Friday, June 19, 2015

Lentheric Dark Brilliance-Review

Last winter, I scored this set of vintage Lentheric perfumes on Ebay. The bottles were all still full, and the foil/cardboard inner seals were affixed so tightly to the bottle I had to carefully pry them lose with a pin. To my surprise, they were incredibly fresh. The box they came in smelled of damp and mildew, but the bottles were in perfect condition-there's something to be said for storing things in a cool, dark, cellar be it wine or perfume.

Dark Brilliance is a breathtakingly different perfume. Often, when trying a fragrance for the first time I am able to compare it to something similar. I'm at a loss with this one, I really am. I've also fallen hard for Dark Brilliance which is unfortunate as it was discontinued some time in the early 60's. Great, another perfume to stalk on Ebay.

The top notes are there, but muted as happens sometimes with even the best preserved perfumes. I'm getting aldehydes (Danny commented that the top notes smelled like a Dr's office) but that's about it. Some notes I found listed included citrus, but I don't detect any. That's not uncommon with older perfumes. Where Dark Brilliance takes that brilliant turn is in the middle where the double-whammy of Bulgarian rose and tuberose blend into glorious overload. When I thought I couldn't stand any more gorgeousness-out comes the spicy carnation and sweet, dirty gardenia. Whoa, that's one hell of a floral onslaught. If Lentheric Dark Brilliance were a hat, it would be dripping in cabbage roses, jasmine petals, and hand-sewn velvet leaves, but Dark Brilliance is not a hat for church, or a Summer wedding. This becomes clear once the animals announce themselves.

I make no apologies for my love of civet notes in perfume. All my favourites feature civet prominently, so it isn't terribly shocking that I find Dark Brilliance so captivating. I also adore ambergris, castoreum, and oakmoss, which puts me in the difficult situation of owning the perfume of my dreams, and wanting to save the small bit I have. Dark Brilliance couldn't be made today as most of the ingredients have been banned or regulated within an inch of their lives (or simply become too costly). There's sandalwood and patchouli tucked away in the base as well. I'm not a huge sandalwood fan, but it works well here and is hardly noticeable with everything else. Ideally, that's how it ought to be done, but so often isn't.

Perfume reviewers often try to suggest a fragrance as daytime, or evening, Winter or Summer. I'm tempted to class Dark Brilliance as, "Every opportunity you get", but I suppose it might be a bit much for the typical American workplace these days. I can't vouch for the rest of the world, but here anything that smells stronger than detergent is considered, "Distracting." Dark Brilliance would be distracting as people would keep milling about your desk asking, "What smells so good? Is that you smelling so good? Damn, you smell good" and then no one would get any work done at all. At least that was how it used to go last time I worked in an office, but I wore Mitsouko almost exclusively back then-and I did smell good.

I'll go ahead and link to the person I consider the expert  on Lentheric perfumes so you can see her notes for Dark Brilliance. I don't get any cinnamon, or myrrh coming through for me, but Danny thinks he catches a whiff of the cinnamon. Likewise, I don't get any citrus at the top, but her sample was from a sealed nip (imagine me looking quite jealous!). I'm not sure I could identify acacia if my life depended on it, so I'll go ahead and say I didn't catch it in the top notes. This is one of the things I love so much about the internet-being able to read other people's impressions and scent notes. Before the Internet, life as a perfume addict was kind of lonely. I had a neighbour that worked at a downtown department store that kept me supplied with samples through the mid-70's (that was the same woman that bought me the single-cup coffee thing when I was eight!) but she didn't really have much to say about any of them. Had I been interested in skin care, it might have been another story. Today, with a couple mouse clicks, I'm connected with people that share my strange hobby. Knowing I'm not the only person amassing a laboratory-like collection of vials, bottles, and scented solids is reassuring. I haven't bought a small fridge to store them yet, but I confess to watching the prices at the local stores. It is only a matter of time.

I've been limiting myself to one purchase per month (typically a few small sample bottles or decants) unless something fantastic comes my way as I know this can quickly get out of hand. I have over the years done several collection purges only to regret it later, so these days I purchase more carefully. I rarely buy a full sized bottle of anything unless it is too good to pass up at a discounter. I believe Dark Brilliance will be one of those exceptions, like Mitsouko and vintage Emeraude that I'm willing to plunk down serious money for just so I may have a stash in the event of World War III (Fallout shelters get so stale smelling-you'll want to be prepared). Now that I've popped that bottle open, and smelled that stunning Bulgarian rose making me swoon a bit even typing this-I can't go back to not knowing how tremendous a perfume Dark Brilliance is.  Oh, to go back in time and smell this in 1946 when it was introduced. Dark Brilliance is the perfect post-war perfume full of romance, and expectation for better days. It must have seemed utterly indulgent, and completely irresistible. I'm not sure what the prices were like for a bottle in 1946, but it would have surely been a generous gift.

I have been branching out of late from my comfort zone with perfumes to try scents I would be unlikely to buy based on their listed notes. Dark Brilliance wouldn't be the sort of thing I would actively seek out in the past as I've never gotten on well with Bulgarian rose. I'm glad I was unaware of the notes before buying trying Dark Brilliance as I'm afraid it might have biased my impression. Today, I wore Jean Patou, 1000. I was sure I wouldn't like it-and I was wrong. A bit of ignorance can be a good thing with respect to fragrance. L'Occitane Ambre is another fragrance I would have dismissed without trying  years ago, but today I'm more willing to give that sort of scent a try-again with happy results. Keeping my nose clear of my brain's snobbery can be a feat at times, but I do honestly believe it is a skill worth cultivating. Decants are a great way to accomplish this as my brain is spared a visual impression/flash assessment of the perfume based on the bottle.

Thus far, my experience with Lentheric perfumes has been mostly favourable (we won't bring up the matter of Shanghai). I have a tiny bottle of Lentheric 12 waiting for me to do a proper review (spoiler alert-I liked it!), and I haven't tried this older version of Tweed from the set. I know a reputable perfume dealer with a bottle of Lentheric, Pink Party for sale and I am *this close* to ordering it. Had it been a sealed bottle, I'd have grabbed it immediately. Perhaps next month, I already blew this month's budget on a bottle of Guerlain Imperiale. Who wouldn't want to smell like a gin and tonic in summertime?

If you can get your hands on a bottle of Dark Brilliance, and you appreciate a good, heavy, floral this might be a winner for you. But beware the civet-it has claws.


Bibi said...

Los Angeles School Journal - Volume 30, 1946:
"Dark Brilliance de Lentheric; Intriguing fragrance, irresistible to the true sophisticate. 2 ounces, 30.00."
$30 for 2 oz in 1946, that's a bit spendy!
What a great find for a blind buy.
I have a very rare bottle of Fame by Corday from 1946, it was my mom's first perfume buy when she worked her first 'real job' at the fragrance counter at I Magnin's in San Francisco. describes it as "a civety, sensuous wonder. A spicy floral with lilting spring green dashes that keep some of that civet in check." I have to agree with StC's description, it's civet has claws but notes of jonquil, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, iris, coumarin, benzoin, Peru balsam, linden blossom, & tobacco flower balance it nicely. It truly is sexy, elegant & classicly 'glamourous'.
Other not so vintage but marvelously civet-y wonders I have found-
Amouage Gold Woman, 1983- The Sultan of Oman gave Guy Robert all of the finest ingredients of Oman to make this gorgeously retro chypre ( I mean it's almost BAROQUE with all the bells & whistles). Expensive but worth it.
Laura Biagiatti's Roma, 1988- Warm, spicy, richly floral, ambery, with a civet & musk base. A little bit heavy for modern tastes perhaps but definitely a very Italian Oriental. This was my first perfume buy working at the Nordstrom fragrance counter. Roma reminds me of Autumn in northern California, turning leaves, foggy days, hot cocoa, the harvest of the vineyards - driving my '65 Mustang convertible & wearing my 50's 'sweater girl' wardrobe hoping I bore some resemblance to Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, or Kim Novak in Vertigo.(Delusional?) Anyway you probably recall Roma's much advertised precursor, Laura Biagiatti's Venezia (supposedly Ann Margaret's signature fragrance) but I think Roma's much more luxurious & yummy. Be sure to buy the Roma that's in the pink marbled box made by Eurocos, evidently the UK made version doesn't have quite the same zing.
I like L'Occitane's fragrances but I have a hard time paying $35-50 for a fragrance that only sticks around 30 minutes, so try before you buy!

Goody said...

I've seen Fame around but never snapped up a bottle-I think that has to change now!

I can totally picture you as Kim Novak!

Amourage Gold Woman sounds like my kind of perfume-I'll keep an eye out for that one too. Thank you.

Mim said...

That sounds 'gurt lush', as they say round these parts. And a whole set!

Amouage Gold is still available, though it is *eye wateringly* expensive and, of course, I've no idea how regulations will have affected it over the years. I had a sample but didn't get on with it.

Like you, I am a terrible stasher. One of my favourite discounters has Caron French Can Can on clearance, and I have about 200ml at home, I really don't need another 100ml bottle, but the little voice in my head keeps telling me to buy it...

Goody said...


You should always listen to the voice in your head...I mean, unless it is telling you to kill or something. The *Perfume expert* voice in your head should be heeded though.

Amy Sanders said...

I actually just found a sample set of the Queen's of fragrance by Lenteric's the cellophane wrapper is still on, some of the perfume has evaporated but the only one that is almost gone is the Shanghai the others 4 still have all or most of the fragrance left. This blog was very informative. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

Goody said...

@Amy Sanders

I'm so glad you were able to find something helpful in my review.

Since writing the review, I've noticed the evaporation speeds up once the seals are broken (Shanghai was worn once, and a good 1/3 of it has evaporated since last winter). Either use some packaging tape around the neck, or decant your perfumes into something more airtight (some people decant a vial or two and then seal up the bottle top with melted parafin)because these cologne versions of the Lentheric fragrances don't last like the perfumes.

I couldn't wrap my brain around Shanghai anyway (That's a polite way of saying it is a stinker).

I hope you enjoy your set-they're really great perfumes (except Shanghai).