“Monsieur., your chest rug is peeking through your shirt.”
“Monsieur., would you like the bear skin rug dry cleaned before you lie seductively upon it?”
“Monsieur., the 1970s called and they would like their headshop back.”
“Monsieur., is that an afro comb in the pocket of your flares or are you just pleased to see me?”
These were my initial thoughts when smelling ‘Monsieur.‘ the latest release from Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. As you may be able to tell, it’s somewhat of a retro macho bomb and style wise, it certainly comes across as somewhat of a departure from Malle’s ultra-modern aesthetic. That said, I find it to be fabulously retro, which is to say that it celebrates a moment in time and a certain type of machismo that is utterly classic: that of the hairy chested, suave yet roguish animal of a man, or in this case a slightly older man. Wait, is Monsieur. a DILF?!
Monsieur is the second outing at Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle for perfumer Bruno Jovanovic, the man behind the delightfully subversive Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle and designer scents such as Calvin Klein Reveal. With Monsieur., Jovanovic tackles patchouli, a staple ingredient within the world of perfumery that has made many a fragrance a classic. The thing with patchouli though, is the fact that it feels a bit old fashioned. It’s still used in perfumery today, of course, but most examples of the note today show it as sanitised to nothing but a dark fuzz that adds texture to the composition. Gone is that dirty, earthy and oily melange that we knew as patchouli in the 1970s and 1980s. Monsieur. however, aims to pay homage to the multi-faceted and complex nature of this ingredient and the perfumes of yesteryear, with over 50% of its composition comprising of patchouli sourced through molecular distillation. As the brand puts it; “Monsieur. is to patchouli what Carnal Flower is to tuberose”.
So Monsieur. is a patchouli weapon – a tool for seduction for the man suave enough to wield its powers responsibly. As Persolaise noted in his review, it’s also a fragrance that looks backwards rather than forwards, making it an interesting step in the Editions de Parfums oeuvre. Although evocative, I’m sure my description of Monsieur. as a somewhat-attractive paternal figure may not be what the brand intended, I shall therefore, refer you to the official description as per Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle:
“Although seemingly simple, this formula evokes for Frédéric Malle, since its genesis, remorseless seducers such as Alfonso de Portago, Mark Birley, Jose-Luis de Villalonga or Gianni Agnelli. Their manly and timeless elegance has relentlessly guided the development of this empowering perfume. Monsieur., a neo-classical perfume, manly and utterly elegant. Monsieur.”
Mandarin Absolute, Rum Absolute, Patchouli Molecular Distillation, Saffron/Suede (Suederal), Cedar, Incense, Vanilla and Amber
How Does it Smell?
Monsieur. opens a little bit fruity, with a splash of mandarin and tangerine. It’s a fleeting effect that teases a touch of lightness before getting down and dirty with the rest of its affairs. There are hints of the sweeter materials, appearing in the form of a creamy and texturally milky fluid that is ever so slightly reminiscent of a similar effect found with Dries Van Noten Par Frédéric Malle, but used in a much subtler manner here. Other than that, the initial impression is patchouli, patchouli, patchouli.
The patchouli, as billed, is BIG, but it is far from unrefined. To me, this is full-on, pure unadulterated patchouli, with all of the requisite earthiness, sourness and rooty fizz, but served elegantly with some edges smoothed out, but not all. There’s a gauzy texture to the patchouli which is intensified by its rich oiliness that permeates through everything. Linking all these facets together is a dry, mentholated facet that hums quietly in the background, smoothing off those harsher edges.
Where Jovanovic has been clever is in selecting the supporting materials used to accent the patchouli. Each one seems tied to a certain facet of the material, pulling it out of the background and allowing it so shine with intensity. Vanilla pulls out the spicier, sweeter tones of the patchouli, whilst rum plays with the darkness adding just a dab of booze that hints at a crystal glass being swirled in the hand as ‘the eye’ is given. The cedar adds a solidity to the proceedings, encasing this patchouli in a suitably ’70s casing of rich mahogany woods. It’s about as butch and robust as it sounds.
Let’s be honest, not everybody is going to like Monsieur. In fact, some may find his patchouli chest rug more than just a little bit too much and maybe even, dare I say it, completely dated. But the key fact here is that this is not a fragrance created for everyone. It’s not a crowdpleaser nor is it a scent that wants to be. This is a fragrance that aims to choose a select group of men who have the elegance, panache, style and, I’m going to say it one more time, the chest hair, to pull it off. If that’s not you then you should quietly move along, Sir. Monsieur. certainly isn’t me, either, but I sure as heck wouldn’t mind smelling it on one of those ‘right’ guys and that’s the truth.
Monsieur. is available in 10ml (£34), 3x10ml (£80), 50ml (£120) and 100ml (£170) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, images, notes and quotes via Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle.