Created by the very the talented Sophia Grojsman, White Linen is a classic. Like Chanel No. 5, it’s an aldehydic floral. But I think it’s more like Chanel No. 22 than No. 5. I enjoy the bottle for this scent – it’s very 80s glam. The fragrance was released in 1978, and in the 80s this fragrance was everywhere, and definitely decorated the skin of my mother and even sometimes myself during that decade.
The perfume name is perfect, and I do wonder which came first – the name or the formula. The aldehydes are strong, sharp, bright, and very starched. It’s a multifaceted symphonic floral bouquet. Yes, it’s dated, but passable for today because it’s soapy clean and crisp. This scent has a huge sillage and a lot of personality, but interestingly, it was probably seen as demure when compared to other scents at the time of its release. Sophia Grojsman, by the way, went on to make a lot of other important perfumes, for Lauder but others as well.
This scent is colorful (white is all colors after all). It’s sunny and soapy to my nose, and I although I generally am a fan of neither aldehydes nor soapy smells, I actually don’t mind this. Like others from Estée Lauder, this has been a staple in my mother’s scent wardrobe, so the fact that it reminds me of her probably adds to my positive bias. Here are the notes, and as you might expect of a vintage concoction, there are a few of them:
- Bulgarian rose, aldehydes, lemon, peach,
- carnation, jasmine, muguet (lily of the valley), lilac, jasmine, orris root (iris), violet, ylang-ylang, orchid, hyacinth
- vetiver, moss, cedar, sandalwood, benzoin, honey, amber, tonka bean
The base notes in this steer the fragrance towards a chypre style fragrance, which is probably why I like it more than the Chanel fragrances I mentioned earlier. There is hyacinth in it, and that is what gives it a punch and also dates it a wee bit. If the aldehydes make this scent sparkle, then it’s the iris that gives it the soft powderiness. The rest of the vibe is pure floral goodness, with a tiniest tinge of spice.
The image I get for this is walking through a spring garden – late spring because the sun is fairly strong – wearing crimpled linen slacks that are freshly laundered and not properly rinsed out of all the detergent. Maybe there are also some bed linens drying in the breeze behind the garden, too.
The garden is near the ocean, so the air is a bit salty. I can imagine a hot iron taken to those clear sheets. And perhaps they are not completely dry. That hot iron meeting hyperclean damp linens is also in here.
Aldehydes can make me sneeze, but so do several flowers in most gardens. In this garden all the flowers are out, the sun has warmed their petals, and a breeze wisks up the scent of those warm petals, pushes through the dried suds of my linen pants and wafts up to my nostrils to say hello.
Some say this is less soapy than Chanel #5, but I beg to differ – I do get a crystal-clear soap smell with this scent. Not unpleasant, but this perfume is strong, and I much prefer it after it’s settled down on my person. The musk at the base feels synthetic and adds to the soap. I don’t particularly smell any obvious rose or jasmine. The muguet I can get a hint of, but mostly it’s a very sharp and green intense bouquet with a non-descript mish-mash of flowers – white and purple flowers that have been jacked up with champagne and rubbed down with soap. It gets a bit woody and grassy near the end, which gives it a masculine feel. Yes, gentlemen can wear this.
The fragrance has lots of obnoxious projection at the start, but it calms down, and the whole fragrance on me does not last more than six hours. I think I’m going to pass my wee bottle on to my mum, as I don’t think she’s worn this scent in over a decade, and it’s deserving of a look back.
Overall, I do not think this is the most modern-smelling scent out there, although you can still pull it off, but if you don’t care for vintage style formulations or blinding aldehydes, I think you’ll probably want to give this one a pass.