In the press release for the latest addition to the Collection Privée, Dior's in-house perfumer, François Demachy, is quoted as saying that the "chypre is the grey of the perfume family." A contentious statement if ever there was one - I certainly don't consider Mitsouko or the original Femme to be grey - but never mind, let's allow Monsieur Demachy his assertion for a moment. The real trouble is: I don't think Gris Montaigne is a chypre.
Far be it from me to cast doubt on a statement made by a practitioner of Demachy's standing, but to my nose, this new creation is a chilly rose on a woody, musky base. Roses are popping up everywhere at the moment and this is certainly one of the more interesting ones. Whereas the last Collection Privée release, Oud Ispahan, presented the flower in terms of carnal tempestuousness, this latest effort is linear, aloof and cerebral. The petals in its heart may be red, but they emerge from a vat of liquid nitrogen, keeping everyone at bay with their iciness.
Whilst it may not be as essential as some of the entries in Dior's exclusive portfolio, GM does feel at home next to the razor sharp professionalism of Granville or Milly Le Forêt. But as for being a chypre... well, okay, there is a faint suggestion of forest floors somewhere in the recesses of its base - and the list of ingredients does include evernia prunastri - but taken as a whole, it certainly doesn't possess the thick, complex, fleshy texture which one associates with the genre. So why didn't they just call Gris Montaigne a rose and be done with it? Are chypres perceived to be more saleable at the moment? I'll leave you to ponder those questions while I enjoy this solemn piece of work.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Christian Dior in 2013.]