MDCI’s Promesse de l’Aube (2006)

MDCI's Promesse de l'Aube © Victor Wong
MDCI’s Promesse de l’Aube © Victor Wong

In my last year of high school in Canada, my ESL (English as a secondary language) teacher was deeply in love with the book “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan, and she made us read it for assignment. The novel is about four Chinese mothers and daughters and their poignant, and sometimes tragic personal histories that happened in China and America. Two years later, the book was adapted into a movie, and I went to see it in the theater. The movie was deadly sad and had a killer Chinese string ensemble soundtrack. I could hear sniffing and sobbing from the audience in full surround sound throughout the whole movie. Later my sister told me that her friend had also watched it but he wasn’t moved by it at all. He told her, “it’s one of those typical stories, a Chinese mother drowning her baby girl because the family wanted a son instead. Everyone asked me to watch because it’s sad. I didn’t shed a single tear.”

So what if someone tells me that there’s a movie that would make me cry, and I don’t feel a thing watching it? what does that imply?

1) I don’t understand why it is sad.
2) I have seen enough of this kind of melodrama and it can’t move me anymore.
3) I am a dick.

I recently bought a bottle of MDCI’s Promesse de l’Aube because of a 5 star review. The reviewer says, “The tune of this fragrance may not be hugely original, but the orchestration will bring tears to your eyes.”

Because of this review, I was ecstatic when I found out the city I live in finally have a niche perfume shop that carries MDCI. The first bottle I sniffed was, of course, Promesse de l’Aube, but I was disappointed – nothing was wrong with that perfume, and that’s wrong. It’s like watching a TV sitcom where every actor is pretty but none of them I find attractive. Also, where’s the drama? The second time I smelled it, I thought I kind of get it. The opening was more beautiful than I remember, the floral notes smelled real instead of synthetic, and they are well blended. But again, where’s the drama? The actors are staring at each other not saying anything because the commercial break is coming. The third time, I decided to buy it because the shop was going to raise the price and I wanted it in my collection so that I could study it more.

Promesse de l’Aube is a chypre designed by Francis Kurkdjian. It smells quite like Acqua di Parma’s Nobile Iris, which is also designed by Kurkdjian; instead of iris, we have jasmine. On my skin, the dry down smells a bit sour, green, rosy and dusty. In less than an hour, the scent is gone. “Promesse de l’Aube” means Promise of Dawn, and dawn is beautiful, to some it’s so beautiful that tears may roll down the cheek when they see it. I think it’s beautiful too, but that’s all.

Afterthoughts: Of course, I didn’t expect to react the same way as the reviewer. Or any reviewer. The reviewer is Luca Turin in this case, and he never says “the orchestration will bring tears to your eyes” in any other of his reviews. I was intrigued. I wanted to experience that perfume that he thought highly of. I wondered, not seriously, if it was as good as he said to be, or do I have the “nose” to tell if something is that good. Now I think about it, it’s a fun but silly exercise – there are no conclusions.

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MDCI Parfums’ La Belle Helene (2011)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Last week Meetup.com sent me an email telling me there would be a Toronto “Scent Society” gathering at a recently-opened niche perfume shop in mid-town. I had no clue how Meetup.com found out I love perfumes, and I had never heard of “Scent Society”, but anyway, I went. Only three people showed up, which wasn’t so bad because the shop wasn’t the most spacious. It also gave me ample time to learn more about each other, and not to mention I also used the opportunity to give them some samples of my own perfumes.

The shop was a delight to visit because it carried perfume brands that I had been dying to explore. They have Rance, MDCI, Amouage, and a few other high-end brands. Did you know that luckyscents.com says on their website, when you buy a bottle, they let you choose a free sample? (Something like that, check their website.) Well, I had asked for a free sample of MDCI with my last purchase, but they didn’t send me one, I guess it’s too expensive to be “free”. So when I found out that my local shop carried MDCI, I was ecstatic.

After sniffing MDCI’s line-up, I immediately knew which one I wanted to get. The others joined in; one woman really liked Peche Cardinal (a peach fruity scent). The owner recommended Invasion Barbare, which really didn’t need any introduction for I had read about it many times – a perfume that Luca Turin had given a 5-star review. The store owner sprayed some on the back of my hand, and said it smelled wonderful on me. (It’s an oriental leather perfume.) She sprayed some on her neck, and said it didn’t smell as good on her. I also sprayed some La Belle Helene on my other hand, but she wasn’t crazy about it. Another female member from the group approached and smelled my hand sprayed with Invasion Barbare, and agreed it smelled great on me. The implication I got from them was, if you want a perfume that women like, get Invasion Barbare. Guess what, at the end I bought a bottle of La Belle Helene (for women). I decided to get a perfume that pleases me, not others… (but it definitely is a bonus when the person I have a crush on also likes it.)

La Belle Helene is a soft pear floral perfume. The pear aroma, combined with soft aldehyde, soft rose, soft osmanthus, soft ylang, soft plum is so soft, and so beautiful it’s like a little dream. But it turns out it’s a chypre perfume with some attitude; it won’t let you have a soft dream for too long and wake you up with gentle-slaps-in-your-face cedar, oak moss, and licorice wood. It’s ok, I don’t mind this gentle abuse.