There is a technique in film called “soft-focus”. The concept is to intentionally blur the image. When you see it in movies it can be used to indicate a flashback for a character. There is no equivalent in perfumery. Although there are perfumes which are easily described as soft. It doesn’t seem to be as desirable an attribute as others. When a perfume can produce this effect through the entire composition, I find it particularly attractive. Which is what I found in Parfums MDCI L’Aimee.
This is another release in “The Paintings” collection. The inspiration piece comes from painter Jacques-Louis David’s painting of his sister-in-law, Madam Serizat. While the painting is not in a soft-focus technique. The subject matter as translated to perfume is decidedly so. Creative director Claude Marchal teamed with perfumer Nathalie Fesithauer to create a perfume which amplifies the moments of softness within the painting.
This is on the surface a classic floral Oriental with a vintage vibe. Here is where the idea of soft-focus comes in. If Mme Fesithauer had used her keynotes more traditionally this would have felt like an anachronism in 2020. What she does is take a traditional expansive floral recipe and provides a soft-focus to tone it down. It also provides the kind of aching tenderness you see as Madam Serizat holds her child’s hand.
The softening technique appears right away. Mandarin provides a typically fruity start as Mme Feisthauer softens the edges through a precise use of blackcurrant bud. It causes a green tinted haziness to the typical sunniness of the citrus. This really comes alive in the heart which is predominantly orange blossom, rose, and orris. This could be a powerhouse but again she uses precise amounts of other florals to tamp it down. The ingredient list for this perfume is long. My assumption is these other ingredients are how Mme Feisthauer causes her blurring effect. It creates something softly compelling as if leaning into a caress from a loved one. As the base accord shapes up it forms around sandalwood, tonka, and amyris. This is that coumarin tinted woody base common in modern perfumery. Then it gets blurred through another set of ingredients which take this well-known accord someplace different. At this point it is like a flashback to a vintage perfume that never was. The final piece is the long drydown as this becomes drier. It is like watching a memory book version of a flower as it dries in time-lapse. By the end it whispers of what came before.
L’Aimee has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
L’Aimee is a tremendous technically proficient perfume. I think I could spend months trying to figure out all there is to learn from it. That’s the perfume geek in me. The Colognoisseur admires the ability to create a perfume which successfully softens the focus so beautifully.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I think its obvious that the current mainstream trend of transparency has not fully engaged me. I leave it to the perfume brands who work the niche side of things to keep the alternative style going. One brand which seems to be doing a great job of this is Parfums MDCI. Creative Director Claude Marchal has let his perfumes become contemporary without giving in to transparency.
Lat year he released the first perfumes in “The Paintings” collection. They all had a way of evoking vintage styles in modern ways. My favorite was the unique watermelon leather Bleu Satin. It is exactly the dichotomy I am speaking of as perfumer Cecile Zarokian is particularly adept at achieving this. Which is why when I received Mme Zarokian’s latest Parfums MDCI La Surprise I was excited.
The inspiration piece here is part of Jean-Honore’s Fragonard “The Process of Love” series. La Surprise depicts that moment of first attraction. Mme Zarokian interprets that though a very green opening into a fulsome white floral that ends in the sensuality of musks. It is remarkable for the contrast between the modernity of the top accord and the vintage-like nature of the heart.
The top accord has a sizzle to it. Some of it is due to the use of the stickier green cardamom. Most of the time that ingredient carries a gentle citrusy breeze across an opening. In this case it feels rawer, less mannered. There are some other strident green ingredients which amplify that effect. It forms a sharp-edged green to contrast the heart. That heart is a white flower accord any perfume lover will recognize. Mme Zarokian mixes the usual suspects with peach and aldehydes. That’s the formula for lots of perfumes of the first half of last century. In this case the green top accord finds the inherent green threads within the creamy florals. It reminded me of a floral bouquet with veins of green running through the petals. A soft slightly animalic musk accord rounds things out.
La Surprise has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Zarokian repeats the same feat she did with Bleu Satin. She reminds me of the classics while adding in a unique modern modifier. For anyone wanting an update to their white floral collection La Surprise is the kind of modern throwback that should delight.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When it comes to the tropes of gender in perfume there is a question I am asked frequently. Is it too floral for a guy? This is hardly a new question it has been around for as long as I have worn fragrance. Even I was a bit susceptible to it when I made the decision to wear a “feminine” floral perfume out into the world many years ago. I survived. Now I wear what smells good to me. Even though the occasional co-worker will ask me if what I’m wearing on the day isn’t too floral for me. Over the years florals have been a hard sell on the masculine side of perfume. What has also interested me is the floral partner in many perfumes marketed to women is fruit. For some reason a fruit forward style of fragrance isn’t seen as only for women. I’m happy that this is true because there have been many excellent masculine fruity perfumes to which I can add Parfums MDCI Bleu Satin.
Owner-Creative Director of Parfums MDCI, Claude Marchal, has released a new three perfume set called “The Paintings Collection”. Each of the three fragrances has a famous painting reproduced on the label of the bottle. They are all varying interpretations of leather colognes. I’m reviewing Bleu Satin first because it is much more fruit than leather.
M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. The clever decision made by the creative team is to infuse a kind of classic drugstore leather perfume of the 1970’s with a contemporary fruity counterpoint. To up the degree of difficulty they chose watermelon as the fruit.
I don’t know whether watermelon as a perfume ingredient is difficult to work with. I do know for my sensibilities it is hard to find the balance between fresh sweetness and kid’s sugar candy. Mme Zarokian finds the sweet spot as she surrounds it with a throwback leather perfume my father would have owned.
Bleu Satin opens with a green tinted citrus accord. Mme Zarokian keeps it fresh. Then the fruit comes as the watermelon supported by blackcurrant forms a lusher fruitiness. This is a lively opening set of ingredients. An indole-free jasmine expands the fruity accord into something opaquer. Then the classic cologne leather accord appears. To give it some more polish Mme Zarokian infuses it with saffron. This ups the sophistication level from the drugstore to the atelier. It ends with a mix of woods which also hearkens back to the classic leather colognes of yesteryear.
Bleu Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Even though Bleu Satin has some of that powerhouse leather cologne heritage in it Mme Zarokian keeps the volume turned down. You won’t be leaving 100-yard sillage behind you. Bleu Satin is more personal than that. I enjoyed Bleu Satin on the two spring days I wore it because it wasn’t so “loud”. Bleu Satin is another fruit forward perfume I think a lot of men are going to enjoy.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Osswald.
The fougere is one of the oldest genres of perfumery. It is accepted as being the place where modern perfumery began 134 years ago. Since then it has been one of the styles which has probably had the broadest impact from the drugstore to the niche boutique. Much like its cousin, cologne, it has been ripe for remodeling. The modern versions of these venerable forms allow for the use of new ingredients to reinvigorate the form. I support that kind of thinking but there are moments when I want to return to the beginning. I just want a traditional fougere done with exceptional materials; the new Parfums MDCI Le Barbier de Tanger is exactly that.
Fougeres are most often described as “barbershop” fragrances. It is generally true that the keynotes of citrus, lavender, and vetiver which form the spine of many fougeres are also the milieu of the barbershop. In fact, when I try and describe vetiver to non-perfume people I invoke the barbershop as a place where they might have encountered it. Fougeres have always called up the barbershop I went to as a child not only for the smells of the shop but the patrons were likely to be wearing the mass-market men’s fragrances of the day; in the 1960’s those were fougeres. Fougeres are also the culprit when a man wears too much perfume. Which is all part of the reasons why current perfumers have embraced making changes to step away from that. Le Barbier de Tanger embraces something different by hewing to the classic architecture.
Claude Marchal the owner and creative director behind Parfums MDCI oversaw one of the best modern fougeres in one of the brand’s earliest releases, Invasion Barbare. Le Barbier de Tanger is an alternative as M. Marchal asks perfumer Anne-Sophie Behagel to go back and create a classic fougere with top-notch raw materials.
Le Barbier de Tanger uses a mixture of bergamot, lemon, and tangerine to provide the citrus top accord. To that Mme Behagel adds basil and cardamom as contrast and complement respectively. This is as good a citrus opening phase as I’ve tried this year. Mme Behagel places each piece so that they all shine brightly together. The heart brings in lavender which at first tilts more herbal because of the basil but then goes more sweetly floral because Mme Behagel adds pineapple to it. To keep this from getting too sweet she also employs petitgrain to tune this so it stays right in that sweet spot that doesn’t challenge those barbershop norms. A verdant vetiver provides the center for the base accord to form around. Patchouli and woods provide traditional support but Mme Behagel turns it just a bit leathery with some oakmoss to form the leather accord.
Le Barbier de Tanger has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage. Be careful this is like those fougeres of yesteryear they can fill up a room if you spray too much.
When I read M. Marchal’s description before trying Le Barbier de Tanger I hadn’t realized how much I missed a true old-fashioned fougere. Once I had the opportunity to experience it I felt like I was welcoming a childhood friend back into my life. Le Barbier de Tanger is so good because it follows all the first principles of fougeres.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Osswald NYC.
One of the strengths of Parfums MDCI has been owner Claude Marchal’s delight in doing things differently. It has produced an eclectic collection encompassing many of the best releases of a given year. Starting in 2013 M. Marchal began collaborating with perfumer Cecile Zarokian. Mme Zarokian is another artist who enjoys toying with the tried and true looking for a place to turn it from common to memorable. In particular, the last release for Parfums MDCI, Les Indes Galantes, was a fantastic updating of the gourmand style of perfume. For their latest release, Fetes Persanes, they are creating a baroque floral with some of those twists Mme Zarokian is becoming known for.
The inspiration of for Fetes Persanes comes from a movement within Jean-Philippe Rameau’s musical work Les Indes Galantes. This is the part of the opera which describes a Persian Feast which coincidentally is a flower festival. Fetes Persanes is meant to capture that combination of the smells of the feast in conjunction with the flower power surrounding it. If it sounds like it is going to be a gigantic floral that is where M. Marchal and Mme Zarokian enjoy playing with our preconceived notions.
The fragrant feast opens with black pepper out front. If I am looking for flowers and am greeted with the spicy black pepper I am alerted right away this is not going to be what I think. The spice theme continues as the smells of the spices used to prepare the food come in to focus. Mme Zarokian uses a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. She keeps these weighted in such a way so that they aren’t too heavy but I wouldn’t describe them as transparent. Then in what I think is a very intelligent choice there aren’t multiple floral notes there is just one, rose. Mme Zarokian has shown in the past she knows how to get the most out of rose. In Fetes Persanes she uses a bit of geranium to bring forward some of the greener facets. The spices settle among the petals matching the characteristic spicy core of a good rose. This is a very good rose accord made up of three or four sources. Patchouli provides a transition from the flower festival back to the food for dessert. Clean woods of gaiac and cedar frame a luscious vanilla. This plays off the softness of a white musk cocktail.
Fetes Persanes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I really like that M. Marchal chose to make Fetes Persanes not a literal flower festival but a festival of rose swathed in spices. This is a party well worth spending some time at.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.
For being one of the most recent sub genres of perfume the Gourmand sector has been in danger of becoming a cliché. It has gone from delightfully decadent to boringly banal in what seems record time. Too many releases throw together some fruit, some sugar, some spice, and drench it all in vanilla. Maybe one different ingredient, or two, but the result is the same; a seemingly endless assembly line of bland vanilla cupcakes. Thankfully Claude Marchal owner and creative director of Parfums MDCI does not believe in corporate constructed pablum. His vision is of a gourmand that is like a hand-made cupcake which makes the boring other ones seem even less appealing. That is what Les Indes Galantes achieves.
The name comes from the ballet heroique composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau. One of the nice things about some of the names of perfume is I learn something new. This is a work and composer I am completely unfamiliar with. Wikipedia tells me he was the foremost French opera composer during the Baroque period and he played a mean harpsichord. There is nothing about the fragrance which connects to this in any way I can discern,
M. Marchal collaborates again with perfumer Cecile Zarokian on their third fragrance for Parfums MDCI. This is the first Gourmand for MDCI and it is only the second in Mme Zarokian’s young career. That relative freshness at approaching a perfume like Les Indes Galantes might be the reason it feels so different to me. Many of the same familiar levels of this type of fragrance are present but M. Marchal and Mme Zarokian take a different tack throughout Les Indes Galantes.
Citrus and berries is a well-worn opening. Mme Zarokian takes the orange and the raspberry but she enhances the tartness of the orange with a good amount of bergamot. The raspberry is elided of much of its juicy berry character by the use of almond restraining that exuberance. This makes the top layer a tug of war between bitter and sweet. In the heart the spices arrive. The three Mme Zarokian chooses are cinnamon, clove, and coriander. In a lesser perfume the cinnamon would lead the way. Mme Zarokian inverts that thinking with the coriander and clove on top and the cinnamon providing a simmering warmth underneath. In the base here comes the vanilla and benzoin but Mme Zarokina turns it exotic with a set of unusual notes to turn the boring into beauty. Labdanum, leather, and heliotrope all provide contrast on top of the sweet.
Les Indes Galantes has 16-18 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
It is so striking when something different in an overextended sector comes along. Les Indes Galantes is like seeing gourmands with new eyes. I can only hope for another lovely cupcake from Claude & Cecile sometime in the future.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.