Space NK Melodrama : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Melodrama was created by the perfumer Christopher Sheldrake (the nose behind Serge Lutens fragrances) for Space.NK, a perfumery in Covent Garden, London. It is a fragrance that pays homage to the 1920s, although its composition is closer to the aldehydic floral chypre like Millot Crêpe de Chine (1925), Weil Zibeline (1928) and Hermès Calèche (1961), than to the aldehydic floral like Chanel No.5 (1921). It marries the sparkling floral aldehydic canvas with the classical chypre accord, the mossy woodiness of which beautifully complements the sweet floral notes.

Beginning true to its name, Melodrama explodes with a firework of aldehydes that settle into an opaque veil over the top accord. A metallic green notes cuts through the aldehydic whiteness, allowing the floral notes to appear one by one. The sweetness of jasmine rises up to enfold the velvety note of bergamot, its sparkle dimmed in the white floral heart. …

The characteristic aldehydic quality paired with the coolness of the composition suggests a soapy quality, resulting in an effect that is at once understated and clean. The composition warms up in the base, where a pleasing vanillic sweetness softens the crisp vetiver and delicately powdery oakmoss. In contrast with the loud top, the base notes speak softly, perhaps a bit too much so.

Unfortunately, I find that Melodrama lacks tenacity on my skin, vanishing rather quickly, with only a touch of sweetness remaining on my skin after a couple of hours. Moreover, I am ambivalent about it in light of the fact that I would have liked to see more innovative touches, rather than a retro composition. To give another example, Sheldrake’s Rose de Nuit explores the classical chypre accord, however it is executed in such a way as to highlight the interesting chypre interplay, while bringing new elements to the fore. Nevertheless, Melodrama is certainly an interesting composition, and lovers of fragrances like Hermès Calèche will be pleased to discover it, especially since it is quite reasonably priced.

Notes include bergamot, orange blossom, French lavender, pink roses, heliotrope, gardenia, jasmine, oakmoss, patchouli and vetiver. Melodrama is available directly from SpaceNK.

Madeleine Vionnet, “Bas-relief” (1931). A French fashion designer (1876–1975), she greatly influenced the fashions on the 1920s. Her dresses followed the lines of the body, much like the garments of the classical Greek statues.

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28 Comments

  • Judith: I tried a sample of this recently, and I wholly agree with your observatons. I found it quite interesting in a retro sort of way, but I wasn’t moved to seek out a decant, much less a bottle. There are too many actual older fragrances that I enjoy, and more innovative new ones to seek out(I adore Rose de Nuit). I can’t comment on its lasting power b/c I was sampling too many things, but since fragrances tend to disappear more quickly on me than on some others, I don’t have high hopes. On the whole, it strikes me as an interesting experiment–a very enjoyable experiment, but an experiment nevertheless. January 31, 2006 at 8:00am Reply

  • Marina: I finally got my hands on a sample of Melodrama last week and surprised myself by liking it a lot. I especially enjoy its “retro” quality and somehow, even though it is, as you said, an aldehydic floral chypre, I find it warm, almost comforting. It lasts quite a while on my skin, luckily. So all in all, it is definitely full bottle worthy. I did not know that it was possible to buy from Space NK. Thank you for the info and for the great review! January 31, 2006 at 9:25am Reply

  • Laura: This is one I just can’t take in and that’s in spite of your lovely, informative review. I try and try to think what it would be like and I fail. I’ll just have to raid your sample collection. Sorry. January 31, 2006 at 10:04am Reply

  • ChristinaH: I have all the space NK scents but this one!They are all light in duration but I suspect I will crave these especially during summer.They are nice,pleasant and not unique at all.But I overlook that and lump them with other affordable pleasant scents that are easy to choose and not complicated. January 31, 2006 at 11:12am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, I think that for a store brand fragrance, it is nice, but as to whether I would be moved to buy it, I do not think so. I have enough vintage fragrances to satisfy my cravings, and if I want 20s, I just reach for Jean Patou Amour Amour. It is nicely done though. January 31, 2006 at 12:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I am glad that you are enjoying it. It is a nice fragrance, but as I was answering to Judith, I already have many fragrances from the time period Melodrama attempts to evoke. However, I would definitely recommend trying it. Moreover, it is very reasonably priced. January 31, 2006 at 12:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I am not sure if you tried Caleche, but it is that kind of fragrance–aldehydic floral chypre. It has the aldehydic top that subsequently falls onto a warm chypre base. January 31, 2006 at 12:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, I agree. SpaceNK fragrances are nicely done and not particularly expensive. If you like classical fragrance, you will appreciate Melodrama. January 31, 2006 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Robin: Planning to try it next to Caleche later, V. Actually I really like the name. I wouldn’t mind telling someone I was wearing Melodrama 😉 January 31, 2006 at 12:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, the name does have a certain appeal. It is not exactly identical to it, but very close in character. I wonder if you would find the same thing. January 31, 2006 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Donna: I wanted to order samples from SpaceNK, but it seemed more reasonable to buy a full bottle from them. The shipping cost for a sample is too high. I am expecting my Melodrama to arrive soon. January 31, 2006 at 1:01pm Reply

  • Katie: Oh shoot, you just had to mention Zibeline, and of course, I am instantly intrigued. But in all honesty, I already know and love Zibeline, so perhaps I will find this little love letter of a scent to some old classics disappointing in a way, as well.

    I do love the name, though – it’s certainly more provocative than a lot of the newer titles I’ve seen from the bigger houses. January 31, 2006 at 1:37pm Reply

  • mreenymo: Space NK used to be sold at NM. I found the products well-made but not interesting enough for me to continue to purchase them. I would think a perfumer of this category would have created something more scintillating, but perhaps that is not what he was aiming for.

    Hugs! January 31, 2006 at 1:38pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Not related to the present post, but I just researched Van Cleef & Arpels pour homme, which I remembered from my misspent youth. It is indeed a leather chypre, my new favorite genre. Have a sniff some day, I’d like to know what you think of it: it isn’t too far off from Bandit, from what my nose remembers. January 31, 2006 at 5:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Donna, yes, the shipping fee is high, so it probably makes more sense to buy a full bottle, especially if you already like fragrances of its type. January 31, 2006 at 10:22pm Reply

  • Bela: Hmm… sounds interesting. And this is what Chris Sheldrake creates away from Serge, for Nicky Kinnaird(there’s quite a bad Avon scent by him, isn’t there too?), the owner of SpaceNK. She has good taste usually.

    Btw, it’s been a long time since SpaceNK ceased to be a perfumery in Covent Garden (it was incredibly small): it’s a huge company now, with branches all over London. One of the largest stores is on Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill (of course!). January 31, 2006 at 10:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I think that there are fragrances from SpaceNK named after an emotional state-Enrapture, Souful, Laughter, Stillness. Melodrama seems like the most interesting one.

    I would not say that it is like Zibeline, but it is definitely in the same class. As much as I like classics, modern fragrances with a retro feel do not appeal to me that much. January 31, 2006 at 10:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I think that for a store brand, the fragrances are nice, and for the price, they are nicer still. I like SpaceNK body products. I have some bath cubes that are great, however they seem to be discontinued. January 31, 2006 at 10:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, sounds great! I will definitely have to look for it. Thanks for mentioning. January 31, 2006 at 10:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, oh, yes, you are absolutely right. I should have clarified this. I just meant to say that they were originally established as a perfumery in Covent Garden. Now, they are everywhere, and even my local Neimans has their products.

    This is a nice fragrance, not something I would call badly done at all. However, it is not particularly original. On the other hand, it all depends on what the client wants and the amount of time allocated for a project. If I did not have a shelf full of floral aldehydic chypres, perhaps I would have been tempted. January 31, 2006 at 10:37pm Reply

  • Campaspe: It sounds rather nice to me. And the name is awesome. Heaven help me if anyone ever creates a perfume called “Four-Hanky Women’s Picture.” I would probably buy out the store. February 1, 2006 at 4:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: That’s really funny!

    Yes, it is nice. For the price, I would definitely recommend it highly. February 1, 2006 at 10:06pm Reply

  • Bela: Melodrama must have been there when I last visited the SpaceNK in Notting Hill, but I didn’t bother to sniff any of the house fragrances, believing they would be kind of blech. I remember thinking that SpaceNK was getting much less interesting than it used to be when it was the first to stock weird and wonderful stuff from tiny niche make-up companies and perfume houses. Of course, Liberty et al. didn’t sell those things then. Now they do and SpaceNK isn’t a pioneer any more and has to resort to selling their own products.

    Still, I will definitely try and test Melodrama next time I go there. February 1, 2006 at 10:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, do try it. I would be curious to hear what you think.

    I agree with you that SpaceNK lost its pioneer status and now you can find all sorts of brands there that you can locate in other places. I remember that at one time it was the only place in London where one could find Nuxe. Those days are long gone. February 1, 2006 at 10:37pm Reply

  • Bela: You know the story about Nuxe, SpaceNK and me, don’t you? About nine months before it appeared on the shelves of that original boutique in Covent Garden, I sent a letter to Nicky Kinnaird telling her about Nuxe(which had started being sold again in parapharmacies in Paris and which I remembered from my childhood). I never got an answered from her. I wrote to her later and she denied ever receiving my letter. I didn’t quite believe her. Not quite… February 2, 2006 at 11:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, that is just strange! I am surprised that she denied it outright. I will admit that I heard about Nuxe balm from you, and I still repurchase it once I run out. February 4, 2006 at 4:44pm Reply

  • shari: Several people who posted comments mentioned Zibeline fragrance. I’ve been looking all over for it. It is my all time favorite. Anybody know where it can be purchased? June 28, 2006 at 2:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Shari, I only saw it on Ebay, but even that has not been frequent. It is certainly a beautiful fragrance. June 29, 2006 at 12:59am Reply

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