Parfums MDCI Un Coeur en Mai

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.

* * *

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

  • Robin says:

    Pineapple! Ok, I’ll take your word for it that it’s wonderful, because otherwise…

    • March says:

      Well, how do you feel about Piguet Visa, the new one? Or for that matter Maharanih, since more than one person thinks they smell similar? 😕

  • maggi says:

    I would like to add that you can use the cost of the sample set toward a purchase of a bottle of perfume, and that MDCI has fantastic customer service–I received the e-mail below from an inquiry about the sample program, and am not patiently awaiting delivery. My hopes are high!


    Thank you for your interest in our fragrances!

    The introduction of new scents does complicates a bit our sampling program, and we have to adapt: as a result, should you want to replace one of the “old” fragrances of your choice, by the new one, “Péché Cardinal”, just let us know. What we find is that in most cases we are asked to replace one of the men’s scents by “Péché Cardinal”(the sample set still contains five 10 ml samples) .

    As for the new fragrances, one is already available,”Péché”, the second and third should be ready in a month, and the fourth is scheduled for spring. Or at least this is the plan…

    I hope that this answers your questions, please feel most welcome to contact us again should you need more information,

    Yours truly,

    Claude Marchal

    Parfums MDCI

  • violetnoir says:

    MDCI does make gorgeous fragrances! So far, all of them have been very good to absolutely gorgeous. Enlevement au Serail is my favorite…at least for now.

    Of the three that I have sampled from the new batch, Riche Orient is the one that stands out. That’s not to say that the other two aren’t lovely, but RO just took my breath away.

    Also, I can’t help but thinking that PdN#1, while lovely, is a 1st cousin to de Nicolai’s Maharanih. I did a sniff comparison last night. While PdN#1 is greener (must be the galbanum) and does not have Maharanih’s lavender note, it may be a good alternative, albeit an expensive one, for those who do not like the lavender note in Maharanih.

    I very much look forward to sniffing PdN#2, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a more affordable MDCI flacon.


    • March says:

      RO. RO is a mystery wrapped inside an etc. I feel like I’m not getting the whole scent, you know? I get something sort of along the lines of … a cross between Bandit and Annick Goutal Myrrhe, but less so.

      And now I’ll have to go put Maharanih (which I lurve, whither my decant?) and PN1 on and see about the similarities. 🙂

      • violetnoir says:

        You absolutely tapped into it and put it into words that I could not articulate.

        RO is a total mystery, March, and that’s what I love about it. I am not sure what it reminds me of, and I am not even sure what the notes are, it’s so seamlessly blended. But it reminds me of something, yet it has a presence that is all its own.

    • Erin T / Tigs says:

      So glad you pointed this out, R, as I was a little disappointed by the similarity of the green/galbanum-orange opening to Maharanih’s. I sampled PdN #1 last night and while it smells great, I didn’t think it smelled *interesting* at first, surely because of the similarity. The drydown intrigued me, though, and I’m wearing Riche Orient tonight – I thought I’d like it better from sniffing the vial – and now I’m feeling like I’d like to re-test the PdN#1. I’m feeling a bit freakish anyways because on first sniff, I like Peche Cardinal best. Am I turning into a weird coconut lover? Love that By Kilian Liasons Dangereuse (sp?), also, a luscious rose-coconut.

      Thinking about the sugar issue several days after your post, March, and am thinking that PdNs are never *just* sweet. Odalisque, one of my fave scents ever, is actually quite sweet, but also salty-fresh. The best PdNs, like many of my fave perfumes and lines, have a chord quality, where two opposing elements balance each other.

      • March says:

        Erin, thanks. There’s no question I have the sweet-eating skin, which I sometimes forget, and after all my impressions are subjective (what else could they be?) I re-drove Maharanih on one arm and PN1 on the other. Side by side I can smell the similarities in the top notes as well, although MDCI smells much more complex and expensive to me (that sounds lame even as I type it.) Maharanih on the other hand has turned into a bedtime favorite. :)>-

        • Erin T/Tigs says:

          Coming back to say, having worn all three new MDCIs last night, I am revising my opinion on the Peche Cardinal. On skin, it is mostly peach syrup. Very nice peach syrup, but too syrupy for me nonetheless. The RO does turn out to be the winner of the new ones for me so far – the most development, I think. Like PdN#1 too, though…

  • Musette says:

    Popping in here to say STOP IT! I got sucked into PdN’s web, first with Odalisque, then with Maharanih, which I adore…..and now Miss Shelley is talking about the summere fete one, that I will adore….and it’s just all too much adoration!

    I seem to be able to work (or stand) a bit more of that melon accord than you, Mistress March. I quite like Ananas Fizz in the summertime…very spritzy!

    I need to move to the eastern seaboard. y’all are having way too much fun over there!


    • March says:

      Yeah, pop on by! Come drink champagne and sniff with us!

    • Shelley says:

      Yup, Le Temp de un Fete…and, as it happens, is on me as we speak. First I was pushing spring, and now, it seems, summer….

      Smoother waxier prettier than PG Drama Nuui, the green white floral with an edge…or should that be the edgy green perfume with white flower inside? Anyway, I can see a place for both. :>

      • Musette says:

        okay, I’m definitely in to try that one though I must confess that it’s that sharp edge to Drama N that is hooking me, I think…:-?

        sending you a little bit o’ the pretty via USPS since I’m not sure I can get up there for Sunday.


  • Masha says:

    Chanel’s Cristalle come across as sweet on my skin, so I have to be careful with the PdNs. They are wonderful, but don’t work for me. :(( I find the $600-some pricetage for MDCI…how can I phrase it politely…offputting. I mean, Andy Tauer uses high concentrations of excellent ingredients, and his are much less. Same for many superlative Indie perfumers. I just think this trend toward “snob appeal” is getting out of hand. Loved the “Greed” short film!

    • March says:

      I hear you on the top-end prices, having had the same reaction when I first heard of the line. However (as I noted above) I want to point out that the really spendy ones are in the fancy flacons, and they’ll let you buy the plain bottles for much cheaper without any flak on their end (some of the niche lines supposedly make you buy the pricy bottle first, although I don’t know how this is done, to keep their scents out of the hands of the hoi polloi.) I’m not denying that $240 is a lot of money for a fragrance, but it’s got plenty of company in the marketplace, and in the case of the MDCI line I’d argue they’re worth it. Some people really want their fragrances in those fancypants flacons, apparently.

  • sweetlife says:

    Ooooh, that sample set set sounds too good to pass up. Thanks for passing on the news. I’ve had my little 1 ml sample set of these sitting around for…forever. I think I was afraid to love them. Clearly time to get sniffing, since Peche Cardinal sounds gorgeous.

    And–by the way–don’t we say “cardinal sin” in English? Isn’t there a Catholic category like that? I have vague memories of my mother saying something like, “Well it’s not like it’s a cardinal sin.” I’ll have to check in with my DH on that. Weirdly, I’d picked up on the whole peach/sin thing from shopping for vintage bottles of My Sin/Mon Peche.

    • March says:

      SAme for me — I knew Peche only because of My Sin 🙂 My French is mostly nonexistent, as regular readers can detect. Definitely try your samples! The Ambre is kind of a snooze, but even I like the Rose. It must be a rose for rose-haters? It’s not … so cloying. Although that’s not quite the right word.

      Yes, where are our Catholics? Aren’t their cardinal and venal sins, or some such?

      • carmencanada says:

        Cardinal sins are the seven mortal sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). There are venial sins, the forgivable ones, which can be left unconfessed, and only score you purgatory (as opposed to hell).
        Thank the nuns for that bit of information.

  • Nava says:

    PN1 was pretty spectacular, I must admit. It haunted me in my dreams the other night since the arm I had it on was tucked under my head.

    I’ll sheepishly admit that I kind of pooh-poohed the MDCIs solely because of their pricing, but you know the saying: you get what you pay for. And this one is definitely worth it.

    • March says:

      I feel obliged to stick up for them only because I was such a snot at the outset. The highest pricing (there’s a flacon on there for 3700 euros I think) is related to the packaging — which flacon you choose. But if you just pick their plain “refill” which is the same bottle minus the top, it’s like $240, which isn’t that outrageous compared to a lot of the new stuff out there. I’m not saying it’s *cheap*, it isn’t. But it isn’t absurd either.

      • Nava says:

        Based on Mr. Marchal’s response below, I smell a birthday present on the horizon. May 5, everyone… :d

  • kathleen says:

    Hi March, the PN1 sounds wonderful. Are they selling samples of this one as well?

    • March says:

      I don’t think they are yet, although Lucky would have samples of Peche, and The Perfumed Court has samps of PN1, not sure how they pulled that off… 😕

  • Elle says:

    I *love* PdN and was thrilled to see she was doing two of the MDCIs. Was also somewhat nervous wondering if they’d live up to my expectations. They did. Both are truly brilliant. It’s wonderful (and extremely rare for me) to see scents these days that I actually do think are worth the price and, to my nose, all of the MDCIs are – even if not all of them are ones I need. I’m torn as to my fave from these new releases. I thought it would be Peche, but it’s not. Right now I’m vacillating between PN1 and Riche Orient (on my skin the green notes are much more prominent than oriental notes).

    • March says:

      Peche was really sweet on me, lovely though it is, and I have some sweet-eating skin as noted above. Nice idea, though. PN2 goes a bit off on me, kind of soapy/sour, not sure what that’s about.

      Patty OTOH is WILD for PN2. We had this funny conversation wherein we each assumed the other was raving about the opposite PN, since it was clear to us which the winner was. :”>

  • Kristy Victoria says:

    So nice to meet you March! I forgot to mention but I’m the one who converted the PDF pictures of the Les Elixirs Charnels into a jpg for you! LOL!

    The PN 1 definitely “grew on me” as the night went on. It seems Ylang ylang scents do this to me!

    I’ll never forget that Hermes that you had us sniff! OMG! I told the story of you reviewing it and then getting all of the bottles of it in the mail from others to my boyfriend, he thought it was a hoot! 😀

    • March says:

      Hey, I forgot about the Guerlain PDFs! Speaking of another lame set of Guerlains… /:)

      I deserve taking some grief for the Hermes. I admit I do like wearing it, but it has to be exactly the right day, and the other weird thing I do it spray it (just one spritz) in the air somewhere in the house, just so I can smell it. It’s like a man wearing a nice cologne has been in the room recently. But the Cheese sniffed it once at my request and declined to wear it. 🙂

      Let’s get together again, maybe at Tysons.

      • Kristy says:

        PdN1 almost reminded me of Dans tes Bras a bit. Not that it smells similar, but maybe that they were created in the same vein.

        I intended to collect e-mail addresses at the party in hopes of creating a DC-MD-VA perfumista list. I will get around to doing that sometime this week. There’s a surprising number of us and I think more meetups will happen if we can have a central means of communication 😀

        Do let me know if you need any other tech-y type favors, I’ll be glad to help you out in any way I can!

  • Maura says:

    Ok…I really do *need* to try this one and thanks so much for making me fearless of the pineapple note in this!! There was also a brief mention on MUA about PN1 and it was quite favorable. :d

    I agree…MDCI’s sample program is unbeatable! I also wanted to mention that you can get Peche Cardinal in the sample program as well by substituting it for one of the previous five perfumes. I guess just write it in the comment section as noted on MUA. I’m waiting until PN1 is available before I purchase them…can’t wait!

    • March says:

      It’s definitely worth trying, and thanks so much for the information about the samples (I wish I knew the ml but my bottles are unmarked). I’ll put that up there in my post.

      The idea of pineapple in perfume does not thrill me — I don’t care for Colony, for instance, or the L’Artisan one. But I really owe it to Piguet Visa for getting me to see that pineapple didn’t have to be syrupy. That’s a great fragrance I’m going to buy one of these days.

      • Maura says:

        Apparently the *samples* are 10mls!! I have one of them and can easily see it being that large!

        Pineapple always makes me think of Colony…so very bad on me…

        • March says:

          Are they 10 ml?!? I couldn’t decide. They’re big, though. I still have some in all my bottles and I wear them, so really it’s all I need.

          Colony is nice to smell but very, very sweet on me.

  • Louise says:

    mmmmm, I really enjoyed that Number 1, though is confusing since PdN as a Number 1 as well, no? I must get a fuller dousing to see how it develops :d/

    Nice to get a confirmation from Claude himself (and Quinncreative) on the play on words of Peche Cardinal that I noted (sorry, no diacritics here at all). There has been some rather harsh grammatical correction elsewhere in the online perfume world of that concept…:(

    I think it’s time to order that little sampler, since I’ve only sniffed each scent alone, and at different times. It would be lovely to play and compare/contrast the elements of the line together 🙂

    • March says:

      Yeah, I know, that was such a funny Who’s On First conversation. I wonder if any of the ladies went out and ordered up some PdN Number 1… of course just referring to them as Number One and Number Two is enough to get me giggling like a toddler.

      Lucky didn’t have the diacriticals either, and then they did. I figured, why not just ask the man what he meant? 😉

      And I know where you can sniff all the MDCIs for free… /:)

  • carmencanada says:

    Wow, kiddo, these are really having some kind of effect on you I haven’t been getting yet… But I don’t know which Parfums de Nicolaï (from her own line) to be tested when you say they’re not sweet… Many of them have a very candied hesperidic top note, which the PdN1 also has in spades. I suppose we got the same batch, so clearly PdN1 behaves differently on your skin.

    • March says:

      Skin chemistry? I went to her shop in London, and there’s a place in NYC that has several, or did when I was there. I know the top note of which you speak, only I don’t get the very candied part. I did a highly technical sampling (five women at a party) and maybe it simply doesn’t register as sweet to my nose, although none of them fussed either. Peche is a little sweet for my tastes, but probably more because it’s so strong. :)>-

    • sweetlife says:

      Popping my head in to say that having followed her recommendations down some interesting alleys, I can personally attest to March’s sometime-sweet-eating skin.


  • To really confuse matters there are three French homonyms on peche that mean (depending on the accents) to fish, peach,and sin(pour pêcher, pêche, péché). There is a great joke in there somewhere. While I love most of deNicolai’s scents, the Cardinal prices are way out of my range, alas.

    • March says:

      Thanks, Quinn! I asked Claude to explain the wordplay (if there was any) which is so difficult to understand if you don’t speack the language.

      They’re less expensive all the time compared to some niche perfumery ($235 being the new $150). That sample set from MDCI is, I am guessing, 7 ml bottles each, that’s what I own.