Parfums MDCI Un Coeur en Mai
In The Guide review of Patricia de Nicolai´s glorious fragrance New York, Luca Turin makes a comment that Guerlain ought to “buy Parfums de Nicolai, add PdN´s range to theirs, trash fifteen or so of their own laggard fragrances” and hire de Nicolai, a granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, as their in-house perfumer. Nothing would make me happier, particularly in light of Guerlain´s latest release. On the other hand, maybe the curse of lameness that seems to have descended on Guerlain would contaminate PdN and we´d have nothing.
While we wait for Guerlain to get its act together, learning that Parfums MDCI hired de Nicolai to design two of their four new releases thrills me. De Nicolai has done the as-yet-unnamed PN1 and PN2 (which is still being tinkered with); MDCI has already released Péché Cardinal, a heady peach-floral which has just appeared onLuckyScent, and the fourth, Riche Oriente, a green spicy floriental, is I believe coming along later in the spring.
I´ve been corresponding with Claude Marchal, the man behind MDCI, about these scents and other things – a possible lower-cost flacon among them – and before I go any further I feel I should point out MDCI´s sample set of generous decants of their first five fragrances for 55 euros (including tax and shipping and refundable with a bottle purchase) as one of the great deals of perfume sampling, in my opinion. Regardless of whether any of the MDCIs is to your personal taste (although it´s hard to imagine you wouldn´t find something to love) it´s a joy to smell fragrances that seem born of a simple desire to turn costly ingredients into beautiful scents. On the one hand the MDCI fragrances do not smell ambitious in the sense of boundary-pushing or rule-breaking. On the other, you show me a set of five fragrances from one house in the last ten years that could stand up to these in terms of classic, over-the-top gorgeousness and wearability. Les Exclusifs, but what else?
The notes of de Nicolai´s first fragrance for MDCI, the Parfums MDCI Un Coeur en Mai are, courtesy of Claude Marchal himself:
Head notes: fine orange essence, pineapple, galbanum
Heart notes: ylang ylang , tuberose, orange blossom absolute, incense.
Bottom notes: ambergris, vanilla and musc.
Those notes on paper do not induce a mouth-watering desire in me. Pineapple and galbanum? Eh, no thanks. I´ll pass. But as it turns out, PN1 is stellar. I´d put it in third place in the line in terms of my personal favorites, behind the gloriously indolic Enlevement au Serail and the woody-sexy Invasion Barbare, although Promesse de l’Aube is suddenly giving Enlevement a run for its money on my arm.
If if if. If the orange in PN1 were any soapier/stronger. If the pineapple were any sweeter. If the galbanum were any greener/bigger. If any of these these notes stuck out like a misfit puzzle piece then the whole top would fall apart like bad tulle on prom night. As it stands, it´s like your first taste of some unfamiliar cocktail that leaves you thinking, that combination is genius! Orange, galbanum and pineapple ought to show up for the Superbowl together, they make such a great team, and while they´re at it, they need to bring incense, because he´s holding his end up in the background.
PN1 leaves me temporarily handicapped because I walk around with my hand glued to my nose like some loon, compulsively sniffing while people take five steps out of their way to avoid me. The galbanum becomes almost grassy. The incense is slightly peppery, the whole fragrance shifting subtly from fruits to flowers while maintaining that incredible sustained top note that goes on and on and on without ever becoming tiresome or shrill. I would love to know how they pulled that off.
This smells very de Nicolai. In general, her perfumes are not sweet. I´m fonder of some of the PdNs than others, but they´re mostly grand, and having her work with Claude Marchal is a win-win for everyone as far as I´m concerned.
Claude wears PN1 all the time these days. As he said in his email, an interesting and beautiful composition, with incredible turns, openings, undertones… I just cannot have enough of it. Me neither.
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For those who’ve been following the debate regarding the name Peche Cardinal, I have here from the house: it is Péché (sin), my guess is Lucky can’t drop the correct accents in their headlines. (I can’t type it either, FWIW — I had to cut and paste from elsewhere.) Further, check out Mr. Marchal’s interesting explanation of the name:
“The jest here, for there is one (or at least an attempt) is a bit more than a play of words between “Péché” (sin) and Pàªcher (peachtree). The effect in French comes from the contradiction between “péché”, (sin), and “cardinal”: in French, when we talk of a “vertu cardinale” it means one of the four fundamental (hence cardinal, from the latin cardo which means “hinge”) Christian virtues: la prudence (prudence), la tempérance (temperance), la force (strength) et la justice (..justice!), which are completed by the three virtues, la foi ( faith), l’espérance (hope) et la charité (charity).
Here, “cardinal” instead of being associated to “very important, key, fundamental major” virtues, is associated with…..SIN! (péché, which in french sounds like pàªcher, or peachtree…). So here we have a sin that one MUST commit! And the scent does contains some peach…
I don’t know if this works outside France, but to us it has a double, or triple meaning.”
image: MDCI website, illustrating the process of making the crystal bottle stoppers