“You smell divine” the host said while opening the door of his apartment to this cold wreck of a man. A waltz of raised eyebrows on my face and a quick detour to safer topics to avoid any comment on the fragrance I was actually wearing.
I simply did not mean to smell divine.
I was after the gruelling stench of a camel’s ball-sack after crossing the damn motherfucking Sahara, but I guess I’ll just grin and take the compliment like a man.
Last night I wore Frederic Malle’s blockbuster Musc Ravageur.
For the few acolytes of this very publication, my obsession with sexy perfuming might start to seem like a schizophrenic fetish for the objectification of the male body, a pattern reinforced by an earlier fragrance review where the author admits to wanting to ‘just plainly smell like men‘, penned in the blunt prose of a horny teenager. But victim of the lack of a male figure within childhood I chose not to be, it is a mania I gladly leave to therapists to juggle.
Last night, I wanted to smell like a sweaty, older Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. Mind you, I weight about 11 stones when soaking wet and I am still haunted by a rather severe acne juvenilis, so I can’t really blame my choice of perfume for not coming across as the virile longshoreman I so long to be.
Musc Ravageur is borne of musk, amber, vanilla, patchouli and sandalwood, with the total exclusion of floral notes. The brand refers to it as unapologetic and sexy. Magnetic.
On me? The compassionate purr of a cat you once did wrong but that is now ready to forget and forgive. As a result, I appear to be smelling ‘divine‘. Which is ok, don’t get me wrong: It is soft, yet it is also spicy and woody. This Musc that is also Ravageur carries with it the particularly aristocratic smell of fur that, bypassing Brando, might even summon ideas of a particularly suave Henry the VIII, minus the crippling obesity or the awkward habit of beheading women. A Tudor codpiece extravaganza of lenient musks and a half-sketched hint of romanticised syphilis. Quelle élégance!
The real mystery here is how did musk, as a note, came into being in the first place: This writer finds it difficult to picture a maitre parfumeur of yesteryear looking shiftily at the perky pair of balls suspended just under a deer’s anus and proclaiming “I shall make a tincture of it and wear it with gusto to the delight of my fellow maitre parfumeurs“. The primeval origin of the note I know not.
What I know is that musk can conjure dreams of the powdery cleanliness of talc or pack the brutal punch of the most animalistic grandiosity. Musc Ravageur is the man that can do both: The honeyed sweetness of fenugreek takes bewildering turns into the visceral realm of unbounded masculinity, while altogether retaining the magnificence of what could almost be described as a fragrance reconstructed from the most perverse passages within the work of the Marquis De Sade. Or a male Venus in Furs of some sorts.
It is languid, this perfume.
What it isn’t, however, is sexy; Maurice Roucel, its composer, has put no sexy in it. He has put sensual instead. No rough pounding in the back of an alley, but the quiet murmur of a late night rendezvous on silk sheets, orchestrated to the spiritual sounds of Jozef Van Wissem’s lute. No acute chords to be stricken, nothing crystalline about Musc Ravageur, but the rather fumigated ecstasy of a medieval petit mort instead. The man of fantasy that has learnt how to think of sex like a woman would.
In short, a pre-raphaelite kind of fucking.
So, no, I personally didn’t come across as the macho I was originally supposed to smell like, but I can’t say I am not content with resembling a time-travelling male Marlene Dietrich, smoking incessantly while dishing the fuck-me eyes in all directions at once. A whole shelf of books on gender studies condensed in a bottle drop by drop: One can find constructs of masculinity present and past as well as a whole range of sentimental hypotheses of female sexuality abridged into one. Undisputedly male in its vigour but made of the most lascivious one-liners within 18th century erotica.
Masculine in a discreet, big dick kind of way. Musc4Masc? I digress.
Mellow, interminable pillow talk.
Turns out I DO smell divine tonight.
LISTEN TO THE FRAGRANCE
Here’s a little musical aid in understanding the sensorial workings of a fragrance like Musc Ravageur
By Matteo Sarti