Both the relationships between fragrances and those with friends can teach us a lot, as I found out this last week. I mentioned before the joys of having like-minded perfumisters and perfumsistas to chat to about this obsession with Obsession and craving for Chaos. This month one of mine tipped me off to a delicacy I simply had to try: Mauboussin de Mauboussin.
I made a small financial investment (very small – this is not expensive) and the three-sided pyramidal bottle is now on my dresser. My friend Pia from Olfiction had been the catalyst for this, as she felt there was a similarity between Mauboussin and Femme de Rochas, a classic plum and leather chypre. I have a great fondness for chypres, and leather ones in particular, treasuring my tiny bottle of vintage Femme extrait. Even though the top notes of my bottle are starting to ‘turn’ to the burnt, hairspray-like sharpness of damage, the heart and base are still beautiful and I have vowed to wear this rapidly-fading beauty as much as possible while it still glows like a plum-coloured lantern.
Pia explained that Mauboussin had elements in common with Femme, with an interesting modern twist, rather than being a straight copy. And this started me off thinking about how we choose perfumes, in our constant searches for ‘the one’, or in my case one that fills a space in my collection or fragrance wardrobe. There are some friends and reviewers whose tastes chime with mine – Gaia from The Non-Blonde seems to have very close tastes to me – and others whose tastes I know are a little different, such as Pia, but whose noses I respect and pay attention to.
While chatting in a group on Facebook, Pia and I were interested to hear another friend compare Mauboussin de Mauboussin to Serge Lutens’ Daim Blond, Etat Libre d’Orange’s Putain de Palaces, and Bottega Veneta’s original women’s fragrance. I find comparisons and discussions such as these very interesting and useful when deciding whether to seek out a fragrance to try or send off for a sample. Most of these are fragrances I know I like, and which share a common thread of soft leather and apricot, peach or plum notes. For me, these are enough to suggest I should try a fragrance – you may have noticed how much I enjoyed the peachy Tauerville Fruitchouli Flash earlier this year.
So what did I think of Mauboussin de Mauboussin? I pulled out all my fragrances that have been mentioned and a few more; I smelled everything against it, and I learned a lot. I found myself able to recognise the plum and ‘new handbag’ leather in the Mauboussin after smelling the Femme. But I also was able to recognise that the deeper tone and greater warmth of the Femme was due to the infamous cumin in it, which some people find off-putting and body-odourish. I love animalics, so I found the Femme beautiful and enjoyed her funky Amy Winehouse contralto compared to the radiant modern soprano of the Mauboussin that powers out its top notes like Mariah Carey.
That bright, radiant top to this perfume, and the modernity of its composition reminds me of Tauerville’s Fruitchouli Flash. The Mauboussin is similarly good-natured and wearable, and as well as a ‘modern chypre’ patchouli note they have a fruity element in common that feels approachable. Indeed, the Mauboussin also shares this warm, sun-ripened fruit aspect with Luten’s Daim Blond and the original Bottega Veneta, though the three of these I’m comparing it to feature peaches and apricots, rather than the deeper richness of plums as their fruity note. More importantly these have the same kind of leather as the Mauboussin – soft glove leather, or suede even, that is supple and sensuous. This is not the harsh, assertive leather of Gres Cabochard, Piguet’s Bandit, or L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Al Oudh. (Though I love all three.) The base is warmer and sweeter, with vanilla, benzoin and woods, but there’s enough patchouli in it that the base isn’t bakery or gourmand, rather, it reminds me of a more classic Guerlain-type of perfume.
This was a really interesting experiment for me, as I struggle to differentiate the notes in fragrance, but by comparing this group of perfumes I learned to recognise quite a few different elements. I loved the plum and leather in both the Mauboussin and the Rochas Femme, and though it wasn’t as rich as my beloved Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman, the vanilla and wood in the base of the Mauboussin does remind me of that delicious confection. Like Daim Blond and Bottega Venetta, the Mauboussin leather is soft and warm, and like Fruitchouli Flash, it uses patchouli to create a modern chypre feel that avoids using oakmoss.
If I had randomly sprayed Mauboussin de Mauboussin on my arm in a shop, I don’t think I would have liked it enough to pay it any attention. It’s very radiant and I don’t like that much in perfumes – it was why I gave away my bottle of Serge Lutens’ Feminité du Bois. There again, I’ve said I don’t like patchouli and the modern fruity chypre genre and I loved Fruitchouli Flash, which this reminds me of. It feels modern and ladylike and I can see me wearing it to work – it’s a pretty good swap for my precious Miss Balmain, which is running low. As a bonus, the bottle is very cute and the packaging luxe.