There are perfume brands which wear their country of origin on their sleeve. One of the brands which carries its French origins in an impeccably sophisticated style is M. Micallef. Since their first release in 2002 owners and creative directors Martine Micallef and her husband Geoffrey Nejman have worked exclusively with perfumer Jean-Claude Astier. Together over greater than 65 releases they have fashioned a particularly elegant brand which is full of amazing fragrances. If you’ve never tried the brand here are the five I would suggest you start with.
Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman
If you want an example of what I mean by a very French brand all you need to do is to try 2004’s Aoud which has been now renamed Homme. M. Astier takes the classic rose-oud combo and stuffs it with spices. Cinnamon, saffron, and clove primarily. They fill a gap between the spicy core of the rose and the resinous core of the oud. Together they sing La Marseillaise in three-part harmony. Patchouli and sandalwood provide the bass line.
The first M. Micallef perfume I ever tried was 2005’s Gaiac. After a lilting floral opening of jasmine suffused with clove it transitions into one of the best uses of gaiac wood in a fragrance. M. Astier brackets the gaiac with vetiver to bring out the greenish cedar-like quality and vanilla to enhance the underlying sweet quality. The gaiac sits perched atop those two notes precisely balanced. One of the best light woody perfumes I own.
2009’s Mon Parfum is most likely the crown jewel of the entire collection. In other brands I would hesitate to recommend what I consider to be the best because those usually carry some unique aspects not ideal for discovering something new. Mon Parfum is not that kind of masterpiece. It is the essence of being French and wearing perfume. Equal parts sophistication, glamor, and passion. M. Astier starts with a citrus top accord into a passionfruit and vanilla heart accord. The base is patchouli, musk and a bit of caramel. Mon Parfum moves confidently through its paces like a Parisienne. Just sit back and admire its haughty walk.
2012’s Ylang is another treatise on how to take a particular floral focal point and drape it in the French flag. M. Astier uses a couple of herbal notes in rosemary and sage to spice up the citrus. This leads into a heart of ylang-ylang surrounded by geranium, muguet, magnolia, and rose. The first two pick out the green parts of ylang-ylang. Magnolia the slightly woody nature. Rose provides complimentary floralcy. Amidst all of this is a tiny bit of mint to capture and allow the bit of camphoraceous quality to be noticed. This heads into a base of sandalwood, moss, musk, and vanilla. A classic soliflore.
I finish with Note Vanillee which was discontinued until the past year when it was brought back. On the shelf where the perfumes I wear instead of taking Prozac or having a drink; Note Vanillee sits right in front. It is one of my favorite comfort scents because M. Astier has composed one of the warmest vanilla perfumes I own. Opening on a citrus accord which has a bit of jasmine added in. The heart is a softly glowing honey accord which provides a burnished sweetness to compliment the vanilla to come. The vanilla arrives on a wave of sandalwood enhanced with just a bit of licorice. It is that licorice which adds yet another version of sweet as you experience the honey-vanilla-licorice triptych. This is vanilla perfume as good as it gets.
I think M. Micallef is one of the great underrated brands on the market. Give these five a try and see if you want to dive deeper.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles of all five that I purchased.