A chypre Valkyrie called Maai descends from vintage Valhalla, riding a growling black panther called Hyrax down a thick spiral of smoky black resins into the drab modern world, infusing it with oakmoss from times gone by. Roses and jasmine are intertwined in her hair, their scent mingling with the fierce musk of the castoreum leather armour that shields her. As Maai sings Valhalla’s anthem about vintage chypres, oakmoss blooms around her like a force-field, growing more and more powerful, touching everything in her path. The cloud of green is stained with black from smoky styrax and leather, and with yellow from a urinous stream of civet left in the panther’s wake. It is so powerful that it blows the flowers from her hair, creating a vortex of jasmine and rose deep within the green. As she approaches Earth, Maai’s cloud sweeps up soft, earthy vegetation and humus from the ground below her, unearthing a deep core of labdanum amber whose warmth softens her warrior cries. Her panther roars along with her, baring his teeth in a feral song and raising his leg to mark his territory with a steady stream of animalic skank. Yet, in the end, both are tamed by the Earth’s golden heart, which coats their bodies, defuses their power, and transforms the feral panther into a labdanum steed with only a hint of musky leather. This is the tale of Maai, a Valkyrie from a bygone age, and her return to Earth.
Maai is a fragrance from Bogue Profumo (hereinafter just “Bogue“), an Italian artisanal perfume house founded by Antonio Gardoni. Mr. Gardoni is an architect whose background influences his approach to perfumery, as he explains on his website:
From the infusion in alcohol of resins, woods, roots and metals I create some of the solvents I use to dissolve rare and high quality raw ingredients found in my trips. From steam distillation I extract the essential oils to create odors and fragrances.
I work at night when the light doesn’t adulterate the chemicals and when the smells of the day disappear to leave space to new experiments of shadows.
I create contemporary fragrances with ancient techniques and modern intuitions.
From architecture and design I learned how to build by layers and to think by subtraction. My perfumes are rooms to discover with their mood, texture, light and color.
Bogue’s website page for Maai has no description or note list, only the fact that it was released early in 2014. There isn’t even a photo of the bottle or any mention of the perfume’s concentration, though I think Maai has the feel of an extrait in terms of its richness and strength. The website may say nothing, but there are some clues on the internet as to what the perfume contains. According to a Basenotes commentator, “Deadidol,” who has spoken with Mr. Gardoni, as well as what’s listed on Fragrantica, Maai seems to include:
Aldehydes, tuberose, rose, jasmine, possibly ylang-ylang, musk, civet, castoreum, hyraceum [also known as hyrax], resins, and labdanum amber.
Maai explodes upon my skin like a vintage chypre powerhouse from the 1980s, and anyone who has reads this blog regularly will know that I mean that as the ultimate compliment. It is a burst of sharply animalic, old-school mossiness infused with abstract floralcy that lies atop a layer of rich, musky, velvety, and very leathered castoreum.
It is sprinkled with a delicate veil of fatty aldehydes that actually seem to sparkle like golden bubbles. I’m surprised at how perfect they are, and how well modulated. As many readers know, I’m not usually a fan of the note, especially in heavy quantities, because I can’t abide soapiness in fragrances. Here, however, there is nothing akin to the terrors of Chanel No. 5, YSL‘s Rive Gauche, or the nightmare of my youth, Van Cleef & Arpels‘ legendary aldehyde bomb, First. (The latter’s name alone continues to send a bone-deep shudder down my spine, all these decades later.) Instead, the molecules here truly feel fatty, buttery, and, simultaneously, sparkling. They don’t evoke images of being drowned in a tidal wave of soap like those other scents, but of dancing motes of golden light beaming off a crystal chandelier. Something about them is the perfect grace note to cap the dark green cavern of mosses and feral, leathery animalics that form the cornerstone of Maai.
And what a cornerstone it is. My God, this fragrance… this fragrance! You know the old Thomas Dolby song, “She blinded me with science”? Well, Maai blinds me first with a Mike Tyson-like punch of pre-IFRA/EU mossiness, then finishes me off with an uppercut of beautifully ferocious civet, castoreum, hyrax, and resins. It’s killer, and knocks me out cold with awe.
First, let’s take the moss. Every fiber of Maai’s being feels imbued with massive quantities of the real stuff, supplemented perhaps by a pinch of galbanum. The greenness isn’t the purely fusty, mineralized, musty grey sort of moss found in colder, vintage leather-chypres, but it’s also a far cry from the softer, sweeter, brighter sort embodied by patchouli in so many modern neo-chypres. This feels like hardcore mousse de chene — and I have absolutely no idea how Mr. Gardoni passed IFRA compliance tests unless he took out the offending molecule (atranol) in the same sort of very expensive process used by Bertrand Duchaufour in MDCI‘s glorious Chypre Palatin. Whatever method Mr. Gardoni used, though, may all the gods bless him. I haven’t smelled something with this combination of feral, green-black-brown, animalic splendour since the 1980s or my vintage bottles from that era.
The vast cavern of green is drenched with multi-faceted, animalic aromas that roar like a feral panther. It’s all due to the combination of urinous civet and hyrax, with the leathery muskiness of castoreum. In essence, it amounts to a feline pissiness more than anything barnyard. It most definitely isn’t at the furthest extreme on the spectrum, which would be “fecal.” Not on my skin, though I’ve read that some poor souls were much less fortunate and experienced animalic poop. Given that hyraceum is, in essence, the fossilized excrement from the urine of an adorable, fluffy, little desert rodent called Hyrax, I’m not completely surprised. For me, however, the end result when combined with the castoreum and civet is a strong, potent mix of musky leather soaked in Kouros-style urinous notes.
Yet, to my surprise, the combination is actually softer than what I had expected. As a point of comparison, the civet/hyrax notes are much milder than that in Masque Milano‘s Montecristo, but a hair stronger than what’s in Serge Lutens‘ Musc Koublai Khan (hereinafter sometimes referred to as “MKK“). I personally find the latter to be more fuzzy and soft, as animalics go, but I know some people strongly disagree. Obviously, it’s going to come down to one’s personal yardsticks and definitions, along with skin chemistry. I can tell you that if MKK wasn’t your cup of tea and if Montecristo gives you the vapors, you should probably avoid Bogue’s Maai like the plague because its core essence can essentially be summed up by this photo:
Swirling around that core are the florals. For the most part, the rose and jasmine are fully subsumed into Maai’s overall cloud, creating the impression of something flowery but not always giving a clear or sharply delineated note. Sometimes, it translates as “sweet jasmine,” other times as “rose,” but the notes are generally muted behind the large blanket of moss and animalics. One thing I’d like to say is that I never once detected any tuberose on my skin. I experience ylang-ylang instead, albeit indirectly, as Maai definitely develops a tell-tale velvety creaminess like that which is provided by the flower. But tuberose haters should not worry too much; those who did encounter the note never felt as though they were wearing Fracas or hardcore soliflores centered around the notorious flower.
Roughly 20 minutes into its development, Maai warms up, turning sweeter, smoother, and much deeper. It’s a seamless blend of multi-faceted greenness, animalic musk, urinous leather, roses, jasmine, and basic vintage splendour. and it really is splendid, you know. An utterly mesmerizing mix of sophisticated elegance with a male panther’s growl and a come-hither flutter of the eyelashes, as both a man and a woman open a few buttons to expose musky skin. None of it feels either overtly feminine or particularly raunchy, but there is a skankiness that far exceeds the more restrained undertones of something like vintage Mitsouko.
Actually, in some ways, the closer Guerlain analogy might be 1970s Shalimar, as Maai has a thick streak of darkness that grows stronger by the minute. I am convinced that there must be smoky, leathery styrax resin mixed in with the castoreum. Here, it evokes images of a river, turgid and swollen, that spills over the mossy embankments, staining the verdant greenness with a primordial ooze that smokes, slithers, and reeks balsamic darkness. Accompanying it is labdanum which awakens at the end of the first hour and casts a growing haze of warmth upon the mosses and animalics.
The whole thing is very impressive, and really feels like what Mr. Gardoni states on its website: a layering, one upon the other, building up to a crescendo. By itself, the mossy base would have been enjoyable, even amazing in terms of its IFRA/EU boundary pushing, but insufficient to make Maai feel quite so unique. The addition of civet would have yielded a nod, but not much more. However, layering civet, castoreum, labdanum, probably hyrax, and smoky styrax with all that stunning mossiness really elevates the whole thing to operatic levels. I frequently say that I prefer my fragrances to be like The Ride of the Valkyries with Wagnerian resonance, and Maai qualifies on every level. It has the glamourous beauty and diva intensity of the iconic Maria Callas, but this Brunhilde is immolating herself on a chypre pyre coated with feral leatheriness and balsamic darkness.
Maai has the forcefulness of a warrior goddess even in terms of her sillage. A truly tiny amount, roughly 2 very small smears or the equivalent of a single spritz from a bottle, yielded a powerful, intense cloud that initially radiated 5 inches off my skin. Yet, oddly, it actually seemed to mushroom and balloon in strength, growing to well in excess of a foot in terms of its tendrils that rose up, snaking repeatedly snaked around me with fiercely animalic waves, even when I didn’t move. None of it feels opaque, visually, but Maai is a powerhouse in a way that would make my beloved, vintage Opium blink.
In point of fact, Maai actually smells similar to two other fragrances from the past. First and foremost, one of my all-time vintage favorites, the little-known Montana by Claude Montana which was subsequently renamed as Montana Parfum de Peau. It was a 1980s leather-chypre with rose, jasmine, civet, and much more, a sadly under-appreciated gem that horrified some people with its skankiness. I took out my old bottle to do a side-by-side comparison, and there are differences. Montana is sweeter, more overtly floral, with a stronger rose component, less substantial mossiness, and only a feral meow. While there is a skanky, civet-infused leathered base, none of it is quite as intensely urinous as Maai.
This is where the second fragrance comes in: vintage Kouros. The YSL legend contained costus root which added that aggressive touch of a ripe, human body mixed with the notorious “urinal cakes” element. Here, in Maai, the former is thankfully not present, while the latter has been much more restrained. Yet, the hyrax in Maai definitely evokes Kouros in full ’80s splendour, glistening on a bare chest with at least five good sprays. In short, if Montana Parfum de Peau had an affair with Kouros back in the 1980s, their love child would be modern Maai.
At the start of the second hour, Maai begins the slow transition to its eventual drydown phase. A golden, vegetal quality appears, with a tiny undertone of earthiness as well. It isn’t like mushrooms, but more akin to the humus that you’d find in a garden or on a forest floor. It’s a soft, textural note that is perhaps best summed up as a vegetal butteriness. It merges with the growing wave of labdanum to create something like a Photoshop filter that smooths out all the other elements, blending them together in a soft, golden light. The only thing it can’t defuse is that animalic, urinous growl which sometimes feels as though it has increased into a sonic boom.
From this point onwards, Maai turns into a chypre blur, a seamless bouquet of rose, jasmine, mosses, musky castoreum leather, urinous civet-hyrax, and vegetal butteriness, all atop a foundation of smoky, treacly, blackened resins and amber. By the end of the third hour, the blurriness grows greater, and the notes lose all shape except for the animalism. The resinous styrax in the base fades substantially, the leatheriness weakens, and the mosses feel lighter. The flowers are wholly abstract. Increasingly, the perfume is as well, and feels like a soft green-gold cocoon.
Even the monster sillage softens. Maai drops to about 2 inches above the skin, through tendrils continue to shoot out whenever I move, radiating out to a large distance in a way that quite surprised me. The best way I can describe it is that the core of the perfume has shrunk to a soft, hazy kernel, but Maai still emanates a large aura in terms of its skankier notes, particularly the castoreum.
Maai’s extremely long drydown phase begins at the start of the 4th hour. The labdanum surges forth from the base, adding one more layer of softness in the form of golden warmth, and diffusing the mossy greenness even more. When the 6th hour rolls around, Maai is a hazy mix of castoreum, amber, and oakmoss dominated by animalic, musky leatheriness in a soft cocoon of amber. A few hours later, the visuals turn purely to brown and gold, as the amber takes over completely. In its final hours, Maai is merely skanky amber that coats the skin with musky warmth.
All in all, Maai consistently lasted over 10 hours on me with only the smallest amounts. I experienced 11.75 hours with a few tiny smears, and roughly 13.5 hours with a slightly larger quantity. I didn’t have a ton of the scent to play with, and was initially unsure as to Maai’s strength, so I didn’t really risk spraying it and felt safer dabbing. I cannot imagine how forceful, intense, or long-standing the fragrance might be when applied from a regular bottle. Four sprays of this, and they may smell you on Deep Space Nine. But what is impressive is how even a little bit of Maai goes a long, long way — in terms of sillage as much as longevity. As noted earlier, the initial projection is huge. The silage generally dropped to about an inch above my skin at the start of the 6th hour, where it remained for quite a while. Maai generally turned into a pure skin scent on me around the end of the 8th hour, something which is rare for me with modern fragrances.
There is a lot of love for Maai in perfume-land. On Basenotes, there is a long thread with many positive reviews, some of which verge on the adoring. My favorite one comes from “Alfarom,” who essentially opens his analysis with a stunned “F*** ME SIDEWAYS!” (Emphasis in the original.) I had to laugh, and did so out loud, because I completely shared his reaction. It’s that oakmoss, all that endless oakmoss combined with the vintage feel and the skank. His review reads, in part, as follows:
F*** ME SIDEWAYS!
WOW! I mean, really, WOW!
I liked Bogue [… but] I’ve never really grown to *love* them. […] Well, with Maai he pushed on the accelerator and delivered something that moves in masterpieces territories.
A big, animalic, old school chypre that says *F*** IFRA* from top to bottom. I’ve no idea about the strength but this is so potent and concentrated that feels like an extrait. Still too early to go with a proper note breakdown but think about Onda, Jubilation 25 (the feminine), some of the best chypres from the past and O’Driù all of them at the same time. Honestly, mind-blowing. […][¶]
If you dig Vero Profumo’s style, you absolutely need Maaj because Gardoni is a solid candidate to become the new *Vero Kern*.
Note: I do apologize for the language but this stuff got me excited to the point I crossed the border of Tourette syndrome.
One poster is much more ambivalent. For “Hedonist222,” Maai was not only “absolutely fecal,” but seemed like a scent where all the focus was on skankiness, to the detriment of the other notes. His thoughts are below (with apologies for the liberty I’ve taken in putting a series of single sentences into formatted paragraphs for the purpose of easy blog reading):
I’ve worn this twice from an official sample spray. It felt like he saw that a lot of people were craving poop. Just flat out fecal perfumeness. So he said ok. I’ll give you guys fecal. It’s pretty fecal. No doubt about it. But what else? It felt like it was going in circles.
I kept waiting for it to develop. Normally, perfumes like Maai have my name written all over them. But Maai felt like the majority of perfume skill effort was directed into achieving skank. AND it does. And I love skank.
But it felt there was more than fecal notes but not enough stand out & announce their presence. Like for example in vintage Route du Vetiver or Norma Incense. They each revolve around a single note with apt supportive notes. In Maai, I know they’re there. But I can barely make out what they are or what purpose they serve.
Maai isn’t a bad perfume. It’s more of a soliskank. I have high quality essential oils of castoreum, hyraceum & civet from Abdessalam of profumo.it. Maai smells like them with very little else in terms of supporting notes ore accords. […] I love skank but I like my skank to have a pronounced accord along with it. If you want a skank dominated perfume that only needs 4 sprays to last a good 8 hours, then Maai will suit you very well. […]
It’s going to be an issue of skin chemistry, as other Basenoters state that they didn’t experience any fecal qualities. Nor did Fragrance Daily‘s Claire Vukcevic whose very positive review goes out of its way to make that point clear. Like “Alfarom,” she too found similarities to Vero Kern’s work, but she found Maai to be more approachable than something like Onda, even with the tuberose note that she usually finds difficult. Her review is wonderfully detailed, and I encourage you to read it in full, but here are small portions:
Maai is an aldehydic, animalic floral musk built on tuberose, musks, and resins. Without using vintage materials, Antonio has managed to close the gap between the grand old perfumery traditions of Chanel circa 1940 and the modern schools of perfumery that exist in today’s scaredy cat, post-IFRA world. And as someone who loves the vintage Chanels and Guerlains, Maai is speaking my language. […]
I didn’t know that something could smell so clean and so dirty all at once. […][¶] But fear not, this is not the fecal type of dirtiness you get in Serge Lutens’ Muscs Khoublai Khan‘s opening or the sulphurous wall of funk you get in Masque’s Montecristo. To my (admittedly amateurish) nose, the kind of animalics we are talking about here is the high-pitched civet-y tone of old school wonders such as Jean Desprez’ Bal a Versailles, or even Molinard’s Habanita. […][¶]
But for me, much of the dirtiness here comes from the interplay of musks and honey. There may also be a bit of unlisted ginger or vetiver, because I can smell a direct line between the first half of Maai and scents such as Onda (honey, vetiver, leather, ginger) by Vero Profumo, and Molinard’s Habanita (powder, honey, leather). […][¶]
Maai goes on to shed that initial harshness, revealing glimpses of a green-tinged tuberose in the background, and an absolutely beautiful resinous, mossy backbone. The tuberose here is not the fleshy, indolic flower of my nightmares a la Fracas by Robert Piguet, but rather a crisp, watery flower that is sensed rather than seen directly. […] I have noticed the same treatment of the rose in Noir Patchouli by Histoires de Parfums, the shape of which you can only just make out by squinting through the haze of leather and patchouli. […] Again, the chypres I have mentioned here all share the same kind of leathery, mossy, animalic drydown that I get in Maai. [snip]
I encourage you to read her review in full, but for now, I’ll move on to Mark Behnke at Colognoisseur who loved Maai even more. He categorizes it as “Retro Nouveau” in style, and writes, in part:
Maai takes the animalic themes Sig. Gardoni explored in Cologne Reloaded and creates a fascinating musky base upon which to build the rest of his new fragrance. This is what I was speaking of in the previous paragraph; there isn’t just castoreum in this base he adds in civet and hyraceum along with a bunch of other musks. All together this has an incredible depth and texture it feels as if Maai has a pounding heartbeat. It also isn’t for the faint of heart. One other aspect I really enjoy with this is when these animalic notes reach this level of concentration they also carry a honey-like sweetness which rides along on the crest like a surfer riding a monster wave.
The modern aspect Sig. Gardoni applies to Maai is by using the same technique he used in Eau d’E and taking a well-known floral and finding a more contemporary read on that note. For Maai the note is tuberose and the choice Sig. Gardoni takes is to use a deeply green tuberose as the co-focal point. What this does is provide an indolic foil to the animalic base while also producing a nascent white flower character. The tuberose never explodes into its show stopping floralcy. Sig. Gardoni captures the tuberose just shy of it bursting to life and it is a mannered tuberose but there is a suppressed energy lurking behind. This is the buzz of potential reined in as the tuberose stays poised on a precipice without falling into empty space.
There are a slug of soapy aldehydes in the top notes before the tuberose begins to impose its presence. Labdanum contains the tuberose by amplifying the green early on. A bit of rose and jasmine help to remind you there is a flower here in the heart. The indoles, from the tuberose, are the perfect bridge to the beginning of the animalic base. Sig. Gardoni swirls in a few different resins which add details like olfactory grace notes.
I rather wish I had encountered the tuberose that Mr. Behnke describes so beautifully here, as it is my absolute favorite flower. (In general, even apart from perfumery). At least my perfume-consuming skin gave me the same huge longevity and sillage that he experienced: “Maai has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.” And I fully agree with him that the perfume not only feels like something unearthed from deep within an old cabinet (in the best way possible), but that Maai is “as good as modern independent perfumery gets.”
Nevertheless, I strongly caution that Maai is not for everyone. Even apart from the wonderfully ferocious animalics and the risk of them turning fecal on your skin, there is another issue. Maai is not for the faint of heart, but most definitely not for anyone who doesn’t love both vintage powerhouses or super heavy, intense, opulent scents. Even for me, it sometimes felt like the fragrance was wearing me, instead of the other way around. It wasn’t a constant thought but, still, I cannot recall the last time I felt that way. Normally, my response to powerhouses is, “Thank God! More, more, more!” Here, I can’t quite pinpoint the reason for my slight hesitation, but it’s not due to Maai’s boldness nor its richness. Perhaps Maai felt a little too Wagnerian at times; the Valkyrie at full-throttle strength or Wotan, the King of the Gods, rumbling away.
My conclusion is that Maai is really best reserved for truly special occasions, preferably of a highly sophisticated gala nature or for moments seeking hardcore seduction. It is either full tuxedos or nakedness — I really can’t see anything in-between. Maai is simply not a scent that you can just toss on without thinking and go, not an easy fragrance with a versatile functionality. Its highly complex nature demands both your attention and your engagement. It will settle for nothing less. And that is one of the many reasons why Maai is not a fragrance to risk buying blindly, not unless you already know that hardcore animalics, vintage chypres, and opulent powerhouses are your style.
At the end of the day, all I can say is that I think Maai is a masterpiece, and one of the best fragrances of the year. It feels like a gloriously defiant middle finger to IFRA/EU regulations, and may Wotan bless Mr. Gardoni for it. Amazing, simply amazing.
You had me from the title, dear Kafka. I’ve barely had time to think for the last many months, much less think about perfume…. but I can’t resist this. I only wish it was available from Luckyscent so I could get it quicker!
Thank you, this was just the distraction of sensual loveliness in the form of your writing I needed right now.
You were in my thoughts nonstop as I wore Maai, Cacomixtle. You will lose your mind over this scent. Period. End of story. I cannot wait for you to try it.
Wow, Kafka, you weren’t even sort of kidding! This has to be one of the most beautiful and epic and intoxicating scents I have ever breathed in. It just flew up past all my favorite chypres, then up past all my favorite perfumes of any type and I was left totally speechless. Good god, it’s just incredible. I’m in love, and I need a lifetime supply!
Not fecal at all on me, and while I get the feline urinous aspect, it just smells animalic and lusty to me, and the least bit litter box like. Also, I didn’t get any of the weird chemical sharpness or headachy notes that sometimes come with the more epic chypres, which is just amazing with something this powerful!
I wish I had a proper way of thanking you for this and Chypre Mousse and a number of other incredible experiences…. I would send you a velvet green cloak woven from oakmoss from the queen of the valkyries herself.
I knew it, I knew it, I KNEW IT!! 😀 This had your name written all over it, my dear! And I’m so happy it turned out as I had hoped/thought!
A small question of clarification: it *is* the least bit litter box like, or it is *not* the least bit litter box like? I suspect you meant to say that it is not like that, but just wanted to be sure.
It is absolutely NOT litter box like! I was just too excited to type straight. Also, my cat is so excited over the perfume that she was writhing all over my wrists while I was trying to type.She actually passed out completely after rubbing herself all over it…. and she’s not in heat, she’s spayed, but clearly there’s something about Maai that goes straight to her feline heart.
You’re always spot on when it comes to knowing my taste, and this is certainly your greatest success yet, which is really something considering!
HA, it sounds like your cat responded to Bogue’s call of the wild and her panther heritage. 😉
I’m glad there are no fecal or litter box elements on your skin. So, thank you for clarifying that, as I’m sure it will also help anyone who reads your comment and is trying to decide whether to get the perfume. Hugs, my dear.
I have samples on the way. He told me that Bogue will be sold sometime in the near future at Lucky Scent!!!!
That’s super news about Luckyscent!! Really, really wonderful. Thank you for letting me know, Mary. I hope it arrives very soon, so that people are more willing to order a sample.
I am reading in a state of slithering lust. I love oakmoss, love tuberose, love animalics, incidentally love panthers, and suspect that this is the chypre I want. I have written to see about getting samples.
Super, because I think you’ll really enjoy the animalics in this one, my dear. Chypres aren’t what I normally associate with you, but I think Maai will be a definite exception. I hope you’ll let me know what you think when your sample arrives.
You could probably review someone’s dirty gym clothes and still make me swoon. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a scent for me, I have sampled most of Vero Kern’s works and found them all unwearable, but your beautiful and thorough review is making me long to try a dab anyway. It isn’t the animalics that scare me and I love oakmoss, but the syrupy rich florals I am imagining make me twitch a bit. Guess I will have to find a sample someday and find out for myself.
Your comment about the dirty gym clothes made me choke on my drink. 😀 Hilarious, and I thank you for the enormous compliment. As for Maai, if the animalics don’t scare you, I wouldn’t worry about the florals. They are truly, genuinely hazy here, hidden behind the oakmoss and animalics, and absolutely NOT syrupy in nature. There is nothing that sweet in Maai, whose dominant focus is almost entirely on the skank and dirtiness, along with the oakmoss.
As for Vero Profumo, I personally don’t think Maai is anything like her fragrances in smell. My feeling is that people who weren’t wearing perfumes in the ’70s or ’80s bring up Vero Profumo only because that is the strongest, most intense, bold and animalic *modern* brand that they know. If that sort of ornate heaviness is unwearable for you, then yes, Maai will be more of the same. However, if the issue with Vero Profumo is about their actual aroma, from sharply honeyed greenness to that earthy muskiness from the passion fruit, then Maai is very different, imo. Have you ever tried Masque’s Montecristo or Serge Lutens’ Musc Koublai Khan? Perhaps even Kiehl’s Musk? The animalics in Maai are like the musk in those scents, not like Onda or Vero Profumo’s stuff. I don’t know if that helps or not.
That helps a lot. MKK is too sweet and powdery for me but not too funky, but I pick up musks oddly. My problem with the Veros is that they all become dryer sheet weird on me about 5 minutes in. I honestly can’t tell them apart on my skin after the opening.
MKK does turn fluffy and a little powdery on me, too, so I know what you mean. As for the way that the Veros develop on you, oh dear! That does not sound good at all. (Drier sheets are one of my the notes I loathe the most!) I can promise you that the musk here is nothing as white or sharply clean as the hideous white musk in those drier sheets. Well, on my skin, at least. I’ve never encountered that issue with the Vero Profumos, in honesty, but I do know what you mean about the sort of haze which can happen with some of them. I suspect that some of the sharpness you may be experiencing comes from the combination of honey with vetiver — both of which can feel quite piercing in some of the Vero Profumos. (It’s a brand I struggle with, personally speaking, so I sympathize with you.)
My guess is that you’ll have more of an MKK sort of musk, minus the powderiness, but there is no way of truly knowing unless you test it. I think €5 for a sample (about 1.7 or 2 ml, I believe) is pretty good, so perhaps you can sleep on it. 🙂
I know my skin enough to know that I will try this, just because you loved it so much, but it will smell like poop. Very unassuming scents turn pissy on me and if you add a bit of 80’s punch to them, they do turn into poop. Quite literally 🙁 kind of like dog poop, almost acrid if you don’t mind my honesty.
I love opulent scents. I love the 80s. I love powerhouses with shoulder pads and blue eye shadow but damn I fear the poop.
Given what you’ve said, I, too, fear that the poop may appear on you. 🙁 Particularly as Maai is the furthest thing possible from “unassuming”….
You lost me at cat pee. Having worked at a shelter and spending many a morning cleaning the cat room I can say that I do not want to smell like that. That was my least favorite chore there. You wrote another fabulous review though. If it weren’t for the cat pee I might want to actually try this.
LOL, I’m guessing that you avoid all fragrances with musks, skank, and civet then. No Jicky, Absolue Pour Le Soir, Kiehl’s, or SL Musc Koublai Khan for you.
I’m okay with musks and skank but if it’s the olfactory equivalent of male un-neutered cat or a nursing home on a hot day I’m out. I think when you have dealt with body fluids like that (working in a shelter and as an EMT) they’re not quite so sexy anymore. Scent associations are hard to get rid of.
I have a second sample of MAAI coming my way.In all honesty,I’m kind of torn regarding this fragrance.I absolutely love the dreamy drydown,so sensual and soft,reminds me a bit of the smell of those amber cubes which one can buy in the hippie/esoteric shops.I like the powerful beginning too with aldehydes,a very green tuberose and plenty of ylang ylang,but then the heart of the scent is a bit too muted and sort of muddled or maybe I just become anosmic to it,I don’t know.But I somehow know I will end up buying a bottle,because I can’t seem to shake MAAI off my mind.
Under the circumstances, getting a second sample seems like a wise decision for you. I hope it helps you make up your mind and decide.
oh kafka, when i jump off the no-buy wagon, it’s gonna be devastating. or du serail, black gemstone, anubis, and now maai all scream my name without me sniffing any of them. this might be the straw on the camel’s back….. damn you and your irresistible way with words and your focused sense of smell!
LOL. That made grin. Perhaps you can do with mere test samples in the meantime? That might winnow down your list and give you a taste? Come on, a €5 sample… you can do it, you can do it. (Yes, I do enjoy being a corrupting influence. 😉 )
Hmm. I rather liked Parfum de Peau… but you say that the florals in this are a haze, not a focus? Probably not going to suit me, as I nearly always preferred DIva or L’Arte di Gucci to PdP, for their florals.
I never know what I’m going to get out of a reputedly-skanky scent. I generally do all right with civet; I like cat-pee blackcurrant; I really sort of love costus. But I can’t bear the “somebody urinated all over the rose hedge” ammonia of Aromatics Elixir. And Patou Joy is just Ho Panties in the biggest way. I never know… Tom at Perfume Posse went yarking on about Smell Bent Commando smelling like clean baby skin, but on me it was a whole ancient locker room jam-packed with sweaty hairy men: totally unwearable.
Since it’s so hard to get at the moment, I think I’ll give Maai a miss although I was intrigued at first. I’ll bet it’s not floral enough for me.
On me, yes, the florals were hardly the dominant focus of the scent, but one never knows with skin chemistry. The more important thing that we need to talk about is you being a fan of Parfum de Peau!!!! Really, you have no idea how pleased I was to see that. The poor fragrance has such a bad reputation on some sites, and I’ve never really understood it, given that other animalic-leather-chypres are popular. In France, it was a big deal at the time, but I think Americans have a harder time with unclean fragrances as a general cultural matter. There are some studies that bear out the cultural differences in perfume taste via sales figures and historical trends in perfumery, but anyway, I’m straying from the point.
I spoke to Luckyscent, and Maai will be there in 10 days time! So, it will be easier or quicker for you to get a sample of it. I hope you try it, Mal. I’d be curious to see how you do with the skank, and if it turns into one of those odd situations that you recounted. (The “ancient locker room” experience with Commando sounds rough.)
Trying this today and keeping track of it (making notes!) whenever I notice something new. Overall I have to say that it’s not nearly as floral as I would like, and I get very very little moss. It’s not coming across as green at ALLLL. Don’t want to post all my notes here as they’re getting long and too full of personal scent references to make sense to anyone but me, but I’d love to send them to you privately.
It starts out very… industrial, or maybe institutional, with a bizarre clean/dirty duality. It’s skanky, yes, but in a way that is bearable for me. It spent about five minutes in a Ho Panties jasmine phase, and I’m getting a touch of civet and a whole lot of africa stone. This is not the stale sweat thing I hate so much. Dirty, but golden. Still, I wish the florals had stuck around longer.
I had gotten to a point where I was noting that the scent doesn’t call up a persona or even an animal to me, despite the strong presence of those animalic notes – that it was much more like a big grand room recently vacated, nobody in it – when I began to wonder if the name, which I was not consciously meditating on, was having an effect on how I perceive it.
What a pity and what a shame. It sounds like you had a very divergent experience from the way most people describe Maai. At least the hyraceum/Africa Stone wasn’t excessively dirty on you in a way that you couldn’t bear, and you didn’t encounter “stale sweat.” Can you explain, though, what you mean by the influence of the name? It’s a Japanese martial arts term, but I’m a big confused as to how it affected your perceptions or how it led to a sense that the perfume was mostly like a “big, grand room recently vacated, nobody in it”?
I’m not terribly familiar with the term (or with martial arts, for that matter), but it being the space between combatants may have implanted the idea of “space” in my head.
More likely, from the beginning it reminded me of the smell of a relative’s house, one we visited at Christmas when it was always packed full of people – but the houseowner was a garage mechanic and there was always at least one cake of coal tar soap in the house. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the stuff – I think it might be known as carbolic soap as well, or carbolic soap is related to coal tar soap – but it has this peculiarly clean/dirty vibe to it. In that it smells both dirty-hot-metallic (think hot asphalt) and clean-antiseptic, at the same time! Maai spent a good hour or so smelling like this, albeit with the tuberose peeking out every now and then. I got some very cold, austere, non-benzoiny incense in the middle as well, after the coal tar soap went away.
I’m not entirely sure that “space between combatants” guided me to thinking of large grand empty buildings, but I wondered, since Maai did not seem to have a persona or to feel inhabited the way some other fragrances do (Bandit, for example, is a b*tch with a shiv), was the phrase subconsciously influencing me? I don’t know, and it’s just a thought.
As it stays on skin, it becomes golden and much warmer, but it’s still working that tension between clean and dirty. After I tested, I went to read some reviews and found I wasn’t the only to note that duality. However, I was surprised to not perceive it as green/mossy/chypre. There was a window of about ten minutes when I got mossy chypre, and then the big empty room shifted from that black-and-white marble floor to warm wood paneling and got cozy without ever really settling in to a chypre feel. It felt much more like an oriental to me, with all that labdanum.
All in all, a great and imaginative ride, but it’s not going to be a favorite of mine.
Thank you for explaining about the name and the empty room analogy. It sounds to me as though part of the problem is that the drydown or base notes are the dispositive thing on you, with none of the greenness of the top. It’s true that Maai has a golden finish with oriental features, and I experienced it myself towards the later hours or drydown. You seemed to have skipped right to that point, more or less, though you first had the darker aspects of the resins to give you that carbolic tar and industrial phase. All in all, it’s a shame. I really wish your skin had brought out the mossy, floral, or green parts of the start. Ah well, at least now you know what the fuss is about when people mention Maai, and can save some money. 🙂
hello and first of all THANK YOU for this amazing review, it made me think, laugh and dream about something that for me is very difficult to judge: my creations.
I don’t really think about people’s reactions when I compose a perfume and I have the luxury to don’t have to follow any marketing strategy or commercial plan. BOGUE-profumo is an extremely small reality where I do everything on my own, it’s not even my main job and sometimes I have time to work on this subjects only when I’m in Italy (couple of weeks per month), at night or during weekends. My production is really small and every fragrance ages in 5 liters juniper barrels for at least 8 months, this and the crazy research on raw high quality material make my products available in extremely small quantities (around 100-150 30 ml bottles maximum at each time) These are some of reasons why I don’t really have a distribution at the moment, plus the fact that I believe in a direct contact with BOGUE users and fans even if sometimes my replies are very slow and it can take months before receiving samples or bottles.
…but back to the main reason of my message. Thank you for the Wagner-inspired review, it’s an incredible coincidence, I’m a big opera fan and my absolute favorite composer is actually Richard Wagner, I believe that this coincidence is part of the communicative power of scents and again, today I’m amazed by the sharing and the connection that scents can create. THANK YOU.
I want to apologize to all the people that write me asking for samples and information, sometimes I’m very slow in replying but, trust me, I will try to satisfy all your requests and if you don’t receive any proper answer, please write me back.
I will be able to send samples from the beginning of October and my suggestion is to write me around that time to avoid the risk of missing your messages.
At the moment BOGUE-profumo is available from Profumeria Sacro Cuore in Bologna (Italy), you can write them emails and ask them for samples and bottles as well and….well….yes they will be available in the USA in the next 2-3 weeks, but let’s not talk yet about this, my bottles are traveling at the moment and with explosive materials you are never sure…
Sorry for the long message and for stealing space in your vivacious discussion and thank you again for all the help and support you give to my little fragrant adventure.
PS. on BOGUE website you don’t find a lot of information because I don’t really believe in describing perfumes and titillate fantasies about key ingredients, I think the best way to find out about my perfume is to try them and read comments and thoughts like this extremely complete review.
My dear Sir,
Thank you for taking the time to write such a warm, wonderfully detailed, and very kind comment. It meant a lot to me. I had to laugh at the fact that you’re a Wagner aficionado. It must be some sort of mental synchronicity that seeped out through your Maai and onto my skin. That has actually happened to me one time before, when a fragrance evoked the Pre-Raphaelite artists which became the focus of a review. It turns out that those artists were the perfumer’s absolute favourites, so I think you have a point about the way that perfumes can communicate their creator’s character and soul. Well, the good ones, at least. And your Maai is definitely one of those.
I was sorry to hear about the delay in readers obtaining samples or bottles, especially as I know at least three readers who want to buy full bottles without even testing them. However, I completely understand the production situation, and I am sure they will too if you write to them speedily to explain. A quick answer will ensure their patience. 🙂 It will be especially helpful because a lot of people won’t know what you have written here, since they may not come back to read the comments. 🙂
Let’s hope your bottles arrive at Luckyscent quickly and safely!
Again, thank you for your kind comment. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you enjoyed the review!
Well, I’ve been lost- no, consumed might be more accurate- in the sucking, swirling vortex of a new job where you are paid for forty hours yet must work as many hours as you can possibly manage… But, I still eke out a few precious moments to catch up on my beloved Kafkaesque blog. Your wonderful, very descriptive review of Maai has made me desperate to get ahold of a sample!!
Maai sounds like it will be right up my alley- oakmoss, sexy skank, and powerful sillage! Loving vintage Opium as I do, and having created a shrine to the beauty that is Alahine, I’m hoping this will make a lucky three and take me all the way to the moon!! 🙂
With much appreciation for your continuing to supply me with all-too-short mental wanderances from the realities of daily life,
Lexi, it’s so good to see you, my dear! I’m sorry to hear about work (especially with the 40 hour situation actually entailing far, far more hours), and I hope you aren’t letting it get you too down. Hang in there, okay? I know it’s tough sometimes. As for Maai, I think you will enjoy it quite a bit. I hope you’ll get to try it, perhaps when Luckyscent receives their bottles in 2 weeks.
Rowr! You make me really, really, really want to try this one! It sounds sexy and delightful!
You must give this one a shot, Kevin. I think it may whip you out of your current state of ennui with regard to perfumes!
Sounds wonderful. On the to try list. Do you know where in Italy he is located? I’m going to Venice for two weeks next month and it would be fun if he were located near by. Thanks for the Italian series. I’ve been trying to find perfume shops in Venice and have found a few. If you know of any I’d love for you to share.
I don’t think he sells in shops or has a business you can visit. However, Mr. Gardoni did say in his comment to this thread that Bogue is now available at Sacro Cuore which is a niche shop with a great selection. (I link to them often!) However, he says they’re in Bologna, Italy, so not close to where you will be in Venice.
In terms of Venice perfume shops, I’m afraid I can’t be of much help, as I really don’t know. I think Santa Maria Novella may have a store there, as they have shops all over Italy. Mazzolari has some perfume boutiques that carries niche, as well as their own line, but I don’t know if they’re in Venice. Alla Violetta and Sacro Cuore are both places I link to, but I don’t know where they are located.
Hurray, have a sample of MAAI on the way, courtesy of Antonio. Cannot wait!
Me too! I am very excited about trying it.
got a sample in the mail today. as the always dependable ‘alfarom’ put it ….. 🙂 it really is a chypre with incredible depth, ferocity yet genuine old world elegance and refinement. what a statement! thanks for the heads-up on this. and anubis. you rock kafka and i now couldn’t imagine this intense and wonderful passion for frags without you!
Ha, so does that mean you had the same reaction as Alfarom, complete with a stunned, all-caps swearing full of awe? 😀 😀 I hope so. Is a full bottle in your future? I think you may enjoy the Cologne Reloaded as well, though it lacks the grandeur and magnificence of Maai. It’s more of an easy-going, every day sort of thing in comparison to Maai, but it’s got that aromatic fougere thing going on, mixed with the animalic touches that you may enjoy. I hope Mr. Gardoni sent a sample of that one along with the Maai.
As for Anubis, I’m so, so glad you love it. That gives me enormous joy, my dear.
Antonio is a real class act. I actually ordered blind but he sent a sample of this & cologne gratis 🙂 he has sold out! so i’ll have to wait for the new batch. the cologne was indeed a nice fougere that reminds me of my lovely invasion barbare. gets a bit herby and snarly for a bit then dies . the maai goes through all sorts of wonderful phases, indeed ending in the pee zone. a real work of (wearable art). maai is a chypre of genuine power!
How nice of him to send samples when he was out of the full bottles and to tide you over until he could complete your order. I think that’s great. From everything that I’ve heard (beyond just this sort of thing), he seems like a class act, indeed.
Today my sample of Maai arrived, courtesy of Bogue, and all I can say is, wow. This, indeed, is a panther in a bottle, and although fougeres are not a favorite with me, this one is a fantastic Wild Kingdom romp that goes right on the FB crave list. Tomorrow I will enjoy wearing it while going through your review and comparing my experience to yours, but today all I have to say is wooooow.
Does Maai seem like a fougère on your skin? Interesting. I could have said Cologne Reloaded was, not Maai, but maybe different things are being amplified on you. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the animalics. Do you smell the tuberose as tuberose, per se, or as mere greenness like it is on me?
Plenty of animalics, but it does “read” like a fougere on me, and specifically like the first one that I have ever really loved. I get a lot of deep foliage, no real tuberose. In fact, no real florals of any kind. Just that deep panther stuff…
Surely a sample of Maai in a near future. Fantastic description!!
Dear Kafka, I, who doesn’t like ShalimarI I know I should but I don’t), Chanel No.5, and chypres in general ,must say that this is truly amazing. The first instant was not for me,but two seconds later it had me in its grasp. It is NOT for the faint of heart. It is sensual, sophisticated and oh so powerful. I used a soupcon and I am smelling it as I type.
i got this as a sample from bogue themselves and I must say that I will be sniffing my wrist for a very long time. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Wow wow wow!
HURRAH! What wonderful news, Ellen! I’m really glad, but I will confess to some surprise too, as powerful animalics are not what I would generally associate with you or your usual tastes. And, as you noted and as I said in the review, it is absolutely NOT for the faint of heart. 😀 But, yes, Maai is a magnificent, sensual and very sophisticated beauty, indeed. When it works for someone, it really, really works for them! All that mossy greenness, all that roaring wildness… I’m so happy it wove its spell on you, too. Yay!
BTW, I’m not a fan of Chanel No. 5 either!
Its very powerful (I am woman/man, hear me roar sort of thing)and I like big and powerful fragrances….my fav being vintage Opium which isn’t for the faint of heart either. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything even remotely like it. It certainly is really different from any other fragrances on the market.
I’m so glad someone else doesn’t like Chanel No. 5.
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*bumps another old post*
I did a crazy thing after reading your remarkable review: I emailed to the perfumer Antonio Gardoni for a sample of Maai, to see for myself just how incredible this perfume is. It took the sample ages to reach me – more than 3 weeks, to be precise – and I tried it… MAN, it’s worth the wait!
First thing pops in my head when I first smelled it on the nozzle (actually, the whole envelope smelled of Maai): MDCI Chypre Palatin, which I love to bits. Upon thinking of whether both perfumes smell similar, I tested it on my hand and that’s when I realised how different they are.
Oakmoss is the common note but what I get from Maai is woody, animalic (urinous > fecal to me), aldehydic and even floral chypre. There’s just so many things going on for the first few seconds but after a few minutes, I began to be able to make sense of how it fares on my skin.
In short, the scent is a contradiction. The heart is very clean: creamy and aldehydic jasmine and rose, but is surrounded by something very dark, dirty and classic (in short, yeah, a black panther). It’s a lot like Chanel No. 5 being layered with an animalic Chypre Palatin or something.
You’re absolutely right about one thing: this perfume is NOT for everyday use. I feel that one has to be very VERY confident in order to pull this one off. It really feels like a perfume from decades ago, and upon trying it I immediately went “oh they don’t make perfumes like this anymore…”
A big bravo to Mr. Gardoni for making an astoundingly perfume, and to you for being able to articulate everything there is to say about this scent (yes, I really wanted to know what a black panther-riding chypre Valkyrie smells like). Anyone who is gutsy enough to make an edgy scent like this deserves my praise.
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I futzes forever with Onda and never bought it. Every sampling there was just one thing hat didn’t fit. Maai is it. I was hésitent atfiratvtrail two years ago but the last two days in the heat. And my evolving taste. GLORIOUS. it’s my next purchase along with a refill of Ane Sombre once I’m back in Canada. I already have a serious reserve of SPs Encens Chypre. Im officially à Chypre lady.
On a side note, on my drive home through a piece of mount lebanon there is a tiny protected reserve (plot of land) of little hyrax. On a good I’ll catch a cutie scurrying around.
Also, furball update: were holding our breath and seeing what moving into a larger space in August does to everyone’s mood and behaviors. 🙂
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just wierd.. everybody said: harcore, strong, duty, nasty… but on me its smells as a temple with burning candles, clean, virgin, thoughtful, mystical … I can not distinguish screaming notes, it is a mildly soft sound. Here is my MAAI
opposite is Solome with provocative and loud behavoir
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