Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fragrance Review-Estee Lauder Knowing (Vintage Formulation)

My introduction to Knowing was shortly after it was introduced in the late 80's. My mum wanted the large Christmas set that was, "Free" with a fragrance purchase, so she gifted me a bottle of Knowing. For a woman that got it so wrong, so often in nearly every aspect of parenting, she'd somehow managed to select a fragrance that was at least in the spirit of something I'd wear. I never bothered with a second bottle, and didn't think about it until I was in New Life Thrift and found a half-filled bottle for around two dollars. "Why not?" I thought. I brought it home, put it away and forgot about it all winter.

A few weeks ago I came across the bottle and decided it was now or never. I always thought of Knowing as a cold weather fragrance-boy, was I wrong! Thanks to our wild weather that has fluctuated between frost and 90 degrees, I've been proving everything I thought about Knowing wrong (I imagine an ad campaign;"You don't know Knowing"). This is a wonderful late Spring fragrance-after the lily of the valley scents get old, but it is too early for gardenias.

Knowing is a chypre, but I hesitate to mention that for fear of scaring off the oakmoss and civet shy. Yes, those notes are there, but so are melon, plum, aldehydes, cedar, and the most glorious rose. On paper it sounds like someone let a ten year old loose in a lab, but after that initial suffocating blast of aldehydes (and it is strong) Knowing settles down and spends the next several hours compelling you to sniff your wrist. Bay leaf, cardamom, coriander-the spice notes in Knowing never veer into smelling like a kitchen cabinet-rather they're more like an herb garden warmed by the sun.

To my nose, Knowing isn't a typical 80's fragrance. Perhaps it is the aldehydes, or the civet but there's something old fashioned about it-my grandmother wouldn't have found it too different from the perfume bottles on her own tray (even if she only ever wore Lentheric Tweed to the annoyance of my mother). I won't say Knowing has some sort of old fashioned glamour, as I think people often associate anything old fashioned with the version of the past they get from movies. Rather, Knowing is reminiscent of an era where you wouldn't go to the dentist wearing yoga pants. Dressed, rather than dressed-up.

Knowing isn't a powerhouse, but the first few minutes of aldehyde cloud can be a bit strong. It does settle down, but I wouldn't spray myself head-to-toe all at once unless I was particularly skilled at holding my breath. Only you know your lung capacity, and your aldehyde endurance, so spray lightly until you know your limit. The longevity is good, but a second application mid-day isn't an outrageous indulgence.

What's interesting to me is the absence of any citrus notes in Knowing's opening. There's such a tendency to throw a bit of bergamot or orange at a woody chypre, that it is almost daring to omit it. There's orange blossom later on, but that's different of course. I suppose it would get lost in the aldehydes anyway.

So what's in Knowing?

Aldehydes, mimosa, coriander, orange blossom, melon, plum, green notes, rose, tuberose, bay leaf, patchouli, orris root, jasmine, lily of the valley, cedar, cardamom, sandalwood, amber, musk, civet, oakmoss and vetiver.

Knowing gets compared to Paloma Picasso, and that's not an unfair comparison. I find Knowing a bit nicer in the second and third hour where the second and third hour of Picasso makes me think I should wash it off and try something else. I like both fragrances for their own qualities but if I had to choose, I'd take Knowing without much deliberation.

I have issues with the Lauder fragrances. Actually, that's not fair. I have issues with my mother and sister who were loyal consumers of Lauder fragrances until my sister mercifully discovered Chanel No. 19 in the late 70's. Until then, it was a cloud of Aliage, Youth Dew, Estee, and White Linen. I can enjoy vintage Azuree in the right mood, but even the later fragrances like Cinnabar, Pleasures, Private Collection, and the like really churn my stomach. Today's Estee Lauder fragrances are tamer, but they still don't do much for me. That said, I will always turn my head to figure out who is wearing Aramis in a room, even when I know it will be a 70 year old gentleman that started wearing it when the fragrance was new. Every house has at least one good fragrance, and as far as I'm concerned Aramis is it-it is a stronger version of Azuree adding in what was missing (probably a shit-load of cumin).

I haven't tried the newer version of Knowing. The oakmoss is such an important note in the original I'd be curious how they've managed to duplicate it. Synthetic civet to my nose works well in most things (hell, it turns Jicky into something I'd actually consider wearing) and I don't imagine it could go too wrong in Knowing-but I've been wrong before. Hopefully the fragrance hasn't been gutted in reformulation as so m any others have been.

If you like woody chypres like Paloma Picasso, a vintage bottle of Knowing might be something you'd enjoy. Just beware the aldehydes. Really, I'm not exaggerating.


Polyester Princess said...

I don't know a thing about perfume and I'm always in awe of how knowledgeable you are when describing a perfume's fragrance notes. This one sounds lovely, and I've already been eyeing a bottle of Knowledge during my lunch break ... xxx

Vronni's Style Meanderings said...

Haven't tried this one - you make it sound sound wonderful...I haven't tried the Paloma Picasso either but love Azuree and always have since I first discovered it aged 17 in 1971.

Yes, I agree Aramis does smell similar to Azuree....

Goody said...


I'd definitely order a small bottle until you decide if it works for you. That said, it would be a pleasant air freshener.


I think we are the only two people alive that like Azuree (and we're good company)!

Mim said...

Mmm, that sounds good! I like 'well dressed' perfumes.

Goody said...

It seems like your type of perfume-but go to a department store and try the tester-it can be a little strong.

Bibi Maizoon said...

I have given up on EL fragrance. I do not doubt that they are good quality & all that but there is some synthetic musk in the base that EL uses that turns my stomach. After 20 minutes of wear all EL perfumes turn to that rank stench that smells like mouldy breath, acetone, and rotting narcissus. I'd really love to be able to wear EL's Tuberose Gardenia but it's in there too.