LesNez Manoumalia’s Polynesian inspiration is exotic, but not in the “I travelled to postcard-land to source the most precious essences” style of perfumery… Sandrine Videault did travel, but not to the far side of the planet, since she already lives there, from our point of view; the Pacific island of Wallis, part of the French overseas territory Wallis-et-Futuna, lies halfway between Tahiti and New Caledonia, where Videault was born and resides.
The perfumer based her composition on the Wallisian’s ancestral Tuitui, around a creamy, gardenia-like frangipani flower called the fagraea, Neo-Caledonian sandalwood and Java vetiver. But the natural feel of it, the way it opens up to you, its uncontrived grace, owes just as much to Videault’s talent and know-how as to her skills as an olfactory explorer.
Manoumalia belongs to the French tradition of perfumery despite its documentary origins, precisely because French perfumery does play its part in the very rituals of the Wallisians, who sometimes wash their hands in perfume, Videault explains in 1000fragrances, and tend to favor old-style chypres, amber and heady white flowers… In a word, people after my own heart. More than that: one of the oldest French fragrances, L.T. Piver’s 1907 Pompeïa, is actually included in the formula for Tuitui since the 1950s, Videault reveals in the Perfume Shrine. So that, to speak like the French Deconstructionists, the French culture always already contaminates the ritual practices of this far-flung island… Thus, a few drops of Pompeïa nest in the tropical heart of Manoumalia as a quote and a wink to the sly re-appropriation by the Wallisians of a culture which is theirs anyway: they are French, after all.
Have I already said how often I’ve been wearing Manoumalia, and how utterly, kiss-me-stupid beautiful it is? It is a lush, moist fragrance with the creamy texture of those tiny white flowers that exhale the most powerful scents, hidden under huge leaves. And like those flowers, it occupies space in the oddest way.
At a one-meter distance, you throw a sandalwood sillage. What you actually smell on your skin is a tuberose-intensity tropical flower with a lash of spice, coconut accents, the faintly mushroomy facet of gardenia and an underlying brown-sugar sweetness. But the weirdest thing is the disconcerting behavior of the vetiver: it seems to sneak up behind you, like a now-you-smell, now-you-don’t ghost hovering at the edge of consciousness. The first day I wore Manoumalia, I kept thinking of Bandit (which I bet the Wallisians love): something dark, green and bitter kept haunting me, only to dissolve when I pressed my nose to my wrist.
Manoumalia is a fragrance with a (true) story – tropicalia without the paper parasols in the fruit juice cocktails – but it leaves you enough space to slip in. It breathes. You escape.
To know more about Sandrine Videault, who deserves to be known, read her interview by Elisabeth de Feydeau (in French), by Octavian Coifan (also in French) and by Helg of The Perfume Shrine (in English).
Image: I was thinking of using Gauguin, and it’s probably a heresy to stack Flor Garduño’s somber, stately Mexicans over Sandrine Videault’s radiant ode to Wallis, but it seemed right, so there you go. I thought they should meet each other.
Manoumalia is an exceptional rendition of floral exoticism, earthiness and humidity, glad I own a bottle.RépondreSupprimer
I keep hearing about this one... must get a sample!RépondreSupprimer
Si j'avais, I own a bottle too. I didn't even wait to finish my sample!RépondreSupprimer
Tara, I think you must. Not to mention LesNez deserves our support -- they are really "parfums d'auteur".RépondreSupprimer
This is indeed very beautiful and very well done. Les Nez also has a very generous and reasonable sample program, which makes it very easy to try their wonderful fragrances.RépondreSupprimer
Oh dear, D. Now you've re-awakened my longing for a bottle. Hm. I'll bet it smells lovely on you.RépondreSupprimer
I liked your description of the vetiver in Manoumalia (and agree) -- that it sneaks up on you only to vanish when you turn to directly face it.RépondreSupprimer
It's a tricky and intriguing piece of work.
I saw on Twitter that the LesNez people are looking at shop space in Paris. From June 3rd: "Finally, an address in Paris can't wait to speak to the owner and look at the shop. LesNez in P A R I S ?? Great times ahead or ... ?"
Would be a great expansion move for them.
Rappleyea, I got a full set of samples when I purchased the bottle (except the Turtle Vetiver). It's good policy, and they're fairly large samples too!RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, you *did* say the vétiver made it wearable for a man... It smells lovely on me indeed, and I've been wearing it practically every day since I got it.RépondreSupprimer
Nathan, was that in their newsletter? I'm not in the loop, but I'd say there's more of a chance it's a shop that wants to stock them. Colette? Aépure? No idea... It would be great indeed. And I'd love to see more fragrances added to the line.RépondreSupprimer
Well then, I'm the lucky one as the Turtle Vetiver was included in the full set of samples I purchased! The Turtle Vetiver on me was pure vetiver essential oil - not a bad thing in my opinion as I love vetiver! But I really didn't get any other notes at all. I also thought that the TV would be great under the Manoumalia as for me personally, I needed a bit less exotic flower and a bit more vetiver.RépondreSupprimer
It's hard to teach us old chypre dogs new tricks!
Rappleya, if you observe closely you'll notice the Vetiver does pretty strange things as it evolves...RépondreSupprimer
Manoumalia has been on my radar for a couple months, but just barely, and this is the first review I've read of it -- and what a stunning, intriguing review. I am indeed very curious about this now and something tells me I would love it. I am certainly also very curious about the Turtle Vetiver(s).RépondreSupprimer
Joe, you haven't been commenting here long enough for me to know your tastes in any way, but both of those are well worth trying out: they're very good indeed.RépondreSupprimer
That description made me dizzy... must sniff.RépondreSupprimer
Hey, A., I think this one has your name written on it. It's not at all like Amoureuse but it's got that same languid, humid feeling...RépondreSupprimer
I am wearing the Lion today, but for the past few days I have worn Manoumalia and have been astounded by how it comes and goes. I will be in a group and smell someone fantastic, only to realize that it's me, but when I actually try to smell it on me there's very little there to detect. I will go along totally unaware of its presence and suddenly catch the most delicous whiff. Amazing and wonderful stuff!RépondreSupprimer
With respect to TV, I find that it evolves for many hours and that the drydown is just sparkly and delightful. Also amazing and wonderful stuff.