A 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.
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, sicile-sicilia.net