Every time I sit down to review a Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier perfume I get really nervous. No matter how well I try to describe them I will always be missing hints and delicate aspects that keep revealing themselves wearing after wearing. In some inexplicable way these perfumes seem to have a living ingredient in them, a piece of the perfumer’s soul, that pops up from the composition giving each perfume a distinct character that takes over from any conventional note description.
Eau Pour le Jeune Homme is a bitter orange fragrance to me. Neroli and pertitgrain is what hits me in the opening. The petitgrain cuts down the creaminess of neroli at this stage creating a fresher, greener version of neroli. This brings Gautier Fleur du Mâle in mind but here the focus is on a bitter neroli accord and not the overly creamy bouquet of Fleur du Mâle. This opening accord lasts for quite long and is slowly joined by some spices. The main counterpart of neroli in the middle stage is coriander seed. Coriander in itself has an orange vibe but with a creamy, candied quality. The addition of coriander brings a nostalgic facet as it reminds me of sugar coated coriander seeds that I used to chew when I was little. I can pin down another spice that I recognize as mahlab (μαχλέπι), a spice used in the Middle East and Greece to flavour pastries and bread. It is the seed kernel of a cherry species that has a very creamy almond note with a slight cherry tone. It is rich in cumarin. The flavour it imparts is very delicate and a little bitter. The neroli-coriander combination is a magical one. Coriander seems to anchor neroli in a lower key scale and while it is a spice it is completely different from the classic, warm general idea of spices like cinammon, cloves or ginger. The base of the fragrance is mostly musk with woody tones.
What my description cannot capture is the general atmosphere that Eau Pour le Jeune Homme creates. The name itself, “For the Young Man”, sounds incredibly old fashioned to the point of imparting a slight irony. The use of neroli as a central ingredient for this makes the irony even more plausible because neroli is such an old fashioned note in itself. The key to making this composition special is the bitter citrus of petitgrain. And while petitgrain belongs to the citrus family of notes it has the herbal qualities of the leaf of bitter orange and is greener and more persistent than other citrus notes. The addition of spices makes this neroli very different. It doesn’t come off as a typical floral but all the notes blend seamlessly to create a fuzzy, creamy, bitter composition which, while constructed from extremely old fashioned and traditional notes, ends up smelling raw, mysterious, like a force of nature. The musk in the drydown creates a buzz like an electric spark.
Eau Pour le Jeune Homme should be a very conventional fragrance. It is and it isn’t. No strange ingredients, no dark notes. Just good old bitter orange in all its forms. However neroli here is not sweet and floral but bitter and green. It warms on the skin with delicate spices and then the musk adds this special fizzy quality that makes the drydown so unique. It opens fresh and then slowly starts singing a low key melody. It turns from fresh citrus to floral musk in a masterful way that never ceases to amaze me. Eau Pour le Jeune Homme demonstrates in a very eloquent way that a vibrant, moving, changing composition can be created using the most ordinary ingredients if used with talent and imagination. The combination of familiar notes used in a way that creates classic but different scents is a trademark of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier.
A flanker for this is also available, Eau Pour le Jeune Homme Extravagante, that adds ginger to the composition. It doesn’t add a lot to the simple beauty of the original but has a fresh tone that reminds me of watermelon.
Notes from Fragrantica: bergamot, lemon, Brazilian orange, neroli, rosemary, nutmeg, coriander, musk, sandalwood
Notes from my nose: petitgrain, neroli, coriander, mahlab, musk, sandalwood