Friday, November 23, 2012

Persolaise Review: Lys Du Desert from Decennial + Coeur En Mai from MDCI + J'Adore L'Absolu from Christian Dior (2012)


It's not often that a perfume brand celebrates the arrival of a reformulation, but that's exactly what's happened with MDCI. 2009's Coeur En Mai recently fell foul of IFRA guidelines, so director Claude Marchal asked its original composer, Patricia De Nicolaï, to try to create a replacement that would successfully jump through the anti-allergen hoops. According to him, the result is even better than CEM Mark 1.

As luck would have it, on this occasion, I was able to carry out a side-by-side comparison of the two versions, and yes, there's no denying that they are different from each other. Even in their final stages, it's possible to distinguish the parent from the offspring. Both of them are still floral arrangements with a tea rose heart, but the new effort is considerably happier, sunnier and more welcoming than its predecessor.

From its opening moments, the greener aspects have been emphasised - you can almost see sunshine glinting on blades of grass - and the woody elements have been made less opaque. The central rose section is intact, but now it displays greater contrasts. There's a suggestion of dewy optimism - does Nicolaï briefly sweep us away to the setting of her own Week-end À Deauville? - as well as hints of lilies and gardenias enrobed by clean cellophane. The composition is never allowed to descend into inane prettiness: a whisper of pepper provides intrigue and a subtle hint of tobacco adds a layer of three-dimensional naturalness. It's a credit to Nicolai's classicist philosophy - and her insistence on imbuing her work with intelligence - that no matter how floral this piece of work becomes, it never slips into the idiocies of the mainstream.

But if there's one thing the woman knows how to create, it's drydowns. Sure enough, the final stage of the reworked CEM is its most endearing. With shades of the incense-woody facet of YSL's Nu, the base notes tone down the radiance of the main materials, creating a sense that the flowers have been picked from the garden and arranged within a vase. Their admirer places them on a coffee table. She moves across to her most comfortable. And she then settles down to a glass of Merlot and the latest Michael Ondaatje novel. The bouquet may not be as challenging as some of the works of art she keeps in her home, but as she lifts her gaze from time to time and catches sight of it, her heart takes a little leap. Sometimes, all you need is beauty for its own sake.

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The subject of commendable reformulations leads me to François Demachy's recent re-issue of his own L'Absolu version of J'Adore. Ever since it emerged, I've considered it to be the finest, richest member of Dior's J'Adore family - a perfect showcase for Calice Becker's original, wide-eyed green-jasmine-ylang accord - so I approached the 2012 edition with some trepidation. But I needn't have worried. L'Absolu is still great stuff. If anything it's now softer and doesn't radiate as powerfully, which seems to tie in better with its somewhat aristocratic demeanour and, curiously, brings it closer in line with the recent Grand Bal. I've no idea why the scent had to be altered - is the reason in some way related to Dior's continuing drive to bring all its fragrance production in-house? - but at least it's faithful to the 2007 incarnation and it remains at home near both the Seine and the Ganges. Cue: sigh of relief.

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Shall we go for a hat trick of scent pairs? To mark the tenth anniversary of Luckyscent.com (truly an occasion to be cheered with champagne and confetti!), its founders decided to commission a quartet of new perfumes which they've released under the brand name Decennial. Three of the scents are by Jerome Epinette (they may be reviewed here in the weeks to come) and the fourth is by everybody's favourite Swiss wizard, Andy Tauer. In keeping with the spirit of looking back, Lys Du Desert echoes one of his first creations, the perenially popular L'Air Du Désert Marocain. Indeed, the initial burst of LDD - with its lickable coating of vanilla and labdanum - suggests that this may be the first time Andy has done the unthinkable and created a flanker! However, there's more to it than a mere tweaking of an earlier hit.

Yes, it's built upon an amber base - fans of the so-called Tauerade will find much to enjoy here - but it also lives up to its name and gives due attention to a floral facet. So whilst the oriental boxes are ticked by bergamot, benzoin and vetivert, the overall effect is pulled towards more Occidental climes by the inclusion of fresh, light petals. The lily note isn't distinct - it doesn't conjure images of flower shops in the same way as, say, Lys Mediterranee (Fléchier) or Lys Soleia (Wasser) - but its influence is undeniable. In combination with an ambergris-like facet (probably achieved through the use of Ambroxan) it lifts the base, opens it up and gives it much more room to breathe. Indeed, this effortless languor recalls 2010's Orange Star, whose spirit is arguably as present in LDD as is that of L'Air.

Most notably, this is a scent that wrong-foots the wearer. As soon as you think you've located it in sub-Saharan Africa, it spins you around and drops you onto the Atlantic coast of France. And just when you get used to your new location, you're off on another journey, perhaps to the Californian landscape from which Andy drew inspiration. As is often the case, the trip is far more enjoyable than any single destination. 

[Review of Coeur En Mai based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by MDCI in 2012; review of J'Adore L'Absolu based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Christian Dior in 2012; review of Lys Du Desert based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2012.]

Persolaise.

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