It was only a few weeks ago that I was moaning on Twitter about the lack of decent niche masculines this year, remarking that there has been fluffing tons of beautiful, wonderful and masterful feminine and unisex fragrances in 2013 but very few impressive things on the male side of the fence. Perhaps creating decent perfumes for men is less of a priority for perfume companies nowadays. Who knows?
So yes, I was having a moan when the ever-knowledgeable Nick Gilbert said that I absolutely had to try (I’m paraphrasing, of course) the latest fragrance from Huitième Art – ‘Monsieur‘. Knowing that any recommendation from M. Gilbert is worth listening to I trotted off to Les Senteurs, one of my favourite perfume boutiques, to procure a sample of the latest scent from perfumer Pierre Guillaume.
Monsieur is billed as a “harmonious blend of eight woody notes” and is inspired by the Massif de Bois Noirs, where “torrents and waterfalls from Auvergne’s mountains carry along scents of moss, bark, wood, earth, humus and stone”. What one finds with Monsieur, is that it is a fragrance that is not afraid to be bold and whilst it may not be the most unique interpretation of woods, it does showcase an interesting sense of balance that is something entirely new.
Patchouli, Cedar, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Poplar, Oakmoss, Incense Wood and Papyrus
How Does it Smell?
Out of the bottle Monsieur is extremely rich and dense. It opens with a complex array of pepper, patchouli and woods that is textured like a fine wine thick with velvety tannins. There is little smoothness though and much like yesterday’s Bottega Veneta Pour Homme, Monsieur displays its fair share of rough edges and jagged lines but in a much more intense and well-crafted manner.
Things progress slowly due to the sheer weight of the ingredients, but as they do the wine-like richness mellows to a more classic woody affair where spiky sinews of sandalwood grasp at the spice of cedar and a sour facet that could very easily be oud, if not something remarkably evocative of the noble rot.
At no point do things become particularly soft and the woods, which can often be described as ‘plush’ or ‘creamy’ (especially sandalwood), retain a uncomfortable but satisfying grain that is all the more fascinating due to the fact that it is more than slightly off-kilter. Another remarkable element of Monsieur’s wealth of wood is that it never feels particularly warm and is a rare bird in the sense that the plethora of woody notes used provide a clear and intriguing sense of cold.
In the base, Monsieur settles to wisps of vetiver and incense. The mineral facets of both notes are complimentary to the hints of woods that remain and are lifted by the encore of black pepper that joins them. It’s at this point that Monsieur really clicks with Guillaume’s inspiration of “moss, bark, wood, earth, humus and stone”, but the correlation is not literal, instead giving the impression of an imagined or painted ideal of the cool and isolated aspects of nature.
Monsieur is as solid as a mahogany box. It is incredibly woody and fiercely dry with little sweetness or citrus to counterbalance the severe intensity that it exudes. But that’s not a criticism at all, in fact the angular feel of sharp, almost-piquant edges of this multitude of wood is compelling and refreshing in a world where the soft and palatable is vehemently defended whilst the harsh and uncomfortable is shied away from.
So is this Monsieur one of the best niche masculines released this year? You bet, he is! Yes the competition has been rather lacklustre (i.e. there is no real competition this year) but even in a good year Monsieur would sit high above its contemporaries. This masculine is handsome, rugged, solid and classically attractive and is the type of guy that has everything needed to make you swoon – intelligence, style, muscle and passion. In short – he’s a keeper.
Huitième Art’s Monsieur is available in 50ml Eau de Parfum for £88.
Image via apetogentleman.com. Image 2 my natter with Nick. Notes and quotes via huitiemeparfums.com.