One Thousand Scents

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bright Sunshiny Day: Montana Just Me

As you know all too well if you are one of the obsessed who is perpetually scouring the Internet looking for information about scents, descriptions and lists of notes are a dicey proposition at best, a complete curse most of the time.

After I had smelled Montana's 1997 Just Me a few times and jotted down some observations, I naturally wanted to see what everyone else had to say about it, so I went hunting for the lists of notes. The sort of thing that comes up most frequently when searching for these things — stop me if you've heard this — is the boilerplate

Just Me Perfume by Montana. Launched by the design house of montana in 1997, just me is classified as a sharp, oriental, woody fragrance. This feminine scent possesses a blend of oriental fruits and woods. It is recommended for daytime wear.

I don't know how many thousands of times I've read that sort of nonsense. Classified by whom? Recommended by whom? Who says so?

In case you don't know anything about how computers work, that's basically a form letter, with little placeholders inserted into the string of text:

(nameofscent) is classified as a (adjective1), (adjective2), (adjective3) fragrance. This (sexadjective) scent possesses a blend of (note1) and (note2)....

Then some poor drone just fills in a database with the relevant — and, I think, often randomly chosen — words, and it's done. The web page has the boilerplate text hard-coded into it (as they say), and then the empty spots are populated (as they also say) from the database.

Someone else uses a different database, because another site has this to say:

Launched by the design house of Montana in 1997, MONTANA JUST ME by Montana is classified as a flowery fragrance. This feminine scent posesses a blend of: oriental fruits and woods, an alluring scent. It is recommended for casual wear.

Well, what is it? Flowery or sharp-oriental-woody?

Sometimes the database for a particular scent is empty, which gives the hilarious

Perfume. Launched by the design house of in, is classified as a fragrance. This scent possesses a blend of. It is recommended for wear.

Even worse is this boilerplate (this one for the original Montana scent), which you also must have seen at some point:

Oriental, Spicy, Sweet. Created in 1986, Montana is a refreshing, woody, mossy fragrance. It's fragrant nature explores essences of peach, cardamom and ginger. Blended with notes of vetiver, amber and musk, Montana is recommended as an evening fragrance.

"It's fragrant nature explores essences of". I would like to find whoever wrote that horror and smack some sense into them. (That description is also multifariously wrong, as these things almost always are. The original Montana was a sharp-clawed animalic chypre with a radius of at least one city block, and it was most certainly meant for daytime wear, to complement those neon-coloured, shoulder-padded suits that Montana was making at the time, and god I wish I had a bottle of it right now, because it was fantastic.)

And then there's the bludgeoning type of description, which just tosses in as much information as possible, sometimes to an almost unbelievable degree. A site called Pink Fragrance seems to have just cobbled together a bunch of descriptions of random scents; here's less than a quarter of a massive paragraph of bafflegab:

An elegant, floral fragrance with top notes of rose, clementine and honeysuckle. Features tiare flower, jasmine and peony as the heart notes. Finished with sandalwood, veil of musk and patchouli as the dry down notes...Fragrance notes top with fruity, floral fragrance and a lively notes of Italian mandarin essence infuse the fragrance with zest and energy. Quince flower highlights emphasize dewy and sweet, fruity notes. Ceylon tea and iris is blended with a luminous woody accord giving the fragrance its unique, signature perfume...With top notes of Italian lime, icy pear and crisp, green almond. MONTANA JUST ME by Montana fragrance has heart notes of sugared almond and white peony and dry down notes of amber, mahogany wood, tonka beans and vanilla.

If any one scent had all that, it would probably be lethal.

Lists of notes, of course, often aren't any better. They're never particularly complete, for many reasons, one of which is that the company that makes the scent wants you to think it smells like something, not that there is necessarily any of that actual note in the product. And lists can be wildly misleading: the notes listed in that Montana nonsense up there may actually appear in the scent itself, but they tell you literally nothing of how the scent will smell, because you know nothing of their quality or proportion.

And of course there is never any guarantee that the list you're reading actually belongs to the scent it's attached to. Someone at Basenotes thoughtfully included this in their review:

Just Me was composed by Francoise Caron and included topnotes of grapefruit, ginger, caramel and pepper; heart of jasmin and ylang ylang; basenotes of musc, vanilla and amber.

Don't know where they got that from, but unless Just Me underwent a drastic reformulation at some point in its very short life, that is not at all what the scent in my bottle is.

A few other pages suggest that Just Me is instead a

spicy oriental fragrance with pineapple, honey, jasmine, chocolate and leather notes

and that is more on the nose. No pun intended.

+

Recently I found this and had to have it, mostly for the Just Me, which I, despite having read good reviews, had boobishly passed up on ordering a few years ago and had been regretting ever since:

Not my photo, but a borrowed one: you can tell because in my set, the Le Dix was half-empty, having leaked, dissolving the name stencilled on the bottle while giving the coffret a deliciously plush and expensive smell and some untoward stains. The Cabochard was likewise half-empty, but had demurely evaporated rather than staining the box (which had never been opened). Otherwise everything was in perfect condition, which means it held up well, considering that, as far as I can determine, the box is over a decade old.

(By the way, if you Google "les meilleurs parfums de Paris", you will get many, many hits, hardly any of which are this particular collection, though they all look pretty tempting. I don't know if anybody has a trademark on that title or if it's just used for any old batch of miniatures that someone wants to unload: at any rate, I rather doubt that these five are or ever were "the best perfumes of Paris". The back of the box says it's a product of "Vendôme Cosmetic Laboratories", but a Google search just left me befuddled and bored, so I gave up. I don't care that much.)

I had read many good things about Just Me and as soon as I saw it on the box cover, I had to have it. It did not disappoint. It opens with a madly cheerful dish of fruit cocktail dressed with citrus zest and dominated by sugared pineapple, a radiant burst of sunshine. Pineapple more than any other fruit, any other thing, is sunshine you can smell, bright and angular, penetrating and caressing. If this sort of thing doesn't make you happy, then I don't even know how your nose works: the smell of pineapple always brings a smile to my face.*

The top seamlessly flows into a warm jam-and-chocolate floral with an emphasis on "warm": this is practically tropical, with the spiny, pineapple-y brightness lingering well into the heart of the scent, and has "summer day" written all over it. Eventually the radiance vanishes altogether and the scent segues into a smudgy, salty, vaguely leathery drydown that lies very, very close to the skin. You wouldn't call Just Me a proper leather scent, because the leather doesn't appear until very late in the game, but a fragrance has to end with something. That doesn't even matter: from start to finish, Just Me is gorgeously proportioned, charming, and most of all, so much fun!

Oh, and here's the packaging of the full-sized bottle:

Despite that fact that the box has it right — the zipper pull is at the bottom of a teasingly undone decolletage — and the bottle necessarily has it wrong (and quite properly so, because doing it the other way around would have looked stupid), that is a terrific bottle. Actually, there would have been one way to salvage it, to put the zipper at the bottom where it belongs, but we'll get to that next time.

*With one exception that I've encountered: I bought a small bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid in Hawaiian Pineapple scent and it was horrible. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away — I'm just that cheap! — so I used it up in little increments, putting a tiny squidge of it into a sinkful of proper lemon-scented Sunlight Liquid, which smells as dish soap is meant to smell. It didn't eliminate the horrible artificial pineappleness of it, but it brought it down to bearable levels. In retrospect, I don't know why I didn't throw it out; it was less than a buck. Sheer stubbornness, I guess. If you haven't met me, you have no idea how stubborn I am. It runs in the family.

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