Friday, 31 March 2017

Persolaise Review: Superstitious from Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle & Alber Elbaz (Dominique Ropion; 2017)


Frederic Malle isn't letting go of his broad brush. In recent years, the perfumes emerging under his label (both pre and post-Lauder acquisition) have become more voluminous and more robust, to the extent that it's now hard to imagine him giving us something displaying the delicacy of, say, En Passant or L'Eau D'Hiver. Indeed his latest - Superstitious, composed by Dominique Ropion, as part of a collaboration between Malle and Alber Elbaz - could well be his largest yet. And yes, I know I make this claim about a collection which includes the likes of Carnal Flower and Portrait Of A Lady. But there's no denying the scale of this thing, because that is its chief strength and, arguably, its most problematic feature.

Putting aside scent-geek ruminations for a moment, I ought to begin by stating that Superstitious is a sandalwood floral with a marked aldehyde opening and a reliance on incense and vetivert. Like many bald assertions on scent, this one doesn't tell you much. For one thing, you need to know that the aldehydes in this case aren't of the sparkling, champagne-bubble variety, but the waxy, candle-shaving sort. Do not for a moment think this is Malle's take on No. 5 (he explored that territory with Pierre Bourdon in Iris Poudre).

The other thing you need to know is that the word 'floral' in relation to this perfume essentially means jasmine. Yes, there's a suggestion of rose in there too, but the main focus is on an unashamed, mothballs-and-all portrayal of perfumery's most ubiquitous white flower, with its weird conjunction of banana peel, week-old-ashtray and droplets of sweat on a tanned back (which means - pardon an interjection of the scent-geek - that this scent finally marks the arrival of a bona fide jasmine composition from Malle).

And the last thing you need to know is that the sandalwood note in this case is anything but clean, milky and creamy. On the contrary, it is roughly-hewn, super-woody and more than a little filthy. In fact, it is much closer to the odour profile of certain synthetic sandalwood materials (Javanol comes to mind) than to the gentle inflections of the natural stuff, thanks in so small part to its being paired with the earthy funk of vetivert.

So, you take waxy aldehydes, an intoxicating jasmine and a dirty sandalwood and what do you get? Well, a deeply interesting piece of work, appearing to contain references to several classics from years gone by. Indeed, expect other critics' reviews to name-check a host of other perfumes, from Shocking to Samsara. But why do I say 'interesting'? Well, for a start, Superstitious doesn't try hard to be loved. With commendably uncompromising determination, Malle has helped fashion a piece of work which many will doubtless find too challenging, too brash, too close to the sweat glands. But, as I said before, this is where its power lies: in this nonchalant refusal to give in to the demands of the lowest common denominator. Like a carnival fortune teller whose face is made more attractive because of its lines and its scowl, the perfume radiates an allure indifferent to the approval of others.

That said, anyone who's played around with natural jasmine, synthetic sandalwoods and vetivert oil may well have ended up producing a juice whose drydown approaches that of Superstitious. And this unexpected - almost shocking - reliance on the overriding smell of just a few gigantic materials in the base notes is cause for our collective scent-geek eyebrows to be raised. Do we praise Ropion/Malle/Elbaz for having the courage to finish their scent with the olfactory equivalent of a block of primary colours? Or do we accuse them of taking the easy way out?

Personally, I'm inclined to lean on the former. Ropion has absolutely no need to prove that he can paint with the finest of brushes; he's done that countless times. So perhaps, on this occasion, I can just submit to the vision of him concluding the symphony by pressing down hard on every key his fingers can cover and forcing the church organ to bellow an almighty chord that seems to echo and reverberate for ever. That image is fine with me; after all, deciding to 'go big' takes some skill too. And - to return to my first analogy - whether Malle and his collaborators are working with a brush the size of a rolling pin or of an eyelash, the one attribute they've consistently displayed in all of their projects is a great deal of skill.

[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle in 2017.]

In a slight twist to normal proceedings, today's review is accompanied by one of my Sixty Second Scents videos on YouTube. Click below to watch it, or on this link if you'd prefer to view it on the YouTube site. If you're enjoying the video reviews, please do subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Persolaise

28 comments:

  1. Great review Persolaise !

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  2. Excellent, thank you! A floral of such magnitude might just pique my interest ^_^ Especially bolstered by vetiver, my personal fetish.

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    1. Laurinha, thank you. Please let me know what you make of the scent when you get a chance to try it.

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  3. Wonderful review, as always! This could be my favourite heavy floral - but only after Portrait of a Lady! Jasmine and sandalwood! Now that sounds like my kind of fragrance!

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    1. BeeGee, thanks for reading. Get back in touch when you've tried the scent. And as for jasmine and sandalwood: are you familiar with Samsara?

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    2. Samsara! Yes Indeed! I seem to have phases when I get hooked on a certain kind of perfume group. I am totally addicted to bold florals - stronger fragrances, now!

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    3. Ah, okay... so maybe you'll like this one.

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  4. I was eagerly awaiting this as I love Portrait of a Lady but I think this might be a little too big and bold for me. Samsara is my most disliked Guerlain but I did love the dirty jasmine in Salome... Although I will try this when I can, I trust your reviews and I feel this probably is not the scent for me.

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    1. Threedots, it's not exactly like Samsara at all. It just shares several features. In some ways, it's closer to Sycomore than to Samsara. But anyway, I have to say I've always considered Samsara to be one of the underrated Guerlains. In the right context, I find it works beautifully. As for Superstitious, please let me know what you think of it when/if you try it.

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    2. Ah, now Sycomore is one of my two favourite Chanels (the other being Bois des Iles) so perhaps I should think again. The key difference for me is that Sycomore and Bois des Iles are dreamy and even a bit unsettling whereas Samsara is smooth and even. I think atmosphere is more important than notes to me. Thanks for the great review.

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    3. Hmm... that's a very interesting way of putting it. Now I'm REALLY curious to know what you make of Superstitious.

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  5. I can't wait to try this. I love floral aldehydes and currently my favourite is Aprege, it's very cheap but smells plush and rich. This fragrance sounds like it could me my kinda thing but I really hate the pudding like flatness of Samsara, probably the only fragrance which nauseates me. I'm all giddy....

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    1. Another thumbs down for poor Samsara :-D You find it flat? Hmmm, it's always seemed to so textured to me. But yes, Superstitious is well worth checking out for lovers of BIG florals.

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  6. I've just checked the price of this stuff, it's one of Malle's most expensive fragrances. Let's see if it lives up to the price point.

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    1. Yup, afraid so. They've placed it in the same category as Portrait Of A Lady and Carnal Flower. Whether it lives up to that price point is definitely a matter of personal taste. As you know, there's often little relation between the price label and the cost of the stuff in the bottle.

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  7. Can't wait to try this new masterpiece

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  8. I have a bottle of Superstitious FINALLY coming my way this week! I am to excited to try it! After reading your review, though, I'm a little worried it might not be the "holy grail" scent I am hoping it is! I love your reviews, and I am curious if you have reviewed Carnal Flower and the 2017 version of Outrageous? I don't see it listed. I am a apparently a huge fan of aldehydes as Rive Gauche was my go-to fragrance for many, many years. I got turned onto FM perfumes first by trying Iris Poudre, which as you know, has aldehydes. I find the initial scent captivating, but the dry down is a bit heavy for me, and suffocating (I live in humid Florida, by the way.) So, for some reason, I tried Carnal Flower, which is opposite of what I usually would gravitate towards - and I love it. Sadly, it does not have great staying power on me (which I hear is a total fluke, since everyone reviewing it says the longevity is incredible.) After an initial spritz, even my husband doesn't smell it on me. No compliments from anyone - nothing. I recently tried the reformulated Outrageous and found the scent to be very refreshing. Again, no staying power on me, but I would expect that with a citrus scent. I am curious what you think about the last two fragrances (CF and Outrageous), and what your opinion is on Superstitious and it's longevity... Thank you! Looking forward to trying it!!! I'm still hopeful that it's gorgeous and perfect for me! :)

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    1. Mgoodrich, thanks so much for your kind words and for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Outrageous was reviewed very recently on one of my YouTube videos. If you go to the Perfume Reviews link above and search for Editions De Parfums Frederic Malle, you should find it.

      No, I don't have a review of Carnal Flower posted anywhere, but I'm happy to declare right here that it is one of my favourite tuberose compositions. Just gorgeous. I included it in the selection in my book, Le Snob Perfume.

      I can't wait to find out what you make of Superstitious!

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  9. Well, my Superstitious finally arrived today. Keep in mind, I've never smelled it. I excitedly ripped the shipping box open with trembling hands! My initial vow to try this scent on with freshly bathed skin and give it the honor and celebratory ritual it is due totally went out the window! I couldn't help but spritz a TINY amount on my not so fresh skin (I just got back from working out at the gym!). WOW! This is not at all what I expected! This precious concoction is one mighty olfactory suprise! It's heavy, in a very sexy, sultry way. I am so disappointed in my lack of self control. I should have waited and given this perfume the honor it is due. Since it is SO expensive, I'm not going to take a shower for the day! All I can smell as I write this is the way I am enveloped my this decadent scent. It's not a daytime scent for me - definitely a night time, "come hither", type of fragrance that I can't wait for my husband to smell on me!

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    1. Mgoodrich, thanks for the lovely description! Who needs self-control when it comes to perfume :-D

      I agree with you on so many counts. Sultry. Enveloping. Heavy. Absolutely!

      I'm so pleased you like it!

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  10. I must say, this may well be one of my favorite reviews I've ever read. So clean, concise, gorgeous descriptions, it's just perfect. I can "smell" this new Malle in my minds eye, and subsequently it has gone straight to the top of my "next FB" list. Thank you so much, a pleasure to read!

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    1. Robert, wow! Thank you! What a wonderful comment to receive. I do hope you like the scent. Thanks for reading :-)

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  11. Ok well I tried it today. I agree with mentions on social media that it is in the style of Arpege as I can smell a similarity. However, Superstitious come across vastly more powerful and dare I say, more chemical. I'm a child of the 80s and I love volume and projection but this actually smells rather gaudy and bold. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however Arpege costs £20 ish for 100ml and this is vastly more expensive. I need to study this one more but Arpege actually smells richer and plusher than Superstitious and I don't think I'm likely to purchase.

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    1. Greek Mike, thanks for sharing that. Yup, Superstitious certainly isn't cheap. And I'd completely agree that it has a strong retro vibe.

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  12. Dear Persolaise , I ordered my bottle unsniffed . It is a Ropion/ Malle , after all. Will report back when I receive it . I really have no doubt I will love it !
    All the best xx

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    1. Mimi, thanks for letting me know. Yes, please come back when the parcel arrives :-)

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