Poor Christopher Marlowe. He deserves so much better than Marlowe, the ostensible tribute created in his honour by Jardins d’Ecrivains. It is a new fragrance that is meant to encapsulate the complexity, sensuality, and theatrical richness of the Elizabethan era’s literary darling, a brilliant man who was a leading playwright and poet of the times, a handsome man who was a rake, lover, brawler, student of the occult and, allegedly, also a spy for Queen Elizabeth I. Some fringe scholars even think Marlowe is the one who wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. That is highly unlikely, but there is no doubt that the flamboyant, brilliant Marlowe is a great choice of inspiration for a fragrance. Alas, not only does Jardins d’Ecrivains’ Marlowe fail to represent him in my eyes, I don’t think it would embody any historical legend of any era in any field, other than perhaps the men who founded Procter & Gamble.
Jardins d’Ecrivains is a French perfume house founded by Anaïs Biguine. She creates all their fragrances, taking her inspiration from the twin threads of great literature and the beauty of gardens, like George from George Sand, or Orlando from Virginia Woolf. Marlowe is Ms. Biguine’s latest release and is an eau de parfum which Jardins d’Ecrivains describes as follows:
Christopher Marlowe was the bad boy of Elizabethan theatre. Handsome and good natured, Marlowe was also a spy and a student of the occult.
This scent is dense, heady, feral, and theatrical. The top notes feature the poisonous nectar of the tuberose blended with opulent osmanthus. The middle notes of dried flowers evoke tragic poetry. Hints of powdered leather with chypre make up the base notes.
Top notes : Tuberose – Osmanthus – Elemi
Middle notes : Myrrh – Dried flowers
Base notes : Cashmeran – Cedar – Javanese vetiver -Oakmoss – Labdanum – Tonkin musk – Leather.
If only that wonderful description fit the actual scent in question. It doesn’t on my skin, not by a long shot. Marlowe opens with a fruity, clean powdered note that reminds me strongly of Tang, the old children’s drink powder. It is a surprisingly orange-centric aroma, rather than the apricot that I had expected, and it is suffused with intense cleanness that smells just like Bounce or Gain laundry drier sheets. A whiff of apricots does arrive a minute later, but it is hardly a powerful note and the end result is merely apricot-orange Tang intertwined with laundry-fresh soapiness.
Other notes hover almost mutely at the edges. A smudge of cedar mixes with abstract wisps of greenness and a subtle, musty dustiness that vaguely hints at being myrrh. An amorphous, indistinct white floralcy floats at the edges as well. It ends up making its way to center stage where it merges into the Tang fruit powder and Bounce drier sheets, but it never smells of real osmanthus in any clear, strongly delineated way. It definitely doesn’t smell of tuberose, not one iota. Rather, it’s a generic, synthetic white flower aroma that is lightly imbued with the mere idea of osmanthus apricots via that odd Tang powdered fruitiness. For the most part, Marlowe smells primarily like generically white, floral fruitiness blanketed by soapy white musk.
All of that is a generous attempt at nuance. Marlowe really just smells of drier sheets on my skin. A lot of it. A painful amount of it. And it never changes dramatically from that focal point, either. There are wisps and smudges that pop up here or there over time and, in an attempt to find some layers to this fragrance, I’ll talk about them but, for all intents and purposes, I might easily end this review here and now. Still, let’s endeavour to give this thing a shot.
About 15 minutes into its development, Marlowe shifts a little. A puff of elemi appears (relatively speaking), and adds a slightly clearer quality of “incense” smoke than the poorly delineated myrrh. Tiny ribbons of fresh, clean vetiver follow it, wrapping their way around the floral bouquet. There is no tuberose, oakmoss, leather, labdanum amber, or Tonkin-like animalic musk on my skin. (For what it’s worth, real Tonkin musk is banned for ethical reasons because it comes from a rare deer. In modern perfumery, the note is usually recreated via some combination of ambrette seeds, synthetic civet, castoreum, and/or analogous materials.) None of those elements show up in Marlowe on my skin at any point in time. Instead, the clean white musk simply grows stronger.
30 minutes in, the fragrance no longer smells overwhelmingly of Tang, but all that floats across to me on the sillage scent trail is clean, soapy Bounce laced with an abstract fruitiness. In my experience, far too many of the Jardins d’Ecrivains scents use the notes in an unbalanced way. George was a rare exception, but most of the others are so painfully synthetic and/or excessively clean that I’ve avoided reviewing them. I had high hopes for Marlowe, though, but the cleanness is positively shrill and overwhelms most of the other elements.
By the start of the 2nd hour, Marlowe is a hazy blur of fruity, laundry musk with purely synthetic, indeterminate floralcy, smudged by raspy, woody smokiness, a ghostly suggestion of spiciness, and a drop of greenness. If one were to give a rough estimate of the percentage of notes, Marlowe smells like it is approximately 96% fruity-floral Bounce drier sheets; 2% woody smokiness; 1% indistinct spiciness; and 1% indistinct greenness.
Over the next few hours, the numbers change, but not by much. The smoky wood grows fractionally more pronounced, taking on a synthetic sharpness. At the end of the 5th hour, a subtle warmth descends over Marlowe, along with a sliver of creaminess. Still, the overwhelming majority of the scent is an excessive laundry-fresh white musk with a suggestion of generic floralcy and raspy woodiness. I would describe Marlowe as a “floral, woody musk” except I’m not sure I can smell enough actual flowers for the term to qualify. In all honesty, I can’t tell the scent radiating from my arms apart from my laundry drier sheets — and I did a side-by-side test to compare at one point.
Marlowe’s drydown, such that you can call it that, seems to occur at the start of the 8th hour. It’s hard to tell because so little has changed. I’m calling it a “drydown” only because the inconsequential wisps have now disappeared completely, leaving only Bounce drier sheet, artificial cleanness. The whole miserable experience lasted 11.5 hours, though I confess that I came close to scrubbing Marlowe after the first 20 minutes.
For all my loathing for clean, white musk — a note that I find to be almost more offensive than powerful synthetics like Norlimbanol or ISO E Super — I didn’t scrub purely out of a masochistic curiosity to learn whether Marlowe would ever change. I had to see if I would ever encounter the tuberose that I love so much, ever witness anything remotely reminiscent of “poisonous nectar,” “tragic poetry,” leather with chypre-like facades, or “dense, heady, feral, and theatrical” aromas. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that such descriptions could possibly go hand in hand with the fragrance wafting up from my arms. It was inconceivable to me that there would be such a divergence, even for Jardins d’Ecrivains with its frustrating habit of employing so much clean musk that it might as well be Ms. Biguine’s signature. How on earth could there be nothing but Bounce drier sheets with fruity Tang and a sliver of raspy, wooded smokiness?
I was curious to see if anyone on Fragrantica had recounted their experiences with the scent. They have not. Since the fragrance is so new, there is only one comment there at this time and it merely lists Marlowe’s notes. While I generally don’t provide comparative analysis and other blog quotes in my Reviews en Bref, I saw that Colognoisseur had a passing observation on the scent in his Esxence wrap-up: “Inspired by Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe, Mme Biguine turns in a floral soliloquy around tuberose and osmanthus.” That’s the only description that I’ve found at this time.
There isn’t much more to more to say, except poor Christopher Marlowe. You poor, poor thing. I hope one day you get the scent you deserve.
Damn, I am really in the mood for a flamboyant and theatrical perfume, and would love to be a walking memorial to Marlowe and his ilk, and why won’t some perfumer oblige me? I’m afraid that since Kiste, I haven’t smelled anything that really interested me. Incidentally, I have a fantasy about Slumberhouse making a white floral, one with lots of gardenia…maybe that would reawaken my interest in trying new perfumes. It seems that lately a lot of the new ones are not interesting enough to get me to use up my sample. I think that I am going to wallow in old favorites for a while and watch your blog to see when there is something new that might knock my socks off.
This is the least flamboyant, theatrical, or baroque interpretation of Christopher Marlowe that could ever appear on my skin! It’s still hard for me to believe how it turned out.
In terms of you not smelling anything that appealed to you since Kiste, I knew that the Tauerville Vanilla Flash would not be your cup of tea because it is so far from a vanilla soliflore. You’ll have to tell me one day how it actually manifested itself on your skin, though only if you have the time to write in that thread/post. But at least Kiste swept you off your feet. Do you think you’ll get a full bottle?
Boo, I really wanted Marlowe to be a sensation. Tuberose and Osmanthus are two notes I really love, and this is the first I have seen them together. I’m pouting. 😛
Welcome to the blog, bgirlrhapsody. You know, you’re right about the rarity of a tuberose/osmanthus combination. I hadn’t thought about that, but now that you mention it, I can’t recall seeing those two together before either. That just makes the result here sadder. 🙁
I’ve the impression you partially changed your mind about Jardins. In the (largely positive) review of George, you reported you were attracted by many of their perfumes (Wilde, Orlando, George…), without being able to decide…
You still feel the same about Orlando and George?
Thank you for your -always interesting and inspiring- reviews!
First, welcome to the blog, Lorenzo. Second, I still really like George. A lot. I still like parts of Orlando, while feeling undecided by the remainder. However, I would no longer wear it, and I have changed my views on the line as a whole. There is an excessive amount of synthetic musk and laundry-detergent cleanness in a lot of them — to the point that I found the Dames au Camelias, to give just one example, to be virtually unbearable at one point. As for Junky… well, let’s just say that I’m not enthused by Junky. I had really high hopes for Marlowe, though. Unfortunately, after this one, I think the line is probably not for me, with George being an exception. George is still a wonderful fragrance, in my opinion.
I share with you the positive feeling about George. Junky hit me as a “Gorilla perfume-style” weirdness, but I have to try it again. Marlowe…at esxence, I was positively impressed by a sort of “balsamic tuberose”: but, you know better than me, what you smell in those big venues…I will try it again soon.
I would have been deeply grateful for a balsamic tuberose, or tuberose of any kind! Actually, *any*thing of any sort whatsoever except for what actually appeared. I don’t think my skin chemistry is suited to this line, except for George where I suspect the least amount of white musk was used, relative to the rest.
I grinned a little at “Gorilla perfume-style weirdness” for Junky… heh. That’s one way to describe it. It was rather a discordant mish-mash, wasn’t it?
And as often with “discordant mish-mash”, at first I’m positively struck (boredom being the worst enemy), then…on going back upon it…uhm…. 🙂
Funny! I always appreciate a wry, self-deprecating sense of humour, so I’m looking forward to getting to know you and your perfume tastes better. So far, I know you enjoy balsamic florals and orange blossom. Now I have to learn what triggers boredom. 😉
Ah! Thank you! 😉
My tastes, I guess, are difficult to define…Being attracted by many – really different – things. Chypres are always winners for me, as many Amouages…I like pungent balsamic notes, I love immortelle, smoky things usually attract my attention…I usually like the way Vero Kern works, and Andy Tauer also, and Marc Corticchiato also…
By far easier is to trace the boundaries of boredom: Ozonic, marine-like, calone monsters (ugh). Laundry-things. Nondescript, highly synthetic white florals. Old-style bouquets (even when the materials are ok). Yummy things (with the exception of a few cocoa-inspired perfumes, such as Ore, Anima Dulcis, Bond T by Sammarco Perfumes). Molecular-“I smell nothing” things, pretending to encapsulate the contemporary urban vibe…”Sports-y” iso E monsters…
I see your Tang and Bounce and raise you Orange Scented Industrial Floor Cleaner. I share my coworkers’ view that this smells exactly like what they use to clean the bathroom floors where we work. It smells cheap and synthetic. Time to shower it off.
You win the poker game, and the analogy one! 😉 😀 Sadly for the poor playwright, I suspect your comparison fits all too well, even if I’ve never smelt the particular bathroom floor cleaner in question. At least I’m not alone in my experience, so that makes me feel a little better. It’s a ghastly smell, isn’t it?
Oh, I KNOW the floor cleaner!! It has various names. There’s an all purpose one we have to use at a print studio called Citrisolv that I believe is the same stuff. We used to use a teeny bit of acetone for the same purpose and the smell would dissipate asap, but one needs TONS of the Citrisolv to do the same job, and when I use it, I get a headache. Oh, the scent and product police!! They drive me mad!
That’s the one. I had high hopes for this one. Big disappointment.
There are now 3 pos reviews on Fragrantica. Different strokes…
Well, people have different noses and skin chemistry but, yes, different strokes indeed. Now you know a bit of what I deal with constantly as a reviewer. lol Still, I’m glad Marlowe worked out for them. The fewer people who have to go through our experience, the better for them. 🙂
Yikes. I saw the Tang and Bounce images and, if it weren’t for your wonderful writing, would have passed reading this review!!
I always feel a bit guilty enjoying the bad reviews, and your suffering through the awful fragrances, but you had in the first paragraph, aiding in my thinking of this as a successful tribute to the men of Proctor & Gamble! LOL!!
I am not surprised, really. I thought Junky was a complete failure. There, I said it in no uncertain terms. Burroughs was a man who led a decadent life, his Midwestern droll voice and business suits notwithstanding. Junky is a pallid, almost department store nice office scent. I can’t even judge it as that, as I thought, wow, this missed the mark by a MILE.
I was never that much of a fan of Burroughs, to be frank. I went to art school, so loving him was de rigueur. I spent a long afternoon listening to him read and ramble once, and it was hard not to fall asleep. So, unlike Marlowe, I’m not all that sad he wasn’t memorialized “correctly”. Still, it’s sad when perfumes do use public figures to pay tribute to and then don’t live up to it. Every life memorialized deserves the best, imho. And once done, who’s going to do it again?
Am I taking this too seriously? Probably!
You’re not alone in your views on Junky. I thought it was hideous. A chemical cocktail with massive amounts of ISO E Super, but also other synthetics. You’re right that, at its core, it was essentially a pallid department store offering but I think that was because it was such a mish-mash of genres that it was ultimately none of them — or anything at all. There were sporty cologne notes (almost a calone aroma at times mixed with all that citrusy freshness) vying with attempts at being a woody-incense-pot/marijuana scent, with a sweeter ambered gingerbread drydown like that in Orlando, etc. But NONE of them stuck or were done solidly enough. ALL of them essentially cancelled each other out to end up with, essentially, nothing…. a totally generic commercial scent whose only true, strong characteristic was synthetics.
As for Procter & Gamble, I’m glad you got it, since I think that attempt at subtlety (and not spoiling the subsequent parts to come) may have gone over other people’s heads. I only realised later that Europeans or non-Americans probably don’t associate P&G with the many cleaning and laundry products they put out, like Bounce, Tide, Downy, etc. In any event, Marlowe is a perfect tribute to the men to created Bounce/Tide and industrial cleanness.
I always enjoy reading your posts and this one caught my attention in my inbox because I was so curious about a scent named after Marlowe. And the company description sounded amazing!
But Tang, Bounce and orange floor cleaner comparisons kill this scent for me. Reading your experience with the scent was worth it though. I can never figure out how you can notice those subtle shifts in the scent as time passes. Amazing!
It’s nice to see you, Megan. And thank you for your kind words. As for Marlowe, the company’s description really did sound wonderful, didn’t it? Pity that the final result was so far off the mark.
Boo! I so wanted this to be a good one, but I think I’ll save my money for a FB of something on my (ever expanding) list…. Lately I’ve been wearing the hell out of my decants of Blomma Cult, have you tried that yet?
No, I’m afraid I haven’t tried Blomma Cult. I’ll keep an eye out for samples of it.
Poor Kit indeed. How would his Tudor nose react to Tang and dryer sheets. I bought some Tang
several weeks ago for the first time since the last century when I was a lad to see if I still hated- I do. Synthetic, white musk is not going anywhere, anytime soon but at least we’ve got much better taste here Kafka. 🙂 I laughed at the mention of Proctor & Gamble because my father worked in management for P&G for 20 years and loathed the way they operated. Heh. As usual thanks for persevering with these scrubbers! Don 😀
Your father worked as P&G Management and also raised mini-goats (which is what I think you said in a separate comment elsewhere)? Fascinating, Don. Sounds like quite a chap.
As for Christopher M., there is a rather twisted irony in his perfume tribute being so damnably clean, since the Tudor era was hardly known for such aromatic freshness, as well you know.
My dad bought two male goats called wethers post- um…castration and one female (doe) in 1997 for pets. There were boy and girl Pygmy siblings and the other male was a “normal” sized goat who was the juvenile delinquent of the trio. LoL Dad is down to the lone Pygmy male- his sister goatdeveloped severe arthritis in her left front leg and she kept falling down and my dad had to pick her up, but he just couldn’t risk her falling and him not being there to help her, so unfortunately she was euthanized several months ago. The normal sized male made it
to the age of 12, which is average. The sole remaining boy is a proper old man of 15 despite some emergency surgeries at Cornell Vet Animal Hospital. He’s had overnight stays and makes a good patient from what I hear. I’ve been thinking of going to that hospital just because of the
amazing care and doctors! My Mom named him Pip from Great Expectations. 🙂 He’s the cheeky one too. Seriously they are alot of fun and quite different than what most people think about them, though they require much work and care. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by animals of all kinds; not just GSDs. 😉 Somehow I think they(goats) would smell better than many people from 16th century England etc.. I’ve read so many fascinating accounts of that period. Unreal. I just think of The Big Stink. Along with my motherload of perfume samples, I’ve been reading some terrific books lately. My backlog booklist is infinite. One of the perks of the insomniac is catching up on reading. Oh, and dad worked at P&G 20 years, but in P&G’s parallel world one must double the time. lol Hope I didn’t bore ya with my ramblings here Kafka!! P.S. My weather was 80° yesterday…..so long waiting this ahhhh.
No, I enjoyed the stories, Don. 🙂 Thank you for sharing them. Pip sounds very sweet!
Pip is very sweet. When the males are neutered they become very good
my dad took a full sized, un-neutered male. This creature was black with a long beard!!: It wanted to fight the other
males, who were
reason. I said he looked like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Plus when they’re not neutered,they reek terribly. Dad gave
him back2 days
Your review of Marlowe was spot on! You described my experience with it perfectly. I think if it had been named after a reclusive, quiet writer with an unsullied reputation the perfume may have been less disappointing (Jardins D’Ecrivains presents Salinger….or Dickinson…..or Lee (Harper).
The dark brown color of the liquid, the note list, and the copy led me to expect a deep, loud powerhouse. I sprayed on a ton of it the second time around & I smelled what I think was myrrhe, and something floral. There was also a weak dustiness in there, but very boring. Then all that clean musk kicked in. It doesn’t bother me as much as it does you, but I’m not a clean musk type of person. I ended up spraying Musk Tonkin on top of it & it made me feel somewhat better.
Oh dear, lots of clean white musk for you, too? I know you had been looking forward to Marlowe quite a bit. Oh well, at least Slumberhouse’s Kiste stepped in to fill the deep, dark powerhouse void. Such an amazing scent, and I’m so glad you loved it, too.
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