Jessica McClintock Eau de Parfum by Jessica McClintock Review

Collage of Jessica McClintock perfume and its notes, including basil, lemon, lily of the valley, bergamot, jasmine and ylang.

Here’s an unsweet perfume perfectly suited to a very sweet girl.

Herbal and fresh, this is a perfect first fragrance for an innocent, uncertain, polite girl who loves lemon-scented cleaners and little white flowers.

Everyone is saying Jessica McClintock’s eponymous Jessica McClintock perfume is all about lily of the valley. I love the smell of fresh lilies of the valley. I knew them as convalias, and those gorgeous, delicate tiny white bells grew in a few magical spots in my yard in April.

Maybe my sample has turned, or it’s a different formulation (it’s an early 2000s sample, with the dark yellow liquid) but I just don’t get much lily of the valley here.

Once the initial blast of perfumer’s alcohol burns off, this smells like pure lemon to me. Not like a fresh lemon, but like lemon essential oil, or a lemon-based cleaning product.

A white cup full of white lily of the valley flowers, also known as convalia, and large green leaves.

After ten to fifteen more minutes, I start sensing hints of the rest of the top notes; the herbal freshness of the basil is prominent, while the ylang-ylang gives the lemon just a touch more sparkle and the currant-cassis accord gives it more of a green nuance.

Still… I get no lily of the valley.

Past the top notes, I still get a predominantly lemon-cleaning-product vibe — which is to say, a cleaning product made with lemons, not a product for cleaning lemons — with a bit more vaguely floral powder underneath. Nothing that feels very natural, green, wet, or naturally fresh; just lemony cleaner with a bit of white floral powder. Something about it has an odd cereal grain nuance to me, like sesame or something else slightly warm and bread-like.

Structurally, it reminds me a bit of the faint wheat note built into Frédéric Malle’s En Passant. There, it seems to be built in as a bit of chaff-like texture, adding dimension to the watery green flower stems. Perhaps something similar was intended here. But I just smell a little bit of nice, fresh warm bread.

The floral powder in Jessica McClintock feels too faint and buried for me to effectively name, and is particularly obscured by that weird bread note as I breathe in more deeply to try to understand more of it. I guess it could be vaguely lily of the valley if I squint and convince myself that it is, but it’s just as likely to be predominantly jasmine. I see rose listed in the note pyramid, but I don’t smell anything like roses at all here.

An opalescent, filmy soap bubble.

It’s a hint soapy, but not too much. Predominantly, this scent is fresh not like grass or flowers, but like cleaning products. It’s refreshingly non-headache-y and stands out nicely among the bright and loud perfumes of the 80s and 90s, but it’s still a little bizarre on me. Lemon-basil cleaner is a nice smell, but not a typical perfume sort of scent. If you love the smell of citrus and herb cleaning products, you’ll love Jessia McClintock.

The faint musk drydown of this is unremarkable. There isn’t much wood here on me. The late moments of Jessica McClintock a few hours in are peppered with the very faintest dashes of woody and musky molecules blended into the fading lemon and greens.

It seems like what I’m getting is really, really different from what others are getting. I’ll chalk it up to skin chemistry and an old sample (albeit kept well, in a cool, dark place, with other samples, none of which have turned in the slightest).

A woven basket filled with and surrounded with a number of different kinds of freshly-baked bread.

Jessica McClintock is not offensive at all. I like that it is fresh and light without a lot of soap. It’s just supremely odd to me, with its bread-and-floor-cleaner — which is to say, bread and also cleaner for floors, not cleaner for bread and floors — nuances.

This is a classic fresh perfume, ahead of its time for 1988. It’s innocent and clean, fresh and green, and just a bit soapy. This is a comfortable sort of first scent for a preppy-yet-hesitant teen to wear to a dance. Or for a sweet woman working in a bleary office to wear, to always have something clean and bright to carry her through the day.

Jessica McClintock works well for school and work settings. It’s light, fresh, and crisp enough to work on humid summer days. This is a simple lemon-basil clean perfume. On some, there is a beautiful lily of the valley note here. On me, there isn’t. All comes down to skin, chemistry, really.

Jessica McClintock is nothing complicated, but it’s the sort of thing that’s easy for everyone to like.

Half of a bright yellow lemon.

When it comes to eponymous name perfumes released by female designers in the 1980s, I’m more of a Paloma Picasso woman. But if you’re looking for simple lemon and herbs, this is a classic, affordable option to explore.


Boxy clear glass bottle of Jessica McClintock Eau de Parfum, with a large white plastic cap with ornate floral swirls.

Where to Find Jessica McClintock Eau de Parfum by Jessica McClintock

You can find samples and decants of Jessica McClintock EdP at MicroPerfumes.

Want more? You can find full bottles at Palm Beach Perfumes, The Perfume Spot, and MicroPerfumes.

These are affiliate links. If you click on them and buy something, the seller pays me a commission, at no extra cost to you. You can learn more about them here.



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