Parfums MDCI Le Rivage and Vespres Siciliennes

vepres.jpgA few weeks ago I reviewed Patricia de Nicolai´s new scent for Parfums MDCI, which now has an official name, “Le Rivage des Syrtes,” taken from the French novel by Julien Gracq.  Claude Marchal of MDCI describes the fragrance as telling the story of a sailor´s travels, gathering various fruits, flowers and other aromatic materials in a chest “to bring back home for the love of his life.” 

Today´s review is of the other new MDCI formerly known as Riche Orient, which has now been renamed Vàªpres Siciliennes after the Verdi opera and is on its way to LuckyScent with the others.  Claude labels it a fruity green chypre, with a fairly extensive list of notes: mandarin, grapefruit, orange, pepper, green leaves, cardamom, lily-of-the-valley, magnolia,  jasmine, ylang ylang, rose, tuberose, heliotrope, oakmoss, cedarwood, amber, neroli, osmanthus, raspberry, cloves, plum, coconut, peach, caramel, musk, wallflower.
He explains further, “I wanted something rich, not unlike Enlà¨vement au Sérail, with no gaps, a continuously evolving trail and a fine dry-down.  Notice that this is a very complex formula, with tons of ingredients used as secondary notes to provide an ever changing result; you may be surprised to find certain ingredients part of the heart or the bottom notes (oak moss in the heart notes, raspberry and peach in the bottom notes). The way these ingredients is used is quite subtle, and I believe it works.”

When we were first corresponding about these new scents, Claude spoke of a bit of a departure from the previous scents – that these were meant to be a bit more lighthearted and less formal in design, if I am paraphrasing him correctly (and I invite him to speak up if I´m not.)   While I wouldn´t exactly call them whimsical, both Vepres and Rivage feel … what … a bit younger?  jauntier? … without compromising what are supposed to be MDCI´s top-drawer designs and costly aromatic ingredients.  I wouldn´t know the first thing about that – I´m a perfume nut, not a chemist – but Luca Turin and others in a position to know have said so.  Anyway, Vàªpres Siciliennes is rich but not cloying; I love the way MDCI can do a fruity, floral accord with a gourmand edge that doesn´t feel smothering.  It might be a bit much in high summer inWashington, to be honest, but right now it´s perfect.

The citrus-sweet opening is huge on me, and a bit powdery, although the heliotrope never goes in the unfortunate direction of Play-Doh.  To be honest I don´t get much of the green notes, but the cardamom and pepper are there, agreeably raspy.  Vàªpres Siciliennes takes a bit of a powder at the fifteen-minute mark.  Not in a bad way – it just sits down on a nice stone bench, takes out its handkerchief and rests quietly, enjoying the citrus-grove scenery.  Then the skank creeps in on little cat feet.  It´s not quite the intense, indolic opening of Enlevement, which always startles me a little when I put it on if I haven´t worn it recently – but enough to be a reminder why MDCI labeled this a chypre.  The cardamom, woods and amber become more pronounced, and the fragrance is almost masculine, and reminds me a bit of their uber-delicious man-juice Invasion Barbare.  The drydown gets sweeter, with the caramel, fruits and musk dominating in the drydown, but not so sweet as to be offputting, and certainly not sweet in the sense that mass-market, modern fruity-florals are sweet.  Whereas Enlevement is alluring and Promesse and Rivage are radiant, Vepres is softly sensual.  I´m not sure it´s edged out Rivage in my affections, but it´s certainly trying to.

I´m going to mention again for anyone who clicks on LuckyScent and rolls their eyes at the $610 bottle with the fancy caps that turn the bottles into pricey little sculptures – hey, that isn´t even the expensive one.  MDCI has ones for 3700 euros on their website!  Fine, lucky for me they´re not really my taste either.  But you can buy what I think is the same base (or, if not, a perfectly decent-looking bottle) for $235 for 60ml, which the last time I checked is no longer an outrageous a price for a niche fragrance, and unlike some of the perfume out there MDCI is actually worth it in my opinion.  Furthermore MDCI runs via their website one of the most generous sample programs out there – five 10-ml decant bottles of their original lineup for 55 euros (I think 12 euros extra for shipping to the US).  I emailed Claude and MDCI´s going to continue to let you substitute the new scents for the five originals, since they´re already doing that with Peche Cardinal – with the stipulation that each bottle has to be a different scent – no, you can´t stock up on Invasion Barbare by getting 50mls for 55 euros this way, sorry.  Also this money will credit toward a purchase of a bottle.  I think maybe they ought to make their sample set larger (choose six of the eight?) and charge more, because if you haven´t tried these it´s a damn shame.

If you´re thinking about ordering a set, here´s a link to the sample set (bottom of the page) and one to our original reviews.  Which would you pick for your set of five? 

Rose de Siwa – you could axe this if you hate rose, although I hate rose and I thought it was lovely.  Luca Turin in The Guide describes it as pale, fresh rose, this is one of the two (along with Ambre) he was slightly less enthusiastic about (“nicely done and somewhat dull,” three stars.)

Invasion Barbare – hubba hubba.  Seriously.  You can´t axe this one.  Every man should smell like this.  LT says “a distinctive, high quality masculine,” five stars.  I would wear this, so it´s not too masculine.

Enlevement au Serail – A stunning, heady, indolic floriental that you may not want to throw on right before you get on the subway or the elevator.  Five stars, LT.  Skank queens, walk this way.

Promesse de l´Aube – took me a little longer to come around to,I thought it was lovely without bewitching me.  I´ve been running a head-game on myself recently to see which I need more – this or Chanel 31 RC – and I can´t decide.  More restrained than Enlevement, but as you can guess from the flacons, demure isn´t really what they´re going for, you know?  Rose de Siwa is probably the most demure.  “Superb,” LT, five stars.

Ambre Topkapi – and again, the only one I can never remember of the five, which is telling.  Patty called this one Rich Banker Boy back when its name was still a number.  It´s a very nice masculine, but it´s it´s sort of old-school.  LT characterized it as “the only disappointment from MDCI” but still gave it three stars, which gives you a sense of his regard for the line.

Peche Cardinal – which I have not reviewed, and which, to be frank, is waaaaaay over my line in terms of peachiness.  I think there are probably enough reviews on Lucky for you to get the feel for it.  It is to peach what Fracas is to tuberose, and my guess is you know immediately where that puts you in terms of its appeal.

Image: Morelli,  Vàªpres Siciliennes,

  • angelaS says:

    Well, now you’ve done it. I’ve gone and ordered up a set of them. I loved Invasion Barbare so much (and swear I’ll lustfully stalk the next man I smell wearing it) that I just know I’ll love the others, too. (Big sigh here.) Cannot wait.

  • Joe says:

    You know, just reading the prices of these make me cry. Seriously… the tears are streaming down. It’s my burden in life to have a bank account with a few too few zeroes. Feel my pain!

    These sound darn nice though. That list of notes for Vêpres makes me tired (wallflower? is that a real thing? :o), but I love the idea of all that complexity and the way Marchal describes it as ever-evolving.

    I’ve managed to avoid these thus far, but your description makes me think I need to get some of that Abduction from the Skank-aglio (Serail) — indole has been trying to be my best friend lately. That Invasion Barbare sounds great too. Now, will someone just loan me a deposit…. on a sample?

    • Joe says:

      Shoot. No idea where that guy up there came from. Parenthesis trouble. I was shooting for 😮

      • March says:

        But I love it! I love the clown, you never know when he’ll pop up, and he blinks or winks or something. He’s very flirty.

        I have no doubt that if I got on google I could come up with the wallflower, and — sorry, too lazy. Figuring out the silk tree flower used up this month’s allotment for botanical research. :o) Look, there he is again … anyhoodle, you can only avoid these for so long. Sooner or later you will be abducted into the skankaglio, following the barbaric invasion.

        • Joe says:

          Funny, I did a bunch of botanical research just from reading about that silk-flower thing. I’m wondering if the thing I was calling a mimosa all this time really isn’t one, and also wondering exactly how many mimosa-like trees there are on this planet.

          Anyway, I’m trying to do some creative accounting to figure out when I can cave for that sampler set. Maybe that decant of Micallef Gaiac I just ordered will calm me down until April?

          • Lee says:

            Wallflowers have a lovely spicy roundness. They’re coming into flower right about now. Two of my favourites:

            I think it’s a plant that keeps shifting its latin classification. I’m sure it’s Cheiranthes now, or somesuch.

          • March says:

            Lee, thanks honey. I know throwing a botanical q out there is like chumming for sharks. 😉 And you came through. Where’s my smooching emoticon? :*

          • March says:

            Didn’t reading about the many flavors of mimosa give you a headache? And the stuff they’re calling Mimosa (those yellow ones) is completely different. And the sensitive plant… who knew?

  • What a wonderful name Vêpres Siciliennes is and how lovingly you have presented it to us! It sounds really good.
    I have liked the Enlèvement au Serail -gosh, if I end up liking VS I’ll have two classical composers fighting each other on my cupboard- but first had to overcome my ingrained antipathy for the “vlaho-baroque” style of the caps (it’s a term we use for those modern descendants of the illustrious past who place “classical” statues replicas in their front lawn out of some sense of debt or something, LOL)
    But worth it in the end!

    • March says:

      Goodness, I didn’t know there was a name for those sculptures! Beats our lawn gnomes and pink flamingos…. although I love the occasional flamingo, I’ll be honest. Lawn shrines with the Blessed Virgin in a half-buried upended bathtub are also pretty special…. where were we? Yes, everyone has to look past the caps. I think they scroll down the page and see $610 and then look no further. 🙁 I would be surprised if you didn’t at least like these.

  • donanicola says:

    Briefly coming out of self imposed purdah to comment on this which I received as part of a sample set I ordered. It is so beautiful – so rich! I can also see a family resemblance with Enlevement (the jasmine) and Invasion (the coolly spicy cardamon) with some serious fruit. It put me in mind of a richer, deeper Courtesan, and though I know that won’t endear it to some I mean it as a compliment for I’m very fond indeed of Courtesan. The sample set is the best value I’ve ever encountered. Great review and thanks for the list of notes:)

    • March says: I LOVE YOU. I love you love you love you. First off I blathered on longer about the resemblance to Enlevement, then took that out (too long.) THEN I started to write something about the resemblance to my beloved Courtesan and then took *that* out on the grounds that it would discourage people from trying it. 🙂 So maybe I am not nuts after all. You must be one of the .05% of people who don’t get a fruity mocktail with Courtesan. Come sit by me.

      • Lee says:

        Honey, you’re still nuts. But that’s why we love you.

      • donanicola says:

        When I was spending weeks working away from home last summer I’d be packing on a Sunday night and not knowing what I wanted to wear scent wise I’d throw in Courtesan. She never let me down. Musky (yeah some fruit) happiness. So if you’re nuts, I’m happy to be nuts too:)

        • March says:

          You and I. We are the only ones feeling the Courtesan love. Everyone else is convinced I’m trying to get them onboard with something that resembles, I dunno, Britney Fantasy.

  • Elle says:

    I still haven’t tested these enough to decide which is my favorite. Will make them my “evening sample scents” today. Have to say that I appreciate the imaginativeness of the names, but in my head I continue to identify them by the perfumer’s intials (even these new ones) and their numbers. 🙂

    • March says:

      The imaginativeness of the names is wonderful, but honestly, I have to cut and paste each one, I can never type them correctly. :”> My favorites keep changing. I’m definitely on a Promesse binge right now, it goes with the weather, although PN1/Rivage calls out to me too. I would get the Invasion Barbare for the Big Cheese if he didn’t throw everything on like Old Spice. 🙂 I’ve had to take a couple things away.

  • violetnoir says:

    Wow! So far, YS is the stunner of the new collection in my very humble opinion. I just love it!


    • March says:

      Hey, girl, did you cough up for a bottle? We’ll be entering Danger Territory soon 🙂 although I am pretty sure Franco is still waiting for the shipment, I think Claude was packing them up.

      • violetnoir says:

        Yep, I confess that I will cough it up, so to speak, when Franco receives the shipment! I tested it in December, and again in February, and I knew I just had to go for it!

        But I’ll skip the fancy “heads” and get the “discount” bottle.

        • March says:

          I want different heads. You think we could talk Claude into doing Betty Boop or Daffy Duck or something? That’d be classy.

  • Natalie says:

    I won a sample of the Riche Orient/Vêpres Siciliennes from the wonderfully generous Patty, but I’m half wondering whether I got the wrong vial by accident, or if I truly am a fragrance Philistine! I’ve tried it 3 times, and all I get is a whompingly big fruity violet (I’ve only sniffed Insolence once, but it matches my memory of it)… My skin does have a tendency to reduce scents to their lowest common denominator, but does this sound right?

    • March says:

      Well, maybe you’re just a fragrance reducer. I’m serious, I feel like that’s a type (although maybe it doesn’t happen with everything, just some things, like florals?) I have definitely smelled fragrances on people that seem to be the dominant note and absolutely nothing else… have you tried any of the others? Maybe they’d work better on you. It’s pretty complex to my nose but of course I have the cheat sheet. 😉

      • Natalie says:

        Yes, I am DEFINITELY a fragrance reducer! At least half of what I try turns into what I term “Vat No. 1,” “Vat No. 2,” etc. There’s a street in NYC that’s full of cheap Indian restaurants, and the rumor is that they all share the same underground kitchen — I swear perfumers do the same thing! It’s 30 seconds of lovely top notes, then blech, and even the fancy-pants niche stuff does it on me. However, the other MDCI I tried was MDCI 1 (the pineapple one), which stayed true. As for this one, I dabbed on a drop 9 hours ago when I first read your review, and it’s still pumping out the fruity violet :-&.

  • Maura says:

    Thanks for the notes in Vepres Siciliennes! I recently tested this and it is my absolute favorite of the new launches. It is so well blended and I didn’t find it *green* either. I only noted the ylang ylang and found it to have a carmelized undertone…but definately not sweet. I thought there was a bit of frankincense in there which I now realize is the pepper. Had a bit of coolness in the opening.

    MDCI will be releasing one more scent by PN correct? I keep thinking that four perfumes were being launched! 🙂

    • March says:

      Yes, isn’t that cool? I mean, that they can do a caramelized undertone that doesn’t make you gag? And it does smell like frankincense, doesn’t it? That bit reminds me of that Le Labo one, Poivre…

      Yep, there’s one more PN. I think they were still tinkering with the formula but I don’t have the name/notes yet.

  • Musette says:


    Don’t do this to me!

    these sound wonderful.

    You know, if I keep this up I am going to simply have to get simoleans again, just to fund this habit.


    ps. great review, btw. Extremely informative! Beguiling. I hate you. No I don’t. Yes I do! Of course I don’t!!!



    • March says:

      MuWAHAHAHAHA…….. srsly, doll, they’re delicious. My samples have lasted approx. forever. Whenever I’m in need of something classically classy I either dig these out or the Chanel Exclusifs. 😡