M7 by Yves Saint Laurent {Perfume Review & Musings} {Men's Cologne of the Week}



The agarwood in M7 is pervasive, dark and swirling with complexities.  It has rich sweet resinous and slightly fruity overtones with a good dose of raspberry and lighter nuances of burnt caramel and honey.

It is a perfume that starts off warm and thick like the unfurling texture of dark molasses or better still it is thick like a heavy hanging wall tapestry from the middle-ages evoking men's quest for hotness and fire in the midst of winter.....

The perfume then becomes somewhat cold and dusty as if a draft of cool air were lifting the dust in a seldom-paced stone corridor located higher up in the old castle where the tapestry is hanging, bringing in at the same time the smells of incense and burning wax wafting in from the family chapel. Perhaps the castle is momentarily and partially abandoned as its proprietors have left long ago to deliver Jerusalem or perhaps it lives on only in the memories of ghosts that visit its ancient and deserted grounds and remember its olfactory imprint.

M7 for me has something archaic and slightly funeral about it, subconsciously perhaps as it is based on the aroma of dying Aquilaria tree attacked by parasite fungus (Phialophora Parasitica) thus producing the rare aromatic resin as an immune defense reaction. The mandrake root note in the base reinforces this slightly esoteric atmosphere.

The dusty effect is brought on by the vetiver. There is also a slight aqueous and again dusty feel to that second major impression - it smells of an undercurrent of fresh and dusty rose petals - that makes me think of the humidity of old stones. The perfume evokes the cultural encounters made possible by the crusades, the Orient as acclimatized to the West. The central reference to oud (wood in Arabic), another name for agarwood, contributes to that impression as the contrasts of hot and cold, windy and humid, freshness and spices do.
We are a far cry from the constructed image around the perfume. M7 was created in 2002 by Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier and designed by Tom Ford and Doug Lloyd. The somewhat puzzling name was explained to Cosmetics International in November 2002 in the following manner:  "The name has no definitive background, but YSL suggests that the M could stand for masculine, magnetic or simply man, while the 7 could represent the fact that it is the company's seventh male fragrance or that it is a symbol of fortune."

It has top notes of bergamot, mandarin, and rosemary. Heart notes are agarwood/aloeswood/oud and warm Haitian vetiver. Basenotes are amber, musk, and mandrake root.

The advertisement for the perfume is all about male sexiness, that of French martial arts (Aïkido) champion Samuel de Cubber. It is said that Tom Ford spotted him on the beach and convinced him to pose nude for him. He explained that they "... wanted a guy who really looked like a guy" and in particular was struck by the fact that de Cubber reminded him of an ideal of masculine beauty not seen since the 1970s. He added "Perfume is worn on the skin, so why hide the body? [...] The M7 campaign is really pure, it's a very academic nude."

The ad is also an homage paid to the YSL ad photographed by Jean Loup Sieff for Pour Homme where Yves Saint Laurent himself is seen posing nude. This campaign by Tom Ford happened right after the scandal surrounding Ford's previous advert with naked Sophie Dahl.

Once again, all people could think of was nudity rather than perfume bottle contents as the headline from the Independent Sunday at the time revealed saying "YSL Ad to Feature First Full-Frontal Male Nude." We do not want church groups to start casting stones at our blog so we will be content with the more modest version of the ad showing a suggestive armpit.

M7 is a contrasted perfume but in my mind not overly complex. The main level of complexity resides in the unfolding of the oud. Then it goes on feeling rich but not particularly deep. The drydown reinforces the impression of gradual simplification of the perfume as the amber becomes dominant and more conventional, more controlled and urbane. The powdery finale smells very good and sensual but cannot rival the depth of the initial agarwood accord.  

Personally I wished the perfume kept the same level of energy from beginning to end. It is perhaps for this reason that I end up thinking about ghosts as life seems to recede gradually from the fragrance. Longevity is good but there also would have been more satisfying if made to last longer. Nevertheless the perfume is beautiful and has a definite "Wow factor" going on for it. Like all perfumes based in part on a note that is used in incense-making, it offers a deeply evocative and meditative quality, even on the unconscious level.

You can find M7 in numerous discount stores online. 


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7 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. We are on the trail of incense, you and I, eh? :) Great review, M-H! I'd love to see that medieval tapestry, it's such an apt imagery. I admire all the facets of M7 and find the drydown rootiness ever so haunting, but can't wear it often enough. How do you feel about M7 Fresh?

  2. Hi,

    This blog give me an enlightenment and the best reference about fragrance, a great blog! Maybe this is the only one. I like: Polo (green); Van Cleef for Men by Van Cleef & Arpels. I am going to try M7.

    Could you help to give me recommendations about men fragrance which has a strong smell of dry wood also ethnic/traditional character but modern? Thanks in advance.

  3. Thank you for your kind words!

    I am thinking of Tumulte Pour Homme by Christian Lacroix which is both woody and dry (cedar mostly). It however lacks some depth in the dry-down in my opinion. But the woody impression is great.

    Caravelle Epicée by Frapin is also dry and woody and spicy.

    When you say ethnic/traditional/modern, I think of Fou d'Absinthe by L'Artisan, Déclaration by Cartier.

    You could also explore the Comme des Garçons Red Series (Palisander, Sequoia)

    If I come up with other ideas that warrant a post, I will do one.

  4. Try burning a stick of Shoyeido's top quality pure agarwood incense 'Sho Kaku' and then smell M7. They have as much in common as a diamond and a lump of coal. The first thing that comes to mind when I smell M7 is some kind of horrific, chemical cough syrup that has been smothered with synthetic cherry syrup to thinly disguise the bad taste, but actually makes it worse. I have tried to find something redeeming in this but am always forced to wash it off as it brings on a headache. If you sample 'Nu' you will smell the same notes, but very toned down and wearable. Almost like they discovered some toxin (M7) and refined and modified it to make a wearable fragrance. On top of that, another boring variation on a cube, 'masculine' bottle (this one the color of slightly used motor oil, I guess hinting at the contents). Why do men's fragrances always have such unimaginative bottles?

    Jim Barnett
  5. "Nu", now that's a review idea.

    Sometimes, it's not a good idea to use a natural reference for a fragrance because a perfume can be much more abstract and function with its own codes. When you try doing that, a fine perfume can very quickly "stink" because truly the smell is unnatural.

  6. I would like to say that, i have just discover again the M7, really a very good definition to this valuble perfume. I keep wearin M7 since 5 years and yet I still found it the optimum scent for me; it work so cool. thanks again for this presentation it made a lot for me and for other who wear it.

    mahmoud elhusseiny
    • You're welcome! It's really one of the best masculine fragrances there is.

      Chant Wagner

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