It is only in hindsight that you can identify the perfumes which are the ripple which will eventually become a wave. Forty years ago, Estee Lauder White Linen was one of those fragrances. Ever since it has spawned hundreds of releases inspired by its clean florals. It is hard to make enough of an impression to be compared favorably to the one which started the trend. Lubin Princesses de Malabar is one which can be.
Lubin has been in the process of making a distinct aesthetic change which has really become obvious in the releases for 2018. They have become all about lighter more transparent styles of fragrance. The earlier releases this year all shared that while also being instantly forgettable. When I saw the press release for Princesses de Malabar I thought it fit in with the new direction.
The back story is about a land on the Malabar coast of India. It is run by women known as the Nair Princesses. At the end of every day a flock of golden collared blue birds rise to their perches on a breeze made up of white flowers and musk. That’s a lovely story but all I kept thinking about once I did receive my sample was a perfume from forty years ago. Perfumer Delphine Thierry composes a beautiful rendition of that in Princesses de Malabar.
She starts with an excellent choice by using cotton flower on top. If you’ve ever smelled a cotton boll it has the expected smell of clean linen. It also has a perceptible undercurrent of skin musk. Mme Thierry displays both of those in the first moments of Princesses de Malabar. She then summons her white flowers as jasmine, magnolia, and ylang-ylang form a complex transparent floral accord. It isn’t as indolic as I’d like but it also isn’t completely scrubbed clean of them either. It works well with the subtle muskiness of the cotton flower transforming to the subtle skankiness of the indoles. Mme Thierry adds in a nice fruity twist with a fizzy peach inserting itself in between the flowers. Iris adds a powdery veneer to it all. Then in a recapitulation of the cotton flower on top a set of linen musks form the foundation of the base accord. It is warmed a bit by sandalwood, but this is a classic linen accord.
Princesses de Malabar have 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Princesses de Malabar stands out because Mme Thierry creates a fragrance equivalent of a variation on a classic without being beholden to it. The history might be a land of golden collared birds, but I’ll always think of Princesses de Malabar ruling the island of white linen.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Lubin.
One of my favorite books is “The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe. It chronicles the adventures of Ken Kesey and his band of counterculture heroes The Merry Pranksters as they travel on their bus. They used LSD and other psychedelics to see what they could learn from the trip or “test”. One of the trio of debut fragrances from Malbrum called Psychotrope is its own version of a perfume “test”.
Creative director Kristian Hilberg and perfumer Delphine Thierry were interested in creating a very synthetic fragrance experience with Psychotrope. Mme Thierry combines some of the more expansive synthetic aromachemicals to evoke a mind-expanding experience. Through the first few months of 2015 I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of perfumes which are wearing their synthetic building blocks in an overt way. I have noticed in these perfumes that these synthetic materials provide a prominent post-modern feel. Psychotrope achieves this vibe by letting the synthetics fill up every available space leaving nothing else to experience.
Psychotrope opens with a powerful slug of cypress. There is no gentle warm-up as Mme Thierry lets it hit you with a woody rush swathed in pimento and elemi. You’ll have to hunt for those because the cypress really does push everything out of its way. Cashmeran forms the core of the heart and it also dominates the landscape. This time the other notes of incense and saffron find a way to shade the power down a couple notches. The saffron sometimes feels like a hallucination as it tends to flit in and out on my skin. When it is there it really completes the heart. Into the base Ambrinol and Timbersilk form a smooth woody foundation enhanced with a sandalwood synthetic. This is where the synthetics really feel like they are filling up every bit of the olfactory horizon. Mme Thierry manages to achieve this effect without letting these aromachemicals become so dominant it feels like a perfume chemistry project. On the contrary it seems once you have a certain amount of synthetics in a professional perfumer’s hands these intense notes find another softer form. This is the third perfume in the first six months of 2015 I have observed this effect with. These focused synthetics can form something unexpectedly delicate without forfeiting structure. It makes wearing these perfumes an interesting experience.
Psychotrope has 18-24 hour longevity and average sillage.
I don’t have a preference in the never-ending debate of synthetic v. natural. My preference is for interesting compositions and both deliver that experience to me. Psychotrope is another all-synthetic perfume which has opened my eyes to the real potential of what can be achieved in skilled hands. Mme Thierry and Psychotrope have expanded my perfumed mind.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Malbrum at Esxence 2015.
There are times when it is extremely difficult for me to stifle a laugh when talking to a new brand. Usually it centers around the marketing language. One brand I had a difficult time keeping a straight face with, at Esxence 2015, was Malbrum. It was even harder when hearing the words coming out of a Norwegian man who could give Thor a run for his money based on looks. It was hard to know if Creative Director Kristian Malbrum was having fun with his over the top marketing copy or if he was serious. It was the description for Tigre du Bengale which had me chewing the inside of my cheek. Here it is off of the website, “The Bengal tiger urinates on a pile of bark. The scent transmits highly complex messages to other tigers about its sex, size, and social status.” I had no idea what I was in for when I lifted the strip to my nose.
Mr. Malbrum worked with perfumer Delphine Thierry on all three of the Volume I fragrances and the diversity among this collection is admirable. I am happy to report that Mme Thierry did not produce a perfume that smells like urine and wood. Tigre du Bengale is a warm comforting gourmandy oriental fragrance.
Mme Thierry crafts a Coca-Cola accord to open Tigre du Bengale. She combines juniper, cardamom, and bergamot to fashion an accord that smells of the soda. It smells more like a version where the carbonation has all been gone as it has a slightly syrupy quality without any effervescent notes to evoke the fizz of the soda. This moves into an opulent heart of myrrh and labdanum. The Coke accord lingers to mix with the resinous heart notes and it provides a different kind of subtle gourmand phase. The base is another unusual coupling as Mme Thierry combines licorice and leather. The herbal licorice matches surprisingly well with the leather accord. Tigre du Bengale ends on a predominantly leather note. Leather which has had a soda spilled on it and a few black Twizzlers ground into it. Both of the unusual gourmand notes murmur softly in the background all the way until the end.
Tigre du Bengale has 10-12 hour longevity and below average sillage as this is at extrait strength.
I am very happy that the promised randy tiger has stayed in the jungle. If there is a tiger here it is more like Hobbes of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. I found Tigre du Bengale to be a lot of fun to wear with the different accords Mme Thierry used throughout. I think it is one of the better leather fragrances I’ve tried recently.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015.