Musc Ravageur is a big ole sex musk with a leer on its face. Luca Turin says it’s more flashy than good, and I’d agree, but then again, I don’t think Musc Ravageur takes itself all that seriously to begin with. It’s a musk with bedroom eyes and an Adam’s apple.
The more I wear it, the more I think of it as the male equivalent of Shalimar. It’s a big-boned oriental at heart, a crude, deconstructed version of the older versions of Shalimar extrait – all rude body musks, thick vanilla, and butter-like tonka. Objectionably rich, and quite pungent in parts.
Even the top notes of Musc Ravageur share a certain barbershoppy feel with Shalimar: in Musc Ravageur, it’s lavender and cloves, and in Shalimar, it’s something like herbes de Provence (thyme?). Perhaps that’s why so many men find the opening challenging – the pungent spices, dirty musk, and sweet vanilla churning their stomachs in a way they can’t handle.
But I’m a Shalimar girl all the way, baby, so this is familiar territory for me. People either hate the opening and love the dry down, or wish that the rough opening would last all the way through – me, I love every part of Musc Ravageur from front to end.
It smells like someone rubbed a vanilla-glazed Cinnabon across the sweaty perineum of a man who hadn’t washed for a few days. Hot, sweet, a bit dirty (in a good way). The combination of the rich, sweet vanilla, tonka, and sandalwood in the base is to die for, no matter where you stand on the exact dirtiness of the musk at the start.
I used to think that it was too loud and too dirty for a lady to be wearing outside the house. But then I realized that the Shalimar extrait I wear is pretty dirty and I wear that out of the house all the time. I think I bought into the hype about this being a disgusting, filthy, old-man kind of smell. Now, I just think it’s a fabulous gourmand musk/oriental that’s both sexy and comfortable. Vulgar? Yeah. Hell yeah! And so what! A bit of vulgarity never hurt nobody.
Helmut Lang EDP: Aha! I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Maurice Roucel takes Musc Ravageur out of the bedroom and into the nursery, refashioning it as Helmut Lang EDP. It’s an amazing accomplishment when you think about it – it shares the same basic DNA as Musc Ravageur, and even smells somewhat similar – and yet the feel of one is a hundred million miles away from the other. If Musc Ravageur is lying spread-eagled in the boudoir, spilling out of its red lace teddy and trying to disguise its Adam’s apple, Helmut Lang EDP is the tender gripe-water exhalation from a baby sleeping in its cradle. (The only teddy here being the one clutched in fat little baby fingers).
The opening of Helmut Lang EDP always reminds me pleasantly of nightly bath time rituals with my children: the Chicco calendula and lavender baby wash I use, the smell of plush cotton baby towels fresh from the drier, and the innocent smell of the skin at the nape of their necks, which I cannot resist nuzzling.
Few people talk about the sheer sensuality of children these days for risk of being misunderstood – but parents of small children will understand when I say that there is no greater sensual pleasure than the smell and touch of small children. It’s why parents can’t resist nuzzling and sniffing their kids. We are drawn helplessly to their velvety skin and their specific, milky smell.
Helmut Lang EDP smells milky and warm and fresh and innocent to me. It opens with the baby breath of heliotrope, neroli, and pretty orange blossoms. Later, it strikes me that the musk and vanilla is on the knife’s edge of being not-so-innocent after all. Maybe it’s even a little dirty. But not dirty in the Musc Ravageur fun, sex way. Just not as squeaky clean as you might expect from its opening. I don’t find it sexy, though (due to the nursery associations). Just touchingly human in scale, which is nice too.
Helmut Lang EDP is quite modern, airy, and stream-line, a further departure from the butch oriental category wherein I mentally place Musc Ravageur. But I really should stop comparing them – leaving aside the obvious Maurice Roucel DNA they share – Helmut Lang EDP simply occupies a different place and function in my wardrobe, and I like them both on their own terms.
Le Labo Labdanum 18: Maurice Roucel, you old roué! I think I’ve figured out your game. You made a beautiful musk-vanilla-amber template in the lab one day, and you thought to yourself, “Maurice, old boy, this ain’t half bad! I can get at least three good fragrances out of this.” You dialed up the rude bits on the template to arrive at Musc Ravageur, and you sanitized it with cotton and heliotrope and doll’s head plastic to come up with Helmut Lang EDP.
Le Labo comes a knocking, and you decide, you know what – let’s see if we can’t wring a last drop of juice from this old sponge. We’ll name it after an ingredient that isn’t noticeably in it, let’s say labdanum, so as to give those contrary hipsters at Le Labo their jollies. Add a pinch of cinnamon, a touch of powder, and my standard musky-ambery-vanilla, and BAM! Everybody’s happy.
Well, not me, Maurice, not me. The last imprint of the well-used template is too faint to leave much of an impression. It’s a midget in a hall of giants. Civet, leather – castoreum? Pfff, please. Shalimar has more underpantsy funk than this. The trouble is, of course, that Labdanum 18 can only cower in the shadow of its more outgoing big brother, Musc Ravageur, and its more distinctive, characterful little sister, Helmut Lang EDP. And if I want a powdery musk-amber-patchouli scent that smells like skin, I always have the soured-fur delights of L’Ombre Fauve to fall back on. Desolee.