“These two hues remain my two favorite colors of choice in couture,” wrote Christian Dior in his Little Dictionary of Fashion. He was talking about grey and pink, the colors that inspired many of his collections and his first boutique on Rue Montaigne in Paris, where the walls, the molds, and even the Louis XVI medallion chairs were tinted soft grey. Gris Montaigne, a new perfume from the Collection Privée, is a romantic tribute to Dior’s favorite shades interpreted by in-house perfumer François Demachy.
I probably wouldn’t describe Gris Montaigne as grey and pink if I were to smell it blindly, but the choice of delicate rose and earthy woods makes for a polished fragrance. It’s noticeable without being loud, but it has enough character to be memorable. Gris Montaigne is a pile of wood shavings drenched in rosewater, with just enough mossy, wet soil notes to keep this pastel number from becoming too prim and proper.
Gris Montaigne unfolds into a soft, out-of-focus rose, which is mixed with so much woods and patchouli that you may not even think of it as a rose at first. The earthy, musty patchouli is made as suave and mild as possible here, but bold strokes of cedarwood and sandalwood add an exotic twist. The best way to think of Gris Montaigne is to imagine the whole thing–the rose, patchouli, woods–as an aged sepia photograph, where all tones are softened and muted.
On par with other exclusive collections (Chanel, Cartier, Tom Ford, Hermès, Armani Privé, etc.), the Collection Privée has a mix of simple, single note idea perfumes and more complex variations. I like some more than others–and I don’t understand why any collection needs three conventional colognes like Milly-la-Forêt, Granville, and Cologne Royale, but all Collection Privée fragrances, even if some are not exactly avant-garde, are made with quality materials and are technically excellent.
For instance, Gris Montaigne has an impressive radiance, and even if you wear it like I once did on the same arm as several heavy perfumes, it will surprise you by standing out above the miasma of mixed smells. I don’t advise mixing Gris Montaigne with Guerlain Shalimar, Balenciaga Paris, and Sisley Eau de Campagne, but I mention it to illustrate how tenacious and diffusive it is, despite being quite well-behaved.
Intended as a new type of chypre (a mossy-woody perfume style), Gris Montaigne is less like the archetypal earthy and moody Miss Dior and more like the sheer modern variety (Perles de Lalique or Chloé’s L’Eau de Chloé). This new pink chypre isn’t for those who love the somber darkness of classical mossy fragrances, but I enjoy its combination of austerity and sparkle. It’s more than just pretty though, and I love its velvety embrace and the seductive drydown of creamy sandalwood and rosewater, which lingers for hours. It’s elegant, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Dior Gris Montaigne includes notes of bergamot, rose, patchouli, amber, cedarwood, sandalwood and oakmoss. 125 ml/$150, 250ml/$225 , 450ml splash/330€ (approximate prices).
Sample: my own acquisition