Niche Fragrance Magazine

The lavender rollercoaster

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I let slip a couple of weeks ago that Antonio Gardoni was creating a new lavender fragrance for Bogue Profumo. Well I have had chance to try it, and fortunately, you can too, as it has just been released. As you would expect from Antonio’s other fragrances, such as Cologne Reloaded and Maai, MEM is unusual, enormously wearable and interesting – wearing it is like riding a rollercoaster.

Sniffing the atomiser I had an impression of purple powder that made me think MEM might be a boudoir perfume. Spraying it on my skin, however, brought me a swirl of naturalistic ‘Goldilocks’ lavender that took me straight to the garden. Apparently Antonio used 5 different lavenders to create this fragrance, making it ‘Goldilocks’ lavender because it’s not too herbal and not too caramel-ish. Instead, opening up like purple-blue summer sky, it’s warm with a slight woody undertone, but clean and fresh. As a massive fan of Caldey Island Lavender, I love this; it’s invigorating but not simplistic.

As the heart of the fragrance unfolded I found it warming to be richer and more floral; in fact, it becomes positively curvaceous and even powdery. There are still little licks of lavender, and a woodiness and creaminess that keep things from being completely womanly. This is the dangerous curve on the MEM rollercoaster. But just when you think you have understood this fragrance and pigeonholed it as feminine, the track twists and you swoop down into a plunging loop. You’ve been chypred.

I wasn’t sure, for a while whether I’d been fougered, in fact. There’s a pleasingly resinous rasp to the modern chypre accord that Antonio has created, making it enormously wearable by a man. I felt the contrast between this and the florals was as startling as when I first smelled Mugler’s Angel; I thought of aftershave, I’ll be honest. But just as the florals don’t completely take you down the path of femininity, the chypre doesn’t take you to hairy-chest territory. I dislike Angel because I think it’s too blunt with its juxtaposition between candyfloss and patchouli, and I admit I was challenged by MEM with the contrast between the two genres, but I feel the kinship to my beloved classic chypres like Miss Balmain and Miss Dior (the Original, let’s not muck about here).

Finally, just when you think it’s all over and you know where this is going, MEM throws in the final switchback and hits you with the furrily animalic base of musk, ambergris, civet and castoretum. Yet it’s not beastly. I have no idea how Antonio achieves these wonderful flips and spins in one fragrance, bringing things so close to the edge without going over. Truly it’s a masterpiece of fragrance architecture and remarkable to wear. It wears close to the skin and isn’t overly radiant or difficult in enclosed spaces (unlike Mon Guerlain, which caused a colleague to lean away when we were discussing a document), and it’s not so strange that people will notice or comment, but you have the pleasure of riding the lavender rollercoaster over the course of a day.

 

A decade ago in a little secondhand bookshop, I bought a biography of an obscure biophysicist written by a New York Times journalist and my life changed. Yes, I blame it all on Luca Turin and Chandler Burr; thanks to them I fell in love with L’Heure Bleue and haven’t looked back since.

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