Monday, December 17, 2007

Forget Me Not: Estée Lauder Private Collection

As the story goes, Estée Lauder often wore a variety of scents as she created new fragrances for her company. She developed her own personal favorites and when she wore them, she would inevitably be asked what she was wearing. She always said, "Oh, it's from my private collection." As often happens in the close knit beauty and fragrance community, word spread rapidly culminating in people asking for her private collection at Lauder counters(1). Estée Lauder acquiesced and moved on to market the fragrance, aptly naming it Private Collection. The year was 1973.

My first memories of Private Collection involve my cousin Anne-Marie, who always smelled incredibly feminine and pretty. As a young, naive nose I recall asking her what she was wearing and she announced, "Oh! It's Private Collection." I asked if I could try it, spritzed some from her bottle on my skin, quickly decided that it was only for Anne-Marie and swore to never wear it again. This event was quite possibly my first lesson in skin chemistry. At a ripe 12 or 13 years old, I was terribly disappointed I could not duplicate her scent.

Fast forward to last week when I along with Divina of Fragrance Bouquet decided to feature this fragrance for December's "Forget Me Not". I had not retested since that formidable day in my cousin's bedroom. And I fully expected to have the same reaction to the fragrance today that I did at twelve. How pleasantly surprised I am at this wonderfully sophisticated green floral which has entered the distinguished realm of "vintage" fragrances.

I have tested Private Collection three times in the past week and remarkably the scent morphs differently on my skin with every application. Like a chamelion, the scent becomes what I want it to be depending upon my mood, my attire and my plans for the day. It was slow to grow on me and turned up my nose with the first testing, probably due to my history with it. However, as I have studied the notes and how they interplay with one another, I truly appreciate the composition of the scent and my skin has befriended it.

The notes include citrus notes, green notes and hyacinth at the top, a heart of narcissus, rose, jasmine and pine landing on a base of oakmoss, cedar, amber and musk. The fragrance is slow to develop, increasing its charm and intrigue.

Private Collection begins very green and earthy, reminding me of grass and the dirt beneath it that grows lush on the Irish countryside. During the second stage the floral notes emerge. Because of their perfect blending, it is nearly impossible to identify just one, yet you know they lie just beneath the surface due to the enticing, feminine yet delicate nature of the scent. Very faintly sweet, even more faintly soapy and mostly green define the top and heart of the fragrance. The animalic base proves worth the wait. As the amber and oakmoss appear beneath what could be a green layer of batiste fabric, they render Private Collection a warm, hushed, soft as a whisper scent. On my skin, animalic notes are sometimes a tad nutty and this aspect took me completely by surprise, pleasantly so. The beauty of this base reminds me of an Oriental rather than a Chypre, although Private Collection is classified as the latter.

The picture painted with this lush chamelion fragrance, no matter how it develops from one application to the next, is that of a classy sophisticate - one who hosts elegant dinner parties, never leaves the house without wearing lipstick and boasts a large circle of friends and associates. Perhaps similar to Estée Lauder herself, the fragrance of her private collection begs to be the signature of an unforgettable woman, one with grace, beauty and style. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to revisit it.

(Not to be confused with the recent 2007 release of Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia, a much lighter and more floral fragrance that is uniquely beautiful in its own right, created by Estée's daughter Aerin.)

(1) Paraphrased from the story listed on

Estée Lauder Private Collection is available at in a gift called "Two to Treasure" including the body lotion, for $60. Also, a 1.75 oz. pure fragrance spray retails there for $45.


Divina said...

I can't help but *love* it when we write about the same perfume! It's such fun to see how our vision of a fragrance is similar (eg. how we both perceive the opening as earthy, the greeness etc) and where our opinions differ (you find it a chamelion, while I find it strict and inflexible)!

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Ha!! That is great, dear D.!! How funny. :-) It really is fun to write about the same fragrance. Off I go to read your review. Have a wonderful day. :-)

tmp00 said...

Okay, I really am going to have to seek this out

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

LOL, Tom. I saw your post on Divina's entry as well so I can only imagine your intrigue with two entries in one day! Good news. Private Collection is very easy to find. Just head to your nearest department store Estee Lauder counter. They will push the new formulation - Tuberose Gardenia because it's selling like hotcakes. But I think the older version is well worth a good spin! ;-)

Anonymity Please said...

I'm definitely going to look into (aka smell) Private Collection the next time I can.

I appreciated your comments on being disappointed as a child in the way perfumes smelled when you tried them, I had a very similar experience. :-)

Sali said...

Hi, Tamara. I love your review of Private Collection--thank you for writing it. I agree this one tends to morph with each wear, and at first, I thought the hyacinth turned on me. It took a few tries but now, it's one of my favorite hyacinth blends. Hyacinth is a challenging note for me, but this one nails it.

Perfumeshrine said...

This is certianly very individual. Not for everyone.

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Anonymous Please,

Thank you for your thoughts and comments. Your blogs look very fun and interesting! Nice to see you here.


ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...


Hyacinth! Yes! Thank you for divulging that oh so mysterious floral note. But you're right. It is perfect. :-)

ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...


I'm assuming you cannot wear this one? This fragrance most certainly is love it or hate it.