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Friday, December 15, 2006

Perfume Review: Parfums MDCI

Just when one thinks that the concept of Exclusivity has been taken to the level of impossible, along comes a company and proves that nothing is impossible in the world of très chic and ultra-niche. Today Ina and I are talking about Parfums MDCI. MDCI is a small French company built on the excellent idea that “fine fragrances should be an art more than an industry, a source of pleasure, pride and beauty more than a commodity.” MDCI finds its inspiration in the period of Renaissance and strives to create “modern evocations” of the precious objects kept in Galerie d’Apollon in the Louvre, in Musei dei Uffizzi, in the Schatzkammer in Vienna, in the collections of the Medicis and the Sun King. The exquisite flacons contain fragrances created by Pierre Bourdon, Stéphanie Bakouche and Francis Kurdjian, who were given absolute freedom of creation and no cost limit (“only the very highest quality, the best origins have been used, none of controversial animal origin implying suffering or fragilization of a specie”). The only requirement was not “to try to please the greatest possible number, never to imitate or follow the day’s trend or fashion.” Pierre Bourdon and Stéphanie Bakouche created the two masculine scents and Francis Kurkdjian the three feminine scents in the collection.

Pierre Bourdon’s scent, PB2241, was meant “to incarnate strength, power, wealth, and the conflicting feelings inspired by the severe but beautiful portrait crowning the men's flacon”. It starts bracing and strong, as forceful and audacious as the man who can afford to wear MDCI most probably should be to be able to afford it. The beginning is bright with bergamot, tangy with ginger, it has a cool, herbal-green undertone, the chilliness of lavender and on the whole is undeniably Manly and rather reminiscent of quite a lot of traditionally, powerfully masculine fragrances. After a while, the cold freshness subsides and I can smell some leather and lots of gorgeous, sweet sandalwood. Ginger, vanilla, lavender and amber ornament the wood beautifully, making the blend somewhat evocative of Chanel’s Egoiste, only less sweet, less “exotic”. I can’t believe I dare to say such a thing about a scent created by the legendary Bourdon, but PB2241, as luxurious as it smells, lacks some sort of a twist, something “modern” to balance the “traditional”. Notes: bergamot, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg ginger, basil, thyme, lavender, oak moss, vetiver, sandalwood, rosewood, leather, Darjeeling tea, amber, musk, vanilla, jasmine and violet.

I was very curious about SB1, a masculine scent created by Stéphanie Bakouche. A young woman perfumer was given a carte blanche to create a men’s scent, what would she do, what would be her dream masculine fragrance? It turns out, Mlle Bakouche and yours truly day-dream about the same sort of man. He has elegance, warmth and depth. Unlike the man of Bourdon’s creation, he is understated, he does not emanate power and obvious wealth, but his charisma is undeniable. The scent juxtaposes the freshness of citrus fruits, lavender and spices with the warmth of vanilla and wood…a concept similar to Bourdon’s, yet resulting in an entirely different fragrance. This is a quiet, cuddly composition, slightly powdery with violet, sweetly piquant with cardamom. A beautiful scent for a soulful, sensitive (and probably non-existent) man, it can very easily be worn by a woman. Notes: grapefruit, bergamot, violet leaves, white thyme, cardamom, lavender, ginger, cedarwood, vanilla and musk.

Francis Kurkdjian’s first creation for MDCI, 1182/K1, is a scent "Pour le jour", “a classical and refined "oriental floral”. On my skin, it is surprisingly reminiscent of my beloved Attrape-Coeur, only fresher, with less of that dirty amber I love in the Guerlain’s creation and with a pleasantly candied, vaguely fruity undertone. The citrusy top is juicy and playful, a sunny accord of sugary citrus fruits. From there the blend moves on in the floral direction, into the creamy embrace of ylang-ylang balanced by the airy headiness of jasmine. The base is still fairly Attrape-Coeur-esque, its sandalwood velvety and sweetened by vanilla. A wonderfully pretty scent that smells like it would be a somewhat cheaper alternative to Attrape-Coeur but is actually way, way more expensive. Notes: mandarin, lemon, ylang-ylang, jasmine, sandalwood, tonka bean and vanilla.

1096/FK2 is, according to MDCI, “all pink” or “all rose”, a woodsy floral for soft moments ("moments doux”). This is the scent for the young daughter of the man from PB2241. The heiress is surprisingly unspoiled, sweet-natured, and still a little childish. With her wavy blonde hair, big blue eyes and porcelain skin, she is as pretty as a picture on a vintage ad for lipsticks and powder. The perfume is tender and fresh, truly the vision in all pink: pink peonies, pink roses, and pink fruits, with just a hint of purple from soft violets. It is as far removed from the kind of scents that I like as it can possibly be, but it is undeniably attractive. The fans of romantic, airy, girly florals would adore FK2. Notes: litchi, peony, hawthorn, Moroccan and Turkish roses, violet, cedar, musk and vetiver.

0442/FK3, described as an oriental floral, "Parure pour le soir” (ornament for the evening) is my favorite from the line. It is just the kind of floral that I love, the floral with a spicy twist, with the woody warmth, with the dark depth of patchouli. Jasmine is the star note in the composition; it is evident in the top notes, where it is made sweetly-piquant by the blend of citrus and what I would swear is cardamom; in the heart it is indolent, luxurious, aided and abetted by the sensual tuberose and the languid ylang-ylang… and in the base it is the most attractive of all, its dazzling beauty shining the brightest on the nocturnal background of patchouli, vetiver and sandalwood. I find FK3 to be somewhat similar to Indult Isvaraya; Kurkdjian seems to like the contrast of white florals, woods and spices as much as I do. Since there is no chance at all that I will ever be able to afford FK3, I will be pinning my hopes on eventually getting a bottle of Isvaraya instead. FK3 notes: bergamot, mandarin, ylang-ylang, jasmine sambac, tuberose, rose, wallflower, patchouli, sandalwood, vanilla and vetiver.

I must confess that I don’t know the cost of MDCI scents. The site is discreetly silent on the subject and I felt it would be just too obviously un-chic of me to actually raise the question in my email exchange with the very charming Claude Marchal. The rumor has it that we talking of thousands of euros for crystal flacons (eat your heart out, Jar) and of hundreds for refills. According to the site, “the crystal flacons are presented empty in a hand-made, silk-lined jewel-box” and come with two 60 ml aluminum refills holding the fragrance chosen by a customer from the five scents I described above. Refills are also available to order, however you would have to be a registered holder of at least one crystal flacon or a “legitimate person expressly designated by one” to buy a refill. MDCI flacons are signed, numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Each flacon is decorated with a gilded bronze ring, which by special order can be made of solid 18 carat gold or engraved. In other words, the flacons seem to be as -or perhaps even more- important as the juice they contain. I have not had the pleasure to see one in real life, but they do look like they are worth the price. The scents on their own…probably not.

For more information on the perfumes, flacons and on how to order, contact Parfums MDCI, Tel.: 01 41 44 01 93, E-mail:

Please visit Aromascope to read Ina’s impressions of the scents!

The images are from

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Blogger tmp00 said...

Oh fine, we now have the olfactory equivalent of the Vertu phone.

10:13 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just not enthralled here. If I want to spend the money, I'll go for Annick's bespoke services before these. I do love the perfumers here, though and let's face it, there are those of us already clearing a space on our dressers. Lemming much, Bryan?

12:18 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for a lovely and insightful post. You truly saved me from myself yet again. Love the blog. Perfume Smelllin' Things just exudes chic, OK.

12:20 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they try to be so exclusive etc, they could at least have a website with some decent design that is not located at free webhosting site. Ridiculous.

12:54 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say, that as classy as those bottles might appear, I can easily see the full range bedecking the Sopranos dressing table... A little too much, I think.

The scents sound okay though, although perhaps not quite up to the high concept and no doubt even higher prices.

4:03 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

Completely agree with Leo. The bottles look kitchy to me; maybe they're are better in person, but online they strike me as perfect for the person who wants to pretend s/he is a Roman Emperor/Empress. And I have many faults and idiosyncracies, but that's not one of them.

6:52 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Marinochka, thank you !
These are truly well-made, and I loved the FK's- all of them.

It's good that they look like museum pieces, because, for me, that's where they will have to stay-
But they are art, no question. Period.
Thanks to you, i can open them up, and appreciate them, like fine wine.

[Oh, and their longevity is wonderful...]

6:54 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

It's always a bad sign when prices don't appear - essentially the "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" policy. And I totally agree w/ Leo and J. that the bottles are Sopranoesque and dnn't just verge on embarrassing, but boldly step over that line into full fledged embarrassing as h*ll nr. However, I really admire the desire to not follow trends and must say if I had the money (next incarnation) I'd love to get refills of a couple of these scents.

7:52 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please give me a moment, Marina, since my eyes hurt from rolling so much at the exclusivity of these scents. I don't care how wonderful these are, I turn my nose up at its elitism, so there. Hrrmph. That being said, SB1 sounds lovely. Please allow me to share in the same fantasy as you and its creator. :-)

8:18 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Well, okay -- *I* want to look like a mafia wife ... if they gave me one I'd display it proudly, although the chances of me buying one are nil. I kinda like the lady-flacon. Just one, I mean, not a row of them (or the men's, either).

But the juice -- I've read yours and Ina's comments and, in a general way, it sounds like they're tastefully and expensively done but not breaking any weird niche ground, which of course makes sense -- somebody buying one of those probably doesn't want to smell like Borneo. I guess I'll take SB1.

8:50 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Great comparison! :-)

9:18 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I would buy K3 in a heartbeat if it was available in a plain bottle, for a fairly reasonable price. I more that $200. Not that I don't like the bottle. I love them. But I am not a collector, I am just here for a perfume. Having said all that, I realize that MDCI's target audience is on a whole different level than I am. :-)

9:20 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Perfume Smellin Chic loves comments like that :-D Thank you so much!

9:21 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree. It is all abotu exclusivity and word-of-mouth reputation, but, considering the chic-ness of the potential clients...yeah, I think the website could be a little more professional looking.

9:22 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Sopranos, LOL. Well, I'll admit it, I'd love to own ONE woman's bottle. Signed, Carmela Soprano.

9:25 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Well, as I confessed to Leo, I'd love one of those, just one. Signed, Colombina Augusta. :-)

9:26 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You are so welcome. The bottles do look like museum pieces, which, considering that they were inspired by museum pieces, is, I guess just right.

9:27 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

In my next incarnation I am coming as a wife of a Russian oil tycoon. We will own soccer teams and his and hers sets of MDCI bottles. To heck with understated elegance. :-D

And again, I must say, I do want to have one of the bottles :-)

As for the asking for the price thing...I agree. At least, however, the company was accessible in the way that JAR or exclusive SLs never would be. As in, when asked for samples, they sent very generous samples. So kudos to them.

9:30 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It is a lovely, lovely scent. I wish I could get it for DH...maybe some of that soulful sensitivity would rub off on him then :-DDDDD

9:31 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Well, since they are very discreet about their line, I don't think they are actively looking for any clients at all. I mean, they were very surprised, when I wrote to them, that I even heard about MDCI. It is all about word of the mouth recommendations from one rich person to another, I guess :-)

9:34 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Ohew. That's my girl. SOMEONE shares my desire to have just one lady-bottle. :-)I'd take mine with K3.

9:35 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, there's something DAMN sexy about Carmela now I come to think of it. I even had a thing for Michelle Pfeiffer when she played the Mafia wife in that film from the 80s - oh what was it called...? So, even though I still think they're a little too Elton john ostentatious for me, I entirely get the appeal. I guess I'm not quite out of my mid-nineties minimalism, in spite of the wallpaper in this house.

10:00 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

If I could just be even the mistress to a Russian oil tycoon this incarnation, I would gladly toss aside any minimalist notions I might have. Bring on the Versace and oversized jewelry!! Please...any Russian oil tycoons reading this...I'm available! DH would understand. I'm sure. I *need* FK3.

10:06 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

The whole thing cracks me up...the "eat your heart out, JAR" is quite right, and now wondering what a company will have to do next to be the most exclusive line in the world. I suppose: create a very expensive scent and refuse to let anybody buy it or smell it at all, LOL...

The thing about JAR is that whether it was intended that way or not, the absolutely wonderful SAs in the NY Bergdorfs soften the brand's image with their unfailing friendliness to all. I no longer see the brand in the same unapproachable way now that they've opened that boutique, just as I now see Guerlain in a different way given how unpleasant and unhelpful their SAs are across the hall in the little Guerlain area. MCDI just seems silly. Maybe they'll open a boutique in BG and change my mind.

11:31 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I can't help but love Elton, always have loved him, always will :-)

12:12 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

We just need to find one, and then we'll share him and his oil-money. :-D

12:13 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

ROFL! "Create a very expensive scent and refuse to let anybody buy it or smell it at all"... so funny and also a little scary, because I think we *are* heading in that direction.

12:16 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Sopranos country, this whole thread cracked me up. No matter how lovely the juice, I can't get beyond the mental image of those bottles gracing the genuine faux marble vanities in the *best* Jersey City homes. Leopoldo: I think the movie was "Married to the Mob." Those are my peeps.

2:38 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Ah! That's it, that's the movie!

2:55 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Late to the party! Interesting comparison to Attrape Coeur. I don't get that but I sort of see what you mean. I'm glad we love the same scent, and I'm also with you that I'd gladly accept a bottle as a gift but could never bring myself to actually buy one. Great post, sistah! ;)

10:48 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Now that we figured it out, we have to find a gift-or :-)

10:50 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:14 AM EDT  

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