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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coffee with a Side of Paradise: Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Eau des Iles

By Donna

Using a coffee note in perfume can be tricky; sometimes it’s gimmicky and too literal, and maybe tarted up with too much sugar and “cream” so that its real character is obscured. Many years ago there was a fragrance called Café that smelled exactly like a cup of sweetened coffee with a slightly burnt note, as though it had been left in the pot too long. It had a certain novelty appeal, but I was never tempted to purchase it. Then of course there is the popular Vanille Mokha from Comptoir Sud Pacifique, which is simple and pleasing but very sweet like most of their perfumes, and that could get tiresome after a while, and besides it's so realistic that it does not really smell very much like perfume, so wearing it could result in serious caffeine cravings all day long. Coffee has become a standard ingredient in men's scents, where it sometimes gets lost in the forests of woody-amber and cedar and other such standard issue masculine notes that usually accompany it. Then there is the mutant monster that is Thierry Mugler's Angel Men, with its bizarro world major notes of mint, coffee, caramel, lavender and tar, of all things. I cannot imagine who would wear it since it's even more discordant than the original Angel while remaining just as loud to my nose; I finally got up the nerve to try it at a department store not too long ago and I wish I had resisted.

Fortunately not all coffee fragrances are one-note wonders or avant-garde disasters. I have come to love one that was intended as a masculine, but that has not stopped me from keeping it in regular rotation. Eau des Iles by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier hits just the right balance of coffee, spices and woods so that its coffee aspect is the essence of the roasted bean itself and not a sugary beverage. It is also quite smoky, and you may even think it's excessively so unless you have ever smelled Tauer Perfumes' Lonestar Memories, beside which all other smoky perfumes hang their heads in shame. I don't find Eau des Iles to be too smoky for my taste, perhaps because I really like the aroma of very strong dark coffee beans, and I enjoy grinding my own so I can revel in the powerful fumes as they rise up. The bracing bitterness of an espresso or French roast is perfectly captured in this perfume, weaving in and out of the other notes to create an aura of dark mystery.

An intriguing feature of this perfume is that there are unexpected elements paired with the coffee, including basil, thyme, unnamed “exotic fruits” and ylang ylang, as well as both vetiver and patchouli in the base, and for once the vetiver wins, giving it a pronounced green facet and adding to its wearability. Now some people find this perfume interesting but not very wearable. Marina's take on it was that she found it to be highly original but unwearable due to the smoke. Now I am highly sensitive to smoke, so I have no idea why it's not a deal-breaker for me as well. A few weeks ago I awoke from a sound sleep in the middle of the night because I smelled something burning, and it set off my inner alarm. I got up to make sure it was not in my house, and then I thought maybe my neighbor had burned something in their fireplace, but it smelled wrong for that. I was just about to go outside to see what was happening when I heard the sirens of several fire trucks heading down a nearby road. The next day I found out there had been a house fire - more than three miles away from me! I think the smoke in Eau des Iles is so entwined with the roasted coffee and patchouli that it does not smell like the “bad” kind, the smoke from a dangerous fire that would make me recoil instinctively, but more like a hearth fire, signaling home and comfort instead of fight-or flight.

Recently there was a rumor that this house was pulling out of the U.S. market, but that was not the case, and it is widely available at both finer perfume shops (see their website to find out if one is in your city) and better online emporiums such as Luscious Cargo. I received my bottle as a gift in an online contest. It is sold as an Eau de Toilette only, and the 3.3 oz. Size has a retail price of about $120 USD, though if you poke around online you can find it for less, usually around $80. Lasting power is nothing short of legendary, especially for an EDT, so the big bottle would be an excellent investment. I have always admired the fragrances from the Jean Laporte era of both Maître Parfumeur et Gantier and L' Artisan, and before that his eponymous line that is sadly gone. The newer ones in the MPG line have thankfully been very good too. I just wish they could be had in smaller sizes, and maybe in a coffret of miniatures. The house does not have a sample program, so you would need to find a retailer that does, such as Luscious Cargo or Luckyscent. With so many quality scents in the lineup, it would be nice to be able to try them in smaller doses before committing to buy the big one.

Image credit: Coffee bushes flowering in the tropics, from the knowledge network

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Blogger tmp00 said...

I love smoky notes in perfume but don't need to smell some of them in real life. Like you mentioned in a fire. Love it in a fireplace, outside of it not so much.

1:09 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds great. I've been wondering about coffee as a note. The idea of it combining with cream and sugar kind of makes my stomach to keep it both aromatic and perfume-y? I like smoke too..but not in the slap your face obvious way a cheap lapsang souchong tea can be smoky (which to me can be a hotdog smokey)so it all sounds very tricky to pull off...

2:23 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tom, I have smelled perfumes where the smoke note just does NOT work at all, so I am impressed that this one does it so well!

1:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Tama said...

I haven't smelled this one, but MPG is a very intriguing line - their Secrete Datura has been one of my faves for years, and I bought a bottle of Rose Muskissime unsniffed when everything was on sale during the panic and was pleased with it. I like them because I don't think any of their fragrances are exactly "easy", but even if unwearable they are interesting and well-done.

1:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Marian said...

"Aquarian Roses" is one of my favorite perfumes- it contains roses and marjoram of all things- so I know unusual combinations can be surprising and wonderful. But I'm having a hard time getting my head around Eau des Iles' notes. You've peaked my curiosity, though. And if wearing it could substitute for the too many cups of coffee I drink every day, it would be worth way more than the price of a bottle.

9:54 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tama, I have a sample of Secrete Datura and I love it! It's softer and less powdery (and less dangerous) than my beloved SL Datura Noir, but it's just gorgeous.

Rose Muskissime is definitely on my must-try list - as are many more from this house!

4:11 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Marian, LOL, I know what you mean! I could drink a lot more coffee than I do, hard to pass it up!

This is definitely not something to buy unsniffed, and it is also meant to be a masculine, so trying it out first is a must.

4:13 PM EDT  
Blogger Maison Parfum said...

Well coffee is common to people especially for those who are drinking hot coffee because they want to smell that scent that would satisfy them with their wants in mind especially the scent. Probably by smelling this coffee scent and drinking this could make their mind and body be good.

According to some ideas of people that scent is a way to give us remembrance and beauty.

As part of our experience we hope people will know how to choose their scent. This will help them to continue create more happiness and love.

4:49 AM EDT  

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