Under the Radar: Montale Blue Amber- Beauty in Power

One way for a perfume to fly under the radar is to be part of a small brand which is what makes up the bulk of this column. In rarer cases a perfume can fly under the radar because there are so many other fragrances on the screen in some brands. This is the case with Montale.

Montale has released 100 fragrances over the last 16 years. There are so many entries on the Montale radar screen a poor perfume traffic controller has to work hard to pick out the ones which need some attention. As I mentioned when I did my Perfume 101 on Montale the brand was one of the first to bring oud to the West. There are many great oud perfumes in the collection but my favorite is not one of those it is one of the best amber perfumes I own, Blue Amber.

As Montale really began to rev themselves up starting in 2008 there were three out of that voluminous early set of releases which stood out; Black Aoud, Red Vetyver, and Blue Amber. They all still hold up over time but the first two have more notoriety and Blue Amber has lost some altitude.

Until the release of last year’s So Amber, Blue Amber was the only amber perfume in the collection. I’ve always thought when you nail it on the first try there was no need to take another try. Pierre Montale succeeded because he chose a near-perfect set of notes to complement the amber at the heart of this perfume.

Blue Amber opens with one of my favorite geranium uses in any fragrance. There is one thing M. Montale does not traffic in and that is subtlety. As a result, there is a whopping amount of geranium in the top of Blue Amber. To this he adds an equally potent amount of coriander which accentuates the green facets of the geranium which are more apparent because of the concentration. Then the amber arrives in a spicy wave picking up on the coriander. Patchouli and vetiver provide a fantastic foundation for this amber to react to. It all comes together rather quickly and lingers there for hours.

Blue Amber has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

There are times I want a perfumer to go all out. With Blue Amber M. Montale does exactly that. The hazard is at that volume flaws are much more apparent. The upside is if it is done well that kind of power carries a rough beauty hard to find in fragrance. Blue Amber is that kind of fragrance and deserves to be on your radar screen.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Montale 101- Five To Get You Started

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If there was a perfume line I was thinking really needed a Perfume 101 Montale Paris would be top of the list. Since 2003 eponymous perfumer Pierre Montale has been producing a prodigious amount of fragrances. His line was one of the first to really explore oud in all of its myriad configurations. M. Montale’s fascination with that note continues to the present day. Oud is so connected to the perception of the line that many are unaware there are some pretty amazing fragrances within the collection that do not have a drop of oud. One warning about this line, it is not for those who like their fragrances light or subtle; M. Montale creates extroverted powerhouses. It is that pedal to the metal attitude which makes Montale Paris one of my favorite lines. Here are the five I would start with if you are new to the line.

pierre montale

Pierre Montale

Black Aoud was my introduction to the classic oud and rose combination. This is so classic that to get Forest Gump on you it goes together like peas and carrots. All of the rough edges of oud are consumed in an inferno of intense rose. There is some patchouli and musk here but the sheer power of the rose and oud overwhelm everything. This was also my introduction to Laotian oud and the hint of floralcy within that particular version makes Black Aoud the perfect duet.

When asked to name my favorite amber Blue Amber is the one I name. Unlike Black Aoud where M. Montale just let the magic happen between the core notes. In Blue Amber he spends time surrounding the core with notes that complement and contrast. Geranium supports the spicy core, coriander contrasts it with green edges. Vanilla sweetens the amber only for patchouli to take it darker. If you love amber and have never tried this one add it to your list.

red vetyver

Red Vetyver has been described as Terre D’Hermes on steroids and while I understand that as a surface description I would say there is more going on here than a more intense imitation. A very pungent grapefruit is on top and this is the full grapefruit with the slightly sulfurous aspects on display. M. Montale then adds elemi to allow its lemony cool to soothe and a slug of black pepper to provoke. This is the place where Red Vetyver becomes its own perfume and the cedar and vetiver finishes it on a clean and green accord. This is one of the few citrus based fragrances I wear in the winter because it has a heft unusual within the genre.

Sweet Oriental Dream is M. Montale’s take on a gourmand. He makes the choice to recreate a vanilla rosewater confection adding in honey and almond for good measure. Of all of the gourmands I own this one is the one which makes me hungry.

As I said M. Montale is renowned for his capacity to use oud in so many ways. I would also venture he is even more proficient with vanilla as that note shows up throughout the collection and he knows how to tune it for the effect he is looking for. Vanille Absolu is what he thinks a vanilla soliflore should smell like. He takes a rich vanilla heart and swirls cinnamon, clove, and sandalwood around it. This is what I want vanilla to smell like rich and spicy.

Montale Paris is a line which can intimidate just by the sheer number of fragrances in the collection. You shouldn’t let that stop you from discovering one of the perfume lines which truly reflects one perfumer’s aesthetic. It really is a journey worth taking and any of the five suggested are good places to take your first steps.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these fragrances I purchased.

Mark Behnke