How Vincenzo Spinnato Bottled Judy Garland

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 6, 2022
Originally published on August 4, 2022

Lorna Luft, Vincenzo Spinnato, & Liza Minnelli
Lorna Luft, Vincenzo Spinnato, & Liza Minnelli  (Source:Vincenzo Spinnato)

In celebration of the 100th birthday of Judy Garland, her children — Lorna, Liza, and Joey — enlisted the help of "certified nose" Vince Spinnato to create an exclusive fragrance commemorating their mother's life, legacy, and — of course — her scent.

Spinnato has worked for more than 25 years in the world of personal care, cosmetics, and fine fragrance. After working on a slew of celebrity fragrances from Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani to Michael Jordan, his fragrance for "the world's greatest entertainer" is perhaps the most personal creation of his career.

EDGE: I am very excited to ask you about this fragrance. First, tell me how this all came about.

Vince Spinnato: First of all, I'm a cosmetic chemist and a perfumer, I've been doing that for about 25 years now. One of the biggest ones I work on was with the whole team for Jennifer Lopez, her second fragrance called "Still," and that went into Carrie Underwood, Jessica Simpson, Michael Jordan, Pitbull, and so on. The reason I'm mentioning that to you is that led to me writing a book called "My Pursuit of Beauty," which is kind of my journey in the beauty industry, and it came out on Amazon about eight months ago. Lorna Luft, one of Judy's daughters, got a hold of my book out in Palm Springs, and she read it and really liked it.

She's a self-proclaimed skincare junkie, so she had her publicist reach out to me to set up a meeting for me to go over her skin and her skincare regimen. I have another product line called Caviar & Diamond, which is a high end, prestige line based on caviar and diamonds, and she wanted to see if she could get a sample of the kit and talk about her skin. We talked on the phone for a couple of hours one day, and we kind of just really hit it off. At that point, she invited me to her house in Palm Springs, and I went out there to meet her. We went back and forth through a couple of meetings and she said, "You probably know my mother's hundredth birthday is coming up." This was right around the time that Renée Zellweger had just won the Oscar for playing Judy, so there was a lot of hype around Judy at that point, and everybody was reaching out to them, from Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, all gigantic companies that wanted to get in on the action to do a fragrance. The family and the estate were kind of burned multiple times by these big, large corporations, so they reached out to me and wanted to see if I wanted to take it on as a boutique company, and I said yes right away.

Not only was I a big Judy Garland fan my whole life, but it was a way for me to preserve and support someone's legacy for the next generation. She ran it by Liza and Joey, and they both loved the idea. Then, right in the beginning of the pandemic, we started. The funny part was that, as a perfumer, I was scared to death of getting COVID because I couldn't lose my fucking [sense of smell]. So we would bring [the fragrances] to her house and smell through the masks... it was a really hard process. I went through probably 30 to 35 revisions with Lorna. When you're doing something for such a gigantic star like Judy, you want to get it all right. If I was working with Beyoncé or Dolly Parton, I could ask them questions, right? But obviously with a deceased celebrity, you can't. I had access to all three of her children, and through her children I was able to find out what their mother liked, what she didn't like, what she wore, what she didn't, what food she liked, what food she hated. You're learning all these extra stories that the world doesn't even know about, which was so cool for me to hear all this. It really allowed me to shape the fragrance of what Judy would hopefully enjoy and like and a hybrid of what she used to wear.

With that being said, I made it even more difficult on myself because, as you know, she has a big female following and a gigantic gay male following, so I knew from day one that it had to be unisex. I couldn't ignore the gay men because they'd have a meltdown, right? So, I was taking what Judy wore throughout her life in the '40s and '50s, which was a very, very, very feminine scent, and a difficult scent to incorporate because it was so feminine. I spent two years working to develop the fragrance that we have now, which is this beautiful unisex fragrance where even Liza said, "it smells like Mama," but very, very modernized. Right now, our numbers are coming in, and we're doing about 49% female and 51% male, which is pretty cool.

Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland
Liza Minnelli and Judy Garland  




EDGE: One of the things I love so much about this fragrance is the rose scent. I've been looking for a rose-forward fragrance that still smells good on men. As you know, a lot of so-called unisex rose scents actually don't smell unisex at all.

Vince Spinnato: Rose is very, very difficult to work with. You can get it right or you can get, like, grandma. The rose comes into play here because Judy Garland has her own rose called the Judy Garland Rose, so it was a no-brainer to incorporate that as the top note of the fragrance. You know, Judy's past was not good with the studios, starting as far back as even "The Wizard of Oz" when they would not allow her to eat anything she wanted. She couldn't have hamburgers, she couldn't have chocolate. She would be in the studio wanting to have like, a hamburger, and they'd bring her a can of soup. They treated her absolutely horribly. The reason that I'm telling you all that is she became obsessed with chocolate because she was never allowed to have it. Her children said that when she'd get home, the first thing she would go for is a piece of chocolate or chocolate cake, just out of spite. So we had to incorporate chocolate into the fragrance for her. All these little extra pieces make it so much more romantic than just getting a name and putting it on a bottle for something.

EDGE: I'm so happy to hear about how personal this experience was for you and about all the care that went into its development.

Lorna Luft, Joey Luft, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli
Lorna Luft, Joey Luft, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli  




Vince Spinnato: Yeah, exactly. And this is to show you how really fucked up I am, and I'm not embarrassed to say it and have you put it in writing, but I visited Judy at her gravesite many, many times. I'd say, "Girl, you know, this is costing me a fortune, I need your help, give me some advice." I went there and chatted with her many times, that's how personal it was for me. I'm not, like, overly spiritual, but I went in the very, very beginning and brought A, B, C, and D fragrances that we had, and we were having a really hard time narrowing it down. I put the four fragrances in front of her tomb, and I was just kind of chatting with her like, you know, "Give me a sign," blah, blah, blah. And God strike me dead... American had actually picked letter C [by way of a reader poll run in a magazine], and the letter C bottle blew over when I was in there talking to her, so I feel that she actually chimed in. I did stuff like that, and I still do it, just to go touch base once in a while and let her know what's going on. You must think I'm completely fucked in the head.

EDGE: No, that's an incredible story. The care that went into this is astounding.

Vince Spinnato: We're all a little borderline nuts, so whatever, but yes, it really was. It's completely supported and endorsed and even developed with the family, so it's not like ond of those fragrances they did for Elvis or Marilyn Monroe, where they just kind of threw their name on it. This was very, very personally done, and hopefully the people that are using it now can see the difference. What we have now is our special 100th birthday limited edition anniversary bottle, so when they're gone, they're gone forever. And then we have our long-term custom bottle coming out in the fall, which is a gorgeous, gorgeous bottle with a box like you've never seen before. My creative team took Judy Garland's "Get Happy" number from "Summer Stock" with Gene Kelly, and they actually mimic the bottle around her body movement in the musical number. So again, every single piece that we did was so personally tied into her, and done with such care and love and respect for her and her legacy.

EDGE: This fragrance is honestly the answer to so many of my current fragrance desires. It works during the day and at night, it's masculine but doesn't smell basic, it smells like money without smelling like grandma.

Vince Spinnato: Right, yeah. It's really funny, it comes across as a simple fragrance, but it's very, very complex. We have so many top notes and middle notes... everything you can imagine from coriander to dark orchids and the chocolate, of course the Judy Garland Rose, and about 48 or 49 essential oils, so it's really complex the way it's put together. But when you end up getting it right, which I think we did here, it comes across as being simple and elegant.

EDGE: I'm hoping that, as a perfumer, you can set the record straight: what is the best way to apply fragrance?

Vince Spinnato: The best was is actually to walk through it, which a lot of people don't do anymore. If you spray it on your wrist and rub your wrist together, you actually break the fragrance down, you're breaking the notes down, which you don't want to do. The way is to spray it in the air and walk through it or spray directly on your body — the touch points are the back of the neck and the wrist. Another way to look at it, too, is that you have the top notes, the middle notes, and the bottom notes. The top note is what you smell when you first spray it, so the coriander, dark orchid, Judy Garland Rose, tonka bean. Then the middle note is about 20 minutes later, and that's what you'll smell after the fragrance actually dries down on your skin. And the bottom note is what will last like two to three days, even a week afterward. That's what you end up with on your pillowcases or your clothing.

For more information, and to purchase "Judy," visit JudyGarlandFragrance.com.