One Thousand Scents

Friday, January 18, 2008

Licorice Twist: Lempicka Au Masculin

Some of the fragrance blogs I read are written in a very misty, evocative style. Like this:

The vanilla accord is made a little bit more nervous thanks to a dash of enlivening citrus. The Patchouli courses through the scent, adding a metallic, ferrous element and a more masculine note in a little girl's gourmand boudoir atmosphere. Maybe a dream brushes past her of knights in armor warring swords in hands and princesses locked away in towers awaiting their liberation by their paramours.

See, I can't do that. I'm glad someone can, but it's not me. I find a hook to hang my review on, and then I just write what I think; it's all very straightforward.

Shame, really, because the dreamy concoctions of Lolita Lempicka probably ought to be written about in that sort of fairy-tale prose. I just re-read my review of her most recent scent, L Lempicka, and it's exactly as direct and to the point as everything else I write. I am not a fantasist.

I bought Lempicka's first men's scent, Au Masculin, without even smelling it. In fact, I asked Jim to hunt it down for me when he spent the day in Montreal not long after the scent's launch in 2000. I made him go into the fragrance department of a store and ask for it, and he did it (in fact, the first store didn't have it, so he had to go to another), and if that's not true love then I don't know what is. I knew Au Masculin would suit me perfectly; I had smelled the women's version, and this one promised to be even better, less sweet, more bracing, but still with that Lempicka romanticism intact, and saturated with anise, which I adore. The official notes:

Top: Green ivy, aniseed, absinthe, rum.
Middle: Aniseed, praline, violet.
Base: Cedar, vanilla, rock rose, barley water.

(This is very like the women's version, which starts with ivy and aniseed, segues to violet and licorice in the middle, and ends with the oriental warmth of tonka bean and vanilla. If you smell them side by side, you can instantly detect the family resemblance.)

Au Masculin clearly sounds like the sort of thing I would love, and I did love it, too. The opening is a brittle blast of dry greenery and anise, with the promise of something sweeter lying just beneath the surface, and this emerges very quickly. You're not drowning in sugared aniseed and vanilla candy, which is usually the sensation I get from the women's version: the lingering sharp notes add a thorniness that something this sweet desperately needs. It is, as you ought to expect from an oriental scent, very long-lasting; it's good for at least six hours, and the drydown is gorgeous, a cocoon of dense warmth. (Rock rose, one of the base notes, isn't a floral note at all: it's a balsam related to labdanum.)

The trouble is...well, this is a problem that maybe most people have with their favourite scents over time. Au Masculin just doesn't suit me any more. I'm pretty sure the contents of the bottle haven't changed: it doesn't smell as if it's gone off. But I just don't like it the way I used to. I used to find the middle notes rich and dreamlike, but more recently they've struck me as as a little cloying. The drydown is still a thing of beauty, but now I find the middle just too much in a way I didn't when the scent was new to me, and I can't wait for a few hours for that gorgeous finish. I still wear it every now and then, but it's always the same thing: I regret having put it on, and life is too short for that sort of thing.

I'm extremely fickle with scents, and one of the reasons is that this sort of thing happens over and over (often, as it turns out, with sweet oriental scents: exactly the same course of events followed my purchases of Mugler A*Men and Rochas Man and, many eons ago, Lagerfeld). I fall in love with a scent, and of course experience many other scents as well over the years, and eventually discover that what I thought was love has turned into something more closely resembling a nose-wrinkling disdain. Usually I don't much care, because I have so many and there are so many more out there, but for something as nice as Au Masculin, I'm really sorry to have lost it.



  • De-lurking to say, I like your straight-forward writing! I also frequently read your other blog Cephalogenic. Just out of curiosity, are you the same Pyramus that posted lip balm reviews on Chaptastic recently?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:29 AM  

  • Glad you like it, and yeah, that's me on Chaptastic. Guest blogger!

    By Blogger pyramus, at 6:25 AM  

  • Much like u , I bought Au Masculine without smelling because I also liked the womans version. Cant say I like it but its definitely different.I think for every situation that you drift away from a scent there would be one scent that you initially didn't like but ends up growing on you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:29 AM  

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