Reading Perfumes: The Guide 20181 has got me revisiting old samples, among them Lubin Upper Ten and Upper Ten for Her, both of which received four stars. Turin writes that Upper Ten has “the cleverest accord I have smelled in a very long time,” and Upper Ten for Her is a “perfume doing the splits.” How could I resist?
Upper Ten was developed by perfumer Thomas Fontaine. Its notes include Italian bergamot, bay rose, saffron, juniper berry, cinnamon, essence of cardamom, peach, orange blossom, geranium, cedar, sandalwood, leather, patchouli, white musk and dry amber.
The accord Turin references is juniper, pepper, and aldehydes, and it smells like January in an unheated artist’s studio with canvases drying on the easels. It’s icy and faintly medicinal and sharp with piney paint thinner. Three minutes in, the bracing accord warms and melts into a more conventional blend of wood, leather and vetiver.
The whole experience is like being shaved with a frozen straight-edge razor while sitting on a metallic stool, then led to an old leather club chair near the fire with a velvet throw draped across its back. Upper Ten’s pleasant, opaque body lasts at least half a day but doesn’t quite make it to dinner time. If you’re in the market for a traditional woody masculine-leaning fragrance for the cooler months, Upper Ten is worth sampling.
Upper Ten for Her was developed by perfumer Delphine Thierry. Its notes include Isabella grape, bergamot, elemi, artemesia, Bulgarian rose, marigold, raspberry liqueur, Sichuan pepper, precious wood, amber, frankincense and dark chocolate.
I’ll spare you a long quote from the fragrance’s PR blurb, except to mention that it references a 1920s flapper slumming in nightclubs and smoking Turkish cigarettes while her Duesenberg warms a spot on the street outside. If you’re thinking the perfume will smell of cigarettes, leather and face powder with a hint of sweat from dancing bodies, think again. The blurb would have been more accurate to tell the story of the flapper’s mother lounging at home on her satin chaise with a box of plump raspberry truffles. Mom has just come from her weekly session with her medium — the same psychic all the ladies in the country club use — and a bit of incense and the scent of herbal potions cling to her dressing gown. (The juxtaposition of sweetness and herbs are the “splits” Turin referenced.)
At first, Upper Ten for Her’s insistent raspberry and chocolate turned me off. But, the more I wore it, the more I liked it. The perfume’s blend of sweet and sharp wood reminds me this is a fragrance, not patisserie, and as Upper Ten for Her dries down, incense wafts through it. Upper Ten for Her lasts all day and keeps up a hearty sillage.
I love a woody fragrance with a hint of fruit in autumn. If DelRae Bois de Paradis didn’t head that list for me right now, Upper Ten for Her would be a contender.
Lubin Upper Ten Eau de Parfum is $200 for 100 ml, and and Upper Ten for Her Eau de Parfum is $170 for 100 ml. For information on where to buy them, see Lubin under Perfume Houses.
1. Perfumes: The Guide 2018 is Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s compilation of perfume reviews from the past decade, since Perfumes: The Guide A – Z was released in 2008.