Review: Frédéric Malle Monsieur. — 4.5 points

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When I heard that Monsieur. (2016) by perfumer Bruno Jovanovic features a load of patchouli that it constitutes half of the formula, I approached this minimalistic, patchouli-dominated brew with caution. As patchouli is a complex and powerful material that has many facets beside the woody, earthy, and camphoraceous, there are aspects that can easily diminish my appreciation of a perfume. This is the case when I sometimes find the typical patchouli oil ‘sweaty’.

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Self-portrait (1629) of Rembrandt van Rijn

However, Monsieur. here conjures a vision of tweed suits, wild game hunting, and country estates because it feels polished. Its patchouli is replete with woody and earthy facets that it feels like a moist, dark brown bark. Its balsamic richness is complemented on top by sweet mandarin and the liquor accent of rum. The impression is much like the rich umber of this Rembrandt painting. There is no sweaty hippie or, if any, camphoraceous facet in the patchouli. Instead, frankincense adds a smoky resinous touch that offsets the sweet liquor character. And, its rough edges, are softened by a touch of vanilla and musk. The result is a well-mannered, spirit-soaked patchouli with a smoky, leathery hint.

The treatment of the overdosed patchouli here is done with a careful hand. It may not run the risk of being polarising, but its character is distinctive enough to stand out as a polished woody liquor. Its tenacity is great, but its sillage is surprisingly low-key. I think of it as well-aged whisky, rich with notes of fermented fruits and smoky casks.

Sources: barneys.com, clowesfund.org

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