Thierry Mugler Miroir des Majestés (2012): Kinetic Oud {Perfume Review & Musings}

Miroir des Majestés_ok.jpgGenre: Oriental Floral Oud

Miroir des Majestés by Thierry Mugler is the new addition to the Miroir, Miroir collection inaugurated in 2007 which is inspired by the mythology of the mirror, including such widely known folkloric narratives as the fairy-tale of Snow-White as recounted by the Brothers Grimm. That legend is being conspicuously revived at the movies currently with Mirror, Mirror by Tarsem Singh and the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman by Rupert Sanders. While you may have trouble watching the trailer of the first till the end - I couldn't - so steeped in mind-numbing conventions and maimed by overpaid bad acting it is, the second one looks like a movie worth watching. As to Thierry Mugler, it's not altogether clear what the fashion designer thinks about the relevance of this reactivation of the mirror mythology today, except to link it up in a rather facile manner to the obvious rise of the narcissistic culture.

Parallel to this orientation is the popularity of the fantasy genre which has been thriving with huge film and literature franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, a little less so with The Chronicles of Narnia. In the end, there remains a much more ahistorical, legitimate thirst in the everyman for dreams and the pushing-back of the frontiers of reality. Something to be found beyond the mirror...

I will argue that the perfume Miroir des Majestés achieves the creation of a type of sensual perception which is an invitation to go beyond the mirror rather than to reflect yourself in it in spite of the mirrored box encasing the fragrance bottle. Just like Alice enters a new dimension, this perfume makes us live an experience in olfactory space which attempts to go beyond our mundane experience anchored in the quotidian. Its most notable creative characteristic is to deliver a kinetic sensation suggesting a certain type of movement. Oud has naturally this kinetic property which has been put to best artistic use here. Another mytheme that can be conjured up at this point would be the dance of the seven veils to describe its effect. It is a composition which therefore goes beyond the desire to commercially woo oud lovers as has been noted several times on the blog since the bold and bolder introduction of oud in Western perfumery. There is agarwood, it is heavily Oriental in its texture albeit lightened up thanks to the technical ability to suggest heaviness rather than it be literally heavy.

What distinguishes Miroir des Majestés from the rest of the Miroir, Miroir fragrance library is that it is a perfume exclusively created for the Middle Eastern market. Miroir des Voluptés (2010) was an oud to be had in Western markets. The label thus joins the efforts of American Estée Lauder with Wood Mystique by French perfumer Jacques Cavallier and Italian Renato Balestra with Essenza Divina by French perfumer Francis Deléamont.

Miroir des Majestés was composed by yet another French perfumer, Nathalie Lorson. Indeed two thirds of perfumers in the world today are French. The trademark Frenchness of perfume is in keeping with the traditional values in the Middle East region where giftable perfumes are French as they equate high quality and luxury. In France, we eat caviar from the Caspian region and we drink choice teas from India so it is readily appreciated that luxury often bears the mark of long-distance exoticism and specialized skills. What is easily had has less value. 

The perfumer explained that the composition is based on three main accords dubbed "Desires" rather than the classic olfactory pyramid. They are titled Vibrant, Voluptuous and Intoxicating Desires.

How It Smells

As you discover Miroir des Majestés, you smell the vaporous - you want to say "niche" rendition of something familiar - like a Cacharel Lou Lou perfume with more pungency, that would have been created for the niche market. You are reminded also of Vierges et Toréros by Etat Libre d'Orange, only finer, with more honey and powder.

The fragrance reminds you also of the drageified aromas of candied dry fruits, and more specifically of the Iranian pistachio dragées scented with orange blossom, one of the most voluptuous candies in the world, which scent invite you to dip your arms in basketfuls of the pistachio slivers glazed with snow-white sugar and oh-so fragrant orange blossom. L'Artisan Parfumeur Fleur d'Oranger 2005 already contained that rather precise gourmand balance to my nose.

The gustatory allusion however here is secondary and in fact, quite subliminal. You realize then that much more importantly, Miroir des Majestés' mission is to encourage you to feel intoxicated by perfume, and the memory of perfume.

What seemed at first to be an academic exercise in integrating oud to the traditional formula of a floral leather perfume - perhaps a Spanish leather of sort revisited by more animalic pungency - turns out to be a much more sensual excursion in a disorienting maze for the senses. You experience, or imagine you experience, a waltz of sensations, a dance with the Orient.

This is one of those perfumes that allow you to regain a measure of faith in the art of perfumery - the Thierry Mugler house of perfumes is one of the most serious in the fragrance industry. It aims to enrapture, intoxicate. This is more of a whirling Dervish kind of a scent, inviting you to a loosening of your will. It is not an intellectual examination of oud, or even a Western adaptation. The latter operation of cultural translation and adaptation is the more timid route taken by some cross-cultural works of perfumery - you think of the early oud adaptation Juliette has a Gun Midnight Oud but also of Timbuktu by L'Artisan Parfumeur featuring an African incense accord, which are both sage cross-breedings of two separate traditions somewhat overcome by a Western bias. They are more akin to 19th century Orientalist painting than to anthropological participant-observation. If you ever wanted proof that perfumery can progress and be critical, here it is. If a perfumer takes time to study ante works of perfumery, and if they think critically, they will be able to synthesize certain dualities like Lorson does for this fragrance.

With Miroir des Majestés, Nathalie Lorson succeeds in escaping several expected or facile solutions: the narrative framework, the in-between perfume, the slavish copy. She offers concentrates on crecreating an authentic sensual experience.

If you can smell in a more two-dimensional manner a perfumed leather skin drenched in almond, orange blossom, cardamom, honey, and oud, in a more three-dimensional manner, you smell a movement of loosening of the senses and enrapturing. Again, the dance of the whirling dervishes comes to mind.

What is more important is that the perfumer managed to recreate some of the extasis that can be experienced through the sense of smell. Miroir des Majestés is an intensely subtle perfume. There are - gourmand - I prefer to say palatable - and sweet aspects but those nuances are used more for their capacity to convey an intensity of feeling than near-edibility or comfort. I choose to use the term "palatable" because the spirit of the perfume suggests not so much a banquet feast as the action of smelling food that would be resting as it happens on your tongue.

As the perfume develops, it intensifies further its honeyed orange blossom accents resting on a layer of vaporous yet slightly opaque leather.

Lou Lou by Cacharel has this slightly opaque and thick feel to it, a sensation one experiences with its historical ancestor L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain, so there is something of this Heure Bleue fog-and-mist effect in this perfume as well, only humidified with a good dose of honey. Miel de Bois by Serge Luetns comes to mind as an inspiration for the pronounced woody honey aspect of the perfume. Later on, it smells like Baba au Rhum, only rummier and a bit more liqueur-like. In the same olfactory field where Miroir des Majestés resides, I smell Jammin', Jean Paul Gaultier Gaultier2, a discontinued Oriental Yves Rocher perfume which name I can't recall.

To go beyond the literalism of perfumery accords and to be invited to cross the mirror, 3-D spatial and depth-of-field accords as Jean-Claude Ellena put it recently for Voyage Eau de Parfum are carving yet another possible creative path. Since its origins, perfume has been the means to travel beyond the world of appearances through smoke, attempting to fly beyond the mirror. In modern perfumery where religion is not a main motivation, this has been replaced by an artistic interest in illusion. When 3-D films are leaving their marks on our psyches, is it just a coincidence that perfumes are playing with the same effect inviting you to step inside the illusion and touch it at the tips of your fingers?

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