Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Blogging the Madinis: Papillon

As promised, BG Notes is inaugurating a series of reviews of the Madini oils. Since friend-of-the-blog Chayaruchama loves the line as much as I do, I invited her to join me. We’re going to steal a page from the folks at Perfume Posse and do she said/she said paired reviews, along with some solos from each of us.

We’re going to begin with Papillon, a gorgeous scent that doesn’t seem to get much love. Chaya pointed out that there are no notes or reviews to be found for it, not even on Basenotes. That needs correcting. Chaya, please start us off:

Chayaruchama: According to the Talisman website, Suleiman Madini is the “heir of a perfume dynasty 14 generations old “- 400 years in existence. Goodness knows, if one can’t find a Madini to suit, then you are simply not looking. I counted, and re-counted--93 on the site. Just to be sure. They run the gamut: spicy, floral, citrus, herbal, woody, watery, arid, incendiary, cooling…you name it. I’m not sure exactly how many of these I own--wait, I’ll count ’em up. 46 bottles. Exactly.

Papillon is listed under the ‘spicy’ category. It clearly ain’t for the timid--that is a classic understatement: It’s a powerhouse in a 3ml rollerball bottle. Talisman cites as: “Exotic flowers and spices to capture those elusive reveries of the Shalamar [sic] Gardens of Lahore.” Tigerflag describes it a bit differently : “An oriental blend with exotic flowers, warm spices and amber. Somewhat similar to Olive Flowers, but a little brighter. For men and women, Papillon is a cheerful fragrance that radiates an aura of kindness and optimism.”

BRIGHT ? Oh, yeah, this is bright, all right. Loud, even. An extremely base-heavy, resinous , sweet beyond-measure scent, it nods to the extraits of L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, and Bois de Copaiba in its balsamic intensity. There are echoes of other Madini oeuvres as well: Olive Flowers (opoponax–laden), and Musk Pierre (unctuous and velvety, creamy.)

The spice feels as if the sweet myrrh--aka opoponax--is mainly responsible, with its nutmeggy quality. If frankincense is in here, it is deftly rendered with a light hand. I sense the presence of Tolu balsam, vanilla, perhaps tonka bean in the base, along with a profoundly resinous amber - and not withheld. Big lashings, all around. Unctuous.

The top notes might well include citrus--bergamot/ lemon, I suspect aldehydes, too. With heart notes, possibly, of nard, exotics like a plumeria, and most definitely ylang ylang (or its less costly cousin, cananga.)

I tend to feel that the use of the word ‘reverie’ isn’t inaccurate, at all--far more descriptive than ‘cheerful, and optimistic.’ JEAN NATE is cheerful and optimistic. Daisy is cheerful and optimistic. Papillon is an odalisque, smoking a hookah, for chrissakes. Scantily clad, at that. Eunuchs waving vetiver fans are seedily present, edentulous grins revealing their blackened gums from chewing betelnut leaves…THAT’S what we’re talkin’ about here, folks. Now, I’m dying to know how my sister-in-sin feels about this one….

BitterGrace: First of all, I’m astonished to discover that I am even more of a Madini addict than Chaya. My bottle count runs to 52, along with a half dozen sample vials. It could take years to cover all these!

But getting back to Papillon, I’m going to be contrary and say I tend to agree with Tigerflag’s description of this beautiful oriental. I find no scantily-clad, hookah-smoking odalisque in my bottle. Not a eunuch in sight. For me, Papillon is a soft-skinned, laughing beauty with sparkling dark eyes. It is rich, without a doubt, but it also conveys a sense of buoyancy and joy. In fact, I’d say it perfectly suits its name. Like a butterfly, it’s graceful, extraordinary, and somehow embodies happiness.

That said, Chaya’s dissection of the notes seems right on target. Bergamot, ylang ylang, opoponax, Tolu balsam—all are very distinctly present along with vetiver, creating a wonderfully smooth character with just enough floral spark to add interest. (Madini's signature rose is nestled in there somewhere.) Amber is in evidence, but not terribly heavy to my nose. What I do get in abundance, lucky me, is tonka--a note I love. Its unique, lightly sweet nuttiness is always comforting, yet never dulling, as benzoin or amber can be.

Chaya’s reference to L’Heure Bleue is very apt, but if I had to pick a classic that Papillon brings to mind, it would be the original 1957 L’Interdit. (See the review at Bois de Jasmin.) Though Papillon lacks the subdued fruity notes of L'Interdit--except for a possible hint of peach--it has the same seamless blend of rich flowers, roots and resins. They all add up to a light-hearted, sophisticated fragrance that would have suited Audrey Hepburn as perfectly as the divine Givenchy creation. Papillon could have been the signature scent of the fiery, delicate Reggie Lampert in Charade.

Butterflies, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, c.1860. Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Trish/pikake said...

Did someone say plumeria? My heart is all aflutter! Must try soon!!

Louise said...

Fabulous review, ladies! Chaya began to lead me down the seductive path of Madina just a few weeks ago, and I am afraid I am lost to it's charms...must go revisit the website now!

Mary said...

Holy Moses, you two reviewed the hell outta that scent! You can't see me, but my arms are extended to both of you and I'm bowing in abject worship.

Are the Madinis as tenacious as they sound? How about sillage: close to the skin or leave a trail?

BitterGrace said...

Yes, these babies are so cheap and so alluring--pretty much irresistible for unsniffed purchasing.

Longevity for Papillon is excellent, Mary. Chaya actually said so in her review, but I trimmed that bit to keep the post from becoming a tome.(Apologies, Chaya.) Most of the Madinis are tenacious.

As for sillage, there's plenty, considering these are oils. Papillon is especially nice in that regard--enough sillage to enjoy, but you won't choke anybody. Some of the white floral Madinis are extremely pushy (not that I don't like that.)

Fiordiligi said...

Oh my! Brava, Chaya, for your delightful debut, and all I can say is l'Heure Bleue? Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn? I am so there, as the young 'uns say these days.

Anabel said...

Oh.... thank you, thank you! Madini oils were my first fragrance love. Even though some of the ingredients have changed alittle - I have a few drops of incomparably rich 18 year old Musk Pierre in the old, tiny vial (swoon!)- these still send me! Papillion is a favorite. I get a hint of some faint anisey note. Maybe that's the result of many blended notes evoking something that's not there...

Trish/pikake said...

Just read this again, and saw vetiver. I'm in. What are you reviewing next? Should I wait to place my order? LOL.

What's in your top 3? I'm not sure I can wait to order this lovely butterfly.

BitterGrace said...

I get a touch of anise, too Anabel. The Madinis are so well blended, I find the "illusion" of ust about everything comes by, if you wait long enough! I'd love to sniff an oldie. I just discovered these about a year ago.

We're going to do Hanane next, Trish--that's the plan, anyway. My top three changes, but right now it's Papillon, Four Seasons, and a tie between Azahar and Fez.

In the interest of responsible enabling, I should point out that Talisman offers samples, 5 for $10. It's a very good deal. Check out the bottom of this page.

Anonymous said...

I sent a PM to Chaya in Basenotes - so this is to you Maria.

I am soooo excited you two are reviewing this line. I've been curious about it, but have not been entirely certain what to try.

Can't wait to read the rest in the series.

chayaruchama said...

Kudos to BG for letting me mooch here !
She didn't bite me ONCE.

I'm afraid I got Louise addicted to Ambar Gris- we sniffed a batch more, around Xmas time.
They are terrific bang-for-buck, and quality to boot !

The indolics are REALLY out there- something I love [ as does BG, I suspect]- full of life.

There are lots of ways to go, with these-
You can 'amp up' notes in another composition, mix 'n' match.

Periodically, they have sales, when they are even more affordable....

Glad everyone is enjoying themselves!
[Kisses, Gracie]

Trish/pikake said...

Oh lord, I'm all over Fez. Neroli w/ vetiver? Hello? And I was thinking Azahar as well. That sampler is coming my way for certain. Thanks for the heads up. Will wait for the next couple reviews though :-)

leopoldo said...

I have nothing to say about these 'fumes as they're out of reach for me - but diggity damn, it's good to see two of my favourite women writing together.

Lucy said...

I think you both ought to be locked in a room and forced to talk until you have nothing more to say, so we can all take notes and plan our scent wardrobes for the rest of our lives...I just had such wonderful mental/internal pictures running through me from your precise and seductive descriptions!

BitterGrace said...

Thanks, Lucy--It occurs to me that Chaya and I may need to pick up the pace here--so many Madinis, so little time. Maybe we'll start doubling up.

Leo--Loved your winter post at the Posse yesterday. It made me long for snow...almost. Winter can be beautiful, though it kinda gets in the way of your dahlia ambitions, I suppose.

Are you sure the Madinis are unavailable there? I seem to remember running across a blogger in Scotland who was getting them; I will investigate.

Flora said...

I love the Madinis and I need to get more! Their Mango oil is a big favorite of mine, so true to life, and their white florals are superb - of the ones I have tried I love Aicha Aicha and Mirage the most. (I have tried to get Moon several times and it's always sold out, must try again soon.) Currently I have a vial of the Rose and I am thinking about the Jasmine since I am having a hard time finding the perfect jasmine scent that won't get too heady on me - maybe just a couple of drops of oil won't morph into a sillage monster as badly as a spray of something else.

I will stay tuned to your reviews since I need to try more of them, and both of you have very talented noses and a way with words. :-D

BitterGrace said...

Aicha Aicha and Mirage are both terrific. It took me a while to warm up to Mirage, but now I really enjoy it.

I've never tried the Mango--you've made me curious. I think the enabling is beginning to flow both ways here!

BitterGrace said...

PS. About the Jasmine--do sample first. The Madini Jasmine is very potent.

Anya said...

I'm going to drive you both crazy and send you samps of their discontinued Schererzade. Oy, what a rich, resiny, plummy, intoxicating perfume! I first discovered Madinis about 25 years ago and have two great stories to relate:

Scherezade after a long, unctuous Italian dinner of about 20 guests arranged around a long table, with no dessert (stoned hostess forgot - no, not me!), I just knew to whip out the Scheherazade and pass it around. One drop each - all were transported. It just seemed right.

Four Flowers: after seeing a sniff of Four flowers calm a raging, "I'm gonna kill somebody because I'm PMS'ing" lesbian, who had the muscles and ability to scare a bunch of people at another dinner, I gave her some FF to sniff on a napkin. She immediately calmed down and was almost silent the rest of the dinner.

It also worked to quiet a screaming baby girl at a party at my house. Don't know why, but it really calms screaming females.

Yep. Strange, but true stories.

I have your addys. Give me time to dig up the Scherazade.

BitterGrace said...

Ha! Great stories. I want to have dinner with you ;-)

Can't wait to experience Scherazade. I could use some intoxication...

chayaruchama said...

Wow, Anya...coool !
Love those tales !

I can't wait, scentwhore that I are.
Thank you !

Anonymous said...

Is there any hope of seeing Diamonte Negro again? Is there any source, at any price?

Thanks much,

Linda Hays

BitterGrace said...

Sorry, Linda, I have no idea. Discontinued Madinis seem to have no afterlife, if my own search around the 'net is anything to go by. You might ask Talisman.