Wednesday, August 29, 2007

212 Sexy by Carolina Herrera : Perfume Review

Today I felt like challenging myself a little bit. You see, it’s so much more exciting to write about fragrances that I love or at least admire -whether these are niche or mainstream releases. And it’s so much easier to write about fragrances that move me, either in a positive or negative way, than about fragrances that leave me completely cold. But as I said, today was all about the challenge, so instead of carefully picking out my subject for the day as I usually do, I decided to surprise myself instead. I dipped my hand in a bag of haphazardly stashed samples and came up with Carolina Herrera’s 212 Sexy. Ignoring the little voice inside my head moaning with dread –for there is no Herrera fragrance I’ve come to appreciate- I set about testing it and keeping notes.

Imagine my surprise, when despite all my prejudice and preconceived notions, I found myself quietly impressed with the opening of this 2004 flanker. The opening was full of sophisticated, lovely bitterness and the bite of pepper stung my nose pleasantly. I decided to let my guard down as my interest was getting piqued and found myself, if not seduced, then certainly interested by the freshness of a not-quite-ripe tangerine rind. Just as I was musing about how the bitter freshness and the pepper smelled like a recipe for success to me, I was rudely awakened to the fact that the fragrance had drastically changed in the blink of an eyelid. Underneath the freshness, a deep, masculine scent was rising to the top, not quite unpleasant, but not what I expected either. There was an undeniable roughness and fullness there that did not befit the elegantly crisp opening. Slightly panicky, I checked the sample for fear I’d made a mistake and was sampling 212 Sexy Men instead, but no, no mistake there. I settled down, following the progress with slight bewilderment. The masculine edge got fainter and fainter as time went by, but unfortunately, so did the bitterness. Twenty minutes later, it had completely given way to a peculiar caramelly sweetness, which in turn quickly evolved to a very realistic rendition of cotton candy.
So realistic in fact, I almost felt like I was standing in front of a street vendor, the scent of burnt sugar surrounding me. As if that was not horrifying enough, there was a certain undertone of slightly sick vanilla there, tinged with something not quite right, something cheap, smelling faintly of wet cardboard. A boozy gardenia that might have otherwise been quite pleasant (at least in the face of adversity posed by the evil cotton candy) made an appearance at some point there, or at least gave it its best shot, weighed down as it was by the monstrous goop of sweetness. Finally, thankfully, I reached the end of this Kafkasian metamorphosis: Sour vanilla, a dose of wood, musk and last but not least, wet cardboard. Perhaps even worse than the wet cardboard note though, is the unmistakable, unforgivable flatness of the end result. It’s just too bad for the interesting opening. It’s worth a spritz, just for the sake of experiencing that beautiful bitterness. Spray and sniff quickly, blink and you missed it. Be prepared to scrub it off too, afterwards. You deserve to smell better than this.

Images courtesy of: and


helg said...

LOL, you didn't mince your words, did you? I agree that it is non descript, this one.
I kinda like the original 212 though: a rather sexy, subtle clean musk.

BTW, I am intrigued to now try Skin2 by Ava Luxe. (so thanks!)

Divina said...

*chuckles* Well you know dear E, I think honesty is the best policy :P The original 212 is not bad, but it's nothing to write home about either. I think a lot of people like it though and I have to admit it did garner compliments the couple of times I wore a sample of it I had. So I guess it must be doing something right. It's just not doing it for me though.

Jenavira13 said...

I had a somewhat similar experience with this, really liked the opening only to find that it became a terrible moldy gardenia on me with yes a definite note of wet cardboard.

Divina said...

It's really too bad isn't it? The opening held such promise..

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
What a messy sounding fragrance this seems! At first, I thought it would be a real stunner, but as I read on my impression was of - well - as if its creator was just trying too hard. Not a pleasant metamorphosis if what you end up with is wet cardboard and sour vanilla. Still, it has made me want to sniff some of the Herrera fragrances so they'll be next on my list. By the way, I loved Edwardian Bouquet, and may treat myself on my next mission. Thank you for your excellent reviews,

Divina said...

Thank you so much for letting me know, dearest Linda! I was so curious! I have to agree with you, trying to hard is what sprung to my mind as well. That, along with trying to fit too many ideas into one frag. Sometimes it works, but more often than not it doesnt..

Italian girl said...

Darn, I just bought some 212 sexy and should be receiving it in the mail soon. I also bought some Coriandre and Black cashmere mist, all three have never been smelled by me. I liked the description given.
Any thoughts on Coriandre and Black Cashmere mist???
I am a Light Blue kind of girl.

Divina said...

Hi Italian Girl,

I hope they work for you, it would be really disappointing if all three did not! :( I have not sniffed Coriandre, but Black Cashmere is a very well loved perfume. I personally find it too heavy, there is too much of a note that bothers me - which is strange because the official notes on paper sound like something I would love. Perhaps I should give this another chance, it's been years since I last smelled it. But in any case, it is an incense/spice perfume and a heavy one at that. You mentioned Light Blue...well, this is very far removed from Light Blue. But you never know! I really really hope you find something you love in the packet you ordered. If not, sell them right back and get something else that you will love on your skin. *hugs*

italian girl said...

well. very disappointing so far.

212sexy started off lovely, demure and delicately sexy..but not too sweet at all...about 2 hours later now.. NOTHING.. no cotton candy, not too sweet, absolutely NOTHING .. the scent has completely faded off of me.

i am trying black cashmere tomorrow.
why does perfume not stay on me.. the only perfumes that dont leave me are coco madamoiselle, and tendre Prada.. i love both of them, too.. i wonder if i can only maintain the oriental, spicey scents on my skin?? oh, Burberry London is long lasting on me also.

i dont smoke or drink, and shower every day.. do you think it is body chemistry???

Divina said...

Although some people's skin does tend to 'gobble up' certain notes (mine for example exterminates everything naughty in Muscs Koublai Khan and tames it completely..) I do not think that the complete disappearance of a scent has to do with your body chemistry. First off, you might just be experiencing olfactory fatigue, which in simple terms (without going into how the receptor neurons are inhibited) means that you get used to a smell and cannot sense it any longer even though it is there. This is an adaptive mechanism that helps us keep alert and constantly evaluating new smells in our environment. It helps us detect possible dangers for example. (yeah, we are still monkeys when all is said and done :) ) I often wonder whether I keep smelling fragrances I intensely dislike for disproportionately longer amounts of time just for this reason. Does the body perceive these revolting scents as a threat? I wonder.

Now to the solution: One thing that you can do to help this situation is to be careful about where you apply your perfume. Try applying perfume farther away from the face, that is, do not apply behind the ears, neck and cleavage so that you do not overwhelm your olfactory sense and speed up the process of fatigue. Instead apply perfume on your wrists, the inside of your elbows, behind the knees and on the ankles. I know the last two sound slightly unorthodox areas, but the warmth of the skin on those places will help the scent rise upwards.

Another possibility, is that you have very dry skin. Well moisturized skin retains fragrance much better than dry skin, so if you think that is the possible cause of the problem, the solution is easy: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! :) I swear by the Naked Body Butter by Bliss which is unscented and won't interfere with your perfume's own character. Another very very good solution is to buy Extra Virgin Coconut Oil and prep your skin with that first. You will need to make sure it is refined. Refined coconut oil does not smell like coconut, in fact it is completely odorless, so you will not have any problem layering your fragrance on top of it.

I really really hope this helps a little bit! Do let me know how you like the other two fragrances and whether after some testing these solutions were of any help.

italian girl said...

Thanks for the tips. It is possible that it was olfactory fatigue, combined with dry skin..
I will need to get a hold of some unscented body lotion/creme..
I always spray the back of my knees.. never tried the elbows though.
On to more interesting things,
so far I like the Black Cashmere. It has the oriental/incense you mentioned but I don't sense it as stifling smelling to me.. not too overpowering or heavy in my opinion. I think it reminds me of a different perfume too much, though Do you remember Maja from the 80's..that bothers me.Maybe it is the same part of the scent that you don't particularly care for???
I think that it is now, 2 hours later, developing its own character to me and losing that "overly carnation" scent.
It also reminds me of Opium.. but, not as heavy.
I can remember the perfumes--Addict and Very Irresistible getting me compliments from others.

I purchased Calyx a long while ago because I loved how it smelled on a friend. On me, it is disgusting.
Same thing with Sicily, I loved how it smelled on saleswoman bought it and told a friend to buy it and it ended up being heavenly on her and disgusting on me.
Another example would be Noa, the original, smelled wonderful on a friend and just was not the same on me.

I think I should have just stuck with DK Cashmere mist or Coco madamoiselle.. So far, 212 and Black cashmere were misses. I have to smell something next time before I buy it. Everytime I buy from the description it is a washout.
Any suggestions on Heliotrope scented perfumes that you like out there???
I wish I could quit my job and just test perfume all day long.. wouldn't that just be the best????


Divina said...

That is such a strange coincidence! I was looking at Maja a couple of days ago at a store! I hadn't seen it in years and couldn't remember what it smelled like. There was no tester next to it but it only cost 10 euro so I seriously considered buying it just for the fun of it, to rouse some memories and remember what it was all about. In the end I did not, I thought, nevermind, I can spend the 10 euro on something I really like instead :P I wish I could remember what Black Cashmere smelled like to be able to comment more on it, but unfortunately I don't :( Although, carnation? Now I really have to smell it again. Although, just my luck, I don't think it is being sold around here any longer. The only thing I remember, is that there was something cloying, possibly animalic about it that bothered me. Even though I can't quite remember, I will venture a guess that it is something in the vein of what bothers me in Youth Dew Amber Nude as well. A certain base note or accord that really takes over my senses.

I agree with you completely on testing before buying! It is so important! Order samples if you can, and if you see something here on Fragrance Bouquet you really want to test you can always mail me and I will try to send out a sample next time I am sending out packets to readers or friends. As for Heliotrope, I am planning to write a Heliotrope post sometime in October. One frag that will definitely feature in that article will be l.t. Piver's Heliotrope Blanc. It is sweet and subtle at the same time, as well as baby soft :) I love it. There are more nice ones out there and I will include my faves in the article.

italian girl said...

Thanks again for your reply. I would say not to waste your time on black cashmere. Not a keeper in my opinion.
I tried the Coriandre today and so far I like it. It is fresh, I don't sense any spice or florals. It is woodsy, mossy, possibly not feminine enough for me. I am wrong, i do smell a slight similarity to Maroc all of a sudden. But, Coridandre is definitely not a sexy smelling scent like I used to think Maroc was.
I also used to love samsara.. I may have to pick some of that up. Remember Lutece.. that was good, too.

I have never heard of the Heliotrope perfume you mentioned. I will have to try to search it out. I cannot wait until your review..

By the way, I agree with you 100 %regarding Daisy by Marc Jacob..
do you like the Escada scents?? I don't enjoy any of them.
Bulgari, is a different matter. I think I love them all.
Omnia is such a beautiful scent.

Divina said...

I am completely with you! I do not like any of the Escada scents I have tried, while I enjoy all Bulgari scented offerings! Unfortunately I have not smelled Maroc yet :( An easier Heliotrope scent to try for now is Etro's Heliotrope. And I'll be glad to send you a sample of Heliotrope Blanc if you send me your details.

Take care!

italian girl said...

That is so nice of you. I would feel bad though as it would cost you money to send it.
I will try to get a sample at Macy's or Sephora next week.

I would guess that you have a wonderful nose for perfume.

Thanks for the help.

Divina said...

You are very welcome. Don't worry about the offer - I made it because Heliotrope Blanc is really hard to find. Well, wait until my review and you can always mail me if you change your mind :) Take care!