There are three things you should know about my friend Joelle Hyman: I take her product reviews as gospel (she worked at Allure for years); she has the shiniest, silkiest hair I’ve ever seen; and she always smells good. So a few weeks back, when my tried-and-true Le Labo Rose 31 perfume finally ran out, and I realized entering a department store and using shared testers didn’t sound entirely appealing, I texted her to ask for a perfume recommendation. Knowing Joelle’s taste, I was expecting her to suggest one of the high-brow beauty-editor staples — something like Tom Ford’s Jasmine Rouge. But, much to my surprise, she replied, in seconds: “Rio, you must get Ariana Grande’s Cloud perfume — it smells like a warm but clear breath of air.” Huh? When I asked her to elaborate on what made Cloud so good, she explained that it smelled similar to, if not better than, Bond No. 9’s $400 Greenwich Village (a perfume once described as “more iconic than Chanel No. 5.” by Racked). She also claimed every single time she wears Cloud out of the house that she gets stopped on the street, without fail. When I asked if it was too sugary or tween-y, Joelle replied simply: “It definitely has a youthfulness to it, but it’s sophisticated enough for my mom.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Ariana Grande’s music (I once threw a dinner party where I played the Sweetener and Thank U, Next albums in their entirety back-to-back). But I also had it in my head that celebrity perfumes usually do not smell very good — granted the last one I purchased was Britney Spears’s Curious way back in 2006.
Yes, Joelle had me intrigued, but I wasn’t entirely sold until I saw Cloud pop up in a shelfie posted by Tynan Sinks who is not only a wonderful and trustworthy beauty writer (with bylines everywhere from Allure to the the New York Times) but is also someone who is so passionate about perfume that he co-hosts a fragrance-focused podcast called Smell Ya Later. When I asked him what he liked about the scent, he told me that it is just “lovely and undeniably pleasing.” He also explained that the Cloud’s formula avoids using red berries and white florals, two scent profiles that most perfumes — especially celebrity perfumes — tend to rely on. (I’ve found that those notes can make perfumes too sugary, and headache-inducingly potent.)
After doing some light digging, I found that Joelle and Tynan were far from alone: Cloud perfume won Fragrance of the Year at the 2019 Fragrance Foundation Awards. And after my Ulta order arrived, I finally understood what the fuss was all about: When you first apply the scent, you get a burst of lavender, pear, and bergamot, but as it settles into your skin, it smells like a warm, cozy orchid musk. You don’t smell like you’re obviously wearing perfume — you just sort of smell like a cleaner version of yourself, like you’ve just stepped out of a really nice shower. I’ve been wearing Cloud every single day, without fail, since the day it arrived and I’ve already received three compliments.
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