Most mornings, rooting through my perfume cabinet, I push past the iridescent pink-washed, pyramidal bottle of Mauboussin Eau de Parfum with its wobbly bottom. Mauboussin is a big perfume. Like a hot fudge sundae, the first few bites — or minutes of wear, in this case — are delicious, but before long you might end up holding your stomach and sliding the rest into the garbage. Mauboussin can be almost too much of a good thing.
But this week an unusual cold snap settled in, and I wanted a big, oriental perfume, something that would go well with a broad-shouldered,1940s mouton coat. Mauboussin was just the ticket. Maybe I've developed a stronger appetite for sweets, but until spring arrives, the bottle will stay toward the front of my perfume cabinet.
Christine Nagel developed Mauboussin, the Parisian jeweler's first perfume, in 2000. It's an assertive, fruity oriental with notes of plum, bergamot, mandarin, white peach, jasmine, ylang ylang, Turkish rose, amber, patchouli, sandalwood, benzoin, cedar, and vanilla. In Perfumes: the A - Z Guide, Luca Turin describes Mauboussin as "an oriental situated somewhere between the first Kenzo Jungle and Fendi's Theorema" and gives it four stars.
I've noticed that tuberose gives off the most fragrance just before it dies. Its scent caramelizes slightly and fills the living room before the blossoms — already oxidized golden — turn brown and fall off. For Mauboussin, it feels like Christine Nagel chose only materials that were similarly past ripe but not quite rotten. The peaches, plums, and mandarin oranges seem to have been laid on a radiator for a few days to stew. The roses, jasmine, and ylang ylang were left to decay into potpourri and sugar. All of the sharp, dank smell of the wood and incense mellowed away. Only the amber and vanilla feel fresh and vibrant.
The result is a perfume that could have scented the runway during Yves Saint Laurent's Ballets Russes collection. When I smell Mauboussin I see aubergine and rust-colored silk velvet fashioned into capes and twisted into sashes. It's a wintery, after dark perfume that would blend well with roaring fires, men smoking pipes, and polished wood paneling.
Mauboussin has sillage similar to Yves Saint Laurent Opium or Chanel Coco and lasts all day. It will stick to your coat and leave a hint of patchouli and incense on your sweater the next day. Apply with a light hand. They don't make Pepto Bismol for perfume.
Mauboussin Eau de Parfum is available everywhere from Sears to online discounters, where a 50 ml tester can be had for around $20.