During the lockdown when I was sniff-testing Frederic Malle’s recent perfume launch, The Moon, I was struck by the irony that, here in the UK, we couldn’t travel farther than five miles, but NASA astronauts are about to travel thirty three million miles into space to visit Mars!
Luckily, we can at least travel in virtual terms via perfume, but how does a perfume smell like the moon you may ask?
Well, it’s not the Lady Luna of imagination – all silvery rays and dream-like mist, but rather the concept of moonlight on the desert. Malle’s the Moon was launched as part of their ‘Desert Gems’ series and that’s where the association begins to make sense.
Launching off the skin with a cloudburst of bitter smoky oud contrasting with raspberry and lychee sweet fruitiness, Malle’s The Moon gradually settles into dusty,velvety-soft depth; the perfume equivalent of man’s first step on the moon, perhaps?
Perfume reviewers tend to err on the side of hyperbole when describing perfume, so I’ll attempt to qualify that last paragraph with a description of what gives this perfume a velvet, dusty, soft texture.
Oud (a fungus produced on the bark of the Agar tree, then dried over years) has a dusty astringent quality – arid and dry. Combined with sandalwood it becomes softer (good quality sandalwood has a velvet smooth quality, almost milky) add saffron for its association with soft milkiness and you can see why these perfume materials create a balance of dry, soft and dusty. The fruitiness of sweet raspberry and lychee somehow mimics the idea of perfumed wind across the dry desert, lending a strange romance to this very interesting perfume.
The question is, would anyone make these imaginative associations without the title, The Moon, from the Desert Gems Series? It’s hard to tell, but having been given those suggestive titles, this perfume is indeed evocative of a warm night breeze in a hot, arid country.
I’ve not listed all perfume materials in the Moon (indeed perfumers rarely release the true list of perfume ingredients since it would include a long list of unpronounceable aroma chemicals!) but the balance of this perfume is thanks to a large supporting cast of florals and resins, as well as the more obvious oud, sandalwood and fruits.
The concept behind perfume house Frederic Malle, is to invite the world’s top ‘noses’ or perfumers (in this case, Julien Rasquinet) to create scents without restriction. There’s no corporate directive, just the go-ahead and big budget to create their dream perfume.
This is why so many perfumes by Frederic Malle are very distinct, at times even challenging. Sniffing this delicious concoction on my wrist at the moment though, I think the Moon would most definitely be something of a crowd-pleaser. Truly unisex too, it’s sweet, dry woodiness would suit both men and women equally.
On the subject of challenging, although Malle’s The Night is a much earlier release (2014) it’s also part of the Desert Gems series and it represents an authentic foray into the world of oud. Created by ‘nose’ Dominique Ropion for Malle, the Night contains around twenty percent oud, in all its unadulterated full-bodied authenticity.
This means that first impressions can be a little off-putting for the uninitiated. Parmesan, ancient wood timbers buried in earth, smoke, TCP!, are a few of the comparisons that spring to mind on first sniff. On skin though, given half an hour or so, The Night melts on the skin into something sweet and soapy, salty and smoky, then very soon a rich Turkish rose makes a dramatic entrance.
This is truly delicious stuff with a highly complex aroma, thanks to the presence of rare, authentic oud – Middle Eastern readers won’t be surprised to learn that it retails at £600 per 50ml. Interested buyers can contact Frederic Malle to request a sample card before purchasing a full bottle, and I think that’s worthwhile just to experience this unique perfume material presented in a beautiful way.
The perfume’s title is written in Arabic on the bottle itself. Malle has explained that, written in this way in the Arabian language, the word ‘night’ is synonymous “with love and constellations”, which further conjures up a sense of magical lyricism – surely the perfume equivalent of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights!
Image credit at the very top of the article: Sorbis/Bigstock.com