Sung: The UnSung Hero of Floral Perfumes
by, 5th July 2010 at 03:27 PM (2499 Views)
I have been on the market for a good perfume since May. Having recently purchased seven legendary eau de toilettes for my wardrobe (Kouros, Yatagan, Pour Un Homme de Caron, Grey Flannel, Allure Homme, Coco, and Guerlain vetiver), I felt the only thing missing was a feminine floral, and had quite a lot of difficulty deciding which to get. May rapidly slipped into June, and my focus dwindled as the weather grew warmer. So many options! Should I find a bouquet, or a soliflore? Something unisex, or something marketed for women? Something light, or a heavy fragrance that would fill the atmosphere around me with the organic pungency of a greenhouse? The possibilities were endless.
At first I was drawn to roses. Eau d'Italie's Paestum Rose, garnered by a million sincere praises, was a contender. Equally interesting were Knowing by Estée Lauder, Dark Rose by Czech & Speake, 1913 by Domenico Caraceni, and Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare by Creed. All seemed worthy. All seemed like possible buys. All were in a competition to win my heart.
Which is when I realized that roses are better worn in autumn and winter than 95° July days. That's okay, except that I already have my autumn and winter fragrances - Yatagan, Grey Flannel, Allure Homme, and Coco - and really don't need another. So I switched gears and began exploring bouquets instead.
This broadened the field considerably. It seemed for every soliflore rose, there were a dozen bouquets. Even harder to distinguish were the ones that were traditional, well-blended, and actually smelled of [I]flowers.[/I] Besieged by possibilities, I explored Basenotes, and eventually grew overwhelmed by how thoroughly representative this site is of every bouquet in production. Needing a finer sieve, I switched to [URL="http://www.fragrantica.com"]http://www.fragrantica.com[/URL], and parsed their database for worthy offerings from hundreds of houses. Beyond Paradise was getting mixed praise, as was the famous white-floral tea of Tommy Girl. Creed's bouquets had wilted with time, and it was difficult to get a consensus on quality (although Fleurissimo wasn't a bad bet), and even the classic Ma Griffe by Carven wasn't held in the same high esteem of its glory days. Being a male made the process even more difficult; I was keen on avoiding the blatant girlishness of candied fruit mixed with synthetic florals on white musk bases, a preference that ruled out 75% of the market and left me with only hyper-elusive niches and a small army of discontinued or reformulated classics (Mitsouko, anyone?)
For a little while, I gave up. Then, with less determination than before, I picked up where I left off, only this time without really focusing on my goal. While meandering across both this site and Fragrantica, I remembered a fragrance that I'd happened across at Marshall's called Sung Homme by Alfred Sung. I vaguely recalled the interesting purple-colored fluid in an interesting art-deco bottle, and looked it up. Alas, it wasn't one of the more eccentric '80s eau de toilettes. Basically a twisted Quorum. Nothing convincingly floral there, either.
But to my surprise, Sung Homme had a sister ship: Sung. Contained in the same lovely bottle, with almost identical packaging, this women's version touted itself as being a classic floral. I was intrigued.
More than the flashy packaging and anonymity of the fragrance (only eleven Basenoters bothered to review it), the praises and criticisms sucked me in. While garnering love from several on Fragrantica and Basenotes, those who disliked it had tepid concerns. The one negative review on this site addressed its base notes as being "overpowering", despite a brief love affair with the fragrance as a whole. A negative reviewer on Fragrantica complained of its resemblance to dishwashing fluid, and another flatly stated that the florals were too full, too "overpowering" for her. The recurring theme of Sung being [I]too[/I] floral was interesting. The contradictory consensus surrounding Sung was enough to make me pull the trigger on it. The other day I returned to Marshalls, and lo and behold, there sat the little white and black box.
I didn't know whether I had purchased a true floral bouquet or a synthetic '80s powerhouse fem frag, but whatever the case, for $15 it was worth checking out. When I got home, I spritzed a bit on the back of my hand. Immediately, a warm blast of sweetened galbanum and light citrus unfurled around a lightly indolic white floral bouquet.
What struck me the most was how easy it was to identify specific notes in Sung. From the shade of gauzy moss on top came a distinct hyacinth, and muguet enriched with ylang-ylang created a soft jasmine-like accord. The bouquet was supported by a cedary amber, which lent the entire composition a very natural fullness. Far from overpowering, the light sweetness of the flowers was gentle and real. Save for the buoyant bergamot in its top notes, Sung is free of fruit, and smells purely of flowers, which is to say it smells of specific [I]things[/I], rather than someone's artistic license with specific things. It does not reek of a tween-age girl's $12 drugstore perfume. It is a welcome departure from the current fruity-floral trends.
Which makes me wonder why Sung has such a basement-level profile. Does no one appreciate the organic translucency of this fragrance? The classical perfume styling? How the realism of its flowers makes it wearable for both men and women (albeit in small doses for men)? What's going on here? The claims that Sung is overpowering are obviously resultant of over-application. In itself, the fragrance is quite smooth and low-key. Comparisons to dishwashing fluid and Yankee Candles are questionable at best - I'd be hard-pressed to identify hyacinth and ylang-ylang in Palmolive or Dawn. And last I checked, Yankee Candles all smelled sugary and sharp. As there isn't a single grain of sugar added to Sung, I'm beginning to think a certain bias is in play here.
But no matter. Even if it doesn't work for others, it works for me. It's just a shame that I don't come across women who smell like Sung. It's a beautiful classic floral with a clean, sexy edge. Hint: ladies, this is the sort of perfume that attracts well-educated, independent American men from Connecticut. Just putting it out there.