I really feel for the “legacy” fragrance houses in the 21st century. With niche and indie brands steadily consuming a growing sector of the fragrance market, and with more of their longest-term Silent Generation and Baby Boomer customers disappearing each year, many legacy brands are facing a can’t-win battle to avoid alienating their current customer base while attracting a newer, younger demographic that often has starkly opposed tastes.
Enter the flanker: a sometimes moderate variation, sometimes remarkably different creation that bears at least some resemblance in name, packaging and/or notes to a long-term successful fragrance of an established brand.
When it works well, a new but subtly different flanker can appeal to both customer bases and help a brand expand into new markets. Popular flankers like Chanel No. 5 Eau Première and the annual Guerlain Shalimar editions come to mind. These fragrances do a good job of updating a bestselling scent from a legacy house in a way that balances classic and contemporary tastes.
When a flanker doesn’t succeed, it’s not always because it wasn’t a good fragrance. The success or failure of a fragrance often comes down to timing, broader economic conditions outside a brand’s control, or just plain bad luck.
To that end, Esprit d’Oscar was introduced in 2011 as an updated and modern interpretation of the original Oscar de la Renta fragrance from 1977. Esprit d’Oscar is quite pretty, a bit vintage or “mature” in its character, though arguably falling on the side of “classic” rather than “outdated.” All that being said, I can’t imagine who the intended market was when this was introduced in 2011–at least in retrospect, it seems out of step with young women’s tastes at the time (2011 is the year that brought us Prada Candy, Burberry Body and Le Labo Santal 33, for example), but perhaps also too youthful for the appreciators of the original Oscar de la Renta (look at the negative reviews still up on Nordstrom from women whose husbands mistakenly bought this as a gift for them, thinking it was the original Oscar fragrance they had loved and worn for 30+ years). At the time of its launch, Esprit d’Oscar received favorable write-ups in the perfume blogs, and is highly rated on Fragrantica and Basenotes, but never found its footing and appears to have been discontinued sometime in 2014 or 2015.
Which doesn’t mean this fragrance is not a gem. It totally is–you can even wear it on your finger in the form of a ring! It’s still easy to find and is now very affordable. If you appreciate the classics, this one will likely appeal to you. Check out my review below for more details.
Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar Solid Perfume Ring Review
Size: 0.02 oz. / .7 g and the package includes a refill.
Packaging: a clear acrylic “poison ring” with a hinged top that swings out to reveal the solid perfume. The ring arrived in a plastic and cardboard package that resembles a ring box. The refill is housed in a plastic clamshell. The ring is refillable (refill included in package) and reusable as jewelry. Box and clamshell are recyclable.
Base: Isopropyl myristate, beeswax, pomegranate sterols, PPG-3 Benzyl ether myristate, mica, silica, PEG-4 dilaurate, cyclopentasiloxane, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, titanium dioxide, cyclohexasiloxane, BHT.
Vegan-friendly: no, due to the beeswax, but this is also available as a liquid EDP.
Color and Texture: a reasonably firm cream-colored solid, on par with a lipstick in texture. The mica is very fine and leaves a subtle shimmer on skin, with no visible oily trace or streak of color.
Fragrance description and notes: FragranceX, where I purchased this perfume, indicates top notes of citron, bergamot and Sicilian lemon. The heart contains tuberose, orange blossom and Egyptian jasmine. The base features vetiver, tonka, heliotrope and musk. (The video featuring perfumer Frank Voelkl also describes amber and vanilla.)
Longevity: About four hours.
Sillage: intimate in this format at just a few inches above skin, fading after an hour or so to a skin scent.
The experience: Solids can provide fun and functional opportunities for fragrance portability, such as this ring. It’s made from clear acrylic and resembles the lid of the liquid perfume’s flacon, sort of an abstract flower blossom. While beautiful and possibly something I would wear as a novelty for a night out (definitely not for everyday wear), alas, it is tiny, non-adjustable and fits only the pinkie on my left hand. My fingers are short and pudgy, so your mileage may vary in that regard.
Now on to the important stuff–the fragrance!
Esprit d’Oscar is not at all what I expected. Based on the notes and the floral motif of the packaging, I was expecting more of a a heavy-duty white floral. Instead, this is a musky powdery amber aroma, more akin to a Guerlain classic like L’Heure Bleue than the white floral beauty I was anticipating. (I am certain I or a family member owned the original Oscar when I was younger, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what it actually smells like.) Once I moved past the gap between expectations and reality, I found I really enjoyed Esprit. The citrus notes are noticeable on application but burn off quickly and the powdery floral bouquet is the highlight of the fragrance experience. A gentle animalic musk adds the perfect hint of sexuality to this otherwise prim and proper feminine.
Esprit‘s powdery floral with citrus tones and an animalic edge is subtle and wearable, but still interesting, and that’s no small feat in a women’s fragrance market still dominated by cotton candy and technicolor fruity-florals. This would be a perfect office fragrance or excellent as an anytime “dumb grab,” but it’s also quite cozy and romantic and would be a smart choice for a night snuggled up on the sofa next to your beloved.
Esprit d’Oscar was an affordable blind buy for me, at less than $10. If it didn’t work out, I planned to pass it on to some young female family members for playing dress-up, but I like the scent and I’m happy to keep this in my collection. With its soft sillage and minimal longevity, I feel like the solid may not be the optimal format for this one. As both liquid and solid are still widely available, I’m considering purchasing the liquid format, too, with hopes for a little more oomph from the EDP or through the layering of EDP and solid. [Editor’s note: I did purchase the liquid format as well and the scent is not much stronger in that medium, nor did layering the two boost the performance significantly. It appears this one is a quiet scent, by design.–JB January 3, 2022.]
Where to buy: Esprit d’Oscar is available at FragranceX (where my solid was purchased), FragranceNet, Overstock and CVS, plus secondary markets like Ebay.
All photographs by me.