Pierre Montale: does he exist?

If I was offered a chance to interview one perfumer it wouldn’t be difficult for me to choose: Pierre Montale. An interview with Serge Lutens might be more intriguing or even mind-numbing but has anybody ever interviewed Pierre Montale? Or  has anyone ever seen a photo of his face online? I googled him and went through links for hours but never came up with anything. There is a thread on Basenotes forum that certainly sheds light on the subject. Of course he does exist. He was the creator of Comptoir Sud Pacifique original formulas. Come to think of it CSP Motu has a definite Montale vibe. And both lines use aluminium bottles, the preferred way for storing and transporting fragrance. In 2001 he became private perfumer to the Saudi Royal Family and in 2003 he opened his boutique in Paris. Unfortunately I have never been to the Montale boutique so I have never met him in person. But both he and his line are fascinating.

The first Montale that I tried was Greyland. I didn’t know what to make of it. This had nothing to do with the dark complexity I have come to expect from my previous niche experiences. It felt like an explosion up my nose. This was pop culture! Strong, provocative, not even trying to convince it was “100% natural ingredients'”. Not that imply that it isn’t! But let’s just say that if we often tend to use paintings to draw a visual analogy of a fragrance, Greyland could only be depicted as a vibrant colour photo. Then came the ouds. And I started to appreciate the violent vibrancy and pure power of them. They were the key that allowed me to open the door of Pierre Montale’s olfactory and creative world and appreciate his talent. His exploration of the possibilities of oud as a key player in the composition of a scent is obsessive. It has spun 25 variations of oud (at least I counted that many on the official site and there are several that I know exist but didn’t see listed), like the hues on a colour swatch. Some have so minute differences that they seem unnecessary but each one is someone’s favourite. Writing another dithyramb on Black Aoud wouldn’t add much to this post. It is a rose like no other. A perfume that has offered me spontaneous compliments from a 10 year old. One of the most reviewed fragrances of the internet.

But Pierre Montale doesn’t only know oud. Some of his other fragrances are also masterpieces. Sandflowers is an abstract minimalist vision of how skin smells on the beach. And I do not mean suntan lotion. I mean pure skin!It is a must try for all who find Secretions Magnifiques intriguing but impossible to wear. Red Vetyver is the first cousin of Terre d’Hermes who came back from abroad driving a Ferrari. Patchouli Leaves is a slap on the face by a huge bunch of patchouli leaves followed by a caress with an amber glove. The list can go on for ever. Each perfume has as many fans as adversaries.

There is more controversy coming your way though. Montale has been excluded from Luca Turin’s “Tha Guide!” because Montale didn’t send samples to the world’s authority on perfume. I mean c’mon…. , if you intend to write the definitive guide to perfume isn’t it a bit stupid to admit that the perfumes you reviewed were freebies sent to you only by people who were eager to be included? This means of course that all reviews written on Montale perfumes are written by people who have actually bought bottles or decants, spending their good money. No “please, please review me”from Pierre. And he doesn’t give interviews. He doesn’t actually care about publicity. And the publicity he gets is genuine. No one feels obligated to leave a positive review because the line was generous with their samples.

So Montale don’t give a dime about the perfume establishment. What they do care is their customers though. If you order from them you can choose to have your favourite perfume at extra concentration at no extra cost. Not that I could find a reason why I would want one of those beasts on turbo boost. Most of them are longevity, projection and sillage champions. If you spray them on clothes it isn’t certain that laundry will wash them off. They spray on skin like oil, not eau de parfum. Patchouli Leaves is dark brown, like coffee and nobody is supposed to be able to see the colour since it is locked inside the aluminium bottle. And when you order a 100ml bottle you get a 20ml bottle of any perfume you want for free. How’s that for customer service?

OK, it’s not all roses. Montale shows an utter disrespect to all forms of conformity. You have to literally e-mail them your credit card details to order. It sounds scary but I have done it and it worked. And at the rate new releases come out there is no way anyone could keep up. So if you are really a fan you always feel like you are missing out on something. And there is all the confusion with special names used for the same perfumes in Arabian markets. So if you are shopping at the evil-bay you never know whether you are shopping for genuine stuff or imaginary fake versions. Some time ago there was talk about a Mango fragrance by Montale that was on sale on the internet together with a Pear one. Fellow perfumistas contacted Montale to inquire whether this was a real Montale or a fake as it wasn’t listed officially. The response was that there was no such fragrance by Montale. Mango Manga is now officially sold by Montale.

I love Montale’s. And something tells me that Pierre Montale is a great guy too. He certainly is talented! And he also has this genuine disrespect of the establishment that I find absolutely fascinating. An interview with Serge Lutens would be full of cryptic innuendos, multilayer metaphors and cultural references. An interview with Pierre Montale? Who knows? Every Serge Lutens new release is as pompous as a new iPhone model release. New Montale releases are countless and frantic. Pierre Montale doesn’t give interviews. His perfumes speak for himself.

And for those who continue to look for the real identity of Pierre Montale please read this and ask yourselves if it is worth obsessing about his personality when perfumes speak for themselves.

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

13 comments

  1. You obviously know a lot about this house; thanks for sharing your knowledge. I’m not familiar with the perfumes, but will keep an eye out for them.

  2. I just did my research. It is a house I have made a 180 from my initial impression of my early perfumista days. It has a style of its own definitely. And even though hardcore oud fans mock the euro-trash approach to this material, one has to admit that they are the ones that got us on the oud bandwagon and, the way it looks, for good. Black Aoud is a must try for anyone.

  3. Dearest, I am not very fond of Montale or Serge Lutens – I have some samples of both brands and there are a few ones that I really enjoyed. I think it is because I am not very fond of the Middle Eastern touch…no politics involved here. Like Andy Tauer. Besides Vetiver Dance and LoneStar Memories the rest of the line is very Bedouin, very Salamaleikum…I think it works for many perfume passionates but not for this lady here. In the end of the day, I think of my husband’s grandmother and the smell of her drawers in her home in Morocco…I think I am too urban to wear them.

    • Funny you should say this Simone because “serious” oud fans do not consider the Montale’s truly oriental. I don’t think they are either. They are too bright and polished and technicolor to fit in the oriental bazaar theme for me. I don’t see many similarities between them and the Serge Lutens line. But then I love both.

  4. Memory of Scent, this was a pleasure to read, as I agree with pretty much every point you make (and you make your points quite eloquently, I might add). Montale Patchouli Leaves, Black Aoud, Red Aoud, Boise Vanille…and then the very different and femnine Intense Tiare! These are some incredible fragrances, my favorites from the line, though if I sampled more of the Montales, I know I’d be adding to that list.

    Like you, I’ve spent some hours trying to find info on Pierre Montale on the Internet and pretty much came up empty. And also like you, I rather dig the fact that this man isn’t into publicity and focuses instead on creating his perfumes and making sure that customers are exceptionally well treated. (But if you ever get an interview with him, I’ll be here in a heartbeat to read it!)

  5. To all you curious people out there, we have a photo!!! The first photo of Pierre Montale at least I have ever seen. It is on the basenotes thread highlighted in my post. Don’t expect a full face photo though…

  6. He is a real person!!! :) Awesome!!! Thanks for letting us know, Christos.

  7. Pingback: Montale Patchouli Leaves: a trip down patchouli road « Memory of Scent

  8. Narcus

    re: “There is more controversy coming your way though. Montale has been excluded from Luca Turin’s “Tha Guide!” because Montale didn’t send samples to the world’s authority on perfume. I mean c’mon….”:

    Reviews of 6 Montale Perfumes have been published in PTG, second edition:
    Aoud Damascus**
    Black Aoud****
    Chocolate Greedy***
    Oud Cuir D’Arabie*****
    Red vetiver***
    White Aoud***

  9. I know Pierre Montale as a regular and devoted client of his. He is eccentric, but truly an “artiste’ in every sense of the word. He has a personal style that is unique in terms of his demeanor and his fashion sense which is outré for anywhere except Paris! I have discussed the counterfeit question with him and he doesn’t have the time or inclination to go after them. I find him refreshing and an anomaly in the fragrance world. For the longest time, he didn’t raise his prices because he didn’t think about it or see it as necessary. Currently the future of the line is in great question and I truly hope it emerges the same as before, albeit in a different location. He has lost the lease at Place Vendome and we await news. Is he still in production? Will he re-open as promised in a new location off the Champs Elysées. I certainly, certainly hope so.

    • The image of Pierre Montale that you paint is very close to how I imagine he is. Although I have never met him I wish I will in the future in the new shop of the line. I am also eagerly awaiting news on the new shop location so when you do hear something please come back again and lets us know.

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