What distinguishes a Count from a waiter? What makes a princess? The nature of nobility is one of the questions raised in A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.1 Perfume lovers might torque the question to “How does a classic French perfume differ from a department store floral?” and “Is it worth it?”
Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube would certainly be listed in Debrett’s Peerage, if the book extended to fragrance. Promesse de l’Aube, composed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, launched in 2006. Its notes include bergamot, Brazilian tangerine, Californian lemon, Egyptian jasmine, ylang ylang, Indian sandalwood, tonka bean and vanilla. Its spirit is of a modern-day princess in a vintage dress, somewhere between June-morning-floral-oriental and fruity chypre.
Promesse de l’Aube smells like a bouquet of delicate garden flowers — no hothouse divas here — with a waft of champagne-like peach and a non-mossy chypre vibe. It’s silky and sheer. Its initial citrus shimmer vaporizes into a gentle and well mannered floral heart speaking jasmine and roses in modulated tones. The peach gives the fragrance a youthful feel and wipes out any suggestion of stuffiness. Still, next to Promesse de l’Aube, Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse, another delicate peachy chypre, is practically a brazen hussy. (Let’s not even get into one of my favorite classy-trashy fruity chypres, Arquiste Ella.)
Although Promesse de l’Aube has a vintage feel, it’s the best kind of vintage: gorgeous materials and meticulous craftsmanship. Have you ever touched handsewn lingerie from the 1920s? Promesse de l’Aube reminds me of the impossibly tiny stiches on the hem of ivory silk tap pants and the lush embroidery only its wearer will see. At the same time, the fragrance is supple, not scratchy or unfamiliar to modern taste like some of the classics, including Chanel No. 5, can be.
Promesse de l’Aube’s dry down is an easy whisper of vanilla-sweetened sandalwood. In keeping with its good manners, Promesse de l’Aube has a quiet sillage, and a generous splash from my sample bottle lasts about half a day on my skin. This could be a major drawback for those of us on a budget, since it’s not a cheap perfume, and the burn rate will be high.
In short, Promesse de L’Aube is pretty, through and through. We may have lost our taste for pretty and our appreciation for the kind of nobility that doesn’t have to do with bloodlines. This perfume is a reminder to slow down and pay attention, that quality can be easy to miss but rewarding to explore.
Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube is $250 for 75 ml (bottom image), or $610 for the 60 ml bust edition (top image shows the cap only). For information on where to buy it, see Parfums MDCI under Perfume Houses.
1. A Gentleman in Moscow was one of my comfort reads this winter. Recommended.