Floral fragrances for men still constitute a minority group in modern Western smell culture, notwithstanding the creations of memorable perfumes such as Caron Pour Un Homme (lavender), Dior Eau Sauvage (jasmine/hedione), Dior Fahrenheit (violet), and more recently, Dior Homme (iris). Having survived from the 19th century, we can also still find perfumes like Penhaligon Hammam Bouquet (1872) and Guerlain Jicky (1889) which have marked floral characters. Jicky was originally meant to be a unisex fragrance but was adopted by men first.....
If one looks at a line of fragrances like that of Serge Lutens', the distinction between a men's and a women's fragrance evaporates quickly and Fleur d'Oranger as well as Tubéreuse Criminelle will be worn in principle regardless of gender. It is only within the mainstream market and mentality that the distinction holds.
Jean Paul Gaultier's much anticipated new launch Fleur du Mâle - a pun on Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal - is a men's fragrance centrally based on orange blossom that wishes to overcome what remains, to some extent, an olfactory tabu, that is, associating men with unabashedly flowery aromas. Nose Francis Kurkdjian composed the perfume which includes petit grain (the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree), orange blossom, a fern accord, and coumarin.
The perfume is a very frank rendition of orange blossom starting seemingly like an orange blossom soliflore before blending in the notes to form a creamy floral bouquet with soft leathery (I think from the petit grain which has those nuances) and deeper animalic accents of civet and musk. There seems to be notes of jasmine, nutty tuberose, perhaps ylang-ylang.
The perfume is said to be constructed around an "unconventional fern accord" that does not incorporate either lavender or geranium. Overall, the composition is pleasant to the nose as it relies on a very attractive note of orange blossom that is fresh without being heady. One can note that Francis Kurkdjian worked with orange blossom quite a bit lately in his collaboration with Château de Versailles, for M.A. Sillage de la Reine and for the Bassin de l'Orangerie in October of 2006 when the water was scented with the flower's emanations for two nights. It is known to have been Louis XIV's favorite aroma in the second part of his life. Having said that, Kurkdjian himself likes to stress that he does not like to work with raw materials as sources of inspirations for his fragrances but rather based on encounters with people. He read, for example, a maximum of J-P Gaultier's interviews to better understand his client.
The bottom note is excellent with a beautiful woody amberey skin musk with elegant authentic uriney nuances. There are also some spicy coca-cola facets to the musk. Personally for me, it would be the longer drydown that would tip the scale in favor of a purchase.
The creaminess and powderiness of the floral bouquet however feels more generic and like an over-exploited theme that appears well-exemplified in women's perfumes like Trouble by Boucheron, Armani Code for Women or Alien by Thierry Mugler. Even more, there are two passages in the heart of the perfume that are reminiscent first of Sublime by Patou and then of Sira des Indes by Patou. It is very vanillic, almost gourmand, but it does not evoke much beyond a textural effect.
So many perfumes develop a luxurious vanillic and heliotropin flourish that it can feel like a perfumer's trick more than an artistic touch. Jean Paul Guerlain said that he thought that it was very difficult for a perfume to smell good without vanilla and that he always put some. The flip side of that coin is that it can be perceived as an easy effect. If you want to see a more sophisticated interpretation of vanilla by Francis Kurkdjian, you should try Tihota by Indult.
The texture is rich, opulent, or more precisely, suggests the abstract idea of opulence but as if you were watching it unfold in a movie or through a window pane rather than fully experiencing it. The ingredients seem not to support that idea all the way through and stay a little bit in retreat of the idea of opulence of the accord. Jean Paul Gaultier wanted the fragrance to make one feel "happy like a pasha" suggesting very much this idea of oriental (pardon the stereotype) self-indulgence that is so well symbolized by the advertisement showing a man taking a milk bath in which blossoms float.
It is not a very complex fragrance and the structure mid-course feels a bit smashed as a soufflé that would lack fluffiness. The perfume however is a crowd-pleaser and will probably be very popular, including with women and perhaps even more with them than with men as the perfume has borrowed its codes from feminine perfumery as we understand it today, rather than attempted to create a new synthesis. Turning to my better half to ask for his opinion, he reflected a bit and said that he thought that it was "....a fragrance for a complicated man." I suspect that this might be, in many cases, the definition of a woman.
You can read two readers' opinions in the comments here.
The fragrance is available at Bloomingdales, $54 for 2.6 oz and $72 for 4.2 oz.
Photo is from L'Express