This is the scent that should’ve been called « Only the Brave »…
After the disconcerting and otherworldly Dans tes Bras, Frédéric Malle once more boldly goes where no perfumer has gone before (it must be the “Beam-me-up-Scotty” cabin effect) by commissioning another amazingly futuristic scent, one that completely turns the traditional fougère family on its head. And a welcome shake-up it is, in a world where cheap, uninventive “aromatic fougères” have practically taken over men’s aisles in perfume shops.
Mint has seldom been successfully attempted as a dominant note, save by Mathilde Laurent, who paired with fresh grass in Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca during her tenure at Guerlain, then with woody/balsamic notes nine years later in Cartier Roadster. The beauty and complexity of the material has been obscured by its myriad chewing gum/toothpaste connotations, and to appreciate it, you must shed all preconceived ideas… And make no mistake: despite its name, Géranium pour Monsieur is a mint fragrance, from the top notes all the way to the dry-down.
Dominique Ropion can boast a distinguished line-up of blockbusters, but to me, the man’s genius shines only through his collaborations with Frédéric Malle: Carnal Flower sits up there with Fracas and Tubéreuse Criminelle in tuberose heaven; ditto for Vétiver Extraordinaire which overtook the Guerlain version after its reformulation; as for Une Fleur de Cassie, I consider it to be one of the best fragrances composed in the past ten years.
It seems that the inspiration for Géranium pour Monsieur came from Frédéric Malle, who hankered after the feel of old-fashioned barbershop lotions and soaps – geranium is certainly an old-school, “daddy-scent” note. But Ropion’s interpretation of doesn’t have a retro bone in its body: his neo-fougère rips out coumarin, lavender and oakmoss from the formula. Yet it somehow retains the rounded, smooth-as-soap feel of classics like Jean Carles’ great Canoe by Dana and its progeny, the once-ubiquitous Brut by Fabergé.
Géranium pour Monsieur’s initial blast of mint is so vivid that you can literally taste its anesthesizing coolness, and so insanely stretched out it sucks up every other note into its ice-blue vortex for hours.
As Octavian Coifan has noted in his perceptive review, geranium and mint share a lot of molecules in common, and Ropion has picked up on that to meld several types of coolness: the jagged freezing notes of two types of mint; the rounded, citronella-tinged geranium, which hooks up with a similarly “round”, but warmer note, that of aniseed oil (anethol); and finally, Floralozone, a material I’m not familiar with, but which its maker IFF describes as “powerful, clean, green, fresh air tone reminiscent of ocean breezes. Gives lift to fragrances without dominating due to its neutral nature”, which fits the bill well enough.
The rosy facet of geranium is hard to tease out. It appears just when you think Géranium pour Monsieur is all about the cool, along with a darker, dry and woody vibe that feels almost like cedar, but isn’t: quite probably the combination of Ambroxan, with its medicinal clary sage accents, incense and sandalwood.
Due to the incredible lasting power of the mint, the musk and cinnamon-tinged benzoin take their own sweet time in appearing, gradually warming the dry, woody frame of the composition. The scent eventually subsides into a good-quality soap note (“Manly, yes, but I like it too.”).
As for the odd Dans tes Bras, it may take you a long time to wrap your head (nose?) around the groundbreaking Géranium pour Monsieur – though Lee of the Perfume Posse was immediately smitten, and pronounced it the Eau Sauvage of the 21st century. I’m not quite sure I’d wear it myself, but, as Mr. Spock would say, raising a slanted eyebrow: “Fascinating”.
Image: This is an airplane vortex. I found it by googling "vortex . Don't ask me more. It just looks cool.
Image: This is an airplane vortex. I found iton various websites
by googling "vortex . Don't ask me more. It just looks cool.