When the director of a perfume line drops names like Arpège in the same breath as their new launch, it’s generally safe to put the whole thing down to exuberant marketing and move on. Unless, that is, the director happens to be Frédéric Malle and the perfumer behind the creation Dominique Ropion.
Conceived in the lineage of the great aldehydic florals that dominated feminine perfumery from the 1920s (No.5, Arpège etc) through the 1960s (Madame Rochas), Superstitious not only reads as a modern hermeneutic but links to André Fraysse’s totemic creation through the creative input of former Lanvin artistic director Alber Elbaz (who, incidentally, also re-designed Arpège’s packaging back in 2009 for the house’s 120th anniversary).
In contrast to the self-styled retro chypres released by several indy outfits in recent years which are characterised by a heavy-handed use of animalics and muddy blends of natural extracts, Superstitious displays a resolutely modern aesthetic of precise, minimalist architecture and sheer radiance.
Softening the harsher facets of the aldehydic high notes is a floral heart dominated by a classic combination of rose+jasmine+a Lilial-type muguet note and diluted with Hedione for brightness. This is balanced with a long-lasting, sweet peach/apricot note of sunny disposition that recalls those specialty ingredients that usually have ‘nectar’ in their name (plus Liffarome?). Ionones meanwhile, serve as a customary bridge to the woody base notes of which sandalwood and Haitian vetiver are spoken of in the official description. Absent are the strong nutty associations carried by the latter, suggesting Ropion here perhaps followed Arpège’s model of using just a small amount of the oil to fill out a larger dose of the topped-and-tailed acetate. With a similar de-emphasis on vanillin/coumarin, the composition finally dries out to a very elegant blend of modern musks and a somewhat ambrox-y feeling amber(gris) note.
Nose: Dominique Ropion
House: Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle
Release date: 2017
Notes (per Fragrantica): jasmine, rose, vetiver, patchouli, peach, incense, amber.