I love to watch other people shopping for perfume. I can't usually do it for more than a minute or so without feeling invasive, but I'm always interested in the comments I overhear at fragrance counters. The main problem (aside from the risk that the person will suddenly realize I'm listening) is that I have to refrain from making suggestions. This is difficult, especially when a sales associate is relentlessly pushing the latest release rather than finding out what the person really wants, or worse yet, when the potential customer is standing alone and looking around anxiously for guidance.
Sometimes I wish I could recommend a fragrance line that's not sitting right there on the shelves at Sephora or the department stores at my local mall. There seem to be plenty of women who have a favorite perfume and are looking for something along the same lines — something fruity and tart, for example, or a soft floral blend with some vanilla in it. But they also want a slightly more sophisticated or less commonplace alternative, and they're not finding it at their usual retail destinations. I thought of those women when I smelled the two latest releases from the indie brand MCMC Fragrances. MCMC's perfumes are directed towards a relatively small audience, but they'd probably also be appreciated by the desperately-seeking-something shoppers that I've watched from the corner of my eye.
MCMC's Love, for example, blends "topnotes of Japaneze yuzu citrus, French sweet basil, and Chinese magnolia oil" with "the burning intensity of ancient templewood and gunpowder." Love holds my attention longer than most mainstream citrus scents, since its juicy, pulpy yuzu is paired with the slightly anisic note of freshly-crushed basil leaves. There's a light sandalwood in the base, but nothing as pungent or acrid as actual gunpowder. The green and woody notes must work well to prolong the citrus, since Love has good staying power for a fruit-based scent. It could easily be worn by men or women.
Phoenix, the other new release from MCMC, includes "top notes of peach and cherry blossom, gradually giving way to sturdy Tunisian neroli and a light, powdery vanilla." Something about the name is too dramatic for this fragrance; to me, it feels more like a butterfly or a songbird than a mythical creature that rises, reborn, from the flames. Phoenix begins as a creamy floral accord that reminds me of other perfumes featuring cherry blossom or sweet pea or magnolia, except that it's smoother and a little deeper. The peach note is velvety and edible, and it lasts well through the fragrance's heart and base, where it mixes and warms with the vanilla. This is definitely the sweetest fragrance yet created by MCMC. It's prettier and more rounded than any of the fruity florals regularly pumped out by operations like L'Occitane, and I prefer it to the gracious, but somewhat bland, Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane. Phoenix is also very long-lasting on my skin, persisting throughout the day.
My favorite fragrance from MCMC is probably still Maine, a serene evocation of sea air, driftwood, and beach roses, but I enjoyed testing Love and Phoenix. Niche fragrances don't need to be self-consciously weird, or to ramble on endlessly about "luxury" and exclusivity, to capture my attention, and I don't recommend them to others for those reasons. Instead, there's a lot to be said for simple beauty, especially when it's promoted and packaged as attractively as MCMC's fragrances. Don't be shy, shoppers; take a sniff.
MCMC Fragrances Love and Phoenix are both available as 40 ml ($95) Eau de Parfum and 9 ml perfume oil ($45). Samples are also available. To purchase, or to view a list of other stockists, visit MCMC Fragrances' website.