Every perfume lover has one or two problematic notes. One reason can be a strong association with something unpleasant. For me mint is that note. When I smell it I think of dental floss, mouthwash, and toothpaste; none of which conjure up particularly interesting images. I will find myself taking extra time when I receive a new fragrance with a strong mint presence because I don’t want this inherent bias to keep me from missing something good. What has probably been a positive by-product of writing about perfume is I felt the need to give some of these mint perfumes a chance. Over the years there have been a few which have managed to leave the dental behind while making a lasting impression. Here are five which have done that.
Heeley Menthe Fraiche was probably the last of the brand I tried because there was “menthe” on the label. I expected to not like it but I should have remembered James Heeley’s way of finding unique combinations of notes. In Menthe Fraiche before it can start getting too minty he cuts it with sharp mate, lotus leaf, and green tea. This is what mint needed; something to shred it a bit. A very pure cedar provides a greenish woodiness. This is as close as I get to a straight mint fragrance.
One of the great underrated collection is the Comme des Garcons Series collections from 2000-2005. Over seven Series they explored great accords using some of the very best emerging perfumers. Series 5 Sherbet had three entries all done by Bertrand Duchaufour. Comme des Garcons Series 5 Sherbet: Peppermint nailed the chill of the frozen dessert best. By applying sheerer applications of both peppermint and spearmint over similarly light versions of cardamom, and white pepper. The real linchpin is a floral note, daphne odora, which provides a light floral core which is similar to neroli but lemon-tinted while also being sweet like vanilla. A cocktail of white musks provide the chill as it curls away from the scoop.
In 2008 Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent wanted to design a modern masculine perfume. Roadster was going to be that fragrance built upon an axis of mint, patchouli, and woods. It helps that she keeps the mint tilted slightly towards the herbal side. Roadster has been one of those perfumes I have gone back and forth upon, because of the mint, until I wore it one blazing hot day. In that heat it all of a sudden shifted in to fifth gear with a roar. Now it is a shank of summer staple for me.
If there was a single fragrance which turned around my thinking on mint it is probably Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Geranium pour Homme. Perfumer Dominique Ropion had been one of the select group of early perfumers putting their names on the bottles for the brand. In 2009, I was excited to see what he would do with geranium. What he did was coat it in spearmint oil. This was a mint which was viscous and oozed over the geranium picking up green facets as it flowed over the flower. Underneath it all M. Ropion used ambrox and sandalwood to form a woody base. The oiliness of the mint won me over and Geranium pour Homme is one of my favorites within the brand.
By now I am a tiny bit more open to mint. When Pierre Guillaume showed me an early version of Mojito Chypre for his Parfumerie Generale Collection Croisiere I was caught up in the boozy revelry. The mint was there but so were all the sweet parts of a strawberry mojito. Sometimes perfume needs to just be fun. In the case of Mojito Chypre the mint is just part of an all-day party.
Even for me I’ve managed to find some pleasure in a note I find difficult. The above five mint perfumes are my favorite things.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.