Occasionally, I am exposed to a perfume which questions what I believe about fragrance. It comes around and taxes my ability to describe it in words. I also know that others are having very different experiences with the same fragrance. There are some reasons which I think this is happening and I wonder whether it is deliberate or indicative of something else. I have spent a lot of time with Bogue Profumo MEM and I will try to describe my experience with it.
The independent perfumer behind Bogue Profumo is Antonio Gardoni. Sig. Gardoni has come to perfumery from a self-taught perspective. It has allowed him to make his own set of principles of composition which hew only to his artistic vision. Maai was his most successful fragrance because he started with a vintage aesthetic which he transformed into something dramatically different. One of the things that is different about MEM is it seems he started with a well-known ingredient, lavender, and again wanted to transform the recognizable into something unique. Sig. Gardoni was also going to feature uncommon sources of lavender from different isolates and species. He says in the description of MEM there are four lavenders in MEM. The one that appears first is the most interesting and is part of the most fascinating part of the development of MEM. The others end up becoming foils for other stronger statements but more in support than as the focal point. I’m going to describe my experience with MEM and then follow that with some mentions of other reviews and what I think it says about MEM when taken together.
I like lavender but as I have smelled it more and more I really enjoy a source of lavender which accentuates the herbal nature over the air freshener character. The source of lavender at the beginning of MEM is wonderful as it is not only herbal but also earthy. It conjures up a vision of sprigs of purple covered in dark topsoil. Then fascinatingly Sig. Gardoni decides to give it a beer as it becomes malted which matches the earthiness of the lavender. I kept thinking during these early stages this was some kind of craft lavender summer ale. There are hints of citrus on the periphery of the early moments but it is this unique lavender which carries the day. Which makes the transition into the floral heart so disappointing is it becomes an overwhelming bouquet of everything but lavender. If there was something about the lavender used here it was subsumed by rose, muguet, jasmine, and ylang-ylang. Then it switches to a truly animalic base of civet and musk which again swamps the lavender. It was frustrating for me because I could detect it but it was like it was banging on the glass trying to get in.
MEM has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
I recommend two other reviews to read and I am going to mention some of what they wrote to make a larger point about MEM. In Kafkaesque’s review Kafka also mentions the early going reminding Kafka of a summer ale. Kafka also gets a much subtler development throughout the hours. Kafka corresponded with Sig. Gardoni and he claimed there are 86 ingredients in MEM.
Lauryn Beer reviewed MEM for CaFleureBon she experienced all the nuance of the different lavenders Sig. Gardoni employed comparing it favorably to one of the baseline lavenders, Guerlain Jicky. These are two reviewers in whom I respect their views. So why the difference? I have a hypothesis.
Also in the Kafkaesque review, it was mentioned Sig. Gardoni sent out an early version of MEM to some. Kafka thought its evolution into the current version was for the better. Based on Kafka’s words it sounded like it was a simpler version which set out to display the different lavenders more distinctly. There is a habit of the most artistic independent perfumers not to know when to stop tinkering. There can be a moment when they keep adding to the basic concept until they hit 86 ingredients. For me, in the case of MEM, that was probably fifty or sixty too many. Especially because the early moments are amazing only to get lost as the olfactory traffic jam builds up.
I think MEM is an almost fascinating Rohrshach test of a perfume because in all of the online reviews no two people have described it the same way with the only overlap happening in the early stages. In the end, I want to embrace MEM but at this moment my admiration and my words fail me.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.