Maja, Old and New

To google Maja, Myrurgia’s iconic fragrance from 1918 (probably most familiar to people in the U.S. in soap form) is to find everything and nothing.  Its ubiquity – the Spanish equivalent of Ivory Soap?  Jean Nate? – means there are dozens of places to buy it online and a simultaneous total lack of information about the brand or the fragrance.   I never did find a complete, plausible list of fragrance notes.

One website featuring products from Spain enlightens: “Hints of rose, jasmine, and other flowers.  Esteban Monegal, an artist, sculptor, and violinist, decided to create bath products that would be as much a work of art as his musical contributions. This is the result: a luxurious brand unrivaled throughout the world.  The classic Maja fragrance, unchanged in 100 years, is now available in a remarkable bath and shower gel…” The website notes (with an apparent lack of irony) that the products are now made in Mexico.

Shifting over to Basenotes and MUA, where the reviews are thin, offers up a strong case that “unchanged in 100 years” is a fiction — the fragrance has not only been reformulated recently in its move to Mexico but (according to furious reviews) is a ghost of its former glorious Orientalist scented self.

If you´d like to read some interesting information about the brand, Carmencanada at Grain de Musc has forgotten more than I´ll ever know, so here´s a link to her Myrurgia blog post and another to her great post about Carmen Tortola Valencia, the person who appears on the Maja label, and thanks to Carmencanada for educating me.

So.  There I was in our local Perfume Discount Mart, sniffing around with the proprietress, who has the patience of Job, as far as I´m concerned.  I saw the bottle of Maja and sprayed it on absentmindedly while sniffing two or six other things.

Every now and again a cheap, fun fragrance dances into my life when I least expect it.  Maja does smell like the kind of fragrance that should exist as soap (which is the only way I´d thought of it).  It smells like good carnation and jasmine soap, not “soap” as in Clean Laundry.  It smells lightly spicy and gently floral.  There is a touch of green and citrus, and nothing “fresh,” thanks very much.  It is a skin scent with surprising longevity.   It´s the sort of thing I´d use in warmer weather instead of cologne.

I bought an older bottle of the original Maja EdT on eBay for comparison.  I can see what people are complaining about – it´s a different scent.  It still smells like soap, but it´s darker and spicier and almost masculine.  The older version smells sour, in a nice way; it is muskier and smells of incense.  The vintage version really wins in the drydown — the guest-room carnation and spices gives way to a honey-soaked richness that the new stuff just can’t match.  The newer version has been gourmandized a bit, with a creamier, warmer base. Smelled side by side the contrast is fairly striking.

The older Maja EdT is stronger, although it´s not a fragrance powerhouse.   Neither of them is the stuff of genius, but both of them are welcome, simple fragrances when I want my sillage to be minimal and uncomplicated.  The original is the obvious classic, and the drydown is delicious, but I have to say, I rather like the new one too.  They smell nice layered.  I cheerfully shelled out $14 (!) for a 1.7 ounce bottle of the new stuff and the vintage can be found pretty regularly on eBay.  And now I need to try the actual soap.

PS.  You can friend Patty and me on Facebook.  There’s a Perfume Posse group you can search for, and we (and some other people you will recognize) are attached to it.  I’m a newbie on Facebook, I joined recently along with a bunch of my friends from college.   Come find us, we’d love to meet you!

Maja perfume poster: allposters.com

48 Comments
Joyce February 25, 2009

I loved the writer"s reflection on this delicious scent which I have loved for several years. It is a sensual and romantic aroma. I prefer the original honey,musty,older incense version and hope I get the opportunity to choose both in the future,

Shelley January 22, 2009

Just pointing out to powder fans that you can get Maja scented powder, too...I got a great deal on an edt + powder gift pack from an online dealer a while ago...

Melanie January 21, 2009

My husband loves the Maja soap. He always buys it in Mexico, which is where we're headed next month...I'll have to look for the cologne as well as the soap.

Robin January 21, 2009

I'll have to look around for some vintage Maja one of these days. I used to buy the soap every so often, but more for the guest bath than for me, and haven't even smelled that in ages. How old was your "old" bottle, do you know?

Louise January 21, 2009

March-I really need to deposit some cash with that lovely perfume shop owner-so sweet and patient. And now I have an idea-Maja! After your generous spritzes, the modern is winning hands down..still hanging around all sweet and spicy :x

Zoe January 21, 2009

Oooh, Maja. My grandma's one fragrance, so for me, the epitome of old-lady-scent. She has the big bar of soap in the shower and small ones to scent her linen, and the EdT to spray in her hair on special occasions. Love it on her, but it would be very weird on me.

quimerula January 21, 2009

It is Nenuco, a baby's fragrance that is very popular even today.

quimerula January 21, 2009

Just popping in to add that in the Myrurgia site (in Spanish) they list these notes: rose, jasmin, carnation, geranium, gardenia, lilac, violet, freesia and hyacinth. :)>-

Nava January 21, 2009

Wasn't there another Myrurgia scent available in the US about 30 years ago? Nenuca (sp?) or something like that? I have distinct memories of my next-door neighbors using it. They were like my 3 big sisters and everything they used, I wanted to use, and I cannot stand Jean Nate to this day because they hated it so much.

violetnoir January 21, 2009

Hey there! I wore Maja back in the day when I was a student in Salamanca, Spain. I loved it then, but don't think I would wear it today. Hope to hear from you soon! Hugs and love!

helenviolette January 21, 2009

I have almost bought this soap on several occasions- just because I liked the packaging (and I am big on soap)-now I am curious about the scent too...Off to facebook! :d

pikake January 21, 2009

...soap that is. Will check on the EDT next time I'm there.

pikake January 21, 2009

I believe I can get Maja at the Perfume House, what a quirky place that little den is. Oh, and I just "friended" you at FB. Thanks for the invite! <:-p ~Trish

Mikeperez23 January 21, 2009

Every year, like clockwork, my Grandmother (my Dads mom) used to get a bottle of Maja, a set of Maja soaps and Maja powder for her wedding anniversary presents. Every year! The scent is wired to my brain, as a child. Of course, I've never smelled it as an adult. Now I want to. Thanks for reminder!