So Montale Walks Into a Tiki Bar: Chypré Fruité, Mango Manga and Vanille Absolu
The house of Montale is so well known for its arsenal of oud-heavy fragrances that some of their other offerings don't get much attention. They don't always get it right when they stray too far from their tried and true formula of oud, roses, spices and woods, but many of their other fragrances are really very good, although they are rarely subtle. Let it be said that I love their approach to fragrance marketing; it's go big or go home with them, no shy or delicate perfumes (or timid customers) need apply.
Chypré Fruité has been around for a while, but it's not one that gets talked about very much. It should be, because it's not one of the sillage monsters of the line. I was expecting something brash and maybe a little crude before I first smelled it, but it's very civilized and far less obvious than Badgley Mischka, which I love and think of as the gold standard for modern fruity chypres. It does go on with an emphatic fruity beginning, but it's well embedded in a structure of bergamot, white florals, rose, moss, and patchouli. Including “tropical” fruit notes in a chypre scent could easily translate into disaster, but this works nicely. I can't say exactly which fruits are implied here; it's an abstract mélange of the kind of ideas that are usually found in the Escada annual summer launches, but with a spine this time. With some Montales, one spritz or dab is more than enough, but I can spray myself down liberally with Chypré Fruité and still go out in public. (Truth be told, I would not mind at all if it were a little more assertive, but I have Badgley Mischka for that.) After a couple of hours it settles in as a musky skin scent that lasts for hours and reveals a balmy warmth once the fruits finally fade away.
The rather strange Mango Manga is a 2010 launch that takes the fruity theme to the next level with a weird and wonderful mango reconstruction that has some of the raspiness you get when you eat a fresh mango and it stings your lips a little bit; did you know that mangoes are in the same family as poison ivy and other plants with irritating chemicals in their leaves and fruits? I think that little tingle is part of the reason I love mango so much. (Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am virtually obsessed with all things mango, edible or not.) Mango Manga has that plus the peculiar sweetness of mango and a damp, rubbery undertone that really brings to mind tropical jungle undergrowth, steamy and close. It's probably a deal-breaker for a lot of people, but I can't get enough of this oddball of a perfume. It smells like a Malaysian rubber tree plantation, or somebody's basement party room in the early Sixties with fake vinyl palm trees, music by The Ventures on the sound system, and both umbrella drinks and polyester Hawaiian shirts flowing freely. If I had a bottle of this, I would douse myself with it liberally on hot days, then put on a gaudily printed sundress and go stick my feet in an inflatable kiddie pool for the perfect summer experience.
One of Montale's stalwarts is Vanille Absolu, a heavy, boozy vanilla scent with a touch of woods and spice. I say a touch, because this is one of the most unapologetically vanilla-centric perfumes I have ever smelled, on a par with the offerings of Comptoir Sud Pacifique. It really doesn't matter what else might be in here, because it's all about the rich, dark vanilla, foody indeed, yet it's apparent that the materials are of the best quality. If it smells a lot like a freshly opened bottle of vanilla extract at first, well, it's the best vanilla extract around. There is also a distinct whiff of Captain Morgan® spiced rum because of the cinnamon and clove, and the sensory link between dark rums made from molasses and the aromatic compounds in vanilla is made clear. This type of fragrance could have been trashy and tiresome in the wrong hands, but thankfully it is an excellent composition that has legendary longevity and dries down to a creamy sweetness that's well-nigh irresistible. Of course, after a while you might end up mysteriously craving one of Trader Vic's® rum cocktails. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Montale perfumes are available at selected boutiques and department stores. Online, Chypré Fruité and Vanille Absolu are available at Luckyscent, while Mango Manga can be found at Parfums Raffy along with others in the line.
Image credit: Tropical cocktails wallpaper from wallcoo.net
Disclosure: The perfumes reviewed in this blog post are from my own collection and from samples traded with friends.