Perfume Review: Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand for M. Micallef

Denis Durand Couture Fashion Show 2 LRHaute couture and haute perfumery seem like a natural fit, especially for the French. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that both things came together with Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand for M. Micallef. It is a new oriental eau de parfum that is the result of collaboration between the French, niche, perfume line, M. Micallef, and the French couturier, Denis Durand. (Given the length of the fragrance’s name, I hope you’ll excuse me if I’ll just refer to it as “Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand” or “Le Parfum Couture” from now on.)

M.Micallef Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand perfume bottle

In the press release, M. Micallef describes the perfume as follows:.

A glamorous, mystical and sophisticated perfume has been born from the close friendship and artistic cooperation between Martine Micallef and Denis Durand: le parfum Denis Durand Couture.

The fragrance composition explodes with citrus head notes and spicy accents of cinnamon. An intense and complex fragrance, the heart and the base cleverly balances the rose, orange blossom and honey softness with the strength of animalic and woody notes.

Dressed with hand sewn delicate Chantilly black lace, the flacon is adorned with a little satin bow and a golden medal engraved with the initials of the two artists.

Denis Durand Le Parfum Couture

The perfume notes according to the statement are as follows:

Top Note: Ceylon Cinnamon, Italian tangerine

Heartnote: Bulgarian Rose, Honey, Orange Blossoms, Animalis

Basenote: Sandalwood, Patchouly, Amber and White Musk.

The “animalis” note is the key to understanding Le Parfum Couture. Upon first sniffing the perfume, even in its vial, I thought there was oud in it. I scanned the notes three times in slight bewilderment, as “oud” wafted out across my desk. But, no, “oud” is not listed anywhere in sight. In utter confusion, I turned to the internet, and was enormously relieved to discover that CaFleureBon‘s Managing Editor, Mark Behnke, had thought the exact same thing. He writes of his experience, and about what that note actually turned out to be:

When I was first wearing Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand I repeatedly mistakenly identified the animalis as oud. Mme Micallef has been so successful in making oud behave in whatever way she needs to achieve a desired effect I thought this was another example. When I did get the note list I had to get a clarification on what animalis is and was told it is a blend of labdanum and castoreum.

Labdanum and castoreum. I would have never guessed it in a million years! I’m very familiar with both notes individually, but the primary essence in Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand doesn’t smell like either one. It most definitely doesn’t smell like labdanum, which is one of my favorite ingredients.

Making matters much more complicated is the argument that CaFleureBon is completely incorrect and that Animalis has absolutely nothing to do with labdanum or castoreum but is, in fact, a trademarked ingredient from the fragrance company Synarome. According to the commentator, “Joe,” on Now Smell This, Animalis is a wholly separate ingredient and a famous perfume “base” that is the key to such scents as Etat Libre d’Orange‘s Vierges et Toreros. The Perfume Shrine article which he cites does indeed give a very different scent description for Animalis, saying that it is the very basis for the descriptive term “animalic” in perfumery and cataloguing its long, “dirty” history in perfumery from vintage Robert Piguet Visa, to being the mystery ingredient responsible for Kouros‘ savage, almost urinous, animalic splendour. Whatever the truth of all this, all I know is that M. Micallef has apparently gone on record as to what that the “Animalis” note is supposed to be.

Honestly, none of this matters one whit to me. Whatever the semantics or technicalities, all I know is that, on my skin, “Animalis” smells like oud — absolutely and exactly, right down to the medicinal facet that agarwood can sometimes reflect. I thought so, CaFleureBon thought so, Now Smell This and others have thought so. Period. Le Parfum Couture is so centered on this one aroma that, for the purposes of this review, I’m simply going to have to refer to it as “oud,” in quotes, because anything else would feel a bit misleading and would create the impression that the perfume smells animalic, “dirty,” urinously leathery, or feral in muskiness. It simply does not.

Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand opens on my skin with a split second blast of pure medicinal “oud” which almost instantly softens under a wave of honey. The “oud” is never just peppered woods, but it doesn’t smell like rubbery, pink bandages or camphor, either. Really, the only way to describe it is medicinal. There are also slightly animalic undertones to the scent, but they are faint. The perfume quickly turns richer, softer, sweeter and heavier, as the medicinal undertones soften a little. The honey note is beautiful; it feels very dark and rich, almost exactly like what you’d smell in a jar. Wisps of rose, cinnamon and tangerine swirl in the background, but they are extremely faint. The primary note is honeyed “agarwood”: rich and potently strong, it is also surprisingly airy in feel.

HoneyAn hour in, Le Parfum Couture is honey, cinnamon, light ambered musk, and rose — all heavily mixed with “oud.” I never smelled orange blossoms in any distinct way, though there is the faintest suggestion of both the flowers and the fruit lurking behind that wonderful honey note. The latter is my favorite, and it is so photo-realistic that I confess to being driven to make hot, buttered toast slathered with honey. In doing so, I noticed a funny oddity: out of the three different kinds of honey in my pantry, the note in Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand was almost exactly like that in my Mitica Orange Blossom Honey. Make of that what you will.

Despite the strong role of that photo-realistic honey, the perfume smells much more like an oud-centric fragrance than anything else. Throughout its entire development, “oud” sings loudest on stage. Other accords come and go, but they are merely supporting players. One of those is the rose note which starts to become significant around the ninety minute mark. As the honey recedes, the rose steps up to take its place. There is the very lightest hint of cinnamon — which feels a lot more like cardamom, actually — along with an even fainter suggestion of animalic musk. The latter is never skanky, dirty, raunchy, or, indeed, very profound. As a whole, the influences of these notes so minor that Le Parfum Denis Durand smells quite similar to By Kilian‘s Rose Oud — only significantly richer, stronger, and mixed with a large amount of honey.

Three and a half hours in, the perfume starts to shift a little. A beautiful, spicy, creamy sandalwood taps the rose on the shoulder, and steps in to dance with the “oud.” Yes, Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand is a little like the game of musical chairs where only the “oud” remains truly constant and powerful, sitting on a throne in the line-up. The sandalwood is lovely and it softens the “agarwood” note, turning it ambered, golden, and much less medicinal. Instead, it starts to feel a little closer to highly peppered woods. The rich honey and the whisper of cardamom-cinnamon add to the shimmery, amber glow. The rose note is still there, but it flickers in the background, adding its subtle touch to the overall effect.

The perfume doesn’t change much in its final dry-down stage. Around 6.5 hours in, it is mostly “oud” with hints of rose and sandalwood. Later, in its final moments, Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand is just amorphous, dry, woodsy notes and “oud” atop the faintest base of light musk and honey. The cinnamon note, which smells even more like cardamom to me, whispers faintly in the background. And that’s about it. All in all, Le Parfum Couture lasted just over 9.25 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. For much of its development, it was quite a strong scent, though always surprisingly airy and light in feel. It projected a few feet in the first hour, then dropped quite a bit, but Le Parfum Couture only became a skin scent around the 5th hour.

There aren’t a ton of in-depth reviews for Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand out there yet, since it was only just released a few weeks ago. One of the few is an admiring assessment from Angela at Now Smell This who seems to have a considerably different experience. Though Angela also detected the “oud,” she had loads of tangerine at the start and then, later, orange blossom. Here are some snippets from her review:

While Parfum Couture could never be called shy, neither is it the crass, room-hogging perfume I feared. Instead, it’s a warm, easy-to-wear oriental balancing tangerine, honey, and amber with a streak of metallic tang. I bet it will find a lot of fans. I’m one. […]

Parfum Couture’s tangerine and honey leap right out of the fragrance at first, reminding me of Byblos by Byblos (remember that one?) layered over the new Schiaparelli Shocking. I like the combination of sweet and animal that honey gives a fragrance — something about it reminds me of drinking sweetened ice tea. As for the citrus, in the mid-1990s I was obsessed with tangerine-laden fragrances, and I even wore Guépard for a while, despite the cheesy gold and green plastic cage over its bottle. (Sorry, all you old office mates.) Parfum Couture reminds me of those fragrances, but softer and more elegantly blended.

Oud isn’t listed in Parfum Couture’s notes, but I swear I detect it cutting the mouthwatering heft of the tangerine and honey. Or is it the “animalis” listed in the perfume’s notes?1 Orange blossom adds buzz, and Parfum Couture’s amber is the shimmery rather than cloying sort. I mostly smell the perfume’s patchouli after I’ve worn it several hours and on my clothing the next day, where it clings in a quiet, sexy way.

CaFleureBon was similarly entranced. In fact, I believe the Managing Editor, Mark Behnke, found Le Parfum Couture to be one of the very best Micallef fragrances ever released. In fact, he thought it was so “smoldering” that it would be his pick for a Valentine’s Day scent. His review describes a little of how Le Parfum Couture manifested itself on his skin:

If the rose and animalis was all that was going on in the heart it would be great but a sweet grace note, courtesy of orange blossom and honey, adds a glowing core to the intensity and it feels like the reflection of light off of satin or the shine off a bared shoulder under the spotlights. With such an intense heart it would have been easy to ease up a bit but Mme Micallef keeps the intensity level high as patchouli and amber produce a foundation for sandalwood and white musk to interact with. This base lightens up on the animalic by using the white musk but patchouli, amber, and sandalwood keep the development at a consistent volume right until the end.

Clearly, I had a very different experience from both of them. For me, Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand was primarily an “oud” fragrance, and it was never as complex or “smoldering” on my skin as it seems to have been on others. If it had been, I think I would have been considerably more wow‘d. I would have loved to experience what Angela at Now Smell This encountered since it seems much more nuanced and sexy. Plus, I adore orange blossoms and orange notes. You can’t imagine my enormous disappointment at how little (if at all) each note appeared on my skin. Lastly, as I’ve noted a few times on the blog recently, I have increasingly severe “oud” fatigue as a whole. It is probably the main reason for why, for my own personal use or tastes, I thought Le Parfum Couture was simply pleasant, as opposed to love at first sniff.

That said, most normal people do not test an “oud” fragrance (or two) each and every week, and many have a considerably greater appreciation for the note than I do now. Those who love it would probably greatly enjoy Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand. It has a richness thanks to that beautiful honey note and a quiet spiciness which separates it out from many of the “oud” fragrances with their simple rose accord. Plus, Le Parfum Couture has that lovely stage where the “oud” duets with the sandalwood in quite an entrancing manner. So, if the notes intrigue you, I would definitely encourage you to give it a sniff. Those who aren’t enraptured by Animalis and its oud-like manifestation here may prefer instead to watch the runway defilé for the release of Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand as shown in the YouTube video below.

DISCLOSURE: Sample provided courtesy of M. Micallef Parfums. I do not do paid reviews, and I always tell a company upfront that there is no guarantee of a good review, or any review at all. I make it very clear that my first obligation is to my readers and to be completely truthful as to my thoughts.

Cost & Availability: Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle and costs $190. In the U.S., it is available at Luckyscent, along with a sample for $4. Normally, M. Micallef perfumes are also carried at Parfum1, but Denis Durand Couture is not yet listed there. You may want to check back in a few weeks. In Europe, M. Micallef Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand is carried at First in Fragrance where it retails for €145. The full range of M. Micallef fragrances, including the brand new Denis Durand Couture, is available at Paris’ Jovoy Fragrances. In the U.K., Micallef fragrances are usually carried at Fortnum & Mason, but I don’t see Denis Durand Couture listed on their website at the moment as it is so new. In Australia, you can find M. Micallef at Cara & Co in Sydney, but they don’t have an online store yet. In the Middle East, some of the many places where M. Micallef fragrances are available are: all UAE malls and Dubai Duty-Free locations at the airports; Al Hawaj in Bahrain; Mazaya in Cairo Egypt; everywhere in Kuwait; ABC and Beauty Concept in Lebanon; and Pari Gallery and Bleu Salon in Qatar. For all other locations, you can try the Points of Sale locator on the M. Micallef website. If you want to try a sample of the fragrance, you can do so at Lucky Scent at the link listed above which sells a 0.7ml vial for $4.

37 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand for M. Micallef

  1. From the notes, i think this is right up my alley. I don’t know how i feel about the bottle design though… regardless, the mixture of honey, rose, orange blossom, and “oud” makes this a must try for me. Great review (:

    • I’m glad it sounds tempting, Ashley. It’s nice to see you again. (Did you ever try the Mona di Orio Vanille? If so, how did it work for you?) As for Le Parfum Couture, if the notes are up your alley, you should definitely give it a try. Let me know what you think when you do. 🙂

      • No, I still haven’t tried MdO’s Vanille. I almost got it with the last batch of samples I just ordered, but at the last minute I decided to switch it out for a sample of MdO’s Oud instead. I was on a vanilla kick a little while ago, but I’ve been moving away from gourmands since the weather’s been warming up. Now I’m in pursuit of a high quality rose fragrance. I guess this perfume obsession thing never ends haha (:

        • If you’re looking for a rose, I hear a lot of great things about Ormonde Jayne’s Ta’if. I’m going to actually review itnext week, so I haven’t smelled it yet, but it’s a very loved rose scent. Of course, if you have issues with the ISO E Super that’s at the base of many of the O/J fragrances, you may want to look at Guerlain’s Desert d’Orient line instead. Those 3 are all very loved rose fragrances, though the Rose Nacrée du Desert was far too sweet for my personal tastes.

  2. Agreed with Ashley…from the notes it would appear to be a fragrance to my liking (honey, orange blossom,patch, sandalwood, amber)…but it is that ‘oud’component that is throwing me off…as much as I enjoy agarwood essential oil the synthetic ouds give me a headache…so if this fragrance exudes ‘oud’ it probably isn’t for me….I do, however enjoy the look of the bottle!

    And I also love buttered honey toast (and it tastes equally as delicious if you substitute the butter with cream cheese!)

    great review, Kafka!

    • Thank you, dear Brie. The notes do sound like they are up your alley. Except for the Animalis with it’s “oud”… I know you’re not keen on that note except as an essential oil, so I’m not sure Le Parfum Couture would work with your personal tastes. But if you get the chance to try it, let me know. 🙂

    • Cream cheese and honey? Yum!

      Funny, I was trying to deal with my seasonal allergies this year by ingesting raw honey. The only thing I could think of was Pooh Bear and buttered toast with honey.

  3. Eau no! I was hoping that you’ll enjoy Couture a lot. It sounded like your kind of thing right? I was actually predicting that you might post your review of it today and was so looking forward to hear that you like it. And it turns all oud on your skin, that is so unbelievable and unfair, why do all lovely perfume with not much oud have to turn big ouds on your skin. I’m so sorry. I’ll be posting my review of Couture tomorrow, was hoping we’ll make a nice combo, but now it looks like we’ll have two sides of the spectrum

    • It completely seemed like it would be my thing!! I actually think there was a LOT of “oud” in this one, but it is probably just my skin. I’m looking forward to your review to see how you experienced it. It sounds like your skin didn’t reflect much of the Animalis at all. Lucky devil.

      • My skin seems to suppress the oud note in certain cases. You had such a bad experience with Montale and on my skin even a Black Aoud, one of the strongest oud of oud in the line, was quite pleasant and possible to wear. I’ve been trying to think about a similar perfume to Couture that you might enjoy as there’s no oud and I found it for ya! 😉

  4. Hmmm, I suppose I won’t rule out testing this one. It sounds great…except the oud. I, too, am sick of it and haven’t found one that I really like (don’t get me wrong, I like a number of perfumes with oud as a noted ingredient, but I wouldn’t say they are a true oud smell). And some I can barely tolerate without feeling ill. But I wish the oud craze would die down into a note I like more. Basically anything would be better than oud! I want to believe, but I just can’t.

    • I’m the same way at this point with regard to oud. I like complex perfumes that have oud as one small, very well-blended, subtle, background part but not as the dominant part. I would probably be much more enthused, however, if I didn’t constantly test so many oud fragrances but, dammit, these days, almost everything seems to have Oud in it. It’s an exhausting craze.

      As for Le Parfum Couture, I think a lot of people got greater depth and nuances, thanks to the other notes manifesting themselves fully on my skin. I think, if I’d gotten those, it wouldn’t have seemed *quite* so oud-centric to me. Lucas certainly seems to have experienced just a little oud. So, it may definitely be worth your try to test it out, if you can. Perhaps you’ll experience all that tangerine and orange-blossom the way some others have!

      • The plus to not really liking oud as a dominant theme: it saves me tons of money on samples. 🙂 I truly feel for you having to try so many! Maybe you need to do a vintage review every now and then of an “old faithful” so at least you’re guaranteed something decent on a regular basis, even if only once a month or so. But my ulterior motive is greedily wanting to hear you write a full review for one of your beloveds, like vintage Opium or Shalimar. And yes, I know you need review suggestions like you need a hole in the head, but I did it anyhow. 🙂

        Orange blossom and tangerine sounds phenomenal. I can only hope!

  5. I never really get sick of a note if I find that I love the fragrance. Given that, I received a note that my sample is on the way so we’ll see if I fall in the “love” or “like” or just say no to oud category 🙂

    • I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Hopefully, you’ll get the full spectrum of notes, like that tangerine and orange-blossom! xoxox

  6. Quick note on Animalis — it’s an animalic base that as far as I know contains castoreum and *costus* among other things — perhaps the confusion arose from somebody mixing up costus root (a plant that smells like dirty hair) and cistus labdanum. In any case the base has changed over time because costus, musks, etc. are restricted.

    • Thanks for the additional details, Elisa. It definitely sounds like that may be the source of confusion. The Perfume Shrine article I linked noted the issue of the base changing due to restrictions on ingredients, but, reading it, it wasn’t clear to me that the close similarity in names (Costus/Cistus) may be the cause of the mix-up. It certainly explains why I smelled absolutely nothing close to labdanum. I still don’t quite understand how the combination — whatever it is — replicated agarwood/oud right down to its occasionally medicinal aspects. Very weird. A huge thanks, though, for your comment and the clarification on Animalis. 🙂

      • Not sure! Most oud is synthetic oud anyway, right? So maybe some of what goes into their usual “oud” accord is in here too. (I’m wearing this right now, by the way, and so far I don’t smell either oud or anything particularly animalic, but it’s early in the evolution — also, supposedly, real oud has honeyed and woody facets, and this is definitely honeyed and woody. It actually reminds me of a more honeyed Loulou, and a little bit of Sacrebleu.)

  7. I also have a sample of Denis Durand that I’m waiting to review. Like you, I like it, but don’t love it. I didn’t get a huge, smouldering effect either, but I do think it’s high quality and pleasant. I’m thinking I need to give it some more thought, but the main notes I get are sandalwood, rose, and honey for a soft and mealy effect from top to bottom. It’s not completely unlike Chanel No. 5.

    Gotta say I’m glad it doesn’t smell too much like oud, because I’m not a fan.

    • Hi Joan, it’s so lovely to see you! Chanel No. 5???? My, very different on you than on me! I had to laugh about your wry, dry, understated comment on the oud, as it reeeeeeeeeeeeeked of unenthusiasm. *grin* How I sympathize. At the rate the oud mania is going, I’m half expecting it to pop up on my pizza or in Target one of these days. 😉

  8. M. Micallef is a line that I need to explore more and give more attention to. I am very intrigued by an “oud” fragrance that has no oud (not that many “oud” fragrances have oud in them either…).

    Vierges and Torreros was a scrubber for me, so the thought that the same base is in this one scares me a little, but I am curious . . .

    • A lot of people seem to have gotten much less Oud than I did, but that’s little comfort on the Vierges et Torreros issue, I suppose. If you try this, you’ll have to let me know what you think. I’m fascinated by how differently the perfume seems to reflect itself on each person.

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  10. The notes in Le Parfum Couture sound intriguing but the white musk makes me a bit hesitant. I’m not sure how I feel about white musk, but I don’t think it would stop me from ordering a sample. It’s going on my list:) The design of the bottle is beautiful…does it get any more couture than hand sewn delicate Chantilly black lace?!?!

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  16. No oud fatigue here. I usually don’t get past the blotter stage of oud perfume investigation. This went straight onto my skin from a sample vial, and it is gorgeous! I get a — yes — smoldering blend of rose, oud, and patchouli, plus some spice. Oh how I wish it were affordable!

    • I’m glad it works so well for you and that you love it. 🙂 Perhaps you can find an affordable decant in one of the many perfume groups? I’m sure someone somewhere must be splitting it. 🙂

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