Perry Woman Eau de Parfum by Perry Ellis Review

Collage of Perry Woman by Perry Ellis and its notes, including sandalwood, rose, orchid, lotus, water lily, and orris root.

Wow.

Perry Ellis does it again.

Just like Perry Man, here’s another fragrance full of notes I’m usually skeptical of, all blended together with a weirdly pungent twist… and I love it. Both are original, modern, and rather nichey for the designer crowd while still being quite likeable. Bravo.

Perry Woman is intoxicating, indulgent, and heady. It’s incredibly rich, lush and sensual. Simply put, this is an underrated masterpiece and a decadent treat, one of the most densely pleasurable perfumes I have ever smelled.

Two green bergamot citrus fruits, one of which is cut open.

In the vial, I first smell a freshness that feels almost masculine. It smells like vetiver, along with a citrusy edge of bergamot. On skin, this freshness is instantaneous and faint, serving as an introductory flourish in the first thirty seconds while the rest of Perry Woman settles in.

A stalk of light green, leafy patchouli with tiny white flowers.

There’s something else that hews masculine weaving its way through Perry Woman, too: a stinking earthy hint of patchouli. I can smell it in the opening and in just a few moments later on. It smells like cannabis to me, a fascinating contrast to every other relatively sweet thing happening in Perry Woman.

It’s not at all a prominent component. The patchouli settles into the very back of the perfume, adding a faint air of stinking dirty earthiness bringing out the sweetness of the rest of the scent. I can only distinctly pick it out in a few seconds near the opening, and it’s not at all an overwhelming overuse of the note. Instead, it’s an excellent example of a subtle hint of stinking earthiness bringing out the other components of an otherwise relatively sweet perfume.

A glass jar of liquid honey wound with twine.

In just seconds, a delicious heady richness begins to bloom. It makes me think of honey, some incredibly thick and dark wildflower honey filled with honey and propolis. It’s sweet, but not at all saccharine. So many sweet perfumes are like fruit juice, distilled pure sugar with none of the fiber and context of the original. Perry Woman is more like the untouched fresh fruit, grounded in richness, earthiness, and dense roots that make the sweetness feel perfectly natural and right at home.

Though it’s far from being one of the sweetest perfumes I’ve ever smelled, there’s something so incredibly indulgent and decadent about this honey-flower-sandalwood accord. It strikes me as almost bacchanalian, a gorgeous relic from a grandiose party thrown by nymphs, fairies, and gods in the forest. Its intensely rooty and earthy base keeps it grounded in the world around us, while that spiced-honey-wine sweetness sings and yearns for a world beyond.

A pile of santal sandalwood chips, also known as santalum album.

Much of the body of Perry Woman is delicious unadulterated sandalwood, sweet and spicy. It’s incredibly rich, with that glorious quality that can make sandalwood feel almost gourmand. The floral flourishes at the edges of the sandalwood transform it into something distinct, a uniquely wild accord that makes me think of wildflower honey. It’s raw and rooty, rich and sweet in an unpolished way, earthy in a way that’s loaded with natural honey-sweetness.

A silvery full moon.

There’s something about it that’s just a touch herbal, almost folk-medicinal, rooty in a way that’s soft and comforting and almost witchy. I’m thinking this is likely the strong dose of orris root. It feels natural and earthy here, the smell of snarled and tangled roots hanging to dry in a warm woodsy cottage.

The blending of the notes really is gorgeous here: it’s hard to pick out anything distinct from the rich spiced-honey whole. I don’t know what exactly I’m smelling, but it’s brilliant. This feels like a fragrance to wear to a library or museum, or perhaps a bookstore. It’s a cloud of wild, untameable woodsy sweetness, made to keep you company through worlds of words, words, words.

A leather-bound book with yellowing pages flipped open to a page near the end, with a pair of glasses sitting on top of it.

Breathing deep into the heart of the floral accord, I smell a rose. Unlike many rose notes, however, this one doesn’t make herself obvious. She doesn’t show off, instead bowing her head and fulfilling her place in the blooming narcotic whole. This is a rich, lush, vintage rose. It reminds me of my love affair with the rose in Victoria’s Secret’s So In Love — but then, that rose was a center-stage star, while this one is the stage manager quietly running the show.

Botanical illustration of a light pink rose with buds, leaves, and a stem.

The subdued and thoroughly blended nature of this rose means it never gets anywhere near soapy, or even very powdery. Instead, she sings with a deep, heady narcotic powder that reminds me of the carnations and roses in Paloma Picasso’s Paloma Picasso. Though Perry Woman doesn’t have animalic notes listed besides the typical base musk, something here is deeply seductive in that vampy vintage floral way just like in Paloma. The deep, rich spiciness of sandalwood here complements the heady florals in a way that deepens the mystery and sweetness of them both.

Perry Woman has that animal allure to it without any actual prominent animalic notes, and I can’t quite figure out how the Mystery Nose behind it pulled that off. I think it’s a combination of the incredibly deep muskiness, the rich spicy-sweetness of sandalwood, and the astoundingly heady depths of the floral accord. This perfume literally makes my heart flutter when I’m the one wearing it. I breathe deeper and deeper, trying to catch more of that intoxicating mystery, to delve deeper into it with a longer breath.

A magenta lotus flower.

There’s nothing particularly aquatic-floral here to my nose. Any watery nuances are quickly absorbed by the rich expanse of heady deep roses and sandalwood. I’d believe that lotuses and water lilies make up the rich, heady spiced floral accord, but there’s nothing here that feels distinctly aquatic the way those notes often do.

And, while I’m sure they pack plenty of the floral punch of Perry Ellis, jasmine and tuberose are also rather hard to parse here. The flowers are intoxicating and heady, but not in the typical white floral way, with an almost sharp, cold edge of indoles clawing at your nasal cavities. Just a hint of that indolic edge comes out of Perry Woman in cooler rooms and evening breezes, but otherwise the richness and depth of the sensual rose is at the center of the floral accord.

A branch of dewy tuberoses.

An element of cloying sweetness is probably upheld by the tuberose, a floral I generally dislike, but which is blended so expertly here it’s difficult to pick out.

Blooming pink orchids.

Orchid flower is always a fantasy note, so it’s hard to say which particular qualities of Perry Woman are supposed to be attributed to this made-up synthetic scent. Sometimes it’s used to represent a certain vanilla-floral idea, but there’s nothing like vanilla here.

It’s possible whatever floral molecule Perry Ellis threw in to represent the orchid is the wildcard tying all the flowers together into one cohesive, indescribable scent. This flower is intoxicating and thoroughly whole, extremely difficult to parse into its component parts. It’s pink and white and it blooms with a deep richness and sensuality becoming of an orchid.

More than fresh or cut flowers, the floral effect here is like a particular flavor of honey. I don’t remember which specific sort of honey: it’s more cloying, sharp, and almost-medicinal than your run-of-the-mill clover honey. Maybe acacia honey, or wildflower honey? I’m not sure. It’s that type of honey that burns the back of your throat, so sweet it turns sharp, with a herb-medicine sort of dry bite. I can understand some reviews’ comparison to pink pepper, although this isn’t genuinely peppery on me.

Botanical illustration of an iris plant, with large flowers and buds, leaves, and a prominent orris root.

My guess is that all this is the effect of that sweet fantasy orchid alongside a healthy dose of sandalwood and orris root. In fact, that spicy medicinal something feels like the herb-medicinal vibe I get in Serge Lutens’ fascinating Chergui… my guess is that here it’s the delightfully iris-y orris.

The evolution of Perry Woman is almost perfectly linear, simply fading away with time. Some hours in, though, the earthy and orris-rooty side of Perry Woman grows even more apparent. This delicious smell of tangled roots and earth is what grounded the magic of the first hours of Perry Woman, and now you’re getting a closer look at it. While the sparkle evaporates, over time Perry Woman gets softer and muskier, reveling in its sensual earthy roots.

Seven makeup contacts filled with crushed and broken pink powder of various shapes and sizes.

Despite the heavy presence of orris root, this doesn’t really register as powdery to me — at least, not in any way I’m familiar with. Sure, maybe it has a texture similar to powder, finely-ground in a way that can feel stuffy for a certain nose or in a certain environment. But there’s nothing here that smells like makeup, or baby powder, or talc, nor do any of the floral notes strike me as especially powder-ish. If anything here is powdery, it’s a certain faint texture posessed by the entire fragrance, airy and diffuse, which becomes more apparent as the perfume evolves and the earth, roots, and powder come to the surface.

Perry Woman lasts at a decent volume for up to eight hours, making its performance adequate for any kind of casual, office, or event wear. It’s versatile, polite and conventional enough to fit in at the office but rich and sensual enough to wear for a night out.

A light blush pink water lily.

At the end of the eight hours, though, I admit I start to feel worn out by Perry Woman. She makes my heart flutter for the first few hours, but after a while the rich heady intensity is all too much. As the fragrance fades in an entirely linear fashion, the sparkle of maddening fairy magic fades away. All of a sudden you’re not standing in the wake of a wild forest bacchanal anymore, but in a regular forest clearing. As the mysterious glamour and allure fades, Perry Woman can feel just a bit stuffy and staid, uninspired, too much.

And yet, once I’ve showered and all trace of Perry Woman is gone from my skin, I hunger for her again. I want to experience that enchantment one more time, laugh and dance in those untamed drunken revels I’d sworn off the morning after.

A green and white origami paper box containing many small bundles of dried vetiver grass tied with strips of cloth and twine.

Though the perfume mostly wraps up by eight to nine hours in, a very faint trace of spices and musk remains on the skin for up to another twelve hours. The projection of Perry Woman is decent, too, projecting appropriately for a versatile scent that will be detected by others if you want it to be.

This is heavy, heady, cloying, rooty, dirty stuff. I couldn’t handle something like this more than once per week. Wearing this as a daily signature would give me some kind of semi-permanent olfactory exhaustion. But oh, this is a lovely rare delight to break out when you’re sick of light, fluffy, simple and inoffensive things.

I first tried Perry Woman simply out of curiosity. It was an old free sample my mom had lying around. I didn’t think I liked any of these notes. I heavily disliked powder and most designer floral scents. Why do I love this? It’s just brilliant. Incredibly unique, this is a hidden designer gem you don’t want to miss.

A large white jasmine flower with dark green leaves.

That intoxicating honey-sandalwood-floral-rooty scent just has a certain magic to it that makes my heart skip a beat. It’s an excellent demonstration of how a designer floral woody perfume can wade out into the waters of earthy notes just a little to augment the rest of the fragrance. The sandalwood and floral accords are masterful, but that undercurrent of soft and earthy orris root is really what brings Perry Woman together.

Just like Perry Man, this is expertly blended such that I can’t pick out exact notes easily, except for the weird notes that reek. In Perry Man, it’s the bitter teak wood; here, it’s hard to say what creates that pungent twist; my guess is an overdose of orris root and sandalwood. But oh, I love it.

This is woodsy to the extreme, and so enchanting. It’s all earth and roots, prettied up and covered in gorgeous rare flowers, all pink and white and purple, with a delicious sandalwood stump at its heart. It’s a tiny bit stinky and dirty, and that’s the best part, with that gorgeous spicy filth lasting all the way into the drydown.

Sublime.



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