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· Perfume Notes: Frédéric Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur

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Perfume Notes: Frédéric Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur
by Dain

Eric Fischl, Best Western Study (1983).

The geranium is a modest flower*. With a purity not quite antiseptic, it strikes an attractive balance between optimism and sobriety, well suited for unguents and lathers, when a subtle, fresh scent is the expectation. In all likelihood, you've smelled it many times before, without conscious recognition. Both anonymous and familiar, geranium is the éminence grise of masculine perfumery. Like the equally soft-spoken but darker, animalic oakmoss, geranium shifts the mood of the composition as a whole, without dominating the conversation: most notably, its bright, clean aroma quietly rounds out the edgier personalities of lavender and calone in the fougère, the origin of modern fragrance. Now popularly called "cologne", the fougère has grown fresher and sportier, until it's practically disinfectant (Axe), just as feminines have turned cloyingly sweet. And the humble geranium, never a flamboyant note, has been dragged along for the ride. Through Geranium Pour Monsieur, Malle and Ropion set out to breathe new life into this faded, well worn note.

Even positioned this prominently, geranium has a tendency to recede. The first few moments on the skin are dominated by a dose of mint, creamy and slightly saccharine, beggaring comparisons with toothpaste. It is delightfully weird, and so confident (or Gallic) of Malle not to rely on top notes for an easy sale. Then, nearly as salient but far more universally pleasing, is Geranium Pour Monsieur's exquisite sandalwood drydown, set off by the clove-and-cinnamon spice and a shadow of patchouli, before dissipating in a whisper of white musk.

Somehow, the geranium gets lost between the unorthodoxy of the mint and sandalwood as a palliative, each so striking in its own way, I almost missed the wan, green slightly screechy heart of bergamot-spiked rose, closely modeled on Chanel Pour Monsieur. From the collaborators who brought us the photorealistic Carnal Flower, the tranquil and meditative Vetiver Extraordinaire, and the glorious decay of Une Fleur de Cassie, I had expected more than mere attractiveness from Geranium Pour Monsieur. Wait ten minutes, however, and spritz again, so it overlaps itself in its own progression. What may at first have seemed a tune so simple that anyone, a man whistling in the street, might have written it, on replay, is geranium transformed into its most sublime form. The aniseed finally manifests, its sweet licorice tones in perfect contrast with the crispness of a citrusy-floral geranium, at the same time providing a vertical link between the cool burst of mint and the well spiced sandalwood. In equal measure Geranium Pour Monsieur conveys Malle's nostalgia for the toiletries of the barbershop and a bold reinvention of the tired theme of cleanliness in masculine perfumery. The menthol, citrus, rose, verdancy, and earthiness all inherent in geranium essential oil have been heavily abstracted, like one of those Picasso nudes with crotch, ass, and tits on simultaneous display, the greediest voyeur—nothing short of a marvel of coherence.

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* Technically, the essential oil is extracted from the leaves, not the flowers.

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