Bouquet of Misfits, Parfum d’Empire Mal-Aimé

Those who love nature will probably agree that there’s a certain beauty to vegetation that grows on its own, without human attention. Meadows and fiels that grow wild flowers, plants & herbs – they look pretty and we admire their easthetic valors in spring/summer season. We often like (at least I do) the fragrance they offer but for some reason we find it too specific or not pretty enough to wear on your skin as a perfume. Why would you if you can choose a magnificent rose or jasmine composition. The underrated smell of wildflowers became a study of new Parfum d’Empire composition. Mal-Aimé literally means ‘unloved’ and pays tribute to weeds. A bouquet of misfits.

Mal-Aimé begins with a verdant vibrancy that feels a bit messy and chaotic for the first couple of minutes. It feels like standing in the middle of a meadow – there are bees, ants, flies, beetles, grasshoppers and butterflies minding their own business, and all of this amidst flowering (or not) plants, weeds actually, that you can’t even name unless you’re a specialist. Different shapes and sizes of their leaves, varied shades of green stems, thorns or no thorns, a variety of flower types. Meadows are filled with stimuli for the eyes, nose and ears. They offer plenty of colors, sounds and smells. Marc-Antoine Corticchiato pays tribute to these unloved weeds with a perfume that is green inside out. Corsican Stinkwort also known as Inula is a wild plant that grows commonly in Corsica and the perfumer decided to use it as a main thread going through the entire composition.

I don’t know how it smells in its natural habitat but the fragrance offers a broad exploration of green theme. As I smell Mal-Aimé on my skin at different moments throughout the day I can smell aromas reminiscent of mint one time, the other time it was more similar to basil. There were also moments when it was closer to geranium or ivy. There are also more dry and herbaceous aspects to this composition, such as nettle or thistle that are mentioned officially in the press release. Surprisingly despite so many verdant notes the perfume doesn’t smell medicated or astringent, it’s kind of fresh and even energetic when you smell it. Though I have to say the greenness of this new Parfum d’Empire creation is more succulent and not very juicy or sappy. It surely gives off the vibe of wild plants from the Mediterranean basin, scorched by the sun but adapted to the climate and enjoying it.

The brand also mentions blackberry bramble among the notes. I’m not sure if it was only supposed to add a shrubby facet but if you ask me there is something faintly reminiscent of forest fruit among the bounty of other green notes of Mal-Aimé. These smells of meadow dissipate step by step as hours pass & after a while it becomes more difficult to differenciate between them. At some point it’s just a blurry mass of green – just like a painting can be done with streaks of different green shades, this perfume here becomes as such painting. Only much later in the drydown you can smell one odd thing that stands out – an orris root. Among the lush green smells it tops above them and effuses the scent of earthy and dried root with just some small hints of something buttery (maybe even slightly rancid?) and with a memory of violet flower mingling in the hiding. A lone, unique presence.

Mal-Aimé from Parfum d’Empire is a one curious scent from perfumer Marc-Antoine Corticchiato. It’s not your typical perfume but sort of like a study of a fragranced subject. Who knew one can source new raw materials for perfumery by distilling unwanted weeds and such ordinary plants? Nonetheless the composition joins Heritage Corse collection and offers something new both for the perfume world and the brand. It would place nicely somewhere between Corsica Furiosa and Eau de Gloire. Mal-Aimé is released in eau de parfum concentration, in 50 ml bottle. I’m curious if this perfume piqued your interest? I think opinions will be on opposite ends of the scale.

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Matieres Libres from Panouge

Perfume world has changed drastically since covid barged into our lives. Many brands postpone their new perfume launches due to insufficient number of ways to promote them internationally (no fairs, no exhibitions), some brands are using online platforms and live meeting tools to present the fruit of their work. Then, there’s a small number of brands that didn’t survive the crisis and they disappear from the fragrance scene. As in Poland lockdown has just been extended by another week I wonder how perfumers work during. Luckily many can work from their home studios. Despite difficulties Panouge coupled with young & talented perfumers and let their creativity go wild.

Datura Amaretti is a powerful fragrance with a lot of presence. It starts with a juicy mandarin note followed by a super fruity, almost overripe cherry. I believe cherry is what makes this perfume slightly daring and a bit more challenging. After a moment the perfume tones down and by becoming more quiet it reveals the floral notes hiding in its heart. Datura, a poisonous plant that lend its name to this composition, is paired here with ylang-ylang which results in warm and creamy bouquet that makes my head wander off to someplace tropical. The scent is also akin to suntan oil. Over time Datura Amaretti turns slightly nutty due to almond presence in the base. The combination of bitter and sweet with a crunchy texture instantly evokes amaretti biscuits. This gourmand touch makes perfect sense as a follow-up of cherry, especially that both have a scent thanks to benzaldehyde. The cookie drydown is kind of comforting and feels safe, softness or musk and cedar don’t disrupt this mood but go along with it.

Those of you who are fig lovers will be happy to discover Patchouli Figue. This composition starts with a succulent greenness of of fig leaves which are lifted up by a fruity-green smell of rhubarb and by a juicy pear that exudes ripe, fruity but also watery aromas. Lactonic notes of fig take this composition with a storm and deliver a powerful scent that takes control of the situation. Addition of jasmine make it feel greener and just a tiny bit flowery. In this particular case jasmine is stripped off its big white floral grandeur. I don’t like fig in perfume, I never did, but what intrigues me in Patchouli Figue is that from the very beginning I could also smell some dusty particles of cocoa. It becomes more pronounced in the base as it gives off this dark, nutty facet with some bitterness. A promise of chocolate. Patchouli adds to that darkness through its earthy facets of dry soil, moss & undergrowth. Amber and cedar make it brighter and they give an oriental twist to the composition.

Within this collection that consists of four fragrances I believe most people will find Rose Agathe to be the most polarizing one. The perfume starts with a blast of black pepper and the dry spiciness that mercilessly drills through your nose and goes straight into your nostrils. Metal accord provides additional coldness and shivers when you smell this perfume. Elemi resin amplifies these cold & spiced facets as it adds some balsamic qualities to the blend. Heart of the composition remains cold as ice. It serves some rose but with a lot of rose oxide – a synthetic molecule that makes the accent on these chilly, metallic aspect of the flower. Aromatic notes of geranium feel verdant, their crisp & crunchy stems also feel kind of cold. Incense finally increases the temperature a bit but it doesn’t change the fact Rose Agathe has an austere, eerie aura to it. Drydown combines ebony wood that gives depth, combined with mineral accord (more cold again). Leather and labdanum add some warmth and tenacity to the composition.

Last but not least there’s Absinthe Gaiac which I saved for the end of the post because it’s my favorite fragrance in the collection. This perfume starts with an invigorating and slightly ozonic note of violet leaf that after a moment becomes sweeter & slightly powdered. Wormwood, a plant that gives absinthe its hallucinogenic fame, provides a contrast by exuding some bitter greenness. Heart of the composition is a tender blend or parched, dry nutmeg, a bit of rose and an elegant leather accord. The perfume feels embracing and it has something comforting to it. Like lazy cracks of wood logs in the fireplace – cozy and soothing. Base of Absinthe Gaiac goes along this idea. Warmth of golden-hued amber plays along the powerful yet tender gaiac wood. Over time the perfume digs slightly deeper into the ground. Earthiness of patchouli and rooty aspect of vetiver make this perfume feel more substantial and connected to nature. Musky tones in the base make this oriental perfume fluffier and more dreamy. For me there’s nothing I don’t like about it.

In the world that is still highly affected by covid and when the perfume scene suffers greatly from the lack of exhibitions where new fragrances can get enough attention, I am glad I can still try something new. Although for me the number of scents I can try had also dropped significantly, I have to be thankful for those who still remember about me & offer to send a sample. Those packages brighten my days more than ever. Matieres Libres collection was developed by Maelstrom perfumers – Marie Schnirer composed Patchouli Figue and Rose Agathe, Patrice Revillard stands behind Datura Amaretti and Absinthe Gaiac. All fragrances are eau de parfum & are available in 100 ml bottles.

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