Entering The Red Door Again
Fragrance Reviews

by Miguel Matos
07/03/21 07:06:02 ( 20 comments )


Elizabeth Arden Red Door ad.

Going back again to the 80's perfume era, which is something I love doing, it's impossible not to stop and revisit Elizabeth Arden's Red Door. Even if I don't have a personal memory attached to it, I think many people do, and that's why I think many older fragrances are so significant. They might not be trendy anymore, but they mean something to many people, and that meaning depends on each person and each nose. Anyway, to me, smelling today Red Door (I think I had smelled it only a couple times before) is an interesting experience because it's something you don't smell on anyone these days, and therefore, it's almost a novelty again, even if it comes with so many of the elements that are typical of the American fragrances of that time.


This ad is so strange, it seems like a trailer for a horror movie


I got what I think is the latest version, for a very low price. On the back of the box it says: “Elegant new look, same classic scent.” And so I decided to trust the statement, even though I think it has been changed. Or at least the first time I smelled it, it seemed richer to me. I loved the original bottle, and to be honest, the new one looks less charismatic. But still, it's good that some classics are still around, isn't it? By the way, it's also easy and cheap to buy an even older Arden fragrance called Blue Grass, which is a cute floral aldehyde, but I'll leave that for another time.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door.This red bottle with a transparent cap is the version I am reviewing in this article.

Red Door is famously an homage to the doors of the Elizabeth Arden beauty salons. This homage was composed by perfumer Carlos Benaim and launched in 1989, twenty three years after the passing of Elizabeth Arden. It's a very intense, opulent and thick scent, a floral-patchouli where honey created the twist that defines its signature and personality, blurring the otherwise classic chypre structure. There is a semi-aldehydic entrance to this floral explosion, where white blossoms dominate and tuberose is not devoid of guilt here, for it might be responsible for such loudness. But there's also a lipstick sensation, a greasy rose, thick and oily. Indeed, red lipstick was a symbol of feminism for Arden and something that women started arming themselves with in order to fight for their rights. Being related to the iconic beauty salons, and paying tribute to a woman who spread the use of red lipstick, it's logical that Red Door has that cosmetic and makeup smell element to it.

Red Door ad.

But yes, Red Door seems like a weapon. It's THAT strong. I've been told I wear very strong perfumes, but Red Door is too much for me, or at least in the first hour. Well, who can blame it? It had to compete with the bombastic Poison, after all. But Red Door changes: after the overwhelming, stuffy, choking first stage, it then settles and harmonizes better. But of course, that honey-patchouli combo is always a tough accord to deal with. This reminds me of the same combo used in Giorgio Beverly Hills For Men. In fact the floral part also recalls Giorgio Beverly Hills For Her, so this might have been (and it would make sense if it were) inspired by these two powerhouses and American bestsellers of the shoulder pad decade.


Summer must be the least appropriate time of the year to try Red Door, so I think I will save this bottle for the winter, when I think it can reveal all of its glamour and opulence in a totally different way. For the moment, I think it's not something I would wear, but who knows, it might be heaven on a cold winter evening.


Miguel Matos

Miguel Matos Editor, Writer, Translator

Miguel has been a Fragrantica editor and columnist since 2013, and his work has been recognized by the Fragrance Foundation and the Perfumed Plume Awards several times, as well as by the Art and Olfaction Awards in 2019. He has a list of olfactory art exhibitions, including Making the Body Think, in Los Angeles, at the Institute for Art and Olfaction. He wrote the book "The Perfumed Zodiac" (in Portuguese) and launched his own line of fragrances, Miguel Matos Olfactory Art. His perfumer portfolio includes fragrances made for Bruno Acampora, Calaj, Der Duft, Horai Studio, Nishane and Sarah Baker.

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I used to wear Red Door a lot in the early 90's. I only wore it in the winter though and only 1 or 2 sprays and it lasted the whole day and into the evening. It is a powerful fragrance and a good value. As I got older for some reason it stared to overwhelm me and I stopped wearing it. I did love those ads though! Isn't Catherine Zeta Jones just everything in that ad?! I remember the 1st time I saw her, it was in a Hallmark TV movie (she and I are the same age) I was a newly married bride at 19 and she was staring in Hallmark's production of Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native. She played the doomed heroine of the story Eustacia. While we were watching the show, I remember saying to my husband she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, she is going to be a huge star. I enjoyed following her career during the 90's. She is a lovely and talented woman, I know she has suffered some health issues and has kind of backed off the lime light, I hope she is doing well today. But I will always remember those Red Door ads w/ her in them, it sold me on the fragrance.
Valentino Donna Born In Roma

Lorifrenchwaters 07/05/21 04:53

I’d love to see a new version. Possibly a Red Door absolu or extreme…whatever they came up with…I’d buy. I love the OG and I love the new version. Ive purchased numerous flankers, but haven’t found one that I cared for. Nothing has ever brought the compliments like Red Door. Ive never smelled honey done so beautifully. I love Red Door. I’ll always keep a bottle or 2 in my collection. Its beautiful, happy and just fabulous. ❤️🥰
Coco Eau de Toilette

curlykitty8 07/04/21 21:59

Despite the fact that I have loved perfume from the time I was very small, when I was a young mother I tended to have just a handful of favorite fragrances that were worn seasonally.
Red Door was my winter fragrance and there was never a moment that it did not smell incredibly elegant and beautiful.
Red Door is an extremely original fragrance and I can understand how difficult it may be to wear but somehow it always smelled exquisite and never over the top as others consider it to be.
I wore it for many years but there came a time that it did not smell the same and I quit wearing it.
Thank you writing this regardless of how you may perceive of this Elizabeth Arden gem, for me it will eternally hold a special place in my perfume loving heart. 🌹❤️

Jomoves 07/04/21 20:21

When I was little my cousins lived near a cemetery and being typical kids, we would sneak over to it when the sun was going down and scare ourselves silly with imagined ghosts and things that we thought we could see through cracked tombstones. There was one grave that was covered in faded plastic flowers. In amongst the flowers was a bottle of Red Door. Without thinking, I quickly tucked it under my sweater and took it home. I sprayed it on and just loved it - so strong, womanly and glamorous. The next day I returned the bottle to the grave - I was a good kid and felt too guilty to keep it.

To this day I like to think that the lady in the grave was okay with me borrowing her fragrance before returning it.
Yellow Diamond Intense

derkargy 07/04/21 12:15

My mother's favourite perfume, so elegant and classy, a bunch of opulent flowers soaked with honey.
Early Roses

rickyrebarco 07/04/21 11:32

I don't think I have ever sniffed Red Door. Sounds very intriguing! Just tried Jivago 24K, a 90's blast from the past so it's time for some more nostalgia scents I think.
Dark Cherry & Amber

antoneux 07/04/21 05:40

Red Door reminds me of an older transvestite whom we called “Grandma” that frequented the local gay bar years ago. She wore Red Door and wore it well.
Yohji Yamamoto pour Femme

ysatis 07/04/21 03:12

I bought first the deodorant (in plastic bottle, watery version), and decided to buy eau de toilette. And deo could capture the initial vibe, meanwhile EdT - it is a pale shadow of the past shining. It is now more synthetic, harsh, not a powerhouse anymore. Pity!!!
Eau Capitale

oobunillaoo 07/03/21 16:12

march of 2017, walking from holborn station into covent garden, about 2 in the afternoon. something smelled absolutely beautiful and i followed the trail for almost 2 blocks until mustering the courage to walk right up to her. she couldn't have been more than mid 20s, beautiful carribean lady, gorgeous pastel pink jacket. asked her what she was wearing and she revealed it was Red Door. swear to god it smelled like it was made especially for her. Red Door had me lowkey chasing a stranger in london in broad daylight just to find out what it was. it's not a fragrance i could ever hope to wear but it is truly magical on the right person.

Annemarie 07/03/21 15:46

I did so enjoy entering the Red Door again. Those ads are magnificent! Men are hardly present at all (just a shadowy figure in one of them). So the message of personal empowerment is very strong and I'm not surprised that women tended to practically bathe in the stuff. Sadly that led to overuse and in the mid-2000s I can remember Red Door being a by-word in cheap and nasty, brash perfumes.

People do love to hate Red Door, much in the way they love to hate other generation-defining perfumes like La Vie Est Belle. (Those who think LVEB is too strong really should try Red Door!) Because of that, there is something defiant, almost subversive in wearing perfumes like this. I don't use the 'walk through' technique because I think a lot of it just ends up on the floor, but you can mist from a distance and then cover up with your clothes. This works for me with beast fragrances.

That said, I've never liked tuberose-heavy perfumes but I do keep a mini of Red Door for reference. I really like the opening - that amazing rush of notes all at once - but as it dries down I get the bubblegum note that can be a feature of tuberose, and I'm not fond of that.
Valentino Donna Born In Roma

Lorifrenchwaters 07/03/21 14:59

I absolutely love red door. It was my signatures fragrance for years. I’ll always keep a bottle in my collection and I still wear it occasionally. I think it’s one of the most beautiful fragrance is that I’ve ever smelled in my life.
Paradise Found For Women

LFN 07/03/21 13:20

I love Red door! I was looking for a fabulius fragrance as a gift to my mom (over 60 yers old she is) and came across this beauty. Bought it for present and she was mesmerized. Since then I need to keep her with few bottles stash in case it is discontinued. The new design bottle is amazing and the scent lasting a whole day. I would wear it too, for special ocations maybe (I am 33 years old). I am gald such icon is still around. Many quality fragrances were discontinued and it was a big mistake. I hope this one lasts for longer.

GladToBeUnhappy4 07/03/21 11:45

My grandmother just passed away a few weeks ago and she LOVED Red Door. My mom hates it, as it’s too strong for her liking and always has been, but I begged her to keep my MawMaw’s bottle for me as they were going through her things this week. The last time I visited her and before I really started getting into fragrance, she gave me 3 used bottles of different Avon fragrances, which definitely helped ignite my obsession of fragrance. I don’t know remember the smell of Red Door or know if I even like it, but I’m so happy to have one of my MawMaw’s beloved scents that she wore-HER bottle- and share our love of fragrance, even if she isn’t on this side of Heaven. I haven’t come across a fragrance I haven’t appreciated and adding its sentimental value, Red Door shouldn’t be any different.

P.S. I love the newer design of the bottle!!

Alces Alces- I’m somewhat intimidated by this fragrance, so thank you for the “walk through” suggestion. I have a horrible sense of smell and can often over-spray even the stronger fragrances.
Mona Lygre
My Way

Mona Lygre 07/03/21 11:45

I don't care so much about eyemakeup, but, I must have the lipstick :)) And back than, in the early ninethies, we the "girls" was always having the forespiel at my place, before going out at the discos, I had painted my livingroom pink and had decorated the windows and more with deep red curtains, from floor to roof, it was so cozy and luxurious, we wore red and black dresses, and my best friends, often 5, poured themselves with this beautiful perfume. I was not into that smell, I think I was hung up with my Kenzos at that time, but, oh boy how much I miss those years, we had so much fun, I wish I could turn back times... But, if I bought a small bottle, the smell of it for sure will bring back good memories :))
Rose Alexandrie

jeca 07/03/21 10:28

Thank you, Miguel, for reminding me of this perfume! Just bought an old version ($10). Back then I thought it was too bold of a scent for me, but now I guess I am ready to revisit it ;o) I love the American glamour of the 80s! I disagree about the red lipstick though (the essence of attraction).
Dior Homme Cologne 2013

johngreenink 07/03/21 10:13

Red Door is one of those perfumes from the 80s that I still really love, and I agree with your assessment Miguel, it's so brash and "of its time" that it can almost come across as artsy these days. I think there is still some real elegance in it, and I don't know if I'm alone here, but I smell (intentional or not) the faint whiff of nail polish in the opening / middle notes. I happen to love the smell, it's kind of like the smell of getting dressed up - something really glamorous, very much about opening night or a night on the town. Smelling it as someone who would probably not wear it (but fascinated by it, nonetheless) I still think this is one of the coolest of the 80s frags. It is an anomaly but I'm glad it's still here.
Alces Alces
Swiss Army Victoria

Alces Alces 07/03/21 09:34

Red Door is a walk through perfume, but so are many older perfumes. When I was a teenager, my mom enrolled me in a sort of "finishing school," a class for girls to learn about makeup, skin care, fragrance (very detailed - we learned about base notes, musks, chypres, ylang ylang), and modeling, culminating in a fashion show we fourteen year olds put on. It was a lot of fun! I doubt things such as that exist anymore, everything is so drab, angry, political, and ugly now.

Back to the point. One of the teachers explained that the proper way to apply perfume was to do the walk through: spray it in the air and walk through the mist, doing a twirl. I will never forget that she demonstrated this with Norell, the old formula. Red Door can be great, but you have to do a walk through. If you spray directly on yourself, it's horrible. Many who decry older perfumes simply lack awareness of correct application techniques.
drugstore classics

drugstore classics 07/03/21 09:28

OH, Miguel, thank you so very much for bringing this glamorous and delightfully bold fragrance to our attention again! I don't know if I will ever be able to wear it properly, but I agree that one spray is quite potent and will elevate the entire day for the person who CAN. I adore being around this scent.

My sister wears Red Door with panache and it's not at all in her perceived age category. She couldn't care less. It's her distinctive winter and Christmas scent. Anyone who loves bright and cheerful tuberose should give Red Door a try. She also wears Giorgio and Cabotine, for reference! (Cabotine, to me, is a slightly more wearable and GREEN version of Red Door and one that I wear myself, suiting all kinds of weather, but especially rainy days. It's dupe, Al Rehab Shadha, is equally delightful.)

With you, I believe that Red Door & its deeply memorable category of tuberose scents are suitable for today - as niche offerings. Deja vu!

lipstickzombie 07/03/21 07:34

Red Door and Fifth Avenue brings memories of my godmother who worked as a saleslady at a posh department store in the Philippines (Rustan's Makati). Those frags cling to my clothes for several hours after I hugged her goodbye.

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