A few months back, an upstart indie perfumer told me that he was going to revolutionize the fragrance world by using mint in his compositions as it has "never been done before." I cocked my head like a befuddled Bichon Frise as I immediately thought of Geranium Pour Monsieur. Impressed with his certainty and confidence, I attempted to share outstanding examples of mint in perfumery, including this one, to which he replied that he had no interest in learning about other perfumer's works. Godspeed, I guess?
Geranium Pour Monsieur is indeed just as much geranium leaves as it is mint, though some who give it a sniff would have you guessing otherwise, as they can't seem to shake off the association of mint with toothpaste and mouthwash. I can respect that, but the mockery some have toward Geranium Pour Monsieur leaves me feeling suspicious as to their discernment of scent even if particular notes don't please them personally. I for one, perhaps because I am familiar with fresh mint leaves, only perceive their beauty here as they accompany, even enhance the geranium in Dominique Ropion's composition.
Geranium is one of my favorite notes in fragrance, and to my nose this is much more geranium than mint (a whole lot of Pelargonium graveolens oil!), but the latter does play a significant role, just as much as the anise, clove, cinnamon fleshes out the accord and makes this a more modern interpretation of an old school men's aromatic, with exceptional ingredients and dynamics. In the dry down I detect benzoin, sheer white musks, a somewhat powdery sandalwood, and traces of geranium are still there. Truly stunning, in my humble opinion.
Geranium pour Monsieur takes but a few minutes to come into focus, starting off as a completely amorphous vapourwave rendition of mint – a misty, chilly thing, quite without definition – before the warming green and sweet eucalyptus-rose presence of geranium starts to take shape from within. Both mint and geranium are notes that come with ‘issues’ – the former associated with all things dental hygiene and the latter often considered too-direct, perhaps even a touch strident, a cut-price rose for some. The two together do a curious push-pull thing, tugging now towards gents’ after shave splashes, now towards the hallway pomander (cue subtle spiciness). But for all the dancing around identity and the cool throw of the thing in an enclosed room, Geranium pour Monsieur commits one cardinal sin – it fails to offer much by way of interest or intrigue. To be fair, numerous lovely perfumes fail similarly but compensate amply by sumptuousness of orchestration or some other means, but these seem to be beyond this little Geranium’s disposal.
Decent floral opening that quickly devolves into a very harsh, menthol-cooled geranium. The harshness almost has a chemical cleaner effect. The deep drydown still has that cooling menthol but the florals turn soapier, but more like an older, industrial bar soap, nothing that new modern soaps would smell like.
Leans fem to me, very surprised this is classified as masculine.
Let me start by saying I generally like mint in fragrances. I'm a huge fan of Dirty by Lush (2004), and rather enjoy Cartier Roadster (2008), or even plain old Skin Bracer by Mennen (1931) plus minty geranium when it turns up in a gentleman's fragrance is also quite nice. Géranium pour Monsieur by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (2009) draws a bit of a line in the sand for me however, since it does something unorthodox and artistic but not necessarily more enjoyable to me, even if I tend to applaud things that slip out of the comfort zone of conventional design. Géranium pour Monsieur is created by Dominique Ropion, a man that these days is probably better known for his contributions to mainstream designer fragrance canon than anything niche or ultra high-end luxury in nature like the house of Frédéric Malle, but since Malle himself comes from the same stock as the son of a former creative director of Christian Dior and as a consultant for several designers before launching his own brand, it's easy to see him having affinity for Ropion's work. Dominique would return many times to work with Frédéric Malle, so there must be some connection between the two. In any case, geranium itself used to be a very common note in proper gentleman's perfumery of the mid 20th century, found as a featured element or co-star alongside lavender for it's metallic and sometimes minty facets, adding a medicinal clean to fragrances made for Western men that abhorred anything obviously floral, spicy, sweet, or musky as those were all considered hallmarks of women's perfume.
If you can pause disgust at an obviously toxic mindset for just a second, you can sorta see the practical side of this preference too, as geranium lent itself well to grooming products, soaps, and other hygiene products men would use. Here in Géranium pour Monsieur, the focus is of course on geranium, but Ropion goes for the minty facets of the flower, to the point where he actually adds mint into the top. This sounds like it might be nice at first, especially if you're like me and enjoy mint in fragrances, but soon the harsh reality sets in that this opens up exactly like you've spent $300+ to smell like toothpaste and bug candles. Yep, the mint here isn't the loudest, but the blend of it alongside listed cintronella notes combines to make the impression of brushing your teeth at a campsite with some bug candles burning a few feet away. Floralozone is a floral-smelling aldehyde that helps push the rhodinol along, the note causing the resemblance to citronella but trying to convey the essence of geranium (since it is derived from both), and anethol, an anise camphor note which adds to the "cooling" mint notes. Once you get past these, an nice barbershop heart of clove/carnation and cinnamon emerges, very old-fashioned and pleasant, before a contrasting modern-ish base of ambroxan, norlimbanol, styrax, and creamy white musk settle Géranium pour Monsieur to skin. The "toothpaste and citronella" vibe never really dissipates, and that's a failing of the way notes meant to replicate facets of geranium are wielded by Ropion, so it's take-it-or-leave-it although the other 2/3rds of the fragrance is quite nice to me. Wear time is about eight hours, and this can last an office day (as it's meant to), but performance is not monstrous. The question is would you want it to be anyway, considering you must resemble a tube of Crest if you over-spray? Best time of year is spring and fall for Géranium pour Monsieur.
If this was a fragrance that cost $30 on FragranceNet, I might consider stocking up on it to wear as a curiosity or give away to friends that are amused by how it transforms from toothpaste to after shave over the course of about 8 hours, with bits and bobs of campsite bug-be-gone weaved throughout. This is a very daring fragrance and despite my making fun, is still a very pleasant wear. I mean, toothpaste doesn't smell (or taste) unpleasant anyway right? Citronella also can sorta smell good in small doses like found here, so even all that considered, Géranium pour Monsieur is a nice fragrance, but not for the price. The big problem with most Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle fragrances is the same one this stuff has: it feels like a bit of a fleece job on the oblivious rich. Guys with enough college-trained number-crunching to rise in ranks at the accounting firms of urban America, or coding savvy to head their own software development projects in the big tech companies of the world have obviously let other areas of knowledge slip by the wayside to hone themselves so acutely to be profitable, so they're practically lead along by a leash when they walk into high-end boutiques looking for their first set of "big boy" duds and smells, which is where brands like Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle strike first, and often with the most financial lethality. A fool and their gold are soon departed, I guess. Again, if this was a lot less expensive, I'd own it for sheer novelty factor, as it's a lot of fun, but as an overpriced and overwrought piece of perfume "high art", I'll pass and just stick with my Dirty or Roadster, thanks. Neutral.
Fresh mint, sharp aromatic geranium, and sticky herbal anise. Others have said it comes together as Citronella and I totally get that, at least for the opening. That first hour is hefty, not really like anything I've tried before.
It's also a bit of flash in the pan. After that first hour or so the citronella smell subdues and you get mostly the mint left behind, which sticks much closer to the skin. At my first sample it felt a bit too mature for me, but it's grown on me. It's definitely a sophisticated fragrance. I think if the whole of the fragrance somehow bridged the gap between that hefty opening and the soft drydown, it would be a lot more enjoyable.