Okay, just do it: sing a few lines of the Led Zeppelin song and get it out of your system. Despite what you may have expected (or hoped), Jul et Mad's Stairway to Heaven has nothing to do with a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold, etc. It was inspired instead by a trek into Nepal's Annapurna mountain range that turned out to be "a veritable inner quest, in search of the mysteries of life, of serenity, of absolute happiness on the Summits of the Gods..." (Then again, that does sound pretty Zeppelinesque...)
Stairway to Heaven was developed by perfumer Cécile Zarokian and promises to evoke a "dual whiteness: pure and immaculate, but warming and enveloping." That sounds almost like Stairway could be an "Eau Chaude," in the tradition of Jean-Claude Ellena's L'Eau d'Hiver for Frédéric Malle, but it has a very different feel than the cashmere-cloudy L'Eau d'Hiver. Its notes include aldehydes, bergamot, sweet orange, Bulgarian rose, orris butter, red berries, heliotrope, "eight white musks," vanilla, patchouli, Ambroxan, Cashmeran, olibanum, and Dynamon ("gunpowder note)".
Stairway to Heaven starts off with piercing aldehydes that are only slightly cushioned by a gourmand accord, like a platinum knife dipped in honey butter. If this opening is meant to suggest the effect of the Himalayas' high altitude and snowy peaks, it works. Just as you instinctively put up your hand to shield your eyes from the glare of intense sunlight reflecting off certain surfaces, you might want to pull back your nose from your wrist just after you've spritzed it with this fragrance.
The sharp, starchy aldehydes of Stairway to Heaven never really die out, but they do turn more translucent, allowing a core of sheer resin and sweet dried fruits to peep through. I don't know how to differentiate between the eight (!) white musks (I'm an original Body Shop White Musk gal at heart), but if you've been enjoying the recent white musk trend, you'll find more than enough to satisfy you in this composition. The dry down is a lightly gourmand skin-scent with hints of vanilla and citrus. It's tenacious but muted. I've been applying this scent in the morning, and although I'm a little nervous about its sillage for the first hour or so, by lunchtime it's office-friendly enough.
While trying out Stairway to Heaven for the third time, and bracing myself yet again for that initial slash of aldehydes, I was reminded of Angela's review of Estée Lauder White Linen. Both fragrances share a certain soapy-clean attitude (with a smile) and both feel contemporary for their own moments. If White Linen had a granddaughter who favored vacations to the Himalayas rather than the Hamptons, she could be Stairway to Heaven.
Jul et Mad Stairway to Heaven is available in Extrait de Parfum, either in a silver-plated 50 ml bottle plus a 7 ml travel atomizer ($364), or in a traditional glass 50 ml bottle ($170) through the Jul et Mad website, Jovoy Paris and Indigo Perfumery.