Niche Fragrance Magazine

Exploring Frederic Malle Samples (Part 2 – Unisex)

in Reviews/Thoughts by

In my previous post, we explored some of the masculine offerings from the wonderful house of Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. Today we will be exploring a few of the house’s most interesting unisex fragrances. I have sampled each of these extensively and will attempt to provide balanced commentary. These are my impressions:

Cologne Indelebile (Dominique Ropion):

How it smells: Cologne Indelebile is an eau de cologne that actually lasts. Instead of the traditionally fleeting and citrus heavy spritzers that define the genre, Ropion’s creation pairs an intensely floral orange blossom (cut with narcissus) with a blend of musks. Here the musks have significantly more depth than the somewhat flat white musks used in other colognes – it feels like a combination of laundry-clean white musks, something steamy and ozonic (think of the steam note in Penhaligon’s Sartorial), and the tiniest drop of a musk with mild animalic facets. Bright (but fleeting) citrus top cut with mint and a dash of narcissus, floral mid, and musky base.

Why you might like it: This is a unisex, versatile, and long lasting eau de cologne. It lacks the overwhelming florals or bracing brightness of lighter citrus-heavy colognes, making it a comfortable wear in almost all situations. In the cold, this one is slightly minty and floral, while in the heat it becomes steamy and musky.

Why you might dislike it: It’s an eau de cologne and might be redundant if you already own several. There are many fantastic offerings in this genre and Cologne Indelebile is not particularly groundbreaking.

Sample alongside: Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino, Juliette Has a Gun’s Gentlewoman, Dior’s Cologne Royale

Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle (Bruno Jovanovic)

How it smells: This is a brilliant sandalwood fragrance for gourmand lovers, but it doesn’t exactly smell of food. Instead, it comes across as warm and appetizing – as if something scrumptious and sweet is being baked in a nearby kitchen. It is a Flemish bakery in a bottle, smelling of air filled with the sweet scent of sugared speculoos and soft (never scratchy or synthetic) sandalwood. It performs extraordinarily well, and easily lasts over 12 hours on my skin.

Why you might like it: If you like gourmand and/or sandalwood fragrances, this might be for you. This is one of the better sandalwood semi-gourmand fragrances on the market. While it is quite sweet (due in large part to the vanilla and variety of sandalwood used), it is also woodsy and comforting, rendering this fragrance unisex and a great option for both men and women.

Why you might dislike it: A sweet semi-gourmand sandalwood fragrance will not be for everyone. In particular, men who cannot abide sweet and gourmand fragrances should skip this one. Additionally, due to its sweet nature and medium body, this might not do well in a warm climate.

Sample alongside: By Kilian’s Love (Don’t Be Shy), Xerjoff’s Richwood, Chanel’s Bois des Iles Parfum

Musc Ravageur (Maurice Roucel)

How it smells: This fragrance is weird, but in a good way. It mixes elements of the a traditionally masculine oriental fougere – herbaceous lavender and creamy vanilla (think of Caron’s Pour Un Homme de Caron, MDCI’s Invasion Barbare, and By Kilian’s A Taste of Heaven) – with a ravishing animalic musk accord. Along with the vanilla and lavender, I find that the musk, clove, cinnamon and amber are quite prominent, adding animalic depth and interest to what would otherwise be a polite oriental fougere. Readers might be surprised to find this in my unisex list rather than in my previous list of masculines; while it is true that many male niche perfume lovers have gravitated towards Musc Ravageur, this scent would be ravishing (and perhaps even a bit naughty) on a woman.

Why you might like it: You like tradition, but prefer the rakish traditions of the Marquis de Sade, Hugh Hefner, Marilyn Monroe, and their ilk. This is a scent for a rogue, albeit a rogue with a sense of class, and it manages to communicate this impression without using the extremely masculine notes of immortelle and rough leather. If you like the conservative and traditional oriental fougeres of the past, give this one a shot and see if an animal lurks beneath your polished demeanor.

Why you might dislike it: To some, the animalic nature of this fragrance can be downright offensive. It doesn’t come across as dirty, at least to me, but it is definitely animalic, musky, and thick – almost oppressively so.

Sample alongside: Histoires de Parfums 1740 (Marquis de Sade), Roja Dove’s Fetish Pour Homme Parfum, Jovoy’s L’Art de la Guerre

Portrait of a Lady (Dominique Ropion)

How it smells: In my experience, Portrait of a Lady smells very different (and gives a different impression) depending on whether it is worn by a man or a woman. On the women in my life, this fragrance smells primarily of jammy rose, tangy raspberry, and patchouli. As a feminine fragrance, I imagine it would best fit on a successful and stern businesswoman, largely because it smells so upright and impactful. However, on my own manly and inordinately attractive skin, it smelled completely different – almost gothic – as my skin emphasized the dark rose and the sour/smoky facets of the incense. Men might wish to wear this fragrance while in formal wear, during evening occasions. But no matter who wears it, Portrait of a Lady is a beast of a fragrance, performing like an extrait and lasting a full day on the skin.

Why you might like it: Portrait of a Lady (as one might expect from the name) has serious personality and can be very memorable. It is well composed, top quality stuff, and it somehow manages to smell both contemporary and gothic simultaneously.

Why you might dislike it: If you dislike any combination of rose, incense, patchouli, and/or berries, this probably isn’t for you. Seekers of subtle, polite, and office safe fragrances should also skip this one.

Sample alongside: By Kilian’s Incense Oud, Jovoy’s La Liturgie des Heures, Frederic Malle’s Une Rose

These fragrances by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle can be found at Essenza-Nobile.

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