Knowing 
Estée Lauder (1988)

Average Rating:  52 User Reviews

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Knowing by Estée Lauder

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About Knowing by Estée Lauder

People & Companies

Estée Lauder
Fragrance House
Elie Roger
Perfumer
Ira Levy
Packaging / Bottle Design

Knowing is a women's perfume launched in 1988 by Estée Lauder

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of Knowing by Estée Lauder

There are 52 reviews of Knowing by Estée Lauder.


Knowing is an extraordinary fragrance; very much like a Guerlain or Gres creation. I'm surprised it's not one the Lauder best sellers. One reason might be it's name: hardly captivating or original. Sort of like they ran out of ideas. And the bottle looks like it was thrown together by someone with poor motor skills. That said, I believe it's one of the finest fragances for the 80s: Unisex; rich, deep and lasting; the very best rose chypre I know and, surprisingly, at its best in warm weather. A dab here and dab there goes a long way and the heat summons a low decibel explosion of rose and moss that has great longevity. The drydown remains true to the top notes. There are other olfactory elements lurking, but rose/moss predominates and each bring out the best in one another---like a good marriage. This beast is a beauty. 10/10


Sometimes the heavens part in the long trudge of trying out perfumes that are kinda ok but not worth pursuing further than the test-a-few-times stage and a ray of golden light beams down and hallelujahs sound. Knowing is, for me, one of those moments: a fully orchestrated perfume that I have only recently had the pleasure of, ahem, getting to know and which I am already clasping to my moobs in ecstasy.
The internet is awash with accounts of how this is only for mature, confident, yada-yada people, as if something that is as full-spectrum and unabashed with its goodies requires life experience on top of enthusiastic appreciation. Pay no heed and just depress that sprayer.
What awaits is a tapestry in boudoir shades. A gorgeous complex base of musky, mossy and woody tones, so rich and luxuriant that it rips the pants off much that passes for pricey niche. Set on it are burnished floral notes, proper fatty jasmine and sweet, almost peachy rose among them, that glint like gemstones but are also perfectly integrated by the gradations of cardamom, coriander, sandal, all of which shade by degree the space between the variegated flowers and the darker depths of that base. This is a perfume of all sorts united in perfect song. It’s bold, it feels like a thousand bucks and one need not go hunting down vintages to experience its armoury of temptations.


NOTE: This is my impression of the current formulation. I've never smelled an older version and honestly have little interest in doing so with such easy access to this stuff

Knowing opens like a bullet through your soft palate. It makes your blood rush–a full symphonic blast of radiated aldehydes and thorny roots, both framing a singeing knot of civet, mimosa, and rose that grips you by the sphenoid, lifting you up to get a better look at its prey. The impression of a living thing nearby you stays throughout the first hour or so, and from the time I first smelled this stuff the top has vividly called to mind some kind of huge slick-black beast with piss-matted fur grinning down at me from high in the rafters of an abandoned wood cathedral, the floor an overrun and mossy tangle of roses and mulch in all directions. It's as engrossing and rewarding as an opening can possibly be, the monster-funk lifted into perfect balance by the floral and the sweet.

From there, it relaxes and the light dims as the astringency seems to change hands from the animalic to the familiar, recalling a wooden spoon bobbing in a simmering pot of vinegar or cider, which lets the feminine contours of the shape come into clearer view. It's a steady flow of sweet flowers and sour fruits occluding and one-upping each other as you sit with it. By the end you're left with a sensual/skin-like smell with a pleasantly coherent chord I see I first described in my notes as “fermented genital lichen swallowing a faint plum.” That doesn't quite capture the calming delicacy of the scent but I'm failing to write anything much better.

This whole description might not get it across but this is a seriously alluring scent on anyone with the confidence for it. Even (especially) at its most unhinged it is completely intoxicating to smell on someone else, and is overwhelming in the way that could intimidate as easily as it could disarm. My girlfriend and I will likely break into punches over who can spend the day smelling it on the other at least once before quarantine is over. This is a masterpiece of a chypre that you can buy relatively cheap and it should be on your shelf, no questions asked. If you don't like it, keeping smelling it until you aren't incorrect anymore


A rose chypre that nicked the cheesewood from Aromatics and sprinkled it with powder.

Sample vial



Knowing is your usual vintage floral fragrance, with a bit of bitterness that I dislike. Very potent, as most Lauder fragrances. Average in this style.


I don't recall getting that memo, but apparently there was something of a powerhouse "last stand" in the feminine-marketed segment of the designer fragrance world, just not on the same level as the male-oriented one, because the prevalence of animalic scents for guys in the 80's was much greater. However, they weren't the sole recipients of soon-to-be rare, undervalued, and virile moss bombs as some vintage colognoisseurs might have you believe with their blog posts. In fact, Estée Lauder Knowing (1988) follows a formula many of the more dandy masculine powerhouses borrowed from the women's sector in its representation of the oriental rose chypre. Boss/Boss Number One by Hugo Boss (1985), Ho Hang Club/Le Club de Balenciaga (1987), Bogart Furyo (1988), Azzaro Acteur (1989), and more would all play with rose, patchouli and civet, but sometimes also with leather, or incense in some form, and all were quite gender bending with their appeal and voluminous strength, just marketed as unmistakably manly when some of them really weren't. Knowing revisits this murky style for women, a style once wildly popular in the postwar years when Estée Lauder's first perfume (Youth Dew from 1953) hit the market, but here in Knowing we get a kitchen sink construction with greater focus than past entries in this league thanks to the starring note of pittosporum. The flower in question can be considered a weed in some countries like Australia, where it grows rampantly on vines to the detriment of other flora, but in continental European countries like France, it often covers trestles mades just for the purpose of decoratively holding vines.

Estée Lauder's daughter-in-law Evelyn was on a vacation in France when she discovered the pittosporum aroma crossed with rose, tracing its source to such a trestle, and returning home to request basing a perfume around it. Knowing was composed by Elie Rodger, whose only other composition with Lauder was the now-discontinued Clinique Wrappings (1990). Jean Kerleo is purported to have spoken to Evelyn Lauder while she was in France, giving her the genesis of the idea, but he had no hand in the composition as he never wandered outside Jean Patou or its then-subsidiaries like Lacoste perfumes, regardless of what other perfume sites tell you. Bernard Chant was also no longer on deck at Lauder by 1988, so Elie Rodger had to go it alone outside of input from Evelyn. Knowing opens with a huge push of Turkish rose and pittosporum on a cloud of bergamot, with tiny puffs of galbanum and tuberose, but right off the bat we also get a sweet plum and manadarin orange married to wiffs of patchouli from the middle, giving oriental inflections. The patchouli merges with rose and an accord very close to the eponymous Hugo Boss masculine emerges, especially when the civet comes into play, making Knowing feel almost like a Boss/Boss Number One Pour Femme, but only slightly. Cardamom and jasmine indole come on strong in the heart, and Knowing cruises very close to the faux Middle-Eastern vibe of modern Western ouds. The base is pure oakmoss, honeyed civet, musk, and amber bliss with some shades of cedar, sandal, and vetiver to keep it from being sweet. Folks who like their green chypres big and stinky will absolutely adore the finish of Knowing. Longevity is amazing and sillage is appropriately "80's loud" so be discreet with application. Most animalic rose chypres or orientals don't come across very relevant or appropriate for modern Western contexts in the 21st century, since everyone loves being clean and sweet these days, so wear this one where you will. Knowing will never come across friendly or inviting, but it will feel bold, showy, and like a peacock fanning its feathers, which was a very masculine trait that women looking for the "don't mess with me" aesthetic made popular by the squared-shouldered clothing and teased hair of the day were after.

Modern formulas of Knowing reduce the oakmoss to IFRA-friendly levels and also tone down the now-synthetic civet note to more polite modern tastes, but the stuff is still good. You'll need to look for darker juice, a "Made in Switzerland" label for the full monty, and can even shoot for a gold label if you want deep vintage, but in reality, the difference between pre and post-restriction formulas is the juice color, not the label. Older, darker batches of knowing will hit you full on in the face with dark rose, an indolic and basalmic middle, patchouli, oakmoss, ambery musk, and honeyed civet growl, so that's what to look for if that's what you're after. Otherwise, any bottle will do if you're looking for the basic point of the perfumer. Knowing is also very masculine-friendly much like Cabochard de Grés (1959) or Chanel No. 19 (1971), and dare I say almost feels more masculine than feminine in a 21st century scene full of rose-powered oud orientals for men, with civet and amber here standing in the more-fashionable oud's place. Knowing is more Moulin Rouge than Meryl Streep to my nose, so ladies loving the 80's but looking to avoid the sweet tuberose bombs or hairspray scents might want to start here, plus fans of old stinkers like Guerlain Jicky (1889) should take note too. Ladies, men, or anyone appreciating mossy roses like the original Rive Gauche (1971) will also find favor with Knowing. Palomo Picasso (1989) continues this style just a bit further (for those of you who like some homework), but Knowing is in my mind the best of the "skank pack" from this period on the women's side of the fragrance fence, and wears pretty vividly on anyone all year round! Huge thumbs up here! Love it love it love it!!!

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