Tag Archives: Frederic Malle

Good Read…Props Due

It’s May already and I don’t even know where April went. I was thumbing through some of my piled up mail the other day and came across the April issue of Details magazine. I don’t even know if I missed it or if it just came. (The beginning stages of a new subscription can be a little tricky.) What I do know is it features on all-star lineup of men’s fragrances. I was particularly happy to see Atelier Cologne in there. I posted about its Oolang Infini earlier this year and I’ve heard nothing but praise for Vanilla Insensee, which Details chose to feature. All of the other fragrances are worthy of your consideration.

But wait, it gets better. A few pages later, they bless readers with a nice selection of “guy appropriate” candles. I can’t remember ever seeing a men’s magazine this stocked with scent related stuff. Well done Details.


iPerfumer by Givaudan

When I was speaking with Chad Murawczyk of Min New York, one of the things I told him I admired about his store was its openness and how it was refreshing given the fragrance industries close door policy and the snootiness of retailers. I truly feel social media has begun tearing these walls down and consumers are becoming more educated about their preferences. It is for this reason I’m excited about the launch of Givaudan’s iPerfumer.

So how does it work? Users, down load the app and are run through a series of questions ranging from gender, age, geographic location, etc and then rate their favorite fragrance families, Oriental, Chypre, Citrus, Woody, Floral, and Fougere.

I’m curious who will download this app more, men or women. Women have no problems sampling but guys still seem to have issue with walking into stores and openly spraying themselves or engaging anyone from the sale staff without being nudged. Perhaps this will change that.

For a first hand review of iPerfumer, check out Harry Sheff over at Cocktails & Cologne.


The Man In Mandarina Duck

The Italian luggage company Mandarina Duck, whose spicy citrus men’s fragrance Pure Black was released last year, may not be familiar to American audiences—even less so for men. The company started in 1977 when two young Italians decided to make traditional leather luggage more colorful. The firm has had a few stops and starts in the American market, but has a much stronger presence in Europe and Asia, with about 80 flagship stores worldwide.

That lack of name recognition probably made Mandarina Duck’s previous men’s fragrance, called simply Man, a tough sell when it launched in 2006. Between that and the bright orange packaging, a candid Mandarina Duck representative admitted to me, Man didn’t quite catch on. It was a light and summery scent with fruity-sweet orange, grapefruit and peach notes that, like its colorful bottle, may have seemed less than masculine to the American nose. Despite that, Man is still in stores.

Pure Black, the company’s second scent, didn’t exactly abandon the original concept—the fragrance is still orange-based (and created by the same perfumer, Nathalie Lorson), and the bottle is shaped the same—but the masculinity factor is amped up a bit. “We realized we had focused too much on the Mandarina Duck brand with Man,” a company rep told fashion and fragrance editors at a publicity event at Barney’s, pointing to the clear and orange bottle. “Pure Black focuses on what men want.”

That’s true, but there’s a disconnect between the Pure Black name and the citrusy fragrance. It starts out with bergamot and tangerine, spiced with pepper, and warms to orange blossom and tonka bean, finally drying down with cedar, sandalwood and vanilla. When I sprayed it on a card, I wasn’t impressed; on the skin it’s much better. Used sparingly, it’s a nice warm-weather scent: orange notes provide some of the freshness of lemon but linger longer. Vanilla softens the citrus edge. I prefer the fresh top notes to the basenotes, which smell a little less adventurous, a little more ordinary to me.

For a great orange-based fragrance, one that keeps up the momentum after the top notes, I prefer Frederic Malle’s Bigarade concentrée. It’s warmed with a similar cedar note, but softened by subtle rose, and the orange lasts longer. It too needs to be worn sparingly.

With Pure Black, I’m reminded of how much the success of men’s fragrances are subject to sensitive marketing: a sleek black bottle will always reassure a guy, and woody-spicy basenotes will seldom offend. But after that, it’s up to the brand, its distribution, and, probably, magazine ads. For those of us who review and collect fragrances, such crowd pleasers are a dime a dozen.

Just the same, Pure Black (which typically retails for about $70) does what it does well, and I’d recommend it to any guy who needs to move beyond those usual crowd pleasers without venturing too far into the more expensive and exotic fragrances that aren’t marketed to either men or women. —Harry Sheff

My Discovery of Frederic Malle’s Dans Tes Bras

I recently visited Frederic Malle’s beautiful Madison Avenue (at 73rd Street) boutique with my girlfriend and a friend. The store looks like a well-lit French parlor with a desk, no visible cash register, and three eight-foot-tall tubular glass chambers that resemble science fiction teleportation pods.

These pods, which are also featured in the brand’s alcove of the Barneys fragrance and cosmetics floor a dozen blocks south, give browsers a way of smelling the fragrances “as if they were worn by someone walking by,” as the staff explained to me. But despite the look of them, one does not actually enter the glass chambers; instead, a fragrance is sprayed inside and left to circulate for a moment before you lean your head inside. It’s a great way to get the ambient aroma of a perfume, and it doesn’t linger on your skin or in your nose. When you’re done, they turn on a powerful exhaust fan to clear the chamber.

I knew before I went to the store that I was interested in Frederic Malle’s Géranium pour monsieur and Musc Ravageur scents. The former is a great summer masculine floral with subtle mint. The latter is a potent but intoxicating amber musk that’s probably best saved for cooler weather.

I’d filled out a questionnaire online (http://www.editionsdeparfums.com/mallesite_gb/index.htm) a month ago, and a Frederic Malle representative replied with a few suggestions, including Musc Ravageur. Some questions were vague—Do you have any particular desire at the moment?—while others were specific—Why do you wear perfume? To seduce, to refresh, to add a final touch…—and one direct—Which perfumes have most marked you? It’s a great way to get personalized suggestions from a perfumer, and a great way for the perfumer to encourage experimentation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my list of suggestions, and recalled only the one.

No matter. The sales associate, a thin brown-haired woman in a very avant garde black couture outfit, was extremely helpful. After asking me some questions—not all of them like the ones in the questionnaire—she had me smell a couple of fragrances in the glass chamber. Dans tes bras, one that the associate figured was a gamble on me, was intriguing. It’s described by the company as “cashmeran, sandalwood, musk and patchouli, reinforced with salicylates and incense, softened with heliotrope, colored with violet accord.”

It was too subtle at first, but then there was something soft and floral, but not feminine, just clean smelling, like a good soap. The sales associate told me the perfumer was aiming for the scent of skin, and that the result was a very old school French perfume. If it’s skin that creator Maurice Roucel (who also created Musc Ravageur and Bond No. 9’s superb New Haarlem) was after, it’s the skin of someone who smells great. To me it’s a neutral smell, not like a perfume so much as the scent of someone whose natural skin scent is pleasant (is that pheromones?), combined with a mild soap.

I’ve been wearing it for more than a week now (I left the store with a sample) and it’s like nothing else I have. It’s not even in the same category—it’s not something that ever would have occurred to me to try. The obvious reason for this is that while Frederic Malle doesn’t clearly market its fragrances by gender, Dans tes bras clearly falls on the feminine side. And yet on me, it worked. —Harry Sheff


A Primal Musc


Back in April when I was in Paris and visited Frederic Malle’s Edition de Pafum store, I left with a few samples. One of them happened to be Musc Ravageur. I remember immediately taking a liking to it, but Une Fleur de Cassie was ultimately what I purchased.

Yesterday as I was getting myself together, I was going through my collection and came across this sample and decided to finally give it a try. I was instantly reminded of why I like this scent. Maybe its the name or maybe its the scent combination itself but its initial reaction conjures something primal. There is a dirtiness to it that reminds me of my initial impression of Le Labo’s Rose 31. But its also sweet and cozy. I’ll chalk that up to the tangerine and cinnamon notes. As it settles on my skin, I get hints of chocolate, the dark kind.

What gets me the most about Musc Ravageur is how different it is. This won’t be a scent for everyone but if you truly like standing out, give this a try. Like I said in a previous post, its ok to sample. It allows you to try something with no monetary risk. That said, now that this is something I feel good about, I will be running over to Barney’s to get myself a proper sized bottle of this naughty little scent.

A very fragrant Frederic Malle experience

Life has a weird way of bringing things into fruition. Some years ago, I read an article about Frederic Malle and one of his boutiques which housed a very unique smelling system. In a nutshell you put your face up to this metallic funnel looking thing and a mist of a scent is released….how cool is that? When I read that I remember saying to myself, I must experience that one day. On Weds after a day of
sightseeing, I stopped by the 140 Avenue Victor Hugo location just so I could experience it…and what a pleasurable visit it was.

Once you enter the shop, you can’t help but stare at the wall of scents and school science project looking contraption that releases a fragrant mist. It is unlike anything you have experienced. As with most of my visits to shops in Paris, I feared my communication with the salesperson was a roll of the dice. But this was to be a great day as not only did Claire speak enough English to communicate with me, we danced as we realized we had a common passion for the power of fragrance.

After the usual questions of trying to figure out my taste and offering a few scents for me to smell, I gravitated to Une Fleur De Cassie. I told Claire that like Le Labo’s Rose 31 and Serge Luten’s Santal Blanc, there is a dirty/sweatiness at the bottom of this scent that’s grabbing me. I explained how with Rose 31, I found myself a bit perplexed because before smelling that, I never experienced a scent that tripped me up…I mean who would dare combine something that would somehow make you think of sweat. In trying to find the words to communicate this, which bought a smile to Claire’s face (I guess I was onto something) she began telling me its just that sort of thinking that’s behind the Editions De Parfums collection. I won’t fully retell the story hear as you can read it on their website but the bio for the creator of Une Fluer De Cassie, Dominique Ropion says he is “…on a quest to create new, harmonious scents by pairing ingredients that are polar opposites.” I can really appreciate that and I believe that’s why Claire offered this to me. I can’t remember if she mentioned this as one of their best sellers but a very chicly dressed French woman came in while I was there and asked for it by name with no hesitation.

This is not for everyone and it’s defies the conventional scents being marketed to men. Its out there and I love that. If you’re inclined to try it, know that it starts off pungent but settles into your skin for a hint of fragrance. Spray and walk away. Don’t listen to the first reaction, let it settle. It’s just the right amount of good and bad to tickle and tease.

Image courtesy of www.editionsdeparfums.com