Far too long ago I received samples of the two new ”Rouge” fragrances by Parfums M. Micallef and have been letting them languish when I should have been reviewing them. Part of the reason for my hesitation was that, after sampling them the first time, I didn’t quite know what to say. On further sampling, my reaction is about the same, so here goes.
Both perfumes in the “Rouge” series were created by Micallef’s house perfumer, Jean-Claude Astier, and released in 2013. It’s interesting that these two fragrances seem like outliers in the Micallef lineup, coming across as more generic than the others I’ve tried. They both seem to be aiming for the same lovely, smooth, quasi-gourmand deliciousness that characterizes most other Micallef perfumes, but somehow go astray into what I perceive as conventional mass-market territory.
Rouge #1 starts out as a generic fruity-floral with a clean, slightly soapy smell like citrusy laundry detergent. For those who like their flowers clean and conventional, this combination is probably perfect. I understand that it’s supposed to smell like rose, but I really don’t pick up much, if any, rose. Instead, it’s more of a light, peachy, slightly aldehydic, floral scent that isn’t identifiable as any specific flower. In this respect, it seems somewhat retro, like a perfume from the middle of the last century.
Although the main theme seems like it came streaming back from the 1950s, the super-clean underpinnings are more in the shape of modern North American mainstream sensibilities, where clean is queen. As it dries down, it slowly transforms into a light, soft glow of soapy floralness, the sort of thing that I can imagine a misguided older relative giving a teenager as her first perfume. On the one hand, it has the easy, typically French, sophistication of older designer perfumes, and on the other hand it has the innocent, fruity, freshly washed aura of a young, female Disney heroine. It’s what Cinderella smelled like before her fairy godmother sprayed her with pheromones to send her off to the ball.
An hour into the drydown, the aldehydic-soapiness joins forces with the smell of a new vinyl shower curtain. Together they wash away most of the soft, powdery, peachy-floral that had characterized the opening movement. The shower curtain scent lingers on to the end. Sillage is moderate, and the scent is fairly inoffensive by most standards, so Rouge #1 would be appropriate for work-wear or any other situation where social interactions are more casual and businesslike than close and romantic. It will last throughout the day.
Rouge #2 Starts off as a mix of violet-ionones, caramelized sugar, sweet vanilla, and possibly a tiny bit of patchouli and resinous woody notes in the base. In the sillage I detect an ominous cloud of the scratchy green tea note that I dislike so much, but up close it’s not obvious, at least not at first. As in the case of its sister, Rouge #1, the floral notes in #2 are so thoroughly blended that they simply come across as cool “floralness” with no emergent theme. I do not detect even a hint of the blackcurrant and nutmeg that are said to be in the mix. Rouge #2 is, at least initially, the more interesting of the two compositions, drying down to a soft, faintly ambery, vanilla-based powdery floral. However, after a half hour, the scratchy green tea comes to dominate the composition, even up close, drowning out the delicate fruity-floral and oriental notes that could potentially have made for a beautiful fragrance if they hadn’t been swallowed by the tea-monster. The tea-monster lasts for about 6-7 hours, finally subsiding enough so that I can smell the final bit, a pleasant ambery base with just a hint of vanilla and ambroxan. At 12 hours, it’s still going strong.
I’m the first to admit that I’m hypersensitive to the “scratchy green tea” note, and often find that it masks the other notes in a composition. I simply can’t ever get past it to enjoy any other features of a scent. For me, the overpowering green tea note in Rouge #2 is a deal-breaker. I can appreciate the fragrance, but could never wear it myself. Most other people don’t seem to notice it at all or, if they do, they seem to enjoy it. With this caveat in mind, you might like or even love Rouge #2 because the rest of it seems like it’s probably lovely.
In conclusion, these two reds just didn’t do it for me. However, if I were asked to choose between them, I would prefer Red #2, scratchy tea notwithstanding. The amber-ish base suits me better than the vinyl shower curtain drydown of Red #1. In the end, they should both be fairly well-received because they contain a lot of elements that most people seem to like.
[Photos courtesy of Parfums M. Micallef/Hypoluxe]