Manly, Yes, But I like It Too: Sashka For Him
The perfume I chose to write about this week is different from my “usual” for two reasons. First, it’s a men’s fragrance, and this is the first time I have dedicated an entire piece to one of those. Second, this is for a scent from a line that has all but disappeared from our shores and is amazingly elusive to track down, so I have had to piece together what I know, and some of it may not be entirely accurate. It is Sashka For Him by Parfums M. Micallef.
Martine Micallef, who had her own beauty institute in Cannes, France for 18 years and is also a well-known artist, created the Micallef line in 1997 along with her husband Geoffrey Newman. The beautiful bottles of the various Micallef fragrance collections reflect her artistry. The “Sashka” range has the simplest containers of all, egg-shaped and minimalist. As far as I can tell, this was the earliest group to be released and it is apparently no more, as their web site does not list any of them now. No North American retail outlets are listed; they are in Cannes, Paris, Dubai, London, and Germany, among other far-flung locations, and the latest news release on the site is an announcement that the boutique in Almaty, Kazakhstan (!) is doing so well they are hoping to open two more. This was in October 2007. (The web site’s English pages are oddly translated, so it is hard to tell what is merely planned for the line and what has actually happened.) There are no prices listed on the site either. Some of the custom bottles look impressively expensive, so I really don’t have to ask.
I obtained mine from The Perfume House in Portland, Oregon. They carried the line when it was first released but it has been withdrawn from the U.S. I tried the entire Sashka range back in 1997 when all the men’s and women’s versions were available. (I was particularly taken with Sashka Black For Him, an “extreme” scent for men that was very sexy, and now I really wish I had bought some at the time, as it sold out.) What I have now is the one called simply “Sashka for Him,” and it is really quite good.
The packaging is quite luxurious, a charcoal-gray box with the embossed signature of Mlle. Micallef on it. The bottle is a simple shape with a domed top that is a bit tricky to remove. What really struck me when I was examining the package was this slogan: “Perfume’s New Generation.” Whoa - that’s some big talkin’ there, pardner! This company must have begun as a very ambitious undertaking indeed. I can only speculate as to why these perfumes did not find a wider audience in the U.S. It’s not that they were prohibitively expensive; they were squarely mid-range in price at that time. I can only surmise that distribution was very limited and it simply did not take off in the crowded American market. From what I can tell by looking at their site, they cater to some very wealthy clients now so they must be doing fine without us.
This Eau de Parfum (you can tell it’s aimed at European men since it’s not called “cologne”) is not especially daring or different, but for what it is, it does it very well indeed. It begins quite conventionally but in a well-tempered and balanced way. No over-the top aquatics or camphorated woods or overdoses of “musk” here. A nice citrus blend of lemon and mandarin starts things off. The lavender is quite apparent too, but for those who quail at the thought of lavender in perfumes it does not dominate everything, nor does it clash with anything else. It keeps its own quiet counsel in the mix, along with the welcome rosemary. Once the citrus notes have receded I smelled quite a bit of pepper – not a strong black pepper, but more like the white pepper I prefer to put on my poached eggs instead of the black. While there may be pimiento I cannot really say I could tell – it is not very aggressive if it’s in there and the “true” pepper is fairly bold. My favorite part of this scent is a rich, dry, delicious nutmeg heart that persists all through the drydown. The vetiver and patchouli in this fragrance are of excellent quality, and when tempered with the nutmeg the result is a pleasing fragrance of warmth and depth.
Make no mistake, this is really meant for men, and it is plenty woody and just rugged enough; I picture it being worn by someone like Siegfried Farnon, the dashing country vet with a special affinity for horses, from James Herriot’s wonderful books about a veterinarian’s life in rural Yorkshire. It evokes a certain rustic country life for me, not rough and hard and poor, but more of an idealized scene of tweedy wools and old brick houses, well-worn paths winding through verdant pastures and stories told around the fireplace in the chilly evenings. I enjoy wearing it myself, but I think one of the reasons I like it so much is that it seems to belong to the kind of man I would like to know. I can imagine myself breathing in his scent on one of his sweaters when he’s not there, and it would smell just like this. There is a theory that puts forth the idea of women becoming more like men as they age, especially if they remain single, since they have to handle so many things on their own that women with husbands do not. Someone has even said that we become like the men we should have married. If that is so, then Sashka is my masculine self, and I am fine with that idea. If I were a man I could do a lot worse than be the one who would choose this fragrance as his own.
Notes: Top notes of lemon, mandarin, lavender and rosemary. Heart notes: pepper, pimiento, and nutmeg. Base notes: vetiver and patchouli. (Believe it or not, I obtained this list from a mail-order shopping site in Hyderabad, India. It seems to be perfectly in sync with my olfactory observations, so at least that part is right.)
I would be interested to know if anyone has tried other scents in this line and what your impressions are. I would especially like to hear about anyone’s experience with Sashka Black For Him, the one that got away from me. They now have an Oud-based series and other perfumes that bear no relation to the original releases.
Image credits: Sashka For Him bottle from malamall.com. Photo of actor Robert Hardy as “Siegfried Farnon” in the UK television series All Creatures Great And Small from televisonheaven.co.uk