Friday, February 5, 2016

Persolaise Review: Monsieur. from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle (Bruno Jovanovic; 2016)


My closest friend recently discovered Malle. After decades of not considering perfume to be an important factor in how he presents himself to the world, he got in touch and asked for advice on choosing his first 'serious' scent. It should come as no surprise that one of the brands to which I directed him was the red-and-black paragon of cerebral, Gallic elegance. He was horrified by the price tags - he'd had no idea quite how expensive fragrances can be - but sufficiently impressed with the products to walk away with a bottle of Vetiver Extraordinaire. Since then, he's gone back for more: French Lover is a new addition to his collection. He's got them both on regular rotation and he tells me he's delighted with them. So, as he's a recent convert, I'm intrigued to learn what he'd make of the house's latest release, Monsieur. by Bruno Jovanovic. Allow me to elaborate.

To my mind, the most commendable feature of many of Malle's overtly masculine creations is that they live in the present. Yes, the man is obsessed with the classics of perfumery, but he doesn't allow his passion to translate into reverential, retro-homages stuck somewhere in the 1950s. My friend's first choice is a perfect case in point. When composing it, Dominique Ropion took an idea that had been around for several decades, but he bestowed it with a clarity and a timbre that go nowhere near the realms of the old-fashioned. The same could be said of French Lover, Geranium Pour Monsieur, Cologne Indelebile and Cologne Bigarade: they acknowledge the rules of their respective forms, but they bring them up to date and, by extension, they make novel comments on the nature of male identity in the 21st century. I'd say the only exception is Angeliques Sous La Pluie, a Jean-Claude Ellena creation which, unlike its partners in the range, seems intent on remaining within the confines of a prefabricated, manly mould. And that brings us to the new Monsieur.

In terms of its odour profile, it is a patchouli bomb of Afro-wig proportions. The press info states that more than 50% of its formula consists of patchouli materials, and the rapidity with which the scent conjures visions of disco balls and flares would seem to bear this out. As one would expect from Jovanovic's skills and Malle's direction, the central material has been handled with dexterity. At the top, its subtly sweet-floral aspects have been allied to a none-too-tiny tangerine. Its woody heart has been accentuated with a smooth rum note. And its earthy base has been softened with musks and amber notes. In itself, this constitutes a praiseworthy feat of perfumery and a notable technical achievement.

However, the current fashion to render patchouli as clean as possible (see Tom Ford's Patchouli Absolu for another example) seems to have the effect of heightening its camphoraceous facets, which, paradoxically, causes the scent in question to be incapable of abandoning the cliches of the 70s. And this is precisely what happens in Monsieur.: it's incongruous, uncomfortable and almost comical, like some misguided soul wearing a chest wig to a job interview.

Perhaps this is precisely the effect Malle had intended. Maybe he thought there was a butch-shaped gap in his collection. Maybe he wanted his range to contain a heaving pump of testosterone. If so, he can consider his objectives met. But Monsieur. abandons the forward-thinking aesthetic of his other men's scents, and that, in my view, is a shame. We look to Malle for visions of the future, not worm-holes to the past. And as an innovator, I'm afraid Monsieur. disappoints... which is the very reason I'm curious to know what my friend will make of it. Will he fall for its hyper-masculinity or will he too come to the conclusion that its peculiarly macho assertiveness is dated? I hope to see him in April, so I shall waft a few drops beneath his nose and await his verdict.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle in 2015.]

Persolaise

17 comments:

  1. I smelled. The least interesting in the range by far. And Malle needs to come up with some other trick beyond overdosage.

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    Replies
    1. Anon, you weren't overly impressed either? Your point about overdosing is thought-provoking.

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  2. Or maybe Monsieur Malle is a visioner which predicts the future of perfumery? Maybe he feels or maybe even sets a future trend? Like return of big, not so clean scents?
    You can always see things in totally different light...

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    Replies
    1. PerfumowyBlog, I get what you mean. But I think that, even if you're going to make a perfume which takes direct inspiration from the past, you need to do something to its construction - give it some sort of twist - in order to make it relevant to the present and the future.

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  3. I have not smelt this yet but I feel if you are projecting this kind of scent which presumably evokes a trail of the past(done or overdone by discontinued or even current fragrances) at this high price tag....then what is the point? Is Estée Lauder hammering him away from creative freedom, to make products that are fuzzy both on the creative and price sides? I feel that FM is not moving on the right track since producing Eau Magnolia..

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    1. Tenaiji, thanks for your comment. When/if you get a chance to smell Monsieur, I'd love to know what you think of it.

      I'm intrigued by your comment re: Magnolia. In what direction do you think Malle has been moving since he made that scent?

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  4. Interesting review! How does it compare to Givenchy's Gentleman?(in the current formulation, I don't know the vintage)

    Lorenzo

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    1. Lorenzo, thank you. I can't answer at the moment, I'm afraid. I'd have to revisit the current formulation.

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    2. ok! :) I asked this because they seem so similar. They both share an abundance of patchouly, one was created in 1974 and was named "Gentleman", the other is a contemporary creation that, as you point out, dates back to the seventies, and is named "Monsieur"! So many analogies!

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    3. Yes, you're right, there are lots of connections. And I'm sure Malle must be aware of them: he has a superb knowledge of perfume history. I'll try to report back when I've had a chance to re-sniff the scent :-)

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    4. Hi again Lorenzo,

      Okay, I've done a comparison between the two :-)

      The Givenchy is a traditional men's patchouli, through and through. It doesn't feature the sweet citrus note present at the top of Monsieur and it also doesn't include the boozy, rum facet. In some ways, it's more powdery than Monsieur, which makes it both softer and more retro. Monsieur has that brutal quality present in a few recent patchouli compositions.

      I hope this helps :-)

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    5. Hi! Thank you for the comparison, it helps! I'll try to obtain a sample of Givenchy's Gentleman, because it makes me more curious than Monsieur and I'd like to study the fragrance; moreover, I wear retro and powdery fragrances like Kouros, Antaeus and Mouchoir de Monsieur without problems.
      Lorenzo

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    6. Hi again Lorenzo,

      You're very welcome :-)

      I still love Kouros and particularly Antaeus, but I find them much more balanced, nuanced and interesting than Monsieur.

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  5. " afro-wig proportions !!!! "
    Best description I have read in a while.
    Persolaise..how does this compare to Tom Ford's Patchouli Absolu which I love .
    For once I am jealous of a new "all male" Malle release .

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    1. Mimi, as always, thanks for reading.

      I found the Tom Ford equally difficult to like. Both the Malle and the TF present patchouli as a rather harsh, medicinal, grimacing substance. However, the Malle possesses a stronger citrus facet and, of course, the rum note.

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  6. Well, if your friend loves Vetiver Extraordinaire he will love Monsieur. Most men should. Much like Musc Ravageur.

    Vetiver Extraordinaire requires time on the skin as it is not pleasant initially.

    Monsieur is a dynamic fragrance that continuously changes all day. And for the better. You cannot stop the experience. This is not a fragrance of the 1970's and disco balls. It takes time to appreciate the quality of this fragrance.

    Tom Ford's Patchouli Absolu is another example of the entire Ford line which is becoming as predictable as sunrise.

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    Replies
    1. Anon, thanks for your comment. Yes, I'd agree that Monsieur displays a certain amount of development, but we'll have to differ on the issue of its 'retro' quality.

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