Who here likes old-fashioned aldehydic florals? I do. I love their whiff of silk stockings, champagne and evenings at the opera. I adore how tidy and elegant these fragrances are compared to my messy, cat-hair fluffed life. I even appreciate the genre’s inscrutability to the general public weaned on fruit, soliflores and patchouli.
If you’re like me, you’ve been impatient to smell Frédéric Malle Superstitious, classified by the company as a “grand aldehyde floral.” Here’s what Frédéric Malle told British Vogue about Superstitious:
You can take it in two different ways. You could take it like a great classic — an understated luxury, that comes like a second skin. The fire under the ice, like a Hitchcock character. But because it’s a type of perfumery that hasn’t been done for such a long time, people can see it very modern at the same time, but with a wave to the past. I think much younger people could see it as very novel — for them it’s like when you take an old brooch and wear it on a jeans jacket.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to come off as Kim Novak? After wearing Superstitious a full week, I found a lot to enjoy. But, in the end, my credit card stays in my wallet.
The Frédéric Malle PR machine has been busy sharing the Superstitious story. Malle had admired Alber Elbaz, the clothing designer, for years and finally approached him about doing a fragrance together. When Elbaz agreed, Malle poached a work-in-progress from perfumer Dominique Ropion, which Ropion then fine-tuned for Elbaz. Superstitious’s notes include Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, peach, apricot skin, labdanum resinoid, sandalwood, Haitian vetiver, patchouli and musk.
Superstitious has a classic structure, starting with top notes zinging with bergamot and tart with green notes. It’s as fizzy as a shaken Fresca, even as its jasmine, peach and rose heart surfaces. Sometimes, the jasmine wafts a hint of funk. The peach is dry, not Bellini-juicy. The fizz persists.
Finally, the fizz and the floral heart make room for the fragrance’s sandalwood-vetiver-musk base to muscle in. And “muscle” it does. It’s assertive. Somehow, Superstitious’s heart seems to start yelling to keep up with the base notes, and the peach and almost lemony jasmine strong-arm orange blossom to join in. Now the fizz has morphed into a cat’s tongue inside my nose. I’m fatigued, and the fragrance hasn’t even settled.
Superstitious was to be, as Elbaz told British Vogue, “the perfume of a dress, the silhouette that lingers after a woman has left the room.” I understand the bit about lingering. Not that the fragrance lasts unusually long — the main part of the show only goes about three hours before relaxing into a day-long whisper of wood, vetiver and musk. But before it settles, it packs potentially disturbing sillage. Dab it if you're planning a lot of time in elevators.
Wearing Superstitious next to Chanel No. 5 and Amouage Gold Woman helped me to understand what felt off balance. Compared to Superstitious, No. 5 smells more of rose and powder, and its vibe is creamier. No nose burrs here. Gold Woman, which I’d always experienced as the Hallelujah chorus of aldehydic florals, smells positively langorous next to Superstitious’s persistent chattering.
For me, the clincher is the price. Alber Elbaz par Frédéric Malle Superstitious Eau de Parfum is $255 for 50 ml and $370 for 100 ml (it is also available in a 10 ml travel spray for $72, or a trio of travel sprays, shown below, for $180). As someone in a Mickey Spillane novel would say — a novel in which the dangerous, spoiled dame might wear Superstitious, by the way — that’s a lot of lettuce. By contrast, Amouage Gold Woman Eau de Parfum can be found for as little as $150 for 50 ml online. A full ounce of Chanel No. 5 in Extrait is only $325. For the kind of money Superstitious asks, you could fill a swimming pool with Faith Hill Eau de Toilette (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it).
I’m glad Frédéric Malle added Superstitious to its line-up. I hope it’s the leading edge of a wave of new aldehydic florals. But it’s not the one for me. Please comment if you've tried Superstitious, and especially if you like it!