Hello all. Lee here. On a Tuesday. I know. I’m feeling a little funny too. Let’s go with it though, eh? Just kind of find out what happens. You see, I’m off to Scotland on Friday and I have to take my sporran out of storage…
Before getting to the review itself, can I first clear up the whole geranium / pelargonium thing? Because, quite frankly, they’re not the same, and dear Freddy Malle, in promoting his top end fare, is also promoting dubious botanical nomenclature. Geraniums, let me be clear, are largely herbaceous perennials, frequently called cranesbills in everyday parlance, after the beaky form and motion of their seedheads. You’ll find them in borders designed by your Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West types, used for their soft mounded forms, their interweaving manner and often pastel-hued flowers, and come highly recommended if cottage style gardening is your thing. I deliberately grow a few myself (the so-bright-it-hurts-your-eyes Ann Folkard is one of them), and one accidentally – an extraordinarily irritating and surprisingly smelly weed called Herb Robert. I pity the Robert this miserable creature was named after.
Pelargoniums, in contrast, include the pot plants we associate with whitewashed Mediterranean houses and sunny climes – vivid red flowers and evergreen foliage. The flower colours of this genus have an apparent unceasing variety, and the leaf shape too. It includes Pelargonium graveolons, the plant from which the rose-lemon geranium essential oil is most often extracted (so really, the confusion is not Freddy’s fault. I blame those essential oil extractors for this nomenclature snafu). However, virtually all pelargoniums have scented leaves, and some species and varieties have been developed explicitly for this purpose. They’re easy to grow and don’t need much looking after. Scents can range from the minty (the wonderful ‘Lady Plymouth’ and downy leaved Pelargonium tomentosum) to the balsamy (‘Royal Oak’) to the spicy (‘Old Spice’) to apple-y (P. odoratissimum) to stagnant (‘Frank Headley’ is a beauty to look at, but boy does it smell like the top notes of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s bizarrely bilgey Jardin du Nil). I recommend everyone having a few scenty leaved wonders or species pelargoniums in their homes – they’re the nicest of guests (P. sidoides is a long time fave of mine – and google the health benefits!).
Onto the perfume. A wonderful woman called Audrey sent me a hefty sample of this, with Editions de Parfums’ usual generosity and elan. And I’ve been wearing it ever since. It took me a while to like it before I even tried to understand it. And now I think I love it.
It makes me think of triangular collocations and how wrong they can be. Let me explain myself. If I were to say cool and fresh, and ask you to add the next adjective, you might say bright. Or if you didn’t know what an adjective was, you might say ‘weather’. You wouldn’t -or at least I don’t think you would – say ‘dark’, but that’s precisely the triangular collocation Geranium pour Monsieur throws into my head (I think visually, hence the triangle).
Geranium essential oil makes a strong appearance in another Malle perfume – Noir Epices – that also happens to be dark. Ropion’s darkness in Geranium pour Monsieur is a surprisingly brilliant darkness – it is the cool of a grotto you retreat to when you’ve had too much heat, the dew before the rising sun appears, the humid twilight world of coastal tropics as the sun sets and life begins. I could go on, Harlequin romance style, though I hope you get the picture. Unlike Roudnitska’s Noir Epices, which, though a strangely transparent scent, I find solitary and angular in its beauty, Geranium pour Monsieur is affable, friendly almost bon chic bon genre in its likeability. It could be a scent for the (bourgeois, good taste) masses, this generation’s Eau Sauvage, if it weren’t so expensive or limited in availability. And that is a serious compliment.
So it starts with a vibrant minty geranium, toothpaste- or chewing gum-like perhaps, but beautiful. There is an animal purr in there somewhere too, though I have no idea how that’s achieved. There’s also a touch of citronella, declaring ‘no flies on me’ or something. I like the suggestion of a repellent in amongst the beauty – it adds to the charm of the whole. And then the other, non-minty geranium facets kick in, oscillating between floral, anisic, spicy and citrus, but never losing that cool, dark allure. A hide and seek perfume, it seems to fade before returning with a delicate incense trail and some musks which I’m not sure I’m actually smelling or imagining I’ smelling. And the geranium itself, something I thought was a highly volatile oil, hangs around for most of the journey. I have a gaping hole for a fresh floral green perfume (if that’s what this is – and it is so different to what I normally enjoy, I have no idea) – this has just filled. It’s rare I sniff a perfume that has no immediate smellalike, and that in itself makes this fascinating. Its immediate and most obvious bedfellow is Miller Harris’ Geranium Bourbon. But that perfume’s all giggle and play in a summer dress. The two might have sex as a one-off ‘feeling fresh and frisky’ thing, but they’re never going to get close. Different worlds, you see.
So, a fresh ‘man’s’ scent in the Malle line up. Though this isn’t a ‘hang out on the beach and crack open the beers’ fresh masculine. Rather, like Chanel pour Monsieur, Monsieur Balmain or even Eau Sauvage, three classics that also draw upon fresh appeal, it’s a smartly turned out chap oozing charm and savoir faire. I may well wear it in beach shorts and nothing else, but it’ll be happier with a linen suit and a bone dry Sauternes.
You’ll find reported elsewhere that this perfume fuses ‘the beauty of nature’ (essential oils) with ‘the precision of the digital era’ (molecular distillation). And that it uses Chinese geranium (which might just mean geranium oil imported from China as far as I’m aware). All I know is that geranium oil is extremely cheap, yet I’ll be more than happy to fork out for this atomically spliced and diced natural wonder. It is that damn good.