Every trend has a beginning. Prior to 1991 the idea of putting a celebrity’s name on a perfume was unheard of. After the success of Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds the brands couldn’t find someone to partner with fast enough. Even this was a slow burn. White Shoulders was the third fragrance released with Ms. Taylor’s name. Two gendered versions of Passion preceded it. At this point in time Ms. Taylor was an all-caps large font “star”. The public fascination with her was voracious in a time where that played out in supermarket tabloids instead of Gawker. She had her own nick name La Liz. Because of the less relentless pressure she was able to ride that wave of notoriety without wiping out.
Her foray into fragrance wasn’t a failure through the two versions of Passion. It was just that nobody saw the popularity of White Shoulders ahead of its release. Perfumers Carlos Benaim and Olivier Gillotin were seemingly tasked to create an “elegant” white floral. This is all happening right on the cusp of fragrance trends taking a hard left towards fresh and clean. To their credit they designed White Diamonds as if that was never going to happen.
White Diamonds felt like a throwback even in 1991. The perfumers throw a cloud of aldehydes over a fresh lily. In hindsight I can say here is where a little fresh resides. It disappears when a floral ingredient as exuberant as La Liz appears in tuberose. This is a full volume version. The indoles add a skank to it which jasmine and narcissus call out to. It heads towards a patchouli and sandalwood base given some warmth via amber.
White Diamonds has 6-8 hour longevity and above average sillage in its current formulation.
The bottle I own is from around 2000. I also picked up a mini of the current version. The biggest difference when comparing is there is more jasmine in the heart now. It still doesn’t hesitate in showing off the indoles. The base is also less complex, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It isn’t as intense as it was in the original. Something is missing. I don’t think it dramatically changes things because it is the aldehydic top accord and the tuberose heart which makes this.
White Diamonds was a gigantic best-seller for well over a decade. Even after the trends went far away people kept buying it. Re-visiting it I forgot the freshness of that top accord and what a contrast the dirty indoles make with it. It still seems like an artifact of an earlier fragrance era. The influence was really felt in the hundreds of celebrities who would rush to put their name on a perfume.
Disclosure: this review is based on bottles I purchased.
The branding of perfume by celebrities was not as common as it is today. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s where celebrity and perfume became the brand instead of the promotion. One of the earliest to step up with a celebrity brand was actress Elizabeth Taylor. Prior to Ms. Taylor’s entry the results were mixed. After the success of her third fragrance White Diamonds there was a line of celebrities wanting to put their names on a bottle. I became acquainted with the brand through their first masculine release Passion for Men in 1989.
Ms. Taylor was one of the earliest celebrities writ large often referred to as La Liz. In a day when there was no internet every move she made was scrutinized and reported upon. Her love life, the jewelry, the movie set contretemps, and her fashion. I was always enthralled by her eyes with their one-of-a-kind violet color. Seeing them on a 70mm movie screen they were mesmerizing. The color became one of Ms. Taylor’s hallmarks as she used violet throughout her life. When she released her first perfume Passion in 1987 it was in a violet colored bottle. I had a close friend who wore Passion from nearly the first day it was released, it was her signature scent for twenty years. When I smell it I automatically think of her. Because she knew I liked perfume she gifted me a bottle of Passion for Men in 1989. It would remain in my small early rotation of perfume until I discovered niche over ten years later.
Passion for Men was composed by perfumer Rene Morgenthaler who was a stalwart perfumer in the commercial sector at this time. M. Morgenthaler was a technician working on the familiar perfume templates. Passion for Men was going to be a masculine Oriental except there was a fabulous little indicator of where men’s perfume would head more firmly twenty years later. M. Morgenthaler would design a spicy woody version of the classic architecture.
Elizabeth Taylor in 1985
Passion for Men begins with bergamot supported by ginger. This begins to be subsumed by spices as clove, cardamom and primarily nutmeg carry things forward. Vetiver sets itself up as the nucleus in the heart. This is a woodier version of vetiver. M. Morgenthaler really pushes it to the foreground to mesh with the nutmeg. The bit of innovation here is he adds in a vector of vanilla at the same time patchouli comes up. This tilts in a kind of gourmand style, years before that would come to be a thing.
Passion for Men has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I still wear Passion for Men at least once a year, it has classical style which does not feel dated. This can be had for $10-15 at most of the perfume discounters. Its longevity has really turned it into a Discount Diamond.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.