A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a virtual masterclass with Frederic Malle and perfumer Anne Flipo all about the brand’s latest launch Synthetic Jungle. I was intrigued by the fragrance, of course (we will get on to that soon – patience please) but I was also curious about the name. Given all of the scaremongering around materials in perfumery – you know what I mean, the false narratives around chemicals being bad (literally everything is a chemical, oy), that natural is better (simply not true) and that clean beauty is a thing (I don’t even know where to start with this one) it seems somewhat brave to release a fragrance with “synthetic” in the name. I asked M. Malle whether the name was a statement and he, without hesitation said yes, it is.
In response, he told me that there is a misconception that synthetic materials are bad and naturals are good, adding that people don’t understand that interesting perfume started because of synthetics (it’s true, we wouldn’t have modern perfumery as it is today without aroma chemicals). As he explains, Synthetic Jungle’s name seeks to remind people that perfume is a paradox, and that synthetic materials are required to recreate the smells of nature. This is exactly what Synthetic Jungle achieves – a beautifully natural smelling perfume, evocative of a lush jungle, and made with a mixture of both natural and synthetic materials.
Now, moving past the name, what about Synthetic Jungle the perfume? This is the result of a long creative flirtation between Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo, where the former spent quite some in the corridors of IFF convincing the latter to work with him. The starting point for their fragrant collaboration was the green fragrances of the 1970s, specifically Estée Lauder’s Private Collection, which served as inspiration. Synthetic Jungle is Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo’s rendition of the green chypre accord – a simplified, modernised version that isolates the green accord and amplifies it with intense floralcy. The result? An accessible take on green that feels operatic in its execution.
It’s a paradoxical name to remind people how perfumery functions. What man makes is as interesting as what come from natureFrederic Malle
Basil, Galbanum, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine and Patchouli
Anne Flipo (IFF)
How Does it Smell?
Synthetic Jungle opens crunchy, juicy, crisp and green. The initial impression is of giant palm leaves overflowing with rainwater, with darker, more verdant elements coming from the sharp, edges of tomato leaves. Underneath, the dry, mossy and astringent note of galbanum plays the role of subtle supporting act, bringing a vegetal nuance that is rich and inky. Unlike the classic greens of the 1970’s and ’80s, the effect is not austere and standoffish, and is instead lush, vibrant and approachable. Synthetic Jungle is bold and brassy right from the outset, announcing itself in a wave of verdant freshness.
In the heart, a holographic muguet note becomes the focus. During our masterclass, Frederic Malle spoke of the note, saying that “when Anne added the lily of the valley, the structure changed” calling it “the key” to the fragrance. It’s true, this sweet, dewy and softly animalic (hints of blue cheese and warm skin) floral note amplifies Synthetic Jungle’s freshness, but it also provides a contrast in its fleshy warmth, rounding off and smoothing out what would otherwise be an austere, sharp and cold perfume.
If I were to describe the base in two words I would say mossy and misty (mossty?). It’s at this point that Synthetic Jungle feels most like a chypre, albeit a more modern one (i.e. less Mitsouko and more Narciso, if you get me). Patchouli plays a big part, adding a clean, sharp quality that cuts through all of that lushness, creating a dry, leafy bed for it to land on. As with many modern perfumes, there’s also a synthetic musk effect in the base (throughout actually, but more noticeable after the initial aria of foliage softens) that provides space and diffusion as well as a soft texture to make that moss feel utterly plush. A perfect end to a truly captivating perfume.
I’ll be honest, I had really high hopes for Synthetic Jungle because, on paper, it’s everything I want from a perfume. It promised greenery, floralcy and that modern twist on classic styles Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is famed for. These are things I very much love in perfume – green is one of my favourite fragrance families (CHANEL Nº19 is basically my holy grail perfume) and Malle one of my favourite houses. Luckily for me, Synthetic Jungle delivers on all of its promises. It is a beautifully lush take on green that is thoroughly modern and not in any way harsh or dry. It’s also wonderfully present and long lasting, soaking you in a veil of lush verdancy wherever you go. Where, for many perfume lovers, CHANEL’s Le Lion appears to be the launch of the year, for me it’s easily Synthetic Jungle. I just love it.
Stunning, euphoric, accessible greenery.
Synthetic Jungle is available in 100ml (£195), 50ml (£128), 30ml (£92) and 10ml (£38) Eau de Parfum.
Images are my own. Sample (full bottle) was provided by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle for review. This is not a sponsored post.