Ramón Monegal is both the name of a perfumer and a perfume house. Monegal is a Spaniard with a strong background in perfumery. His lineage is the House of Myrurgia, a preeminent Spanish house based in Barcelona—the family business—with which Monegal was associated until he decided to embark upon his own projects. The perfume house has just entered the market in a big way with the release of 14 perfumes!
The most striking thing about the line overall is the stages of development each fragrance goes through. This came as a surprise to me, since many modern fragrances come at you in a rush of notes. With the Monegal line, what you smell at first may be dramatically different from the various stages of the fragrance.
Take Mon Patchouly, for example. This is a major new patchouli that presents the familiar accord first framed by vanillic sweetness and then by animalic elements. So disaparate were these two experiences that I was at first not able to reconcile them as the same perfume. It smelled at first of an old-school chypre without head notes, before descending through the ranks of mossy, earthy base elements. It is the edgiest of the line and, despite its animalic tendency, an urban scent, the sort of uber-cool downtown thing that you know no one else is wearing—at least not yet.
The line is big on white musks: Cherry Musk turns out to be a light, transparent rose musk with a fat red iced cherry on top; Cotton Musk is exactly as the name sounds, a clean and powdery white musk with a hint of gardenia; Agar Musk, which worried me since I do not care for the agarwood note, treated the trendy note lightly, as a smoky-medicinal base against which played a skin musk.
I approached both Cuirelle and Mon Cuir with trepidation, again owing to my dislike for tannic leather notes. If there were to be a bold statement it is non-existent here: Cuirelle, which is meant to smell like “the essence of leather,” wound up being first leathery and then a seductive honeyed frankincense drydown. It shot straight to the top of my must-have list for fall. Mon Cuir teased with elegant, animalic leather, labdanum, and honey-powder sweetness. A slight tannic sharpness disappeared within half an hour and was replaced by a hint of Play-Doh heliotrope and doughiness. Mon Cuir thus became only the second leather fragrance I find wearable (the other is Chanel Cuir de Russie). Devotees of sharp, birchtar leathers might find Mon Cuir’s leather note not tough enough.
Another note that I normally avoid is iris, so Impossible Iris is the sample I tried last. This one, too, was a surprise. Absent were the aspects of iris that I avoid: the cosmetic, the rooty, and the cloudy. Monegal has sharpened up his iris through a prism of violet and it is violet that is more apparent to me, a sweet and clear violet with iris acting as a foundation note along with a fruity red-berry note that is a bit like a hard candy without candying up the perfume. While this scent was largely violet on me, on Gaia of the Non-Blonde it was iris (here is her great review).
Entre Naranjos presents orange as both a color and as a smell. It’s one of those “whole tree” orange blossom fragrances that take into account the twigs and the leaves as well as the flower, plus orange peel. It’s zesty and dynamic and straddles both cologne and perfume. The first hit of it is pure green orange, about as far away from orange juice as you can imagine. Woody notes emerge in the midsection, to be followed by the powdery amber base that appears repeatedly in the line. A must for orange lovers for its photorealistic opening notes and longevity.
Dry Wood contains a sharp and bracing white sandalwood note beneath a flurry of pine/turpentine “aftershave” notes. This is the most masculine and the least softly focused of the line. It’s a bit sharp at the edges, but this is a quality I find stimulating. I easily used up the sample; while I might not wear this with a gown, I found its stereotypical “male” aesthetic pleasing (I like sharp sandalwood).
A dark vegetal tangle of vetiver, moss, and lichen occurs in Umbra, a different take on vetiver that has bitterness of geranium leaf tossed with fir and dried out over a tonka bean fire. This has a spectacular smoky-sweet, mossy drydown and the interpretation is different enough to warrant trying by vetiver fans.
Ambra di Luna is a thick vanillic amber whose promised animalic notes didn’t appear on me, or else appeared so distantly that I, who am used to vintage Jicky, did not catch them. This one is like eating an amber cake that has been decorated with frosted jasmine. It was too sweet for me ultimately.
Lovely Day and L’Eau de Rose are both centered around rose, with the former being an interesting oddball twisting licorice through rose and black currant and the latter being something I always want and never find until now: a rosewater scent that is more than just a cologne, and one with a distinctive mossy drydown.
Kiss My Name showcases a glittering, Vegas-strip tuberose set in neroli and jasmine, with balsamic base. The tuberose is clean, not buttery, and bright as a hot sun. Since I enjoy punched-up tuberose, I liked this.
Overall, this is an ambitious and exciting line that likely has something for everyone, and several strong selling points, not the least of which is variety. In addition, many scents using traditional core notes have unusual accents, like an inky twist of licorice in Lovely Day or the brightening lemon-violet of Impossible Iris. Mon Patchouly and Umbra are the edgiest of the line, smelling more like niche artisan than department store scents. I would buy Cuirelle, and if I had unlimited perfume budget, Entre Naranjos, Mon Patchouly, and L’eau de Rose. As it stands, these are luxury items that run $185.00 for 50 ml, so they join the ranks of the ultra-exclusives! At this rarefied level, sometimes I wonder if I can afford niche perfumes any longer.
Ramón Monegal fragrances are available from Neiman Marcus, Luckyscent, and directly from ramonmonegal.com.