There was a time — not long ago, either — when “clean” didn’t smell like laundry soap. In those days, a clean fragrance was crisp and green with a hint of citrus, but might also waft a pretty floral heart and deliver a punch of oakmoss. Clean wasn’t a stack of folded sweat pants hot from the dryer, it was a white kid glove slid onto a cool, powdered hand. Chanel Cristalle and Estée Lauder Aliage embody this style of clean. Molyneux Quartz must have been one of the last mainstream fragrances of this genre.
Quartz was released in 1978. The Parfums Molyneux website mentions only honeysuckle and patchouli among its notes, but Jan Moran’s Fabulous Fragrances lists peach, hyacinth, cassie, jasmine, rose, carnation, orris, melon, sandalwood, musk amber, moss, benzoin, and cedarwood and classifies Quartz as a “floral-fruity.”
To me, Quartz Eau de Parfum is a delicate green chypre with hints of peach and melon and a whiff of cut herbs. Its floral heart is subtle and indistinct. As it settles, a slight, soapy powder and wet stone aroma take over. Dry, dry wood and moss give the fragrance a pianissimo finish. Quartz smells like Frédéric Malle Le Parfum de Thérèse lay down in a cold, shady creek with water rushing over the rounded stones beneath her. She toweled off her frigid skin and smoothed on a palm of silky powder.
Unfortunately, Quartz doesn’t have the body of Le Parfum de Thérèse. It is much more sheer and quickly retreats on skin. On my skin, it disappears almost entirely within three hours. (Incidentally, it doesn’t have near the melon, either.) The flip side is that Quartz is understated enough that you could spritz with abandon and not worry about nasty glances in the elevator.
All this said, Quartz has undoubtedly been through generations of reformulations and may have been a richer, fruitier fragrance back in the day (please comment if you remember a pre-Clinton administration Quartz). My bottle is a few years old and may have been sitting on the shelf a number of years before I bought it. It’s old enough that the oakmoss sings true, but new enough that its packaging is chintzy.
I’m not sure someone brand new to fragrance would appreciate Quartz’s retro play on clean — a clean that looks more like Grace Kelly than Jennifer Aniston. Quartz might feel too powdery and vague to someone schooled in clean musks and calone. But if you’re a fan of Cristalle and appreciate a perfume that smells like a composition rather than a few easy-to-peg notes, you might want to audition Quartz for your summer perfume wardrobe.
Molyneux Quartz Eau de Parfum is still in production, and comes in 30 ml, 50 ml, and 100 ml sizes. It can be bought online for less than $20 for a 100 ml bottle.