I interrupt our usual programming of new perfume reviews for something that isn’t entirely brand new – MAAI by Bogue Profumo. I actually received my sample of MAAI quite a while ago. It was generously sent to me by a very lovely perfumista (she knows who she is) and with so many things, it got caught up in my sample pile and didn’t receive too much attention. You know how it is, fellow fragrance nerds, there’s simply so much out there to smell that not everything can receive the attention it deserves. Anyhoo, a few weeks back I was prepping my review for Papillon Artisan Perfumes’ marvellous Salome, and very much felt in the mood for modern fragrances with a classic or vintage feel. MAAI immediately sprung to mind and here we are…
MAAI comes from the Italian niche house, Bogue Profumo, ‘bogue’ being French slang for ‘bug’, as in a computer virus. Founded by perfumer Antonio Gardoni, Bogue offers “neo-classic perfumery through experiments: through infusing resins, woods, roots and metals in alcohol” and MAAI (which is named after the Japanese martial arts term that describes the distance between two opponents, translating as ‘interval’) is his boldest work. In a fortuitous coincidence of events that aligned rather nicely with my rediscovery of my sample of MAAI, I recently found myself at Bloom Perfumery, Covent Garden experiencing Gardoni unveil the hidden secrets of fragrance. The experience was rather enlightening.
Believe me when I say that Gardoni is an incredibly affable and creative individual who approaches perfumery from a completely different angle to most. His approach seems entirely experimental, right from the way that he infused the alcohol used in MAAI with resins, incense and juniper, to the intense multi-aldehyde accord he created for the fragrance, the results seem to come together in a completely organic manner. I admire his spirit and enthusiasm, and the fruits of his olfactory projects, as evidenced in MAAI and his other fragrance ‘O/E’, are really quite something!
Oriental Incense Infusions, Sandalwood, Labdanum, Rose, Jasmine, Resins, Ylang Ylang, Green Tuberose, Oakmoss, Resins, Spices, Aldehydes and Animalics
How Does it Smell?
MAAI starts out relatively sweet and green. At its very core, MAAI is all about tuberose, so its no surprise that the initial moments are completely dominated by a lush and cool dosage of the queen of white flowers. During our chat we smelled this hyper-green tuberose note on its own, and for me, the self-proclaimed tuberose addict, it was a life-changing experience. In isolation, the tuberose used by Gardoni is hot, fleshy and extremely green, with a distinct menthol nuance. It also comes across as decidedly savoury, boasting a starchy rice note that is really quite unusual. Within the composition, and as it dries down however, the note is shrouded in powder, velvet and animalics.
As with many fragrances in a classic style, MAAI also boasts a generous dose of aldehydes. Gardoni has put together a selection of different aldehydic materials that provide a glittering sheen to the top notes and also bring a distinct lily of the valley facet that weaves softly into the warmth of the tuberose. This boosts MAAI’s white floral tones and gives it that old, glamour-puss vibe found in the old great such as Patou’s JOY and Piguet’s Fracas, despite smelling completely different, thanks to the herbaceous greenery that sets MAAI apart from its classic contemporaries.
Underpinning the vast aldehydic sky and expansive tuberose clouds is a rich and resinous base of incense, spice, oakmoss and civet. The animalic notes are prominent throughout, throwing up strong urinous wafts as a backdrop to the glamorous florals. In the base, they diverge and instead of evoking funky bodily functions, they simply offer up a sourness that is hugely comforting. In the far dry down, the incense really draws things to close, soaking up the clove-y spice of rose and dustiness of moss to create a bold, and rigid finish to a scent that really is more of an experience than anything else I’ve tried recently.
MAAI fascinates me. It has the trappings of a truly great fragrance. A distinct identity? Check. A sense of contrast, dark and light, rough and smooth? Check. Whooshing florals and carnal animalics? Double check! Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges (aren’t we all, dear readers, aren’t we all?), but that’s half of its charm and I must admit that whilst testing it, I have often found myself huffing it in and staring into space, lost in my own thoughts. Perhaps this is down to the fact that MAAI never truly reveals all of its secrets, even when guided by the man behind it, or maybe its just so complex it leads one to contemplate its many wonders. Whatever the reason, MAAI is a tremendously compelling fragrance.
MAAI is available in 30ml (£100) and 50ml (£120) Eau de Parfum. In the UK it can be found online and in store at Bloom Perfumery.
Samples purchased myself. Images via Bloom Perfumery.