Méchant Loup by L'Artisan Parfumeur (1997) is a fairly creative niche fragrance, from a time before niche just meant "more expensive designer takes" or "fragrances too risky for the standard lines, sold at an upcharge to mitigate the risk" ergo, before late-stage capitalism sucked all remaining soul from the Western perfume industry. As such a "niche for the sake of being niche", something L'Artisan Parfumeur itself practically invented and used to excel at, Méchant Loup is a bold fun mix of masculine tropes that aren't too out there in bizarro-land to become a particularly adventurous person's signature. At its core, Méchant Loup is a tobacco scent not unlike Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme (1994) or Versace The Dreamer (1997), but dressed up in some aromatics and spices, slightly earthen musky things, and overall forest floor vibe in order to achieve the theme of the name, which roughly translates from French to "big bad wolf". Sadly, this isn't the total animal bomb some people might expect with a name like Méchant Loup, but it does get the point across well, being a decent example of Bertrand Duchaufour's work for the house (partly where he made a name for himself). Méchant Loup won't huff and puff or blow your house in, but it's nice in the way it tries to stuff a big hairy beast into a cummerbund and cufflinks, while letting its bulk strain the seams just enough be noticeable.
A bit of aldehydes and a floral tobacco greet the nose upon the opening spray, which is when Méchant Loup smells most like the aforementioned designer tobacco fragrances. After this opening, you begin to catch the licorice and pepper notes more openly, with some odd sour hay-like vibes coming from the coumarin-derived tobacco note mixing with what appears to be fenugreek and myrrh. Méchant Loup is almost built backwards, with the heavy spicy notes in the opening, and smoother fresher fare lying in wait. After the spice melange subsides, honeyed benzoin and gourmand notes of hazelnut and praline take up the heart. The "big bad" wolf seems less bad by this stage, but then the earthen slightly musty mossy elements kick in, with oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, cedar, and near-fougère green tones lightened by a clean white musk. This clean muskiness is counterbalanced by something dank, like a peaty vibe I have no name for, returning us a bit to the badness we expect, even if this is one civet or castoreum note shy of truly being lupine in virility. Méchant Loup was made in the 90's, so I suppose it's beholden to the ultra-clean sensibilities of the day. Wear time is 8 hours with medium sillage, and as mentioned, could be a year-round signature with little fuss. Additionally, I think there is enough airy feel and lightness that you could just about call it unisex, since the tobacco in Méchant Loup remains mostly floral.
Méchant Loup is not the most challenging niche fragrance ever to come from L'Artisan Parfumeur, nor even the most daring of the many compositions Bertrand Duchaurfour, the niche wunderkind, has cranked out over his prolific career. What this is though, is an interesting and creative tobacco fragrance that wouldn't really have a parallel in the niche world until Frapin L'Humaniste (2009) would come along over a decade later. Something like this now wouldn't really even see the light of day in the current niche perfume environment of 101 clones of MFK Baccarat Rouge 540 (2014) or Baskin Robbin's 33 flavors of santal, since the niche market really just mirrors the demographic-driven-to-death world of designer perfume, just with a tad more variety in it's over-abused tropes that the MBA's calling the creative shots say will bring in the big bucks. With artisanal perfumes obsessively focused on finding the oldest surviving mysore sandalwood oil to squander, the most-times-distilled oud, or picture-perfect recreation of your dad's cologne from 1973, it also seems unlikely this kind of creativity is coming out of the indie perfume scene anymore beyond the likes of someone such as Bruno Fazzolari. Oh well, at least Méchant Loup hasn't been culled like so many of the arguably more-interesting L'Artisan fragrances have, so you can still secure samples or full bottles and not deal with the three little pigs on eBay. Thumbs up.
For years after it's release Mechant Loup and I had this dalliance. I liked it; but not that much; I thought it was intriguing, but not that much.... We went out together, but never went steady. It has a hard to describe fragrance with a sort of "foggy" aspect to it. Something like a nutty fragrance that was backed up by tonka and wood, and everything was under a cover of some kind. Maybe you could call it soft and creamy. You have to admire the maker of Merchant Loup, he's got to be a special guy for making a unique fragrance. There aren't many out there that have this affect. Twice I planned to buy it, but demurred once I got to Bergdorf's Mens. That's not me. I can be impulsive. Maybe this is a fragrance is for someone who waits and waits. You sly wolf you.
Reading the notes I thought this was going to be a really eccentric fragrance of sweet honey, nuts and radix, that was either going to be a smash-hit of inspiration or really awful. It's actually neither. It opens quite softly, with a delicate fusion of honey with a hint of licorice, cedar and the faintest hint of pine straw. There's also something ever so slightly soapy which gives the fragrance a much cleaner' vibe than I expected - it's definitely a forest in the morning after a cold night, with the sun just starting to warm things up and tease out all the different smells all at the same time. It's more of an ambiance. There are no strong individual notes, no collisions of big flavours. There's nothing particularly animalic. In short, I think the big bad wolf must have been out the day they collected the notes for this fragrance.
It's actually quite pleasant and almost fougere-like. As it dries down, it's got the same green+yellow+brown vibe but instead of clean it becomes ever so slightly warmer and more mellow, like a sort of heavily diluted Cuir Pleine Fleur without the leather. There's still no wolf to be found.
It's difficult to know what this fragrance is for or when to wear it. I like it and it's intriguing enough that I'm going to try it again, perhaps with a heavier application to see if I can get more out of it and maybe it will show s different side to itself in a different season. We'll see...
I would say this does take awhile to enjoy. The licorice and honey come to the fore in a nice blend, neither of which are stronger than the other. Not a huge fan of licorice. That being said this is very enjoyable. As the combination heads towards the middle ground, the cedar and hazelnut come through. I do get a slight sandalwood vibe in the dry down. Overall a great scent. I would say try before you buy... just to be sure this is up your alley. Otherwise.... Enjoy!