I have been eager to try the perfume named Fo-Ti-Tieng by Marilyn Miglin for the longest of times (in the very fast internet age) but was able to procure it only recently. Life. The buzz it has created in HSN customers' reviews made it possible to bring it back from the island of the dead. Originally launched in 2006 as one of the Pheromone Seven Sacred Oils recreated by Miglin's team based on "papyrus research" for Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs at the Field Museum, it elicited so many positive reactions that no business person with common sense and especially one with a humanitarian bent like Marilyn Miglin could let pass this opportunity. The customers would have got really mad.
Fo-Ti-Tieng or Fo-Ti-Tien is the Chinese name for what is more commonly known to health aisles habitués as Gotu-Kola and scientifically recorded by pharmacists as Centella Asiatica.
There are not many American perfumes with a Chinese name. In fact, right now I can only think of Xia-Xiang by Revlon (1987). Even Lucky Number 6 by Liz Clairborne has everything Chinese about it but the name. Calling a scent Fo-Ti-Tieng (Elixir of Long Life), one which is then touted as an ancient aphrodisiac makes the concoction, if I could only see it behind the opaque glass, seem even deeper and more mysterious...
Fo-ti-teng the ingredient around which the perfume centers is not new to the Marilyn Miglin brand which used this note in their debut perfume, Pheromone (1977) as well as in Destiny, her second women's perfume. On its own, it was first marketed in a small bottle as a one-note scent reportedly pulled out from the base of Pheromone, the signature fragrance of the brand.
Smelling the scent from the cap in anticipation, I have to say that I feel a little apprehensive as I first detect a dominant whiff of white musks. Will Fo-Ti-Tieng turn out to be all hype and little substance?
What the HSN website says,
"Capture the essence of the romance and emotion with Marilyn Miglin Fo-Ti-Tieng Eau de Parfum. This 3.4 oz. tantalizing and beautifully feminine scent will stir the emotions of those around you with its blend that includes the potent Fo-Ti-Tieng flower.Fo-Ti-Tieng the plant has a fascinating medicinal history being reputed in particular for its longevity properties as well as mentally stimulating ones. It is also known as a sexual stimulant. I happen to have a bottle of Centella Asiatica tincture in my medicine cabinet at home and of course I decide to compare the scents next to each other. Indeed, there appears to be fo-ti-tieng in the perfume but more in a blended form than as a stand-out note. It contributes to the brash accord of jasmine as if only the raspy olfactory top notes of this plant had been let to feel a bit characteristic. Tinctured, Fo-Ti-Tieng smells like the typical slightly medicinal Chinese wine smell, with plums having macerated in it.
Through the ages, Fo-Ti-Tieng has been thought to be a potent flower with many uses
In China, it has been said that it was used in tea and in the bath water to stir emotions
The sensual notes of Fo-Ti-Tieng are combined with ylang-ylang and osmanthus and blended with cassie, carnation and jasmine (the flower of unconditional love)."
Notes: Fo-Ti-Tieng flowers, jasmine, osmanthus, ylang, marigold, cassie, carnation, vanilla...
The eau de parfum opens on raspy green musk in the sense of giving the impression of a white musk colored green by both a very herbaceous and rather indolic jasmine. Indolic but not zoo-y or fecal in the least. If you like a jasmine note that is not very sweet and has the strong, powerful effect of a Dijon mustard making its way through your nasal passageways, this is how it approximately smells.
After this opening the scent mellows down while still giving the feeling of a little mound of grated horseradish. As a counterpoint to this insistence on a mustard-y facet, a characteristic olfactory facet created in both mustard and horseradish by the molecules Sinigrine and Myrosine, there is a touch of amber-y and jasmine-y sweetness but quite subtle. One suspects that the seven sacred notes have been rotated into the scent to varying degrees. It could thus be the lotus note described as "the sweetness of women." There is a likeness to Pheromone, yet it is different and for those who want to know, not as potentially reminiscent of cat urine.
Fo-Ti-Tieng does not smell herbal-y despite its reference to ancient Egyptian and Chinese pharmacopeias, but it is an unusually bracing and brash scent without it being loud or in-your-face.
I find it interesting in the manner that it forsakes any sense of prettiness and is really like a dry gin (juniper oil is one of the 7 sacred scents) with a soupçon of sweet amber and an armful of masculine, whiplash-y jasmine. Despite its controlled pungency, it is not headache-inducing, but is somewhat head-clearing and sinus-clearing, a good thing at all times but especially in the colder months. A current of fir-like coolness traverses one's body: obviously, the perfume is meant to act on your humors and disposition, not just to smell good.
After having written this remark, I see that the Marilyn Miglin oils have purported "behavioral effects".
But it also smells good in an unusual way these days. The discreetly sweetish facet endures and even becomes a bit smoky and tobacco-like contributing further to the sentiment of an atypical scent. It is as diametrically opposed to a commercial fruity-floral or milky fruity-floral as could be. All the sweetness in the perfume is firmly kept on a leash. A vigorous greenness that is not that of galbanum is emphasized, which makes it come out of the Western cannon of perfumes still paying homages to Balmain Vent Vert. The jasmine with the ylang and other floral notes feel floral without coming across as pretty, girly but rather as florals on testosterones although once you smell them on a man, they do feel sweeter and less stripped of their femininity than you initially thought.
An intriguing perfume, well worth experiencing.
Fo-Ti-Tieng also helps redefine the notion of "mainstream perfume". It may be sold through a very mainstream channel, HSN, but it does not smell that mainstream.
Below, Marilyn Miglin promoting the perfume on HSN: