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.