Un Coeur en Mai is one of the more recent launches from Parfums MDCI, the French niche brand that packages its perfumes in limited edition, numbered bottles featuring Limoges bisque stoppers. They're $610 a pop, and anyone who reads here regularly knows that this is precisely the sort of "luxury" that is bound to irritate me beyond measure, and the price of the refills, $235 for 60 ml, hardly helps matters. So it was with great satisfaction that I tested the first 5 MDCI perfumes, found them beautifully done but neither outrageously wonderful nor outrageously interesting1, and moved on to other matters.
As always, I should have left well enough alone, but I dutifully tried the next 4 releases: Péché Cardinal, Le Rivage des Syrtes & Vêpres Siciliennes, and lastly, Un Coeur en Mai. I know Péché Cardinal has found fans, but it was very nearly a scrubber on me (ghastly fruit roll ups), and Le Rivage des Syrtes and Vêpres Siciliennes both left me cold. The last one to go on skin, Un Coeur en Mai, was the one that did me in. Figures.
Tania Sanchez, in the third and final update2 to Perfumes: The Guide, characterized Un Coeur en Mai as "pretty but unambitious", and I do think that's a perfectly fair assessment. But it's darned pretty, and sometimes darned pretty is all it takes: I was captivated from the first smell. Un Coeur en Mai was developed by perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï of Parfums de Nicolaï, and several commentators have pegged it as her meditation on Guerlain Chamade; it's also vaguely related to the grassier, less floral Le Temps D'Une Fête from her own brand.
Un Coeur en Mai is perfectly named: after a momentary sharpness, the opening is a charming and very spring-like combination of hyacinth and lily of the valley. It's green throughout the early stages, but not harshly so — the whole thing speaks in whispers, and it has a sort of girlish innocence to it that reminds me of L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons (although they smell nothing alike) more than Guerlain Chamade.
The lily of the valley lingers well into the dry down, laid over a pale fruity rose, and later, a pale, slightly peppery woody musk. The whole is more sheer than not, like a watercolor of muguet in early spring, and the lasting power is so-so. It would be just the thing to wear on the 1st of May, and I would have worn it then had I known. But buy it? I don't think so. It doesn't strike me as any "better" than the perfumes in the Nicolaï line, which can generally be had for peanuts: Le Temps d'Une Fête is a mere $45 for 30 ml. But if you bought it, I'm jealous.
Parfums MDCI Un Coeur en Mai is available in 60 ml Eau de Parfum. The notes include hyacinth, lily of the valley, petitgrain, bergamot, rose, galbanum, black currant, melon, mimosa, Bourbon geranium, black pepper, coriander, musk and precious woods. For buying information, see the listing for Parfums MDCI under Perfume Houses.
2. Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez recently announced that they would not be doing future PDF updates, as it had become too time-consuming. If I remember correctly (I can't seem to find the email announcement, sorry) they will be making substantial updates to the upcoming paperback edition.