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Friday, March 09, 2012

So Montale Walks Into a Tiki Bar: Chypré Fruité, Mango Manga and Vanille Absolu

By Donna

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

Disclosure: The perfumes reviewed in this blog post are from my own collection and from samples traded with friends.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun review! I just read over on Basenotes this week that Montale is now broken up into two different houses, the two men who have run it forever have busted up and split the business. The rumor seems pretty credible, with a lot of Basenoters in the Middle East backing it up with facts and photos. I wonder what this mean for the perfumes?

6:49 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Accck! I blame MTV. Yep, you heard me. Seems that the nano-second soundbyte has infected our brains . . . everyone's. Whatever happened to the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Whatever happened to the days of great perfume creations that took a while to create and then sailed under the power of the beauty of their creation for decades! Now we have to be constantly tinkering and messing with good things. For shame! I know, let's all go to the Louvre and paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa, she hasn't been tinkered into the 21st centry standards NEARLY enough! Bah Humbug!

8:30 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooh, I should mention, my above comment was for the mention that Montale has split up. I really counted on that house to stick to their standards of "no holds barred" perfumery of great quality, originality, beauty and strength. Loved the original review, I think Montale is greatly overlooked on the blogs. I own 7 and 3 large decants. I personally think that 50 years from now, they will be coveted like some of the great vintage perfumes are today on eBay.

8:34 AM EST  
Anonymous Judith DM said...

Oh, maybe I am blind, but in the USA I can barely, if ever (meaning never) have been aware of any Montale marketing. If not for bloggers and Luckyscent and a few other online sellers, I would have zero awareness...

9:16 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks Marla - I have heard murmurs of that before and I was hoping it was just a rumor, but it looks like it's real this time - what a shame! Montale has been one of my favorite houses since the first time I ever smelled one of their oud perfumes.

1:02 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Anonymous, I agree with your assessment of Montale's high quality; they will be highly coveted when/if the house is no more. Guess I better figure out how I am going to be able to stockpile my favorites! They are not exactly cheap now, and I can foresee soaring prices in the future.

1:05 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Judith DM, you are correct - it's all word of mouth, at least in the U.S. Without Luckyscent they might still be obscure!

1:06 PM EST  
Anonymous mals86 said...

Cannot do fruity chypres (nausea, either instant or eventual... even Mitsouko, or So Pretty, or Badgley Mischka. sigh.) so no Chypre Fruite for me!

Also no Mango Manga, that overripe thing kills me. I'd probably wear Vanille Absolu if a bottle dropped from the sky, but since I have my PdN Vanille Tonka and my decant of Havana Vanille, I think I'm set.

Just wanted to say that I think I'll go buy a kiddie pool to stick my tootsies in this summer...

10:14 AM EDT  

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