Monday, November 03, 2008

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums: Musc Ravageur

What makes a perfume sexy?

When I was very young, I felt it was all about the big chypres. I wore Paloma Picasso and Eau de Soir (the potent, pre-reformulation stuff) and felt ready to take on the world and every man in it. From there, I moved on to big floriental, especially with a rich vanilla and/or amber base. Tiffany, Panthere de Cartier and Jil Sander no. 4 were my equivalent and accompaniment to black lace and a push-up bra. I'll put Tom Ford Black Orchid in this category with my old favorites. It definitely feels right at home there.

Then I discovered musks, leathers, sophisticated vanillas and the femme fatale of them all, Shalimar.

Musks are weird creatures. There are the so-called dirty ones (Miller Harris L'Air de Dien, Serge Lutens MKK and CB Musk Reinvention, all turn into sweet cuddly creatures on my skin), the pretty ones (Serge Lutens Clair de Musc, safe to wear at any and every situation, layers beautifully with other SL scents), the ones to which I'm completely anosmic (SJP Lovely, Escentric Molecules, Narciso Rodriguez and most Egyptian musks I ever came across) and then there are the sweet, often gourmand ones, where musk is paired with vanilla, almond (Leah St. Bart) or cocoa (Musc Maori). They are regarded as comfort scents just as often (if not more) than they are considered sexy. And yet, we all have heard how men prefer gourmand in general and vanilla in particular. There's the legend of Shalimar and other Guerlains with their sweet tonka base, and there must be a reason young women who came of age in the 90s and later consider smelling "yummy" an advantage in the men-alluring arena, and translate it to smelling like cupcakes.

This is the reality into which Musc Ravageur was born.

From the name it is clear what was on Maurice Roucel's mind when he created Musc Ravageur for Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle. It belongs to the same school of thought as Shalimar: An oriental with a sharp, bracing opening that softens up and goes seductively smooth and rich, and on the right skin makes the elves sing (think Lord of the Rings, just with very little clothes. Thank me later for the mental image).

The reason it's supposed to be so sexy and bone jumping ready is the way Musc Ravageur quickly turns into a velvety skin scent. The foody elements aren't about dessert, but they would make you want to bury your nose in some skin, just because it's that pleasant. But is it really about sex? Is this what you're supposed to wear for a steamy night?

I find that Musc Ravageur develops better and is sexier on warmer skin, either in hot weather or in a well-heated room. Otherwise, the cedar and sandalwood are more prominent than the vanilla (not that there's anything wrong with it). If there's one thing I'm not smelling here is musk, but there's plenty of other stuff to enjoy, and the overall result is pleasurable and satisfying, so I guess that, yes, this is a sexy scent.

But I still find Shalimar more daring.

The official notes are:
Top Notes- Lavender, Bergamot.
Middle Notes- Clove, Cinnamon.
Base Notes- Gaiac wood, Cedar, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka, Musk

Photo and clip: From Here to Eternity (1953).

Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum scents are exclusive to Barneys in the USA (I got mine at the NYC store) and can also be ordered online from the company's web site. The 3X10 ml travel spray package ($85) is my favorite. I wish more companies would offer this option instead of big bottles with more juice than I could use in three lifetimes.


  1. I used up at least two flacons of this (and two of the oil) when it came out... I've always found it rather comforting than torrid, and haven't noticed it being particularly a man magnet. What it's not either is much of a musk, really: spicy amber describes it better.
    All said though, I might try it again -- it's been years now, and there could be facets I couldn't appreciate back then, that I could now (also, the man-magnet thing needs more testing).

  2. My husband said it smelled like a funeral home... the worst comment I've ever got about a fume. Not wanting to smell dead, I swapped it away!

  3. Is that clip the sexiest scene ever from a movie, or what? Mmmmm!


  4. I can vouch for the idea that yummy scents attract men. My boyfriend loves any smell that reminds him of something he'd like to eat. If they made cheeseburger or nacho scents, he'd be sold. He loves that I smell good in vanilla and he actually asks me not to wear strong florals- food is just better than flowers I guess.

    That said, isn't the sexiest scent the one that smells sexy to you rather than the man? I mean most men I know will be attracted to the woman, THEN the scent. So if a scent makes you feel and act completely sexy, you'll be a man magnet one way or the other. Unless you actually stink. Then I guess you're just a bombshell who smells bad.

  5. I had said it for ages and I am soooo vindicated to hear this from noses I trust like yours and Denyse's: not much musk here going on! It's a spicy, ambery oriental more than anything else and to be honest, not that sexy to many XY chromosomes I have casually asked ~with no ulterior motives I assure you! It's however very pleasant and the oil is scrumptious, so soft, so...decadent.

    "think Lord of the Rings, just with very little clothes"> this is why I love reading here; who could have said this better?? ;-)


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