Etro Messe de Minuit: more First Communion than Midnight Mass

Holy light

Etro is a love or… ignore label. You just can’t hate them, but many perfume lovers find them boring. The word game Etro/ Retro doesn’t help either. Maybe the extensive reformulation reports don’t help either. This line however has some gems and I enjoy their straightforward, no mythical pretences, approach to perfume. Messe de Minuit is one of their most acclaimed releases, A total incense fragrance that, with such an explicit name, predisposes for dark tales from the crypt.

Messe de Minuit opens with a brief burst of sweet citrus, orange or mandarin. With sweeping speed an equally fleeting tobacco note gives a dump sensation to the opening. A tiny dash of cinnamon adds warmth and sweetness. Very quickly all these notes step in the background to let the fat lady sing: incense in the form of incense tears, not to be confused with the pungent, volatile smell of burning incense. Incense tears smell floral, fruity, slightly powdery, moderately sweet and with a urinous undercurrent. The floral component of these incense tears in particular seems to be carnations to my nose and the fruity a white-fleshed peach. The slightly urinous smell of white pepper is also prominent in the middle of the development. Some violet seems to be part of this composition giving it a distinctive wet cement note, I have to stress however that all these elements are very hard to pin down and I have spent a whole day spraying myself with Messe de Minuit to make sense of the tiny fragments of individual notes because the main impression is always the most photorealistic rendition of incense tears. Trying to analyse these notes is closer to describing the properties of a variety of incense than identifying perfume notes.

Messe de Minuit was a big surprise for me. I was expecting a mysterious, dark, volatile incense fume laden composition along the lines of Serge Noire. It is instead a perfume that speaks of innocence, freshness, anticipation, veneration and awe.The imagery that I get from this is a floodlit temple of cold stone filled with children dressed in white, seemingly silent but leaning towards each other, whispering words and pointing with their gaze to the altar where a window lets in a yellowish light.

Trying L’Eau Froide made me think of Messe de Minuit because for me this is the most unusual incense I have ever smelled. Ironically incense is not part of the official notes.

Notes from bergamot, lemon, orange, Ceylon cinnamon, petit grain citronnier, patchouli, myrrh, labdanum, musk

Notes from my nose: orange, mandarin, carnation, white peach, white pepper, cinnamon, violet, incense tears


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas 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.


  1. I’m in the “ignore” camp but not by choice: I’ve just never seen this brand anywhere in a store and for me to want to test something enough to buy a sample it should be either from the brand I like already or praised beyond “nice” but at least several people whose tastes I trust.
    But now, if I ever come across it, I’ll probably remember this name and will try it sooner than anything else.

    • Etro is to me what Jo Malone is to you Undina 🙂
      There are some gems in this line and you have prompted me to talk about them in the near future. One of them is Anice, my “summer is here”perfume.

  2. efi

    Good morning, Christo. I just want to ask you if you can find this perfume anywhere in Athens and in general Etro perfumes. I knew a shop that had them but at some point stopped and it closed. Pllllllleeeese.!!!

  3. I am definitely a fan. I used to work for a company that sold Etro accessories including the fragrances. I used to enjoy mixing Sandalo and Vetiver together from the testers in the morning when I got in to work and I love Shaal Nur. Your post inspired me to drag out an old sample of Royal Pavillion to wear to work this morning. I never associated it with tuberose until I read the sample card notes this morning and it dawned on me I was smelling tuberose. I really like this mossy green tuberose ‘thing’ it has going on. I went to an Etro store in Asia last year to reconnect with Sandalo and it wasn’t how I remembered it. I’m not sure if it is due to reformulation when the packaging changed or if it is simply that my nose is a little more attentive than is was a few years back. I remember Sandalo being quite sheer but still slightly milky, a little like Diptyque’s Tam Dao with the addition of dry spices. What I smelt last year was much more woody amber. Your post inspired me to do some Ebay hunting and I just found some very inexpensive bottles in the old packaging from a German seller, so I am interested to see what they smell like (I couldn’t resist buying Sandalo and Vetiver). I am waiting to find an old version of Shaal Nur in those beautiful carved glass bottles they used to make. I wasn’t able to find any available for sale at this point so it remains on my ‘wanted’ list. I say thumbs up to Etro for perfume and their textiles when you are in the mood for an overdose of paisley!

    • I love them too. Their Vetiver is unique! I also have several of the old paisley bottles. I find the new ones a bit… tacky, who ever heard of black and white paisley? Etra is another one I would like to have at some point because it is the closest I can get to the now discontinued Le Feu d’Issey. Etro is actually a blessing for people who like them because you can find great bargains on ebay. Nice to hear you are a fan 🙂

  4. Ah yes, I remember liking Etra also. Agreed on the B&W paisley and new packaging. I quite like Vicolo Fiori too.

  5. Their latest perfume is named Paisley but I haven’t tried it yet.

  6. Natalie

    This is a line I’ve always wanted to get more acquainted with, because I love Etro’s clothing so much. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find! You’ve given me a little push to go in search of some samples in the not-too-distant future, and I’ll watch for further reviews too. Everything about this sounds interesting to me except the “slightly urinous” bit. I’ve got a pretty low threshold for urinous, I think.

    • They have gone a bit out of fashion so it isn’t always easy to find samples. Urinous is an aspect of some types of incense and this is how it comes out here, not like Miel du Bois urinous. If you have ever thought incense burning or in resin form is a little urinous, this is how Messe de Minuit smells.

      • Natalie

        Hmmm. Thanks for clarifying. I don’t always get on so well with incense (it depends what it is paired with), but your review definitely intrigues me.

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  8. rahwa

    Anyone have any info of where i can find Chacok by Jacques Flori??? Ive searched for it for over 6 years, with no success, to me its the best fragrance i have ever came across….i am desperate please help…

    • I didn’t know anything about Jacques Flori before writing this post. Please give a little bit more information on this perfume you are looking for, it might help. When wasit released and from what company. I really hope you find it. I know how to feels to obsess about a perfume memory.

    • There is a mini of this on UK ebay listed in collectibles, not in perfume…

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