frederic malle: 23 posts

Perfumes To Smell, Books To Read : Autumnal Lists

This time of year makes me prone to bouts of melancholy. I don’t like to bid goodbye to summer vacation, August peaches and picnics in the park. Since my school recollections are filled with the institutional smells of many children in confined spaces, burned milk, wet chalk and blackboards cleaned with a musty rag, I can’t get excited about the whole “back to school” thing either. My memory refuses to budge from this Dickensian vision even when prompted by the delicious smells of sharpened pencils and ink; I hated school until I started college.  I get out of my funk once the fall gets further under way and I notice the walnut sweetness of fallen leaves in the morning air and become grateful for any rose still blooming along Brussels’ chestnut lined avenues. But in the meantime, I just make the best of the transition and come up with lists.

brussels-fall1

Lists are somewhat of an obsession. I’ve been an inveterate list maker since my childhood. My mom treasures a compilation of “books I am going to write” that I came up with at the age of 12. They include “The History of India,” “The History of Greece” and “Constantinople, Jewel of the Byzantine Empire.” (Why on earth did I study political science at the university and not history, I now wonder.) I’m less ambitious these days and instead I just make lists of dishes to cook, places to explore in Brussels, perfumes to try or books to read.

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Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady : Perfume Review

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The news of Frédéric Malle selling his Editions de Parfums house to Estée Lauder reminded me that I haven’t gotten around to writing about one of the most intriguing fragrances from his collection, Portrait of a Lady. Why intriguing? Well, consider the name. If it brings to your mind the cool elegance of Henry James’s heroines, then you’re not alone. I also expected something along these lines–ultra refined, sophisticated and feminine. Except that it is all wrong. Portrait of a Lady is interesting precisely because the scent is not at all what you expect. It’s a twist on a Middle Eastern theme, and it’s not all that lady-like.

Picasso-Boy-with-Pipe

If you’ve already smelled traditional Middle Eastern perfumes or western blends inspired by them (Amouage, Kilian’s oudsArmani Privé Rose d’Arabie), then you might recognize similar elements in Portrait of a Lady. It has a generous dose of classical “oriental” notes–sandalwood, amber, patchouli, dark woods smoked over incense, and of course, rose. It has a similar dramatic and mysterious character that makes this perfume genre so distinctive.

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Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia : Perfume Review

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Intended or not, Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia is an answer to two challenges: creating a novel cologne and capturing the elusive aroma of magnolia. The first is complicated, because cologne is one of the most popular genres, and recasting it in a new way requires some creativity. The second is due to the magnolia’s character. The scent blends citrus, rose and soft leather, but the main impression you get from smelling the waxy white petals is not of heady, lush perfume, but of exhilarating freshness and fizz. You can almost feel the champagne bubbles bursting before you notice all other facets.

magnolia

Translating this sparkling effect into fragrance is more complicated than it seems in our age of high-tech tools. I smelled through a fair share of magnolia accords at one point to conclude that 90% of them smell either like furniture polish or bear no relation at all to magnolia. Which is why Eau de Magnolia comes as a surprise. It captures the nuances of magnolia, while setting them into a frame of citrus and moss. It makes for a beautiful arrangement.

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Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia : New Perfume

A new fragrance will join Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle in June 2014.  Eau de Magnolia was created by perfumer Carlos Benaïm and is described as a fresh chypre perfume. It is based on a study of magnolia’s aroma by IFF scientist Braja Mookherjee. When analyzing the components that give magnolia its unique fragrance, Benaïm found that it resembled a citrus cologne. Therefore, he composed Eau de Magnolia for both men and women, taking the zesty freshness of the flower as his starting point.

eau-de-magnolia

Eau de Magnolia Eau de Parfum includes notes of bergamot, magnolia headspace, vetiver, patchouli, cedarwood, amber, and tree moss. This is Benaïm’s first perfume for the house, but he has already left his fingerprint on the Fleurs Mécaniques collection of home fragrances: Saint des Saints, Rosa Rugosa, Rubrum Lily, Cafe Society and the magnolia based Jurassic Flower.

Eau de Magnolia will be available in June at Frédéric Malle’s boutiques and department store counters. 10 ml/$125, 50 ml/ $175, 100 ml/$225. Via press release

Frederic Malle on Spring Perfumes

Creative director of Editions de Parfums, Frédéric Malle offers some tips for selecting the perfect spring scent in the recent leaflet sent out by the house.

spring-in-italy-1890

  • Fragrances are like clothes: some are warmer than others. It is uncomfortable to wear a heavy dose of warm oriental on a hot day, but a hint might work
  • Consider changing your perfume every season if you are wearing a very fresh or heavy Chypre fragrance
  • You should always try a new fragrance before purchasing. The top notes function for about 15 minutes, then leave way to the heart of the perfume, which is it’s real personality

Out of his collection, Malle recommends floral fragrances like Carnal Flower, En Passant and Lys Mediterranée to evoke the sunshine. For my perfect spring etude, I select L’Eau d’Hiver, which despite its wintery name, smells of early spring with its melted snow, violets peaking under the wet soil and sweetness of first buds. But if I want the Mediterranean sunshine, I will turn to Le Parfum de Thérèse, which smells of ripe Cavaillon melons and jasmine.

Painting: Spring in Italy, Isaac Levitan, 1890. Via wiki-paintings, some rights reserved.

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