Along with the usual suspects — Tabu, Old Spice, Jean Naté — drugstores in the United States these days seem to carry a few fragrances also found in department stores. In the drugstores I visited, they're an odd collection. In the Rite Aid downtown, I found minis of Britney Spears Curious and Calvin Klein Escape, but also a 50 ml bottle of Christian Dior Dune Eau de Toilette for $35. I thought Dior had tightened up its supply outlets. What is Dune doing in a store known for its deals on multipacks of Pringles? In my neighborhood Walgreens, Guerlain Shalimar sits next to Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds and Coty Emeraude. Shalimar? For real? How did that happen?
Continuing this week of drugstore fragrances, I picked up a mini of department store fragrance I'd never tried: Giorgio Beverly Hills Red "extraordinary Eau de Toilette spray." It seemed emblematic of some of the other mid-level perfumes I saw at drugstores in that it was an old favorite that still had a following but didn't have enough cachet to regain its lost seat at Nordstrom.
Giorgio Red was created by perfumer Bob Aliano and launched in 1989. Jan Moran in Fabulous Fragrances lists its top notes as osmanthus, ylang ylang, orange blossom, peach, bergamot, spices, cassie, tagetes (marigold), hyacinth, cardamom, aldehydes; its heart as jasmine, carnation, Bulgarian rose, marigold, May rose, gardenia, tuberose, orris, lily of the valley; and its base as amber, musk, patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, vetiver, tonka bean, cedarwood, vanilla, and labdanum. Jan Moran adds that "each drop contains a blend of 692 ingredients." Whew! I need a from the nap from just thinking about all those notes.
Giorgio Red is yet another horse in the 1980s race of gigantic oriental perfumes kicked off by Yves Saint Laurent Opium. On first sniff, I thought of a combination of Estée Lauder Cinnabar and Dolce Gabbana (the one with the red cap.) I smell cinnamon, labdanum, amber, clove, sweet wood, and musk. Giorgio Red is aldehydic, but has barely enough lift to get its spice-laden derriere off the ground. Like Cinnabar, it is a rounded whole without many surprises.
But unlike Cinnabar, which is as ageless as velvet and tapestry, Red feels dated. Red screams for an Ungaro blazer in lime green, large houndstooth. It wants shiny lips and sheer black panty hose. It wouldn't mind Duran Duran playing in the background, and it has a framed Nagel poster in its hallway. Giorgio Red is also loud. If you seek its comforting, warm spices — and I surely understand if you do — take care to put on just a tiny bit at first or you will be the one who inspires your office's policy banning perfume.
Red's day in the sun was short. The soon-to-be coolest kid on the block, the lean, aquatic Calvin Klein Escape, was just two years off and a world away in terms of style. Still, Giorgio Red can be had for a song (my .33 ounce bottle was $4.50), and its predictable spicy, chewy, aldehydic scent makes a cheap and easy pleasure.
My guess is that many Now Smell This readers, after sniffing their way through scores of sample vials, will pass up Red as a sort of Yankee Candle of the oriental perfume world. But it wouldn't hurt to have a mini in your glove compartment if the dog does something unfortunate in the car on the way to the vet. And for the many people who don't know Serge Lutens from the Jolly Green Giant, Red is a lovely, easy, delicious (and inexpensive) perfume.