Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: Estee Lauder Youth Dew Bath Oil, Oriental Mothership

30 ml of perfume extract for £25?

Unheard of, unless you’re an Estee Lauder aficionado.

For the third time in my life, I recently felt the need to make a purchase of the enchantingly autumnal balsam that is Estee Lauder’s classic Youth Dew. However, the purchase of bottle number three was tainted by the knowledge that it had suffered significantly through IFRA’s great perfume cull. Was it worth revisiting?

Youth Dew was responsible for some of my earliest fragrant memories, being a favourite of my frequently glamorous mum. We lived in the countryside. This meant that mucky wellington boots, ancient trapper hats and grubby anoraks that stank of our ‘outdoor’ Labradors were our regular attire. So when mum got glammed up, she ditched the countryside gear and really got glammed up.  In the eighties, the decade of my most influential fashion memories, she was fond of silky black flying suits and vertiginous heals. Her sleek auburn waves were set in huge Carmen rollers and her sharp cheekbones wore the vibrant blusher of the era of uber-make up. To finish it off, just a couple of sprays of Youth Dew were applied (which was all it took to asphyxiate a room of party goers). I associated perfume (and in particular Youth Dew) with glamming up and going out. It speaks of the adult world, a perfume to grow in to.

My mum is still gobsmackingly glamourous, very much capable of pulling off a Jessica Rabbit style column dress with great style at the age of 71. Though nowadays Clinique’s classic chypre - Aromatics Elixir adorns her dressing table.

While pondering purchase number 3, I made the discovery of the existence of Youth Dew Bath Oil. Of course I’d heard of it before but I thought it was one of those vintage objects of desire that sold for extortionate amounts of money to collectors on Ebay. Which it is. But thankfully, it is also a current product that retails at an astonishing £25. That might sound a lot for 30 mls of bath oil. But it isn’t really bath oil. It’s a pure, brawny and sensational perfume. Guerlain would call it a parfum extrait and sell 30 ml of it for £210.

Sadly, it doesn't create for you a bum like this one

Estee Lauder initially released Youth Dew in bath oil form in 1953, speculating that American women would be more inclined to purchase a hygiene accessory than a fragrance. Fragrance was still something that a man would buy for you, too decadent to purchase yourself. She predicted correctly and sold an unfeasible amount of bottles.

A rather prim Ms Lauder faffs about with nice bottles

Still in pondering stage, I asked a question to my online scent buddies at the ‘Facebook Fragrance Friends’ group. What’s the difference between the EDP and the bath oil? The response was rapid and mammoth. They loved it. Members spoke of it’s multiple uses, as a bath oil (just 2 drops required to fill your apartment with it’s heady whiff), dabbed neat onto the skin in the manner of an extrait, rubbed into the tips of the hair for an animated scent trail or burned in an aromatherapy ceramic. I’ve since tried all of these tips and they were highly effective. Thanks chaps.

So how does it smell? Like the Youth Dew of my own youth; decadent, oily, spicy, burnt, opulent, edgy, piercing, sweet, animalic, camphorous, exotic and exceedingly grown up. If you removed the bright, powdery and soft elements of the current EDP, you are left with the bath oil, which is sticky, dark and as rich as bonfire toffee.

Youth Dew, alike YSL’S Opium, was arguably a starting point from which niche amber focused orientals grew. Containing notes of labdanum, vanilla, incense, balsams and a Moroccan market’s worth of spices, you can easily read the inspiration for indie greats such as Serge Luten’s Ambre Sultan or Histoires de Parfums Ambrarem. However, in comparison to it’s contemporary offspring, Mother Youth Dew seems more complex and thus more interesting.

According to Fragrantica, the notes are:

Top notes: aldehydes, orange, spices, peach, bergamot, narcissus and lavender

Middle notes: cinnamon, cassia, orchid, jasmine, cloves, ylang-ylang, rose, lily-of-the-valley and spicy notes

Base notes; tolu balsam, peru balsam, amber, patchouli, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, vetiver and incense.

My nose reads these notes as most prominent:

Clove, aldehydes, cinnamon, labdanum, jasmine, patchouli, rose and civet

Essentially, Youth Dew is an untamed oriental that should be sought out by anybody who has not been near an Estee Lauder counter in years. For the ‘niche only’ crowd (particularly the boys) who are currently showing an interest in Lauder’s Wood Mystique and Amber Mystique, you really should try and persuade one of the Sales Assistants to ditch the tester of the EDP and let you have a whiff of the bath oil which will inevitably be under the counter in the long forgotten sample draw. They might even look a bit confused and not know what you are on about, persevere. 

Whilst you are there, be sure to sample Estee and Knowing, for two immense chypres in the grand dame style.

My only concern with Youth Dew is that it was incredibly popular with generations of women, to the extent that at some point you will recognise someone's mum or grandmother in it's retro cloud. Whilst I take great pleasure in smelling like my own mum, I do worry that I may smell akin to the mother/grandmother of my next lover. At best this could result in the misconception that I might do his laundry for him, at worst, it could induce a serious oppositional effect to Viagra...

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  1. What a great tale of your mammoth oriental love! I particularly enjoyed the vignette of your mother in her 80s evening finery. Youth Dew is a perfume I tried right at the start of my hobby, when I was pretty much traumatised by anything stronger than a 'floral woody musk'. I have some vintage Opium (inherited from my mother), and while I wouldn't wear it, I am not terrified by it. I vaguely recall a lighter flanker of Youth Dew, if not the name. Yes, maybe I am ready for another sniff. There was one oriental EL that was truly diabolical in a spicy, treacly way. Spellbound, that's the fellow. Spritz at your peril!

  2. Ooh I love Opium. I think everybody's mum had a bottle at some point. I wore it a lot when I was in Dubai. It didn't really work back in Manchester somehow. I think Spellbound is on it's way out, according to the girl's I spoke to whilst buying my Youth Dew.

  3. Loved the part about your mother.
    I vaguely remember that I smelled this perfume on a paper strip (the fact itself, not the scent) but I've never tried it on my skin and, until today, didn't know it existed in different forms. I will give it a sniff the next time I'm at an EL's counter.

    1. Hi Undina,
      Do go and have a whiff, I'd love to know what you think. It seems to have taken over my flat. I smell it everywhere. Although my flat is tiny, I'm amazed that each room retains a faint whiff. I haven't even spilt any. I'm very happy about this. I'm never washing my bathrobe again.