Early in a perfumer’s career there are moments when the style they would become known for has not completely formed. I have found that in those places you can find something very interesting about a specific perfumer. One of my favorite perfumers Christine Nagel is on the verge of releasing her first fragrance as in-house perfumer for Hermes, Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate. I expect it to adhere to her wonderfully transparent lilting style of the last few years. Although it would be a wonderful surprise if she returned to a style she really only did once back in 2001 with Chopard Madness.
There has rarely been a perfume more aptly named than Madness. It feels like a perfume Mme Nagel came up with during a fever dream. It opens with a wild fruity floral fusillade and only gets more frenetic from there. This is not a perfume for anyone who likes smooth transitions or gentle caresses of scent. Madness slaps you across both cheeks and then continues the sweet barrage all the way until the end.
That opening smack comes with an unusual fruity floral pairing of kumquat and lychee added to rose. Mme Nagel then adds a wallop of baie rose. This all comes together with a roiling strength. The maelstrom continues into the heart with a sueded floral accord of hibiscus and leather. The top notes have all made the journey into the heart and now it feels on the edge of spinning out of control. Except it all holds together better than you might suspect. It ends with a beautifully realized rosewood focused base accord including a bit of incense and magnolia bridging the floral intensity to the woods. If you’re looking for any sign of Mme Nagel’s current style this is where you find it but you have to ride the whirlwind before arriving at it.
Chopard Madness has 16-18 hour longevity and way over the top sillage.
Chopard Madness was launched in the last quarter of 2001; weeks after the tragedies of September 11th in New York City. The ad campaign was actress Selma Hayak with a city skyline behind her. In a less chaotic time Madness might have found some traction. With this timing a perfume as challenging as Madness was never going to do well. People wanted soothing and comforting not the thousand-yard stare of Madness. It was quickly relegated to Chopard boutiques exclusively, within a year, and was removed from those within a couple of years. This is one of those perfumes which has been added to the Dead Letter Office due to its timing. Bottles can be found online for as little as $20. It is definitely worth the price of admission to see one of our most precise perfumers take a walk on the wild side.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.