One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet 16: Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle

Some things, as they say, get better with age. Cheese, for example.

Since I embarked on the South Beach thing, I've been eating a lot of cheese. Too much, probably: after losing 30 pounds in three months, I've sort of stalled, which I guess is normal, but still frustrating. But cheese! Last week I bought a chunk of eight-year-old white cheddar for what I thought was a ridiculous price, but I needed to see if it was different from regular old cheddar. And it is. The texture, for one thing: the internal structure has changed into something vaguely crystalline, and it is very hard to cut into cubes because it just crumbles — shatters, almost. The flavour is deep and complex, salty and rich and slightly bitter, with a goodly dose of what James Joyce called "feety savour", not absolutely pleasant (in the way that, say, a smooth creamy-buttery Havarti might be) but still wonderful. And the taste stays in your mouth for literally hours after you've eaten it. There are a lot of cheeses that I like better, but it was pretty spectacular.

Fragrances, though. Two bad things can happen over time: they can spoil (many fragrances can last for years without spoilage — I have a bottle of Molyneux Fête from the mid-1960s which hasn't aged a day — but others just seem to rot in the bottle), or they can be reformulated so that what was marketed in 1980 or 2000 is not what is being marketed in 2011.

I received a bottle of Gaultier's Le Mâle in a swap when it was launched sixteen years ago. I loved the idea of it: the packaging seemed very cheeky and avant-garde to me, innocent that I was, and since I couldn't get it locally, it had an aura of rarity. I wore it a little, but it never took hold of my brain, and so I in turn swapped it away to someone else. I am sure it has been reconstructed since them; it can't always have been quite this single-minded.

Le Mâle, after its opening herbal freshness dies down, is disconcertingly monochromatic: a barber-shop fantasia of soapy lavender and orange blossom blanketed with sweet powdery vanilla, to the point of dullness. It is unexpectedly loud (you could easily overdose on this and choke everyone around you) and quite sweet and as persistent as you would think an oriental should be, lasting for twelve hours without breaking a sweat. But when something is so unchanging, so essentially uninteresting, do you want it to last twelve hours? Do you want to spend twelve hours in a barbershop? I don't.



  • n.b. I am quite certain the formulation for Le Male has changed over the past couple of years and it has lost a lot of its strength.

    By Blogger Brian, at 12:51 PM  

  • An alarming thing, when you consider how strong it still is. I got a boxed spray sample just a couple of months ago from a department store, so it must be the very newest formulation, and it's potent, lasting stuff.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 1:01 PM  

  • Sweet 16: Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle. Some things, as they say, get better with age. Cheese, for example. Since I embarked on the South ...

    By Blogger Gunter, at 7:04 AM  

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