There are moments when I receive an ingredient list that cause me to stifle a laugh. Two dozen listed ingredients. It makes me look for the kitchen sink accord. In the great majority of these types of releases it is an unfocused cacophony of scent. Everything crashing into everything else. Rarely one of these comes along which shows this is not a lost cause if the intent is there to see it through. Memo Corfu sees it through.
Creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Philippe Paparella-Paris want to form a modern chypre to represent the Greek island. Corfu is part of the ongoing Graines Vagabondes collection which are perfumes inspired by places. This is the scent of a summer day enjoying all that a Mediterranean island has to offer.
Corfu succeeds because while there are lots of ingredients, they really form three distinct accords. The only difference is every piece of each one is listed. A lot of time I am making my best guess. This time Ms. Molloy and M. Paparella-Paris remove the mystery.
The top accord could be called “Greek sky”. It is formed around a set of citrus notes, orange, lemon, and grapefruit. The latter is given the prominent placement. Rhubarb adds the connection between the citrus and the greener pieces of this accord, basil, and blackcurrant buds. The basil adds in a freshness that I have only recently come to appreciate from its use.
The heart accord is a fruity floral accord around peach and jasmine. M. Paparella-Paris deftly juggles other parts of this as raspberry, rose, muguet all find some space. Titrated into this is the botanical musk of ambrette seed. This is that slightly sweaty skin musk threaded through the fruit and flowers. This completes the “stop and smell the flowers” accord.
The base accord is his interpretation of a modern chypre. Sandalwood patchouli and atranol-free oakmoss form the foundation. A healthy set of animalic musks are what he uses to create the intensity. Amber brings back some of the bite. It is all made to be very austere which works. It seems stripped down even though it really isn’t.
Corfu has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Once I came to the understanding two dozen plus ingredients represented three accords, I found Corfu to be overstuffed in all the right places.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There are brands that have no clear idea what they want to stand for. Their sole reason for existing is to throw something out there and wrap it in a lot of PR. This is the cynical side of independent perfumery. What makes independent perfumery great is when a brand does know what kind of perfume they want to make and get down to doing it. Trusting that their vision will find an audience. Ten years ago the owner creative team of John and Clara Molloy had me working overtime to find their perfumes. I had heard about this amazing oud perfume. When I finally got a sample, it was everything I had heard. Ever since I have admired The Molloys. Their clear-eyed ability to create a line of perfumes which live up to an idea instead of down to a bottom line. Memo Sicilian Leather brings me back to when I first encountered the brand.
John and Clara Molloy
Early on The Molloys decided to have distinct collections within Memo. The first was called Cuirs Nomades. The simple concept was to create leather perfumes from a geographic location. This has been a largely successful effort because they have found ways of encouraging the perfumers, they work with to think of place as well as leather. For Sicilian Leather they turn to perfumer Yann Vasnier to continue this.
In the press release there is a lot of talk about volcanoes and Mt. Etna. So much so I was expecting a scorched style of leather. There is a warm, even hot type of leather here, but it comes courtesy of the sun not the volcano. What kept floating through my mind was an inappropriately dressed hiker in a leather jacket on the slopes of Etna in the summer.
That summer sun comes from a fantastically focused citrus accord of cedrat and bitter orange. This is that sunny citrus with some bite. A noonday sun versus one at either end of the day. The trees and the vegetation come though a heart accord of violet leaves and balsams. This again carries a high noon feeling as if everything is just a little faded by the sun. The leather accord comes next. Using the biologically fractionated patchouli known as Akigalawood along with patchouli. This also follows this overheated effect that has led here. The leather is rich with just a hint of sweat underneath.
Sicilian Leather has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Noel Coward tells us “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun”. Sicilian Leather shows there might be something worth smelling in that heat.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Memo.
I get emails which ask me, “Why do you hate rose?’. Hate is a strong word. I would more describe it as bored. Bored of having the beginning of every year swamped by demure genteel rose perfumes. This is the style that typically brings tears of frustration to my eyes. What is truly more accurate is if you show me the grown-up rose, I am much more interested in that. Memo Argentina gives me that type of rose.
Argentina is the latest of the Art Land collection within the brand. Creative director Clara Molloy collaborates again with perfumer Alienor Massenet. When I see Argentina my mind wanders towards tango. It is unfair to think of a country as only one thing. It is also unfair to think every perfume which refers to the country must be inspired by the dance associated with it. This is a perfume of passion. Which is what a great dark rose can bring out.
The beginning sets the tone. A top accord of baie rose and the botanical musk of ambrette capture the sensuality to come. The rose appears from out of this. This is the Turkish version which contains a spicy core. The baie rose tweaks it with an herbal effect. Jasmine is used to take the rose and give even more depth. At this point it is almost like a rose soliflore. It changes as oud appears.
Oud and rose have become a classic combination. Mme Massenet manages to create a gentler version of the obstreperous wood. There is some real oud because there are nuances that only come from the real thing. I think it is lifted by an oud accord which allows for a more precise tuning. It meshes with the rose without clubbing it into submission. Over time it goes from intense to a skin scent memory of the night before.
Argentina has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Argentina is so appealing because it is so full of the beauty of rose. By allowing the grown-up out to play this becomes a perfume of adult passion. This is a rose to love, and I do.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Memo.
Near our place in the Florida Keys there was a marina with a well-kept secret. If you visited, you would be able to go into the little grill to buy a box lunch from Richard before heading out on your fishing charter. Richard was a man who had found his place in the world on the string of islands at the tip of Florida. What you had to learn was once every three months or so he would have a special invitation only dinner at the grill. Richard was a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef who wanted to occasionally exercise his skills beyond the box lunch crowd. These were nurturing community affairs where the locals would gather. It was here where I would have my first experience with all the classic French cuisine. Even after eating multiple courses I knew to always save room for dessert. Of all the dinners I attended there was one dessert which has never been matched. A delicate vanilla custard with raspberries drizzled with an orange oil, a sprig of orange blossom on top. I hadn’t thought of this in years until I tried Memo Sintra.
Sintra is the latest addition to the Art Land collection. This is the series which evokes these beautiful locales. Usually I am along for the ride. Except this time I couldn’t imagine myself in Portugal. I was in a marina grill in Florida. Creative director Clara Molloy works with perfumer Philippe Paparella-Paris on what I experience as a gourmand confection.
If there was one part of this which took me right back to the time and place it is the petitgrain which is right on top. This has a more pronounced green to it than I am used to. It is called mandarin petitgrain in the ingredient list, so I wonder if it is just a different source which creates the different profile. The orange blossom comes next and it is like removing the sprig on top of my dessert and holding it to my nose. For a moment it is all the flower and the citrus. But now comes the gourmand accord but not all together at first. Some raspberries pave the way. Then the vanilla begins to swirl in creamy spirals as a hint of cinnamon flows through. It firms up into that custard I remember. Some patchouli adds some cocoa-like contrast in the later stages.
Sintra has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is an example of that special effect fragrance can have. When a scent jogs loose a memory. I had a big smile when I was wearing this. Mrs. C asked me what was amusing me. I told her it was the perfume I was wearing. I didn’t share the story why. Just like Richard’s dinners Sintra is a covert pleasure of memories.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Memo.
I have spent many days in a boat on the open ocean. Once you lose sight of land there is realization how small you are in relation to the water you’re skimming over the top of. There is a scent to those times. As I would move back and forth adjusting sails in my leather Top Siders there came a natural comingling of the shoe material and the ocean water. It was always one of my favorite combinations for it reminded me, I was out on the ocean wind in my sails. It has been a few years since I’ve done that. Memo Ocean Leather reminded me of it.
Ocean Leather is the latest release in the Cuirs Nomades collection for Memo. It has been one of my favorite collections of any perfume. Some of it has to do with the long-time partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have one of the more creative partnerships in all of perfumery.
For Ocean Leather Mme Molloy had a dream of Moby Dick. Not as Ahab hunting the elusive whale but as a penitent sharing the ocean with the leviathan. The beauty of it moving through the water. She asked Mme Massenet for, “a perfume excessive…. like a quest, an epic, a sailor’s tale”. Through a re-working of classic marine notes the fragrance delivers.
As I’ve mentioned the scent of the open ocean is much different than that of the sea spray of the waves crashing on the beach caught in the breeze. There is a weight to that sea experience. Mme Massenet captures that by taking a typical marine accord without the accompanying ozonic notes which give the expansiveness of a generic accord. In its place she lashes it down with two herbs and violet leaf. The herbs are sage and basil which become equally as piercing as the violet leaf. They add a textural depth to the marine notes making them rise and fall like the deep-sea swells. A combination of cedar and elemi find the wood of the deck awash in the ocean. The sweeter spice of nutmeg connects to the leather accord in the base. This is a rich leather accord which works ideally with the aquatic accord from earlier. Vetiver adds back some woodiness to the latter phase of development.
Ocean Leather has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ocean Leather is another recent perfume which has me looking forward to new aquatic releases from brands with imagination. Mmes Molloy and Massenet have consistently shown that. Ocean Leather was a fantastic companion on these spring days. Even as I was walking on dry land, I smelled the days I spent at sea. I also smiled to myself as I recalled Mme Molloy’s Inspiration. There was a part of me that imagined Mme Massenet chronicling her time with Captain Molloy through a perfume which says, “Call me Alienor!”
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Memo.
As person who grew up on the beach in S. Florida I’ve always missed the presence of that in most of the aquatic style perfumes. What I’m talking about is the hot dry mineralic scent of the sand. It wasn’t until I learned more about perfume making that it wasn’t a matter of not being able to be done. It was because the brands didn’t think it would be enjoyable by consumers. I don’t know whether that is true. I do know that when I find a perfume which does have it in it, I generally enjoy it. As I have with Memo Vaadhoo.
Vaadhoo is named after the tiny island of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. This is the island where the sight of bioluminescent plankton is seen most nights during the summer. Sparkling stars in the indigo water on a tropical night. Creative director Clara Molloy along with perfumer Philippe Paparella-Paris capture the sparkle of the plankton amidst the sand and surf.
The early moments are meant to capture this natural phenomenon. Ginger, rhubarb, and bergamot achieve this. So often the latter ingredient is the sparkle in a perfume. Here M. Papparealla-Paris makes it a more diffuse version of that through the ginger and rhubarb. It is a slow lapping motion akin to the waves lapping the beach. The freshness of the flowers comes next with jasmine, violet, and geranium. This is a different version of that. It befits the topical setting trying to be evoked here. Now it is time for the cooling sands of the beach to appear. M. Papparealla-Paris finds this in an accord of Immortelle seed, vetiver, patchouli, and oud. This is the scent of a beach at night. The mineralic sand has cooled a bit making it less arid. This is a fabulous place for the sparkling top accord and the floral heart to rest upon. It comes together in a compelling scented tableau.
Vaadhoo has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a gorgeous take on the tropical beach style of perfume. It is ideal for spring with the florals nested within the heart of it. I floated on the sparkling waves this was based upon each time I wore it.
Disclosure: This review is based upon a sample provided by Memo.
When large collections have interesting sub-collections it is usually because the creative team is inspired. Ever since 2013 the Cuirs Nomades collection at Memo has been that kind of exploration of the versatility of leather accords. I am fascinated at how each perfumer creates a leather accord. I’ve always thought it is on the fashioning of such an abstraction where the artistry of a perfumer shines through.
Throughout the Cuirs Nomades creative director Clara Molloy has placed those leather accords in the center of the perfumes. That changed with last year’s Moroccan Leather which was a give and take between intense green notes and orris with the leather in a supporting role. It was an excellent departure, but I was wondering if this was going to be the next generation of Cuirs Nomades. Memo Oriental Leather answers that question affirmatively.
To not feature the leather in a perfume with it in the name means the other half of the name better produce something compelling. In the case of Oriental Leather the choice is to lean into the benzoin and spices which are characteristic of Oriental perfumes.
The spices are on fire, literally, at the beginning. Pimento and cinnamon go the red hots route. Before it gets all Halloween candy-like, coriander and anise bank the confectionary flames smoothing it out into a more traditional spice accord. Lavender provides an herbal tinted floral enhanced with clove. It is here that the leather makes its appearance as the transitory effect from the spices to the warm benzoin in the base. That rich benzoin is matched with an earthy patchouli and enough vanilla to sweeten without becoming cloying.
Oriental Leather has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is an Oriental fragrance without the leather anywhere near being a focal point. It reminded me of a shaman who showed me his leather bag of herbs and spices. It didn’t smell like this perfume but when I did smell it all that came through were the contents and not what the bag was made of. Oriental Leather is also a magic spice bag fragrance.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
There are ingredients in perfume which are meant to be the equivalent of scented fireworks. They are usually top notes to only last for a short time with maximum impact. One of the best examples of this are the citrus ingredients. They often act like the opening act for perfumes which contain them. In Memo Winter Palace the citrus is used in a different way.
Memo has been one of my favorite brands for many years now. Creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet have defined an identifiable brand aesthetic. To keep that from becoming stale they have collaborated on several sub-collections within the overall collection. Winter Palace is the third entry in the Art Land collection following Marfa and Tiger’s Nest. The perfumes are inspired by places. Winter Palace is inspired by the resting place of the Imperial Dragon of China. When he wakes up spring and summer return to the land. The perfume evokes that moment of awakening.
What Mmes Molloy and Massenet do is to use resins and oils to create a perfume which whispers its notes in long-lasting exhalations; drawing you in. The citrus oils are especially intriguing for their ability to last as resins along with a red tea accord swirl together.
Grapefruit, orange, lemon, and bergamot are easily recognizable perfume notes. In the early moments of Winter Palace they carry a soft unctuous effect because the citrus oils are used in a way to eschew ostentation. They whisper through the early moments before the red tea accord rises in swirls of scented steam. Mme Massenet uses some mate tea to tune the red tea to have a little more presence. Not a lot more just enough to insert itself into the citrus mélange of the top accord. These early moments of Winter Palace are testaments to the beauty of subtlety. As the resins begin to appear, they also tend to ooze into place without fanfare. Styrax, tolu balsam, and benzoin are used in their high potency resinoid forms. This also acts like coals on a brazier warming things up . This finishes on an arid woody base accord sweetened with a pinch of vanilla.
Winter Palace has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
One of my favorite synonyms for whispering is susurration. On the days I wore Winter Palace I felt like it was a perfume susurration, especially the citrus. This is a fragrance which captures your attention like a dragon languidly uncoiling from a long winter’s sleep. When it is fully exposed it is magnificent.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Memo.
I write often about coherence of a collection. It is easy to call something a collection. It seems more difficult to find a creative through line upon which to build that group of fragrance. For a brand like Memo one thing which helps form that is a long-time partnership between creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet. They have collaborated on almost thirty perfumes over the last eleven years. I have always believed that creates the coherence I seek from a collection of perfume. Memo is a great example of that.
Something which has kept the creative partnership fresh has been the creation of sub-collections. One which contains some of my favorite perfumes from the brand overall is, Cuir Nomades. The baseline brief for the fragrances has been to pair leather with a geographical location. It has shown off Mme Massenet’s skill at using leather accords to different effect. For the most recent release, Moroccan Leather, the choice is to put the leather in the background in favor of iris and green notes.
Moroccan Leather opens with a big slug of verdant galbanum. Mme Massenet uses the woody green of cypress to enhance that. Mandarin and ginger provide contrast. They push back with presence until a rich orris butter takes charge. This is the ice princess version of iris rising out of the galbanum and ushered into the heart by ylang-ylang and orange blossom. The powdery part is almost non-existent. The leather comes in but not as a keynote. It provides a refined support like iris-scented calfskin driving gloves. The green is recapitulated by a vetiver fraction which is magnified in the greener style of that ingredient. This is where Moroccan Leather lingers for a few hours before a typical synthetic woody base accord finishes things.
Moroccan Leather has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I enjoyed the choice to de-emphasize the leather in a perfume with that in the name. Once I realized that, the fragrance sorted itself out into a study of powerful green notes versus an earthy orris butter. That was something I enjoyed even if the leather was mostly missing. Because of that it is an odd entry in the Cuir Nomades collection as it felt apart from the others. If you’re looking for the kind of leather in the previous entries this will not be as satisfying. If you’re a fan of green notes and orris that will find its admirers here.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Neiman-Marcus.
There are a few brands which connect with me. To the point that I am always interested to follow where they lead. I do have to admit there is a bit of a fantasy where I am approached by one of those brands and asked what you would like to see in a perfume. Sometimes it happens through serendipity as it has with Memo Tiger’s Nest.
Incense is probably my favorite ingredient in perfume. Amber is a close second. There are a lot of perfumes on my shelf with that combination. The third ingredient in Tiger’s Nest is a favorite floral; osmanthus. If creative director Clara Molloy and perfumer Alienor Massenet asked me for a suggestion I might have chosen these.
Paro Taktsang a.k.a. Tiger's Nest
Their inspiration for Tiger’s Nest is the temple of the same name in Bhutan. This results in a church-like incense surrounded by facets of polished wood. The osmanthus is like an offering at the shrine as it rests upon the resinous foundation. The creative team has captured this milieu.
Tiger’s Nest opens with a fillip of an accord to represent the altitude of the temple which clings to the side of a cliff. A set of aldehydes freshened with lime capture the clean cool air of the Himalayas. It is fleeting; it is adroitly done. A thread of saffron leads inward to a shimmering silvery frankincense. This is the church-like incense version. There is an austerity to it that can be tough. Mme Massenet ameliorates that with the warmth of amber softening the inherent sharp edges of the incense. Osmanthus takes this in a different direction as the leathery quality of the ingredient finds purchase. Some tolu balsam acts like the polished wood of the surfaces inside the temple. This is where Tiger’s Nest lingers for a long time. Vanilla eventually adds a sweet finish.
Tiger’s Nest has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will eventually purchase a bottle of Tiger’s Nest because of the way the osmanthus provides the kind of texture I desire in an incense perfume. When I wear it, I will imagines standing on a cliff in Bhutan about to enter a temple through a cloud of incense at the roof of the world.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.