The Scented Salamander

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Perfume Review & Musings: Musc Ravageur Eau de Parfum & Oil by Maurice Roucel at Frederic Malle, Editions de Parfums

Musc Ravageur, the edp and the oil, were created by perfumer Maurice Roucel in 2000 and 2003, respectively. He is also the creator of popular luxury and niche scents such as Hermès 24 Faubourg, Guerlain L'Instant, Donna Karan Be Delicious, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, and Lolita Lempicka L, among others.

Musc Ravageur already comes preceded by an established reputation as Malle's best-seller. The perfume's name proclaims far and wide that it will conquer the hearts, or at the very least, win the erotic favor of the vulnerable mortals who will get close to its fragrance. Maurice Roucel, we are told by Editions de Parfums, thought of it as an "act of seduction and generosity." The French perfumer confesses a predilection for warm, sensual scents and Musc Ravageur appears to epitomize those very qualities. We would expect this, as Frédéric Malle, in principle, gives free rein to his stable of authors, having introduced the concept of a publisher, not of books, but of fragrances.

The verb "Ravager" alludes to a dangerous seductive power, as in "ravager les coeurs", literally, devastate hearts. If you wear Musc Ravageur, you are implicitly promised to turn into a "ravageur" or a "ravageuse" depending on your sex both being, supposedly, individuals of considerable seductive charisma. Incidentally, a "ravageuse" can also mean a prostitute and we see then how society can cast a stern glance at women who go a little too far astray. However, a "ravageur" may not mean a male prostitute.

Frederic Malle, the self-described "éditeur de parfums" of Musc Ravageur, wholeheartedly acknowledges and advertises the aphrodisiac properties of Musc Ravageur, the Oil, asserting with gusto, "
It is a musk that destroys everything in its passage. " He further reveals, almost inadvertently, that this capacity for barbaric misdemeanor and amorous devastation was carefully planned by Maurice Roucel from the depths of his laboratory, adding " It’s freedom oil! You can put it all over. It’s a technology for maximum sexy pleasure."(the oil + the scent).

Let us pause here for a moment; did we just now read the word "technology" here, instead of say, "art"?! Would that mean that perfumers and their publishers, such as Frederic Malle, are interested in the social engineering of our most intimate feelings and emotions??? In brief, yes, we have to face the unsettling fact that the creation of perfumes can be aimed primarily at the manipulation of our moods rather than, first and foremost, at aesthetic emotion (Serge Lutens and Chris Sheldrake work more on realizing abstract artistic concepts in my opinion and their creations are more difficult to wear for this very reason). This is demonstrated, for instance, by the current predilection for scientific fabrication of scented environments in stores to help drive up sales. Let us be lucid consummers.

Over the centuries, musk has been considered to be both animalic, due to its origin, and divine in its ability to conjure up love. We can only imagine how many erotic and nuptial relations were sealed in the past thanks to the exhalations of musk. In the present, we are invited to try this potent elixir in order to gauge its effects on the modern man and woman.

The Eau de Parfum is sweeter than the oil and presents more olfactory contrast. The top notes are lavender, bergamot, and mandarine. My nose ascribes the sweetness of the edp not only to vanilla, I smell Bourbon vanilla, but to the presence of a very sweet variety of lavender, similar to the one found in Homme by Caron. The initial clear, high-pitched notes create an elevated, vertical orientation in the perfume, an arc if you will, which invites you to think of lightness and air. The tangy, herbaceous notes are able to sustain themselves and remain at the crest of the heart and base notes, providing balance and contrast between ethereal and earthy feelings. The musky accord is present from the very start and does not develop only in the drydown, thus emphasizing the linear effect of a quasi musk tincture. There is also a pronounced cola accord due to the association of lemon and spices, such as cinnamon and clove. This may turn off or readily attract some people; it nearly turned me off, but fortunately I went back on my judgement and ended up loving it. It can actually be a truly addictive scent. The edp is both a bit on the gourmand side, if we think of cola, and much more squarely on the sexy side. It smells very true to a tincture of musk grains, the uriney notes elegantly folding into spicy, woodsy, and ambery counterpoints, creating a delectable, sensual scent with great presence and character. The notes constituting the base are, according to Basenotes, gaiac wood, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, tonka; Editions adds amber, while not mentioning most of the notes cited above.

The Oil lets the musk take center-stage, in an understated way. The other notes are much more attenuated than in the edp and there are fewer of them. The drydown in the oil is also more acrid, more evocative of sweat. Amateurs of Musc Koublaï Khan and of authenticity in general may appreciate this. The oil is also more linear and flat, apparently more austere too. It is more discrete than the edp, being more of a skin scent, but its discretion seems only to suggest further greater intimacy and seduction, since, as you get closer, the sexual character of Musc Ravageur the Oil becomes more openly apparent, less disguised than in the edp. The Huile à Tout Faire can be applied to your hair, but it seemed to have reduced staying power there and I could personally hardly smell it. My strategic dating advice would be to consider wearing the edp in the first stages of courtship when a little sillage matters and then switch on to the oil as you get further into your man's or woman's personal spatial radius.

These two perfumes go through several stages in the development espousing well the rythms of one's skin. At times, I prefer the oil because it smells more authentic, purer and truer to real musk, while the edp by comparison appears to be a prettied up, embellished version of musk, coquetishly sagging under the weight of too many ornaments. Flowers are not among those ornaments as it was composed without any floral notes. Ultimately, I think I prefer the Eau de Parfum because its scent is richer, more complex, lasts longer, on my skin at least. But who said you needed to choose between the two lovelies? We can see them as being complementary. I think that despite the fact that both versions of MR are unisex scents, men who think sweet notes are not masculine enough for their taste may feel more comfortable wearing the oil. People who like natural scents will also feel inclined to dab the oil rather than the edp.

Sources: Le Sex Sells by Amy Larocca, Basenotes, Now Smell This, Osmoz, Editions de Parfums.


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