Mon Dieu, mon Dieu – this release is a shocker! While I am writing this, I feel like Belmondo in the photo above. I am enjoying the new Frédéric Malle release “Monsieur.” Mon Dieu indeed – this is one of the rare, almost groundbreaking perfume experiences we all are living for (more or less). The first spray leaves you puzzled, enough so that you want to sit down and take a deep breath. This is exactly what “Monsieur” reminds me of: the movie “Breathless” by Jean Luc Goddard from 1960. “Monsieur” is film noir personified – virile elegance, with a touch of masculine drama, heck – this is the utterly French…. Michel (Jean Paul Belmondo) and his love for american idols and the hipness they radiate. This is the irrational, wild passion of an elegant slickster in love with Patricia, a young and vivid American girl. Crisp ties and classic thick suits are popping up in my mind, smelling this fragrance. Oh wait – please let me apologize, I’ve been taken on a flight of fancy. Yes, the fragrance – I guess it’s time to talk a bit about it:
Good things take time and just like with many other high quality fragrances, “Monsieur” is no exception. Bruno Jovanovic, who is known for his room fragrances and the fabulous “Dries van Noten“, contributes an Eau de Parfum to the editions de parfums, and I tell you, it is the stuff dreams are made of.
If you think of the great classics of perfumery from the 70’s and 80’s, which note comes straight to mind? Right – it is patchouli. I hear the needle scratching over vinyl now – but stop, of course not that kind of hippie headshop patchouli, folks, after all, this is a fragrance that’s to be entered in the hall of fame that is Les Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle! That means it’s time to re-think patchouli and our tired perceptions of the note. Good things take time… these were the words I used to start this paragraph, and those words are important.
The first spritz was not love at first sight for me. “Monsieur” starts out with some fresh tangerine aldehydes pasted onto that rather nose-hair-curling effect that good patchouli notes often have in the beginning. Plus, this effect is further emphasized by a splendid dose of camphor. How unusual! I needed some time to understand this approach and to manage my perceptions of it – it left me baffled for the first minutes. But once the dry down began, it all made sense.
The tangerine – aldehydes are all sucked up pretty quickly by delicious rum absolue notes that counteract and balance the harsh side of the patchouli and the camphor. And this is needed, as “Monsieur” is – as far as I know – the only fragrance to contains over 50%(!) patchouli oil in molecular distillation. The rum absolue plays an important role in this composition, as it manages the cedar and incense in the heart. Once completely developed, you will encounter the ultimate surprise: The basenotes contains a tiny touch of vanilla and a good dose of the well known amber, leather and musk combination. Where do we know this from? Correct – it is that typical Black Afgano vibe that can be found in many fragrances nowadays (PG 22 Djhenné, Carner Barcelona – Cuirs, some Sospiros, etc.), but here we find it in a patchouli-driven composition and not in an overdone-head-achy way. No, it is not a shame that this base reminds us of this modern combination of notes – it rounds everything off, it connects the dots – it all merges into one smooth accord, and you just stop picking it to pieces and learn to take it as a whole. “Monsieur” is a time traveler from the harsh French gentlemen in the 70s to the modern man of today, who finally understands that he is allowed to be strong and soft and thoughtful all at the same time.
“Monsieur” is present and correct. If someone in the room is wearing it, you will recognize it. The sillage is powerful – no wonder the official materials from Les Editions de Parfums tell us that “Monsieur is to patchouli what Carnal Flower is to tuberose – excessive and ultimately modern.” Longevity? Don’t ask. Or rather, don’t worry about it. Let Edith Piaf answer instead: Mon Dieu, mon Dieu.
My God! My God! My God!
Let him stay with me
a little bit longer
One day, two days, eight days…
Let him stay with me
a little bit longer
Edith Piaf “Mon Dieu, mon Dieu” (freely translated)