Rating celebrity perfumes: In Bloom, Siren, Queen and Malibu

The long lineup of celebrities with fragrance deals resembles the invitation list for the People’s Choice Awards. There are film stars, TV personalities, pop singers and socialites, all with a marketable image and, presumably, a thirsty fan base that will lap up every last drop of what these public figures bottle and sell.

Linda Newman, who recently waited in line at Macy’s in Lakewood to meet rapper 50 Cent and sample his new fragrance, Power by 50 Cent, announced to the crowd: “I already sprayed it on me.” When asked if she would be giving her bottle of the men’s fragrance to a husband, boyfriend or brother, she clutched it to her chest. “No. I’ll put it on my shelf and spray it every now and then, and have a reminder of 50 Cent to be there all day.” Newman, 33, also bought Christina Aguilera’s Inspire, which she also proudly displays on a shelf at home. “I think she’s an incredible person, very deep, very focused, very amazing.”

The interest in celebrity-branded scents continues as consumers become more entranced with their favorite stars’ lives, both in and out of the spotlight. In 2008, sales from celebrity fragrances totaled more than $170 million and represented about 6% of the prestige market, according to NPD Group market research.

“Consumers want to have a little piece of the lifestyle that they find so alluring,” said packaging designer Chad Levigne, who has created bottles for celebrity scents, including Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely.

With the number of scent-seeking celebs on the rise, fragrance manufacturers have to home in on the most exciting and potentially profitable. “We look for a person who has a large following and success in what they’ve been doing for a number of years.” said Neil J. Katz, chief executive and chairman of Parlux Fragrances, the company that manufactures Queen Latifah and Jessica Simpson fragrances and all six of Paris Hilton’s scents. “We’re also looking at their following to see that they’re devoted with a feeling of attachment, wanting to identify with them, be like them or somehow even help them in some way.” Parlux will add offerings from Rihanna and Jay-Z to its list of celebrity scents next year.

But what about the “juice” (industry-speak for the actual perfume)? With so much emphasis on the marketing and consumers getting caught up in the perfectly airbrushed image of their favorite star peering out at them from the shiny packaging, we often dismiss what the stuff really smells like. So, just in time for the holidays, the Image staff has sampled some of the recent celebrity offerings to see if there are any jewels or if it’s all just hype.

In Bloom by Reese Witherspoon

What it evokes: A porch swing on a warm afternoon, swatting away mosquitoes with a newspaper while sipping an ice cold glass of lemonade. In a news release, Witherspoon said she was inspired by her childhood in Tennessee.

Whom it’s for: Women who wear Marc Jacobs’ or Michael Kors’ first scents and maybe even a few people who adore J’adore by Christian Dior. The bottle and scent will appeal to college students and their mothers; its softness makes it suitable for an older woman, and the gardenia and white florals make it trendy for a younger wearer. The wide, round glass bottle with a large blooming flower on top is subtle and elegant.

What it smells like: The gardenia is prominent, but In Bloom manages to cut through the headiness that is typical of that flower for a more crystal and transparent result. There are top notes of Georgia peach and tea leaves, middle notes of star gardenia, magnolia and night blooming jasmine, and base notes including amber and cashmere wood.

Final verdict: It’s really girlie without being annoying. Kind of like Witherspoon. Mission accomplished.

$34 for 1.7 ounces, available through Avon, or (800) FOR-AVON.

Siren by Paris Hilton

What it evokes: Smelling this made us want to eat tropical gummy lifesavers while nursing a Red Bull and vodka. It’s fruity and juicy, mixed with tropical flowers.

Whom it’s for: Teenagers who love every incarnation of Hilton, whether she’s in sweats or a tutu. (In the promotional material for this perfume, she is photographed as a mermaid, topless with blond hair extensions.) It’s light and nonoffensive but makes no major style statement. It’s just there, and it lingers for a surprising amount of time.

What it smells like: Anything light and fruity, such as DKNY Be Delicious. After a few hours, it turns into something a little deeper and less fruity, like L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake.

Final verdict: This is the sixth scent from the socialite and queen of licensing, who said in a news release: “I feel irresistible as a mermaid.” While we’re uncertain if you will feel like a mermaid, we can say the perfume is light, fruity and tropical, perfect for wearing while lying by a trendy hotel pool in a rhinestone-studded bikini.

$45 for 1.7 ounces, $55 for 3.4 ounces, available at Macy’s.

Queen by Queen Latifah

What it evokes: A dusty mahogany library with gold pillars, shelves full of old books, highball glasses next to a bottle of scotch -- and a 70-inch flat-screen television dropped from the ceiling. It’s a scent that cuts any mustiness right through the middle with a slice of something strong and modern. It’s smoky and earthy but with hints of smooth and creamy vanilla and musk.

Whom it’s for: Those who like warm, rich, strong scents. And anyone who craves a cashmere wrap on a rainy day.

What it smells like: Spicy vanilla and cognac. If you like Angel, then Queen could be another scent for you. Top notes of tequilaand mandarin are mixed with middle notes of cognac and Baie rose, and bottom notes include musk and Vanilla absolute.

Final verdict: Queen had me at the bottle, which is made of futuristic red glass with a 3-D heart shape pushed forward on one side. Once the heavy scent sits on the skin for a few minutes, it’s smooth, warm and beautiful, especially for fall and winter.

$49 for 1.7 ounces, $59 for 3.4 ounces, available at Macy’s.

Malibu and Malibu Nights by Pamela Anderson

What it evokes: Nothing about Malibu reminds us of an upscale beach town. It’s more like the scent our best friend kept in her glove compartment in high school to mask the smell of cigarette smoke before we’d sneak back into math class. Malibu Nights is sexy and more full-bodied than the daytime scent.

Whom it’s for: Malibu is for the cast of “The Real Housewives of Orange County”; Malibu nights is for anyone who wants a no-nonsense, sexy scent to wear with stilettos.

What it smells like: The ambered sandalwood base note in Malibu, mixed with mandarin and honeysuckle, ends up smelling like there’s some patchouli in it, but there isn’t. With Malibu Nights, we smell mostly the champaca and black orchid flowers. Pomegranate and persimmon make it light and flirty, while the amber and mahogany base notes give it depth.

Final verdict: Malibu Nights is a more alluring scent than Malibu. And Malibu isn’t as light and “layerable” as Anderson states in the product material. But the price of her scents makes them more accessible to her fans than some other fragrances, and she is donating a percentage of the profit to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

$39 for 1.7 ounces, $49 for 3.4 ounces, available at CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Sears.

Fancy Love by Jessica Simpson

What it evokes: That smell from the drawer where your mom always hid the bulk of your Halloween candy and doled out a piece a day so you wouldn’t get cavities or bounce off the wall. Fancy Love has a creamy, wafting sweetness that isn’t pungent but is soft, floaty and light.

Whom it’s for: Teens and twentysomethings who like the smell of Victoria’s Secret body splashes or anyone who liked Simpson’s Dessert line. This is sweet and creamy like caramel, with a touch of juicy peach.

What it smells like: It wears a lot like Burberry London, but it’s a bit sweeter. Top notes include peach blossom and pink Champagne, the middle is Turkish rose and plumeria, and the base contains creamy amber, musk and patchouli.

Final verdict: As far as sugary scents go, this one isn’t as headache-inducing as most, because of the creaminess and musk, but it’s not as “romantic” as Simpson states in the media material. It made us want to bust into that candy drawer and eat some Nerds.

$49 for 1.7 ounces, $59 for 3.4 ounces, available at Macy’s.