claim that Dream Angels Heavenly was the top selling fragrance and asked him which scents were the most popular. He said Japanese Cherry Blossom was the top seller, followed by Sweet Pea and then Warm Vanilla Sugar. I asked him which fragrance he thought was the most complex, and he pointed out a relatively new fragrance, Black Amethyst.
Japanese Cherry Blossom has top notes of mandarin, leafy green accord, sparkling quince, lush berries, and fresh melon; a heart of rose damascena, super hedione, white jasmine, and rose Juliette Greco; and a base of musk, violet, soft amber, and creamy sandalwood (all notes are from the Bath and Body Works website). Isn't it interesting that the Bath and Body Works website listed "super hedione" as a note? I would have thought that a marketing person might have pruned it out. My two-second review of the fragrance is that it smells like a fruity-ambery shampoo. It isn't offensive, but it I don't find it very interesting, either. I'm surprised that it's named after cherry blossoms. I don't recall that cherry blossoms have much fragrance. If they do, I'd expect it to be delicate rather than a fruity, amber-y, vaguely oriental smell.
Bath and Body Works' second most popular fragrance, Sweet Pea (top notes of sweet pea, watery pear, loganberry, and rhubarb; a heart of cyclamen, freesia, and raspberry; and a base of musk) is viciously fruity. It smells like something that would be served with a shot of vodka at a sorority party. I love the scent of real sweet peas. While they are pungent and sugary, they also smell like they've grown from the earth. Sweet Pea smells like it came from the laboratory.
Warm Vanilla Sugar (top notes of sheer florals and vanilla absolute; a heart of basmati rice, coconut, and vanilla absolute; and base notes of — you guessed it — vanilla absolute, heliotrope, musk, veltol, and sandalwood) is their third most popular fragrance. (Again, note the "veltol" in the web copy. Why?) To me, Warm Vanilla Sugar smells like vanillic cotton candy doused in white musk. I respect that. Sometimes a person needs an overdose of vanilla, and this is a good option. I might prefer Coty Vanilla Musk instead, but it doesn't come in body butter and shower gel like Warm Vanilla Sugar does.
Black Amethyst (top notes of bergamot Italian Oprur, juicy mandarin, sparkling tangerine, zesty orange, waterfruits, and crisp melon; a heart of lily of the valley, magnolia blossom, sheer gardenia, tuberose, freesia, peony petals, and camellia; and a base of patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla, and musk) was the manager's choice for a more "perfumey" fragrance. Black Amethyst launched last November and won WWD's Beauty Biz's Breakthrough Product of the Year/Mass Fragrance award in December 2008. The fragrance takes the purple fruit and patchouli combo that made Calvin Klein Euphoria such a success and gives it the Bath and Body Works treatment. The result is a rich, sweet, earthy patchouli scent that could clear a boardroom if not handled carefully. The earthy edge of the fragrance, which I'm attributing in part to vetiver, keeps the fragrance from becoming a total plum pudding, but its powerful body makes me think this fragrance was twenty years too late. At Studio 54, it could have been a contender.
I did leave Bath and Body Works with a tub of Velvet Tuberose body butter to keep at my desk. My budget isn't up to Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower these days, but the luxurious white flower and dirt scent of the body butter fills my windowless office with a dreamy fragrance. The Bath and Body Works manager said Velvet Tuberose is tenth most popular. At best.