Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Harem by LR : Perfume Review

It feels a bit like skating on thin ice, choosing this perfume for review: in some ways it can be seen as a (*gasp*!) dupe, it is neither mainstream nor niche, it has limited distribution and it is offered by a brand most people likely have never heard of. I’ve never been one to conform however, and I truly love this perfume, so here we go!

LR is a direct marketing company – meaning you cannot buy their products from brick-and-mortar stores but only from registered LR “consultants” (the LR equivalent I guess of the better known Avon Lady) as well as the internet as of late. The company started up in 1885 in Germany, but quickly started expanding all over the world. Currently their products are available in 30 countries world-wide, including Australia, New Zealand and The Philippines. I first discovered their perfumes at a beautician’s office, where a black box of samples was displayed. Naturally, if a little sheepishly, I started opening each tiny phial for a quick sniff and even though I was doing so rather hurriedly (I felt rather guilty going through them without supervision, but was completely unable to resist the siren-call of unknown perfume) I still managed to register that within the sea of ho-hum, so-so and downright-awful scents, there had been a little gem, completely different than the rest. I was soon ushered in for my appointment and promptly forgot all about the little gem and its uglier siblings. But it does seem like some things are meant to be. More than a year later, I smelled a fantastically erotic, patchouli laden perfume on my best friend, after she returned from a trip to England. When I asked her for more details begging her to get me a bottle next time she went to London, she told me that it was given to her by a friend and that the friend had gotten it from a direct seller. Even worse, the friend had not bought it in England, but in Cyprus. And then one of those strange things happened: the puzzle pieces came together out of nowhere, and quite unexpectedly the penny dropped. Bizarrely, my mind made the connection with extreme certainty and no proof whatsoever: What I was smelling on my friend was the very same little gem I’d found at the beautician’s office… My beautician must have been an LR consultant. Even more surprisingly perhaps, I was right. On a bright Saturday morning this past Christmas I bought a bottle and since then, I’ve managed to drench half of its contents. Quite a feat, considering how many bottles of perfume I own.

The little gem is called Harem and it is a copycat, clone, wannabe, dupe or whatever you wanna call it of the ever influential, already widely-copied Angel. Yes, yes, I can’t believe I fell for that either. But I did. Hard. Released in 1994, two years after Angel had turned all the tables, dethroned all the perfume beauty queens of old and secured its success on the market, Harem snaked itself into the newly-opened niche and has faithfully remained a best-seller for the company that cleverly capitalized on the Mugler money-train. Not sufficiently different from the original monster to be accredited the same respect as a unique scent (see for example Lolita Lempicka), Harem still deserves attention. Why? Because it is Angel for the ones who cannot wear Angel itself! If you like/admire Angel in theory, but can’t wear it due to its obnoxious, in-your-face character, you’re going to love this. If you wish you could wear Angel, but get a splitting headache from it, you’re going to love this. If you find yourself distracted by the always attention seeking Angel every time you wear it and need something that is just that little bit quieter, kinder to your psyche, you will be able to wear this. If you are looking for something that is just as erotic but rather less vulgar, this is it. (As a side note, I used to loathe Angel, but I actually love it ever since I’ve had my little patchouli revelation moment. Still, I do prefer Harem.)

Harem opens with juicy, sweet mandarin orange notes tampered with the bitterness of bergamot and will continue to hover above the border separating decadent sweetness and adult bitterness for most of its development. Its bittersweet character is incredibly seducing, bringing to mind all manner of delights meant to be enjoyed by adults, rather than children: pure bitter chocolate, amaretto liqueur, bittersweet almond paste and marzipan… In fact it is not hard at all to conjure these images, since they all manifest as aspects of the perfume itself as it evolves. The juiciness of the sweet citrus fruit runs dry as the top notes fly off, and we are left with the sparkling oils of the rind, smothered in bitter pure chocolate and its toothsome milk counterpart, wickedly flavored with caramel accents. The patchouli, already present and prevalent from the very moment Harem is applied, becomes absolutely central in the heart notes and is incredibly gifted to boot: never dirty, never mildew-y, never earthy, this is a gorgeous rendition of the note. The best way to describe Harem’s patchouli would be to liken it to a sensual embrace, so round, sweet and warm it is. Yes, it is still as loud as its roots predispose it to be, but somehow it holds back, as though having perfectly learned the game of first grabbing one’s attention and then playfully falling quiet until the victim is reeled in closer. Wonderfully, the scent becomes ever nuttier as time goes by: specifically its already sensual combination of flagrant eroticism and gourmand comfort is underscored by the many faces of almond that start caressing the skin. Bittersweet almond essence, raw almond, soft almond paste and a few sinful drops of amaretto all combine with the extravagance of vanilla-patchouli and chocolate, making the skin positively edible. Here and there, I get wafts of cherry as well, the perfect complement to the creamy, nutty almond. Hours later, Harem becomes magnificently powdery, a beautiful angel-dust whisper on the skin. In fact, the powdery drydown is so gorgeous, I wish it was a scent of its own just so I could enjoy it at will.
Despite its low price-point (23 euro for the EdP), Harem most definitely does not smell cheap. Too, I have to add that despite my own extensive comparison of it to Angel, I should not omit the ways it is different: Harem is all about the gourmand patchouli as is Angel, but its patchouli is far less aggressive and far more round and smooth. Another major plus point, is that it has a far more perceptible development, with clear stages that keep the interest alive. Lastly, even though the two fragrances run parallel at first, from the point the almond blend makes its appearance Harem begins to diverge and differentiate itself. The greatest difference is of course the beautiful powdery drydown, a direct consequence of which is that spraying on the clothes will lead to a much more subtle fragrance (instead of a hostile takeover) when the garments are returned to the closet.

Harem can be bought online from the LR webshop or directly from LR Consultants in your area (you can request for a representative close to you by visiting your country’s page from the official website, provided of course that LR is doing business where you live…)



UPDATE:

:::IMPORTANT NOTICE:::

LR, the company that makes Harem has changed this perfume beyond recognition. Please do not rush to order it based on this review which was written about the original version of this once beautiful perfume. You can find out more about this by clicking here.



Images: Harem ad and bottle, www.lrworld.com/, gold panning, www.whoisdimak.com, diamond in kimberlite, www.scienceclarified.com and dew on clover, titled “diamond in the rough”, flickr by diongillard


11 comments:

Linda said...

Dear Divina!
I read this avidly - I'd never heard of LR although of course I have heard of Avon... I was so intrigued because it sounds just lovely, and looked at the links, because I thought at this price it would be good to buy unsniffed, BUT it's not available here in UK and shipping costs add another 15 euros! Woe!
Anyway, thank you so much for another wonderful post. I'm about to reread it (wearing the VERY English Penhaligon's Victorian Posy)
Hugs,
Linda

Divina said...

Dear girl, that's what you have have friendly perfumistas in other countries for mwahahaha! I'll totally send you a bottle :)

Yeah I had noticed as well that UK is not one of the countries where they have sellers, and I agree with you: even though at 38 euro it is still a cheapie, it definitely departs from buy-unsniffed territories!

Flora said...

This actually sounds REALLY good - I am one of the Angel-phobic ones too, so I am curious about Harem. I love reading about obscure scents!

ScentScelf said...

Wow! I think it is rather wonderful that you have devoted so much attention to an obscure something...we do, after all, take advantage of other people's experiences to live vicariously, no? And yes, having a friend in perfume in another country can be so...wonderful. :)

I cast my gaze upon my Jose Eisenberg...now discontinued, it seems...and remember how I thought I had found a viable off-the-beaten-path amber alternative. Quite heartening to be reminded that other companies continue to produce reasonably priced, reasonable smelling additions to the fragrance wardrobe...

Jenavira13 said...

This could be interesting will have to investigate when weather gets colder.

Divina said...

Flora, I know, me too! But I especially love finding them! :)

Divina said...

Hey Scent sweetie :) How are you? Yes, I actually enjoy devoting time to more obscure scents if I can get my hands on them. One of my best finds has to have been Maria Amalia! I treasure that bottle and I loved writing the review :) Anyway back on subject! I googled Jose Eisenberg cause I'd never heard about it. Have you already tried Scent Direct? I've found some discontinued frags I couldn't find anywhere else there. Not sure if the fragrance you are referring to was any of these 3?
http://www.scentdirect.com/designer.php?designerID=334

Divina said...

Hi Jen! This definitely calls for colder weather, although it wouldn't knock someone down the way Angel would ;) Well, only in the opening... then it would calm down.

ScentScelf said...

Dearest Divina,
I have indeed tried Scent Direct...in fact, that is where I got the best information on notes for that particular scent. It was funny; I saw it appear on online auction Stateside, and quickly disappear; all supply was from sellers in California. I'm pretty sure there was a single dump, and I doubt I'll ever see a cluster again.

I occasionally Google for it, but after a certain point, it ceases to be my budget go-to, and becomes an (expensive) ephemeral dream...

But, as someone once said wisely about ideas, it is fine to let them go out and find a home; that makes room for new ones...

Radi NAYDEV said...

Thanks for sharing.

Ouz0 said...

Well, I have been a consultant of LR for 2 years, but frankly I believe that their perfumes are a bit too expensive and are not easy to promote.

In the meantime there is a new company on the perfumes market which it really has the potentiall to change the perfume market.

Actually I am promoting this new perfumes and i will be glad to give you more information, just send me an email to info@jobsforeverybody.com and i will inform you accrdingly!