The gray hues of Paris are different than the gray you find in other cities around the world. NYC gray is cold, metallic, like the shadow of modern skyscrapers. London gray (grey?) is damp, slightly darker and smoky. And then there's Paris. Dove gray. Dior gray. Gray silk. A gray tinges with the rose of a Parisian sunrise, of floral bouquets from a street vendor, a touch of powder in a couture showroom. That's what Gris Montaigne from La Collection Privée Christian Dior is about.
Gris Montaigne is somewhat of a shape-shifter. When it first came out I easily dismissed it as a rose fragrance and didn't pursue it further. But a couple of months ago the husband tested it with an unbiased nose and came home with a bottle. For himself. Proving again that skin chemistry is everything, Dior's Gris Montaigne is transformed into a very dry mossy-woody thing with a slight bitterness that on the Blond smells very iris-like, and ends as a smooth patchouli. I'd never have guessed.
Gris Montaigne is hailed as a modern chypre. I'm usually a purist, and get annoyed with this claim. Mitsouko was a chypre. Chypre de Coty was a Chypre. Miss Dior (the original) was a chypre. But I do see and smell what perfumer François Demachy means (Persolais begs to differ, though). Gris Montaigne opens with a bright burst of bergamot that progresses into a silky ash colored rose that doesn't trigger the rose-hate neither in me nor in the husband. As a matter of fact, on his skin it's barely recognizable as a rose (it's more pronounced on me), as the gray-washing effect is in full force there. The heart of Gris Montaigne is very dry with none of the traditional floral embellishment, which is why when the husband wears it the impression is as crisp as a bespoke tailored shirt with French cuffs and a pristine collar.
The woody dry-down of Gris Montaigne is very modern and abstract. It's an approximation of cedar and sandalwood, like a watercolor seen from afar. The patchouli is quite pronounced, working hard to compensate for the low concentration of oakmoss. It's a bit bitter, which is not a bad thing, and again, very dry. I think that again, the husband's skin brings more oakmoss to the front than mine, where it's all patchouli. That's probably why on him Gris Montaigne smells like an incredibly elegant masculine fragrance, while on me it's just "nice".
More reviews of Gris Montaigne by Kafkaesque, Bois the Jasmin, and Perfume Posse.
Notes: bergamot, rose, patchouli, amber, cedar, sandalwood and oakmoss.
La Collection Privée Christian Dior- Gris Montaigne ($155, 125ml) is available from select Dior boutiques as well as Bergdorf Goodman.
Photo: Paris Sunrise by Karolina Pacewicz.