Haute 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.)
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.
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.
An 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.