Etro Messe de Minuit: Halloween by the Crypt (1994) {Perfume Review & Musings}


Messe de Minuit (Midnight Mass) by Etro might have been composed by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour with a Christmas atmosphere in mind, but the very first time we tried it, the vision it created was that of a dusty staircase leading to a crypt unopened for centuries inhabited by desolate, stifled air, gloom, forgotten lives, a spooky presence of the unseen, with veils of silence. If you went to a specialty store nearby when you went back to the surface, you could have added spiders, perhaps scorpions, surely skeletons to make the decor less dramatic and more fun, yes, more fun; or mummies, we won't be picky. The imagined dusty and dark staircase could also have led to the bowels of a pharaoh's tomb right under the pavement of Paris. We have the Catacombs by the way...

On a practical note, if you want to celebrate All Hallows' Eve tomorrow in the City of Lights, you can direct your steps to the Catacombs or Musée Grévin or the Père Lachaise cemetery. One year, I chose Grévin and it was great. Highly recommended.

Etro-Messe-de-Minuit-Visual.jpg Some people say that Messe de Minuit reminds them of the smell of old books rather than haunted places; and this is the smell of old books. It is true. It smells of degraded Vanillin. To us, Duchaufour worked on the idea of a Shalimar for church, with all its old smells. We all agreed, then, a priori that this was a perfume which wafted of ruins be them of stones, organic matter or paper.

For Etro, it is about,

"The velvet of incense, speaking to us of the absolute. Brightened by lemon and bergamot. Enriched with myrrh to deepen our prayers. A baroque polyphony, full of light and shade."

More unexpectedly - and this feels a bit like a non sequitur, it is also,

"A mystic escape from the male stereotype."

Is this an attempt to help us envision God as feminine? We don't think so, but that is what they have written down.

In 2017, we're reviewing the latest reformulation dating back to 2009 of a jus created in 1994, this to comply with the European Union regulations. It seems to us that the fragrance has lost its strongly antiquarian flavor and smells more gourmand. It evokes condensed milk and dusty prunes this time. The composition remains a bit dark but it has lost, to my nose, the immediately disquieting aspect of the perfume which made you think "Edgar Allan Poe" and "abandoned tombs."

The incense is still fairly mystical conjuring up wet mossy stones covered with the dust of ages but it is now less dry, sweeter, as if the perfume had decided to be on the side of life rather than death. You may be lost near a crypt but you have a fruit bowl handy. Perhaps this is the scent of the goodies that a pharaoh has to accompany him to the afterlife and the fruits and the wine are still fresh, perfumed with myrrh and incense and cinnamon. The resins are still ductile and oozing rather than hardened by time.

Still, as a Halloween fragrance Messe de Minuit works. Especially - and you're glad when this happens - when it suddenly lets out a nuance of moldy mushroom. If it is less phantomatic than it used to be - you are by the crypt not inside the crypt - it still smells cobwebb-y enough, austere enough to help set the mood for a convincing Halloween cosplay party with a hint of the danse macabre.

Fragrance notes: bergamot, lemon, orange / rose, incense, Ceylon cinnamon, lemon petitgrain, patchouli / myrrh, cistus labdanum, musk.

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