Une Rose by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2003

Notes: wine dregs, blue camomile, geranium, Turkish rose, truffle, patchouli, vetiver, castoreum
After the mediocre Lipstick Rose, Une Rose is a massive improvement from this French niche house.

It's a well-executed rose soliflore, with a complementary booziness from the wine dregs, a lush rose accord, a minty green vibrancy from the geranium, dark earthy aspects from the truffle and patchouli, and primal nuances from the castoreum. All of these come together to create a vivid rendition of rose, which magnifies the star note and exudes an almost Gothic romanticism.

Unlike many other rose fragrances, it isn't fresh, dewy, soapy or powdery, even though the citrus opening may briefly suggest otherwise. Instead, it's a dusky and voluptuous crimson affair, with the rose's honeyed plum-like sweetness seeping through. And as opposed to possessing a youthful pink-infused femininity, the overall effect is more brooding, sensual and sophisticated.

Unfortunately, its evolution isn't perfect from start to finish. As it further develops, the musky drydown turns out to be the composition's Achilles heel – featuring a trite cocktail of acetone and white musks. Although the dark rose aroma is still evident, one would have preferred a less synthetic conclusion. While one wouldn't class this stage as grating, it's certainly discernible to a degree.

Composed by Edouard Flechier, who also created Lys Méditerranée, Une Rose is somewhat flawed but still an impressive effort. With both these offerings being so well-received, on this blog, one does wonder why Frédéric Malle and Edouard Flechier haven't teamed-up again since.

Providing adequate sillage and longevity, it should also be pointed out that its price tag is very expensive.


En Passant by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2000

Notes: white lilac, cucumber, fig, rain accord, orange leaves, wheat
En Passant is a delicate olfactory essay on the dewiness of white lilacs after the rain.

With a minimalist structure, it exudes a vividly damp and bitter green simplicity throughout. As a top note, the white lilac immediately bequeaths a faint floral sweetness, before both the cucumber and fig add an additional verdancy. The fig isn't as prominent but one does detect a decaying vegetal aroma, during this stage, primarily from the cucumber (in a very similar vein to Fresh's Cucumber Baie).

As it further evolves, it morphs from an abstract floral evocation of innocence into something more melancholic, aloof and detached, courtesy of an aquatic note. And when combined with the wheat, which possesses a faint doughiness that's reminiscent of L'Artisan's Bois Farine, the composition suddenly comes across as waxy and synthetic. From here onwards, its demeanour changes to that of a bona fide floral-aquatic.

Now smelling akin to a murky floral room freshener one minute, and a slightly peppery Issey Miyake flanker the next, En Passant's drydown fails to uphold that initial charm and structurally falls apart. Furthermore, although its performance is understated, it's still weak for an Eau de Toilette – barely lasting beyond two hours.

Composed by Olivia Giacobetti, there are numerous Frédéric Malle releases worth investing in, but En Passant unfortunately isn't one of them.


Le Parfum de Thérèse by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2000

Notes: mandarin, melon, coriander, pepper, nutmeg, violet, rose, jasmine, plum, leather, cedar, vetiver
Originally created in the 1950s, by the late Edmond Roudnistka, Le Parfum de Thérèse was a well-kept secret – previously never commercially available and named after his wife, Thérèse, who was the only person allowed to wear it at the time.

As Frédéric Malle had relished this fragrance throughout his childhood, years later, he sought permission from the Roudnistka family to release it commercially. Interestingly enough, without their consent, this French niche house would never have come to be, as Malle considered Le Parfum de Thérèse to be a crucial creation for his newly proposed 'publishing house'.

Le Parfum de Thérèse is considered to be the blueprint for Edmond's later compositions, particularly Christian Dior's Diorissimo. However, Le Parfum de Thérèse also shares key accords with an earlier creation, Diorama, which was released in 1949 (i.e. melon, pepper, nutmeg, violet, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, plum, leather, cedar and vetiver). Based on this, it's clear that Edmond Roudnistka had already established his own unique olfactory style by this point.

With a spicy fruitiness, alongside a herbaceous-ozonic backdrop of coriander and lily-of-the-valley (unlisted but still discernible), this fruity-floral could have been considered ahead of its time back in the day. Exhibiting a hint of violet, a juicy plumminess and a worn-in leather note, all these aspects are impeccably blended, alongside a resounding cantaloupe-like freshness.

Effortlessly exuding a Parisian chic aura, one's only reservations are that it lacks sufficient projection and could have had better staying power. But, irrespective of its flaws, Le Parfum de Thérèse serves as a reminder of just how magical the golden age of perfumery once was.

It's a beguiling masterpiece, which makes Frédéric Malle's all or nothing ethos all the more poignant.


Noir Épices by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2000

Notes: orange, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, geranium, rose, patchouli, cedar, sandalwood
When the name of a fragrance includes the word 'noir(e)', there's usually the assumption that it will be dark and brooding. But, with regards to Noir Épices, such an epithet doesn't hold true.

Created by Michel Roudnitska, Noir Épices is a spicy woody-oriental, consisting of candied orange, aldehydes, woods and spices. However, there's nothing particularly dark about it. Yes, its oriental manner is notably stark but, for the most part, it possesses a warm soapy radiance. With a skeletal structure, it also forsakes clichéd base notes, such as vanilla, resins and musks, in favour of soft woods and a deluge of crisp exotic spices.

Starting with an orange-infused aldehydic opening, the spices are initially intense, raw and somewhat metallic, before settling down and pulsating a soft piquant warmth. Both the geranium and rose generate a verdant, yet tender, floral nucleus. With the spicy-citrus premise still persisting into the drydown, the buttery emanation of sandalwood and patchouli serve to confirm the composition's status as an oriental.

Producing moderate sillage, and excellent longevity of over ten hours, Noir Épices largely comes across as the male version of Caron's Parfum Sacré (which is amusing, as Noir Épices was originally conceived for women). With the florals toned down, the spicy-citrus aspect increased and the resinous base extracted to highlight the creamy woods, the olfactory parallels between these two creations are rather evident. Naturally, one wonders if Parfum Sacré was the original source of inspiration.

Overall, Noir Épices is a bold creation. It's rich, well-constructed and exudes plenty of depth. Unfortunately, its contradictory rating is reflective of the fact that, regardless of how carefully it's stored, the juice has a tendency of losing its potency and smelling flat over a short period of time. With volatile components, such as citrus and aldehydes, this is to be expected but usually after several years of careful storage.

So, with that said, it's one creation that's greatly admired but only from afar.


Une Fleur de Cassie by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2000

Notes: bergamot, aldehydes, apricot, sage, cumin, cassie, violet, rose, mimosa, jasmine, salicylate, carnation, clove, vanilla, cedar, sandalwood, musk cetone
With Dominique Ropion at the helm, Une Fleur de Cassie is a nostalgic and dexterous aldehydic-floral, which towers above most of the feminine dreck being released nowadays. Incorporating a certain degree of modernity, it's also a challenging composition that refuses to please everyone.

Opening with citrus and aldehydes, one senses a heady and cumin-infused botanical floral trail, which smells both industrial and indolic at the same time. Enshrouded in a fog of rubber and exhaust fumes, with underlying vegetal, metallic and doughy accents, it's impossible to overlook its austere and detached floral premise. With that in mind, one can also discern certain olfactory parallels between Une Fleur de Cassie and Carnal Flower, which was released five years later.

It's been mentioned elsewhere that the general aroma is similar to that of stale tap water in a vase, and there's a certain element of truth in that. Beyond the generous serving of jasmine, the dusky rose, the subdued violet, the carnation's spicy nuances, and the verdency of both the cassie and mimosa, there's a dank green ozonic quality present. When combined, this earthy and animalic cocktail of herbs, spices, florals, woods and musks closely allude to the aforementioned description.

Featuring a light base of woods, vanilla and white musk, its projection and longevity are both alarmingly subpar. While this is disappointing, one can't deny that it's refined, complex and cerebral in its abstract androgyny. For that alone, one will award it an extra star.


Iris Poudre by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle

Year: 2000

Notes: bergamot, orange, aldehydes, lily of the valley, violetta rose, magnolia, carnation, ylang-ylang, jasmine, iris, vanilla, tonka bean, amber, rosewood, ebony, vetiver, sandalwood, musk
Created by Pierre Bourdon, Iris Poudre pays tribute to Chanel's Chanel No.5 and ramps up the iris.

As an aldehydic-floral, it's soft, cool, elegant and relatively powdery, with a moderately sweet yet well-balanced structure. The citrus accords serve to heighten the aldehydic opening, as a sophisticated floral mélange shortly follows – initially possessing a vibrant freshness, before transforming into something spicy and creamy. As for the powdery iris, its lipstick accents are never too imposing.

However, by the second half of its lifespan, it becomes less striking and more timid. By the time the floral core has reached a creamy plateaux, an array of amber, woods, vanilla and musk gradually infiltrate. This transition is virtually seamless, as traces of sweet florals intertwine with a mild sandalwood-infused oriental base.

A subdued damp earthiness is later discernible, particularly from the vetiver, but the drydown never manages to maintain one's interest for very long. Although this stage could be considered more unisex, one wished that its earlier antiquated solemnity continued to persist for significantly longer.

Iris Poudre isn't a fragrance that one would personally wear, but it's still a great example of an iris soliflore done very well. And while some may find it too feminine, it certainly highlights the shortcomings of the more artificial masculine iris offerings, such as Christian Dior's Dior Homme.

Sillage is moderate, after the first two hours, with average lasting power.


Ambre Précieux Ultime by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

Year: 2014

Notes: myrtle, nutmeg, lavender, labdanum, frankincense, vanilla, coumarin, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam, ambergris, ambroxan

Comment: Ambre Précieux Ultime is a limited edition release
Limited to 1,000 bottles, Ambre Précieux Ultime is supposedly the Eau de Parfum version of the highly revered Ambre Précieux. But while Ambre Précieux's DNA is vaguely present, this revised rendition of amber miserably fails to improve on the original. In fact, it does the exact opposite.

Allegedly retaining the same ingredients, but utilising slightly different ratios, some frankincense has also been added to the mix. While one doesn't have a problem with that, it's the addition of ambroxan (and possibly other aroma chemicals) that results in the composition smelling woefully artificial from start to finish. Yes, it's darker, dryer and more dense, but it isn't as bewitching (or natural-smelling) as the original – it's practically a deluge of synthetic accords, providing very little breathing space.

As a result, one sees it as nothing more than a cynical cash grab. Being structurally poor, lacking in longevity and periodically smelling crude, its very existence is an insult to Jean-François Laporte's legacy.

Lovely bottle, though.


Ambre Doré by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

Year: 2012

Notes: clary sage, coriander, saffron, geranium, amber, myrrh, styrax, oud, vetiver, sandalwood, ambergris

Comment: Ambre Doré is part of Les Accords Mystères Collection
Originally released as Soir d'Orient, in 2006, as a limited edition both in the Middle East and Paris (where only 2,000 bottles were produced), chances of Ambre Doré being the same formulation are relatively slim. However, compared to Ambre Précieux, Ambre Doré is a more animalic, leathery and woodier affair.

Revealing saffron and oud accents, the opening is less spicy with a distinctly aromatic demeanour, courtesy of the clary sage, coriander and geranium. The oud is slightly animalic but doesn't go out of its way to overwhelm the amber. Instead, it tames any sweetness, while complimenting the vetiver, sandalwood and ambergris base. With the later emergence of myrrh and styrax, the mid notes yield a leathery twist.

As it further evolves, gasoline facets can be discerned amongst the barnyard woodiness. However, even though Ambre Doré's amber accord becomes more obvious, especially towards the drydown, it lacks the resinous and balsamic heights of Ambre Précieux. In addition, the ambergris is much less striking, with the emphasis being placed more on the faecal woody foundation. As a result, one finds Ambre Doré less captivating and lacking in the sensuality of its predecessor.

Overall, Ambre Doré is a respectable flanker, and would appeal more to those who would have preferred Ambre Précieux to be less sweet and more masculine. However, with decent staying power and moderate sillage, one still favours the original.


Ambre Précieux by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

Year: 1988

Notes: myrtle, nutmeg, lavender, labdanum, vanilla, coumarin, Tolu balsam, Peru balsam, ambergris

Comment: Ambre Précieux is part of Les Parfums du Levant Collection
Composed by the late Jean-François Laporte, Ambre Précieux is a marvellous amber creation that improves on his earlier amber offering, L'Artisan's L'Eau d'Ambre.

Sweet, powdery, resinous, spicy, creamy, warm, comforting, sensual, intoxicating and mellow are just some of the many adjectives that adequately sum up this masterpiece. With salty ambergris nuances, Ambre Précieux is an exemplary representation of this genre.

Opening with a fleeting myrtle note, the lavender and spices are evident but remain restrained throughout. With a touch of vanilla in the background, the composition mainly focuses on the labdanum, coumarin, balsams and ambergris. It's neither cloying nor too sweet, and envelops the wearer with a deliciously soft and alluring aura of balsamic resins.

In comparison to some of the other popular niche amber releases, Histoires de Parfums' Ambre 114 is sweeter and smoother, L'Artisan's L'Eau d'Ambre Extrême is very similar but slightly richer, Serge Lutens' Ambre Sultan is more herbaceous and austere, Montale's Blue Amber has greater presence, while Profumi del Forte's Ambra Mediterranea is darker, woodier and more intense.

Surprisingly, Ambre Précieux lasts the entire day, which is exceptional for an Eau de Toilette. However, since it wears very close to the skin, one often wishes that it had more projection (hence the rating). Maybe this is due to its reformulation, as one has never sampled the vintage juice, but one can't be entirely sure.

Regardless of this, it's undoubtedly one of the best quality niche ambers around, and its influence on the niche ambers that soon followed should never be underestimated.


Ryder by Ex Idolo

Year: 2015

Notes: boozy notes, royal jasmine, Omani frankincense, resins, amber, pipe tobacco, vanilla, dark woods
Inspired by the history of the members clubs of Mayfair and St. James, in London, Ryder is supposed to be all about resins and woods, with a boozy tobacco infusion. One found Thirty-Three promising but, as much as one dearly wishes to champion Ex Idolo, Matthew Zhuk's second creation is somewhat of a disappointment.

The first thing that's noticeable is how apologetic the boozy notes are. There's no strikingly spirituous opening, like with Parfum d`Empire's Ambre Russe or Lubin's Idole – instead any fermented properties come across as muted by comparison. Maybe this was the original intention, for the sake of bourgeois elegance, but one would have preferred this stage to be more pronounced.

With a subdued molasses undertone, the other notes waste no time in making their presence known. Among the resins, one can definitely identify plenty of myrrh but the frankincense remains restrained throughout. As for the woods, they are more cedar-like in tone (but with an underlying synthetic screechiness). However, the main highlight is the honeyed tobacco, which provides further warmth and depth. Towards the drydown, there's also a slight leatheriness detected, but this could be attributed to the possible addition of some labdanum.

Ultimately, it's a pleasant affair that's far less sweet than the men's releases from David Jourquin. Sadly, that's the only positive thing one can say about it. Ryder offers nothing new and is largely a reasonably well-blended woody-amber fragrance, insubstantially embellished with tobacco and other complementary accords.

Remaining close to the skin and possessing very good lasting power, one personally prefers to get one's boozy tobacco fix from Guerlain's Spiritueuse Double Vanille. Nevertheless, one sincerely hopes that Ex Idolo's third outing will be significantly better.