Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene

Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene  By March

There’s a perfume review down there.  But first – thanks everyone who came out and played on Sunday, giving me all sorts of new words to think about in other languages.  I was/am totally unsurprised by the number of language geeks on here, by the way.  It seems to me that perfume people have a pretty wide range of interests, whatever their level of formal education.

Second, warm thoughts to the wounded Anita, who soldiered on in blog-ville even though her back went kerflooey, and I don’t know how she did it, frankly.   I’m glad she’s feeling a bit better.  Fingers crossed for a full recovery.

Okay, the review. Bear with me.

I was loading my laundry in the washer recently and had to laugh, because it all smelled like Mandragore (don’t worry, this is not another review of my BFF Mandragore.)  You’d think Mandragore was my dryer sheet, or my Glade whole-house scent.  Mandragore is a multi-purpose fragrance for me; it’s calming, it’s focusing, it’s refreshing, it’s cheering.  Mandragore, to me, is a known quantity, and I can wear it year-round, unlike some of my other comfort scents.  Mandragore never seems wrong.  It’s one of the few scents I have a travel bottle of just because I know that whatever happens on a trip, Mandragore will be appropriate.

But that’s why I wear perfume.  I try perfume for a whole different set of reasons, and I try new perfumes all the time.  The greatest perfume moment is when I put something on and it reaches into my brain and gives me a moment of pure, unalloyed … something or other.  I don’t want to say pleasure, because sometimes a new perfume isn’t a scent I’d ever want to wear, but it’s got something going on – it’s interesting, it’s unexpected, it’s unfamiliar.  If dépaysé was the word I was looking for on Sunday, meaning finding yourself in unfamiliar surroundings (in a good way, or at least not a terrible way, although there was some debate about that in the comments), then a great new perfume does the same job.

And thus we find ourselves at Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene, which Patty generously sent me a sample of after she reviewed it and I shamelessly begged for some in comments.  Notes via LuckyScent are: Pear accord, aldehydes, tangerine, lime blossom, rose essence, osmanthus absolute, ylang-ylang Madagascar, orris butter, hawthorn, Mirabelle plum, myrrh, vetiver Haiti, patchouli, cedar Virginia, amber, oak moss absolute, white musks, sandalwood, licorice wood.

When I was trying the Xerjoffs for my recent review, the big issue I had with them was: none of them moved me in the way I just talked about above, in spite of the fact that I thought a couple of them (Irisss, XXY) were really pretty.  I considered that a big failing, if not of the house, then some other lack of chemistry.  The Xerjoffs are I guess not my thing.  In the middle of all my testing, though, I spritzed on another atomizer and bam – there it was, that moment where I thought, this this this. That moment of transporting joy.  Then I looked at the label to see which it was and – oops!  It was the Parfums MDCI La Belle Helene.

We kicked around the idea of luxury perfume and expense and what’s “worth it” on the Xerjoff post, and I’m going to stand up right here and say: I think the MDCIs are worth it.  I don’t own a single full bottle, but I have several of the bottles in their discovery set, and yes, I do think $210 for a discovery set of eight of their scents is perfectly reasonable, because those MDCIs take me someplace I can’t get to any other way.  The only MDCI I find unwearable is Peche Cardinal (too much peach), and if the fragrance fairies were gifting me a bottle I’d ask for the skanky-floral Enlevement au Serail, but I digress.

La Belle Helene starts off with a lot of pear and some powder (probably the aldehydes,) and if you’re not a fan of pear in perfume this isn’t likely to win you over.  But it’s such an interesting pear – not a juicy, pure fruit note, but overlayed with buttery, funky notes like hawthorn that keep it from being overly sweet.  It’s got what I’m going to call the MDCI vibe, for lack of a better expression – as if the fragrance were going two directions simultaneously, a soaring top that reminds me a little of Parfums de Nicolai, with a strong, supporting base that’s rich and complex and lasts forever on me.

La Belle Helene is based on a dessert I’ve never tasted, but it’s an idea of dessert, MDCI’s foray into a gourmand, and this isn’t really something to eat – it’s not “foody.”  The pear fades and then we’re into oriental territory, although I’m avoiding the word “classic,” because there’s nothing retro about it.  The hawthorn, patch and other notes in the woody base suggest something dark and leathery, and about fifteen minutes in, I realized what it reminded me of, a little – Duchaufour’s wonderful recent scent for L’Artisan, Traversee du Bosphore, although the MDCI doesn’t smell like it really – it’s much stronger and more zaftig, for one thing, for those of you who found Bosphore bafflingly evanescent.  It’s a great balance of dark sweetness, like rose and plum, with more than enough cedar, patchouli and vetiver (I can really pick those out) to keep it from being girly.  I think it’s marketed as femme, and I’m not sure how many guys want to wear something with a lady-dessert name, but it would smell great on anyone.   For another take on the fragrance, here’s a link to Bois de Jasmin’s review (she references Traversee du Bosphore as well.)  She feels TdB is similar enough to satisfy this particular fragrance niche-itch; I want both.  On me, the to-die-for plum note of La Belle Helene pays homage to  Poison and Feminite du Bois, while wearing more transparently.

Finally, here’s another shout-out to the man behind it, my no-longer-nemesis Bertrand Duchaufour, who over the last year or fifteen months has been behind several of my favorite new releases.  Gone are the murky days of his previous palette of dank earth tones.  I have no idea what happened, or why he’s doing what he’s doing now, but I hope he continues.


Sample: from Patty; image, wikimedia commons

  • Victoria says:

    I loved your review and your exploration of why you wear perfume. I absolutely relate to your experiences. Whenever I get that joyful moment, it makes up for all of the disappointment with the new releases that I generally feel. It is just precious.

    As for BD, I do not mind him being everywhere. I love his work, especially now that as you say, he stopped using those murky, dusty woody notes in ALL in his fragrances.

    P.S. Thank you for a link. I also agree with you on the plum note as linking La Belle Helene and Feminite du Bois.

    • March says:

      V, thanks! And you are welcome for the link, I loved your review. Yes, I have had a total change of heart about BD’s work, although I can’t help but wonder whether fans of his old style are disappointed? I’ve not read anything like that, but still…

      There can never be too much plum in my world.

  • nozknoz says:

    To me this is sort of the spring version of Traversee du Bosphore. I really adore the top notes but need to test in warmer weather to make up my mind about the whole.

    I find Duchaufour scents really fascinating, whether or not I want to wear them. I’m dying to try his Frapin!

    • March says:

      I’m thinking the warmer it gets the less I might want to wear this, but we will see! And BD has a new convert here for sure.

  • Kenny Cologne says:

    My wife sampled this, and she smelled so good I had to buy her a bottle.

  • Carla says:

    I had my hopes up for Traversee du Bosphore and was disappointed. It was quite light on me, and I didn’t like the style of sweetness. I’d love to try La Belle Helene, though. I’m another one who doesn’t really get Duchaufour. Except, I got a sample of Al Oudh recently and was surprised that I liked it! It is like my memory of Epic Woman. I saw a post here about wearing Al Oudh on one arm and TdB on the other, and I laughed, because I WAS ALSO WEARING ONE ON EACH ARM AT THAT MOMENT! (sorry for the caps) I had looked up reviews of Al Oudh after being surprised by likeing it.

    • March says:

      Al Oudh was another one that surprised me recently, it’s pretty great, isn’t it? And Al Oudh on one arm and TdB on the other sounds like just the ticket on this cold, wet day. >:p

  • Tom says:

    I’m not sure about pear myself, though I might have to test it out since both you and Marina (on the same day yet) loved it so…

  • Ann says:

    Hi March. Wowee — look at all the perfume poets coming out of the woodwork! I love it! Pear does poorly by me, but between your review and Patty’s, well, gee, I might just have to give this one a whirl. Wicked, wicked enablers!! :)

    • March says:

      Eh, if you hate pear, feel free to skip this one, but at some point, seriously, try some MDCIs. Pick out what sounds good.

  • Jim says:

    A pair of pears is sweet, it’s true,
    But the scent of pear just makes me blue.

    Pears are meant to be eaten, not smelled –
    A rule that’s been broken by Helene la Belle.

    Pears are juicy, nice and tasty.
    Pear perfume just drives me crazy. (What a painful rhyme.)

    Yes, we are on a roll.

    • Musette says:

      A roll! A roll!
      It’s lunchtime here
      I’m craving a dill pickle spear
      Pastrami? No. A bit of chicken
      Potato chips for finger-lickin’

      And for that roll, let’s make it rye

      and don’t forget the chocolate pie!

      xo your hungry >-)

    • March says:

      This is about the silliest buncho comments I have ever read. :o)

      They make me so happy.

  • Musette says:

    The pear confounds me,
    it is true
    I try to pitch
    I try to woo

    Yet Pear is steadfast, resolute
    in only showing her patoot!

    I like the smell
    it is sublime
    but gentle flesh of pear
    is slime

    So with the sprayer
    I will grapple
    For mastication?
    I’ll stick with apple!

    xo >-)

    • Marla says:

      Are we on a roll or what??

    • March says:

      Resolute and patoot?

      lol, that is some beautiful poetry right there. You should write a children’s book.

    • Erin T says:

      This is right up there with that NST commenter haiku that used “boob sweat” at the end for all-time greats in the perfume poetry category. Agree with March: the resolute and patoot is the crowning moment. Thanks, M.

  • Rappleyea says:

    Now I have to try this (and the Mandragore), March as you are one of two reviewers whose tastes seem to mesh with mine fairly consistently. M. le Duch has long been my nemesis as well!

    Great review btw.

    • March says:

      I think (?) starting with Amaranthigh BD is working for me — Bosphore, Nuit(s?) de Tubereuse, and Al Oudh, right? And I think I’m forgetting something.

      I adore Mandragore, but I’ll warn you that if you’re one of those grapefruit = cat pee folks, you shouldn’t buy it unsniffed. I am on I think my third bottle, which is probably the only scent that’s true of.

      • Rappleyea says:

        Luckily grapefruit is pretty much just like the real thing on me – just a nice, tart citrus.

        • March says:

          Oh, well, then you should try it! BTW I don’t even think grapefruit is in the list of notes, that’s just what it smells like to me. Let’s see…bergamot, black pepper, ginger, spearmint, star anise, boxwood, and sage leaf.

  • Nava says:

    Pear and powder? I love pear, as a matter of fact, my deo du jour is Secret “A Game of Truth or Pear”. But, pear and powder? :-&

    I remember liking Peche Cardinale; And I agree with your assessment; these are so well done they are worth the expense.

    • March says:

      Hmmm… well, you like the one MDCI I don’t, so that’s not a great sign. FWIW I am NOT a fan of powder … I was trying to convey that it’s not this big, juicy pear. There’s something soft about it.

    • Millicent says:

      I ordered the sample set from MDCI about a year and a half ago, and carefully did NOT select the Peche Cardinale because I thought I’d hate it. But those nice people included it anyway, as an extra gift in my set — maybe they’re trying to win over Posse readers who’ve been scared off by March?

      And actually, I don’t hate it. It’s very peachy, but sometimes wearing a perfume that’s got a formal French loveliness + PEACH makes me laugh. (Madame Mitsouko doesn’t have a sense of humor.)

      • March says:

        Mitsouko’s sense of humor is sort of mean-girl-ish, in my opinion. 🙂 And I am not in the majority on Peche — it was just huge on me! I think it’s the one I used the James and the Giant Peach illustration for… I’m so glad they threw it in for you, that was lovely.

  • Style Spy says:

    GAH! Second review of this just this morning and I’m really wanting to try it. All the mentions of fruit notes make me a wee bit nervous, but it still sounds so interesting. I hope I don’t love it, though, those dingdong MDCIs are so spendy. I splurged on a bottle of Enlevement and have no regrets, because it is absolutely exquisite and worth every penny, but I can’t go doing that regularly and still keep a roof over my little red head.

    • March says:

      Ooooh! I just opened my mail and HERE’S A NEW TAUER, YUMMY!

      Linden blossom!

      … where were we? You loved Enlevement too, eh? Good for you. I’m not up for a bottle of this, but I’ll wear the sample.

  • donanicola says:

    Yes yes yes! Love your review, you have put it so much better than I could have done. I was gifted (thanks so much D!) a sample and have worn it twice now, both times with one wrist bearing TdB as a comparison point since I was interested in the BdJ review. The next time I wear it I’m wearing it alone. The feel is very similar but La Belle Helene wears drier and more abstract on me and indeed lasts forever (I got fabulous wafts of the drydown at the gym last night). Initially I was worried as the pear note is bright and sparkly and not quite my thing but it quickly subsides into that peachy/floral/suede middle section with an almost chocolatey vibe (the orris?). I love it and although I also love TdB I want this too and am now proud to say so even though it sounds greedy. And I love pears and icecream and good dark chocolate sauce too….

    • March says:

      Marina reviewed it today too! So glad you liked it, and I love your description. That midsection is something, isn’t it? And like you the drydown lasts forever on me.

      I wish I liked actual pears more. Sigh.

  • Robin says:

    (sort of kidding)

  • Robin says:

    Mark my words, Bertrand Duchaufour will eventually take over the world (or perfumanity, anyway).

    • March says:

      Perfumanity! Wasn’t that Marina’s word from a million years ago?

      I’m sort of afraid to keep reviewing his scents for jinxing it, and he’ll go back to making those Eau d’Italie-type-deals. 😉

    • Marla says:

      The Duchaufourasaurus takes over New York!
      Sorry, just a funny animation running in my head….

  • Marla says:

    The note is pear,
    I do not dare,
    to wear the pear;
    no Belle Helene for me!

    No idea why I had to write that. I do loathe pear notes in perfumes, though, because I loathe pears! So I’m lucky, I have no desire to pursue this one. Now a little-exploited fruit I’d like to see more of in perfumery is the kumquat, and the loquat, too.

    • March says:

      You do not like the scent of pear?
      You do not like it anywhere?
      You do not like it in your nose? On your fingers or your toes?

      I’m not a huge fan of pears (the food) either, it’s a textural issue rather than a taste issue. Would love some unusual fruits.

      • Marla says:

        I do not like the scent of pear.
        I do not like it anywhere.
        I do not like it with a goat.
        I do not like it on a stoat.
        I do not like it on a train.
        I do not like it in the rain.
        I do not care for scent of pear.
        I will not wear it anywhere.

        So how many times did you read that book to your kids?? I stopped counting at 587!

        • Rappleyea says:

          I wish I could get the little guy rolling on the floor with laughter! You two have made my morning. :-D

        • March says:

          Gah, I got so sick of that book, I can’t even tell you.

          Hecate did ask me for green eggs, though. She’d eat them, too. /:)

          Love all the poets here today!

      • Gretchen says:

        Me too – pear flesh (is that the right term for a fruit?) is so gritty. I love the flavor of a ripe Comice pear and will even brave the grit to taste one, but dislike every other type of pear in any presentation.

        Love Marla and your Seussian meditations on pears.

    • Julie says:

      Loquat would be great – not too sweet. I didn’t know what one was until 2 years ago when I moved into our house and there is one in the backyard. The first ones should be ripe by this weekend!

    • nozknoz says:

      Marla, I love your poems – thank you for a smile!

      Perhaps BH is totally spoiled for you by the name, but to me it’s pretty abstract. I don’t think I would have identified it as pear unless I’d read that was in it. Similar to TdB, which is supposed to include apple but is really much more abstract than that.

      • Marla says:

        In that case, I might like it, TdB doesn’t scream “APPLE!” to me at all, and I’ve been enjoying BD’s latest perfumes (except for Nuits de Tubereuse).

  • Karen G says:

    I agree, the MDCIs are defintely worth the money, even though I think they are all too *lady-like* for me. (oh, lots of people would probably agree with THAT) Actually, my favourite so far is the masculine Invasion Barbare…love the lavender.

    I haven’t checked recently, but I think the discovery set is much less than $210 if you order from the MDCI website.

    • Karen G says:

      Okay, just checked, the sample sets from the MDCI website have gone up in price recently, but you can get five 12 ml samples for 90 Euro including shipping. About 126 USD…a pretty good value when you consider that you’re getting 60ml of juice!

      • March says:

        Yes, if you think of the volume, it’s not a bad deal, eh?

        I didn’t look at the one on the MDCI site but want to point out to anyone reading that the LuckyScent set is 8 bottles (not 5) so it’s bigger.

        Invasion Barbare is my second favorite!