In my last post, I mentioned that I thought the thrill of discovering a vintage scent with unique qualities may be mostly gone for me. Of course, I could explore more vintage scents that were marketed to women. but I don’t intend to do that because I already have quite a few, and I don’t wear them nearly as often as I do “masculines.” So, imagine my surprised when a vintage scent nearly fell from the proverbial sky! The one in question (and pictured above) is Messire Pour Monsieur, from 1961. Apparently, the company, Jean D’Albret, had some “hits” with the perfumes Ecusson and Casaque (late 40s to early 60s period), with more than a few vintage as well as reformulated bottles (by the Long Lost Perfume company) on ebay, but this “masculine” scent seems to be as rare now as hens’ teeth !
There isn’t’ much information about this one, with no listing on Fragrantica.com and one review at Basenotes.net. That reviewer describes it as, “…a nice little citrus aromatic number, similar to Amani Eau Pour Homme, with a subtle spicy base.” However he doesn’t think the longevity is as good as the Armani. I saw a possible good deal on this one, and since it was in the box and had apparently never been used, I decided to take a chance on it. Note that I am not a big fan of this kind of scent, and in fact recently acquired a vintage bottle of O de Lancome, which I really like. Though possessing strong citrus, it is softened by florals yet is entirely “unisex” the whole way through, IMO. Here’s what that bottle looks like:
Back to Messire Pour Monsieur. At first there is a burst of lemon-dominant citrus and oakmoss, but it’s never harsh, and I can’t imagine this kind of scent being rendered any better. That part lasts perhaps half an hour and then it becomes quite tame, but then a new kind of magic emerges. There seems to be sandalwood, a bit of patchouli, and something to soften it up a little, perhaps amber and benzoin, but it’s not vanillic, nor does it register as sweet. The lemon element is still present but blended into what comes across as one accord. It’s quite dry, and as you might expect, totally natural smelling.
These two scents have led me to reconsider simple, citrus-oriented scents, and further makes me think that the problems I’ve had with recent releases based on this kind of idea are largely if not entirely due to perfumers essentially trying to do the impossible. That is, they are limited by IFRA guidelines, budgets, and/or material availability. However, they are being asked to do something that was only possible many years ago, and so we get harsh citrus scents. These begin too sharp but then the base is generic or outright irritating. The most recent O de Lancome is one I would classify as such, actually. My guess is that I got lucky with these two vintage finds, because they were both kept in their original boxes for years and were never used.
If you want to know what Messire Pour Monsieur compares to that is still available, I’d say Versus Uomo (1991) by Versace would be it. However, I found that one to be too harsh at first and not that compelling later in its development. In any case, I think the “take home message” is not to rush to conclusions about what kinds of scents you like before you give vintage a try, assuming you possess aficionado aspirations. Instead, just keep looking around for vintage bottles and you too may get lucky. I’d like to see a site devoted to vintage decant swapping, and may propose that my swap thread at Basenotes be designated as such, as well as for the moderators to make it a “sticky thread.” If anyone has a better idea, please let us know in the comment section. And finally, if you have some vintage to swap (figure at least 10 to 15 ml) feel free to post a comment below, telling us what you have and what you are seeking. Here are some vintage items I can swap, up to a one ounce decant (USA only):
Polo Sporting Cologne (very rare, not Polo Sport).
Caron Pour un Homme Les Plus Belles Lavandes EdT.
Burberry for Men (second formulation, not the 1981 one; the one I have is pictured at Fragrantica).
Ungaro (first scent from 1977, marketed to women).
Opium EdT (women’s version).
Perry Ellis for Men (Parfums Stern, 1985).
Gorgio for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills.
Red for Men by Giorgio of Beverly Hills.
Silvestre (by Victor, not Pino Silvestre).
Messire Pour Monsieur.
D&G Pour Homme (Made in Italy version).
One Man Show.
Also, smaller decants and samples of many other are possible, such as Ungaro III. Happy vintage hunting everyone !
UPDATE: In the comments section of his latest post on his FromPyrgos blog, Mr. Ross states:
There is plenty of scientific evidence that fragrance materials degrade. There is almost no scientific evidence that fragrance materials endure for hundreds of years. I’ll side with science on this one. The science says citrus notes degrade after ten years, and usually closer to the seven or eight-year mark…
The part where Biglsy comments about the scent “possessing strong citrus” was actually in regards to vintage O de Lancome, btw. But the same seems to apply directly to Messire, as Bigsly refers to that brew’s presumably ancient citrus as follows: “At first there is a burst of lemon-dominant citrus and oakmoss, but it’s never harsh, and I can’t imagine this kind of scent being rendered any better. That part lasts perhaps half an hour and then it becomes quite tame . . . ” Again, chemically impossible. The man has discovered the one and only bottling of the fountain of youth.
First of all, where is that science? You can’t just say, “there is science supporting my claim” and then not cite at least several papers that speak to the subject directly. In this case, nothing at all is cited! Perhaps more importantly, few know what Messire Pour Monsieur was like when it was first released, and while I’m curious, I won’t lose any sleep over the matter. The reason is that I’m only concerned with what these liquids do when I obtain them. In the case of this scent, the citrus may have been overpoweringly strong when it was first released; I certainly would not claim otherwise. All I can say is that right now I find it capable of generating a very pleasant olfactory experience for hours, with the lemony quality hanging on for hours. Perhaps “top notes people” who want searing citrus notes to figuratively burn a hole in their nostrils will be disappointed, but I prefer subtlety, complexity, balance, naturalness, richness, and depth. In that context, this scent is incredible, but Mr. Ross seems intent upon trying to impose his vision of how one should appreciate a scent on the rest of the world, even after some are explicit in pointing out that they do not share his notions here. I welcome the thought that he can change peoples’ minds so that vintage prices on ebay would drop and I could grab some vintage Patou Pour Homme, Derby, Macassar, and other old “dreck” bottles, but I am not getting my hopes up for that possibility !