digging (into) vintage: Guerlain Mahora, 2000

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Perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain

Despite the current and seemingly endless 1980s revival of cheap fashion for tweens to twenty-somethings, the 80s are gone. Good riddance. Still, if there were one thing that I could tease out of the 80s and bring to the present it would be polarizing perfumes. To the propagators of 1990s-styled apologetic perfumes, to the radiant Iso-E Super wearers, to the nanny perfume mob who would rid the world of fragrance (Watch out! Color is next, then oppressive fabric.) I say wear Poison! Wear Giorgio and Opium! Blast yourself with LouLou and walk in public in the light of day!

Better still, try Mahora. 1980s in scale, 1970s in indulgent style, 1920s in complexity and sophistication, Mahora (2000) paid tribute to the decades that preceded it as it dived headfirst into the new millennium.

From the spicy animalic start, through the creamy floral heart, to the woody-vanillic drydown, Mahora is as rich as they come. Using principles from classical perfumery, but seemingly new compositional tricks, Guerlain laid claim to the fairly unpopulated genre, the spicy-animalic resinous tropical woody floral. This perfume does draw attention to itself. So what? If you don’t like it, don’t wear it.

Part of the aesthetics of perfumery, as in any art form, is that in addition to critical consideration, we should identify what we like and what we don’t. How else can we proceed in what is both an artistic discussion and an exercise in pleasure?

That said, I disagree with those who do not like Mahora and therefore say that it is a bad perfume. In addition to its volume and attention-seeking, it is calibrated, dissonant enough to hold one’s interest and shows textbook classical evolution. Mahora shouldn’t have been discontinued, it should have been studied.


(image Nicholas Henry, New York Times)


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