Xerjoff Mamluk, 2012

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Perfumer Chris Maurice.

Xerjoff Mamluk is a perfume that I never would have found on my own.

I’ll admit that I have ignored the brand, dismissing it as yet another overpriced line of finery gone amuck. There are too many perfumes in the line and they are ludicrously expensive. There are too many ouds. The fancy bottles look like expensive condiment containers.  The droning predictability of superlatives (The Finest Ingredients and the Most Exquisite Packaging for Our Most Deserving Customers) is flak-speak for ‘Composition takes a back seat to materials and here’s a shiny new object. Now jump this high.’

Stratospheric pricing paired with luxury is nothing new. The lower rung of the Xerjoff line costs as much as a Frédéric Malle perfume– about $250 per bottle. The prices for the top of the line are obscene. The Goldilocks of the brand is the Oud Stars series: 5 simultaneously launched oud perfumes, each listing at $310 for a 50 ml bottle.

So why write about a line that I disdain?  Well, I’ve found one perfume that I like. More importantly, someone steered me toward that perfume.

Recently while I was talking with Yvettra at ScentBar she grabbed a Xerjoff bottle to demonstrate a point. Seeing the incredulity on my face, she said, “No. Wait. You’ll see.”  And I did. Having had bits and pieces of discussion about hundreds of perfumes over the years, not only did she have a bead on my preferences (she’s extremely good at her job) but we had common subject matter. We could have a creative and detailed discussion.

We curate perfume for each other. It’s the bright side, the unintended consequence of a discouragingly overcrowded market. Whether it is between a well-informed salesperson and a passionate customer or within online perfume communities, the conversation has grown deeper and more detailed. The perfume market has become so large that nobody can speak with authority on all perfumes available. We need guidance. We guide each other.

Set me loose in LuckyScent with $310 and I might douse myself with Mamluk before I leave, but I’d walk out the door with two or three other perfumes. The story here isn’t the perfume but the people. Mamluk is a beautiful perfume–gorgeous, really– but I’d never buy it. It’s just too expensive. My experience with Mamluk points out that we have ideas, practical knowledge and passions behind our preferences. The focus shifts from the perfume to the person wearing it and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Out of the 1658 new releases in 2015 (per Basenotes) I tried fewer than I have in recent years and liked fewer still.  I’m optimistic, though. The discussion has surpassed the products on the market. Odd, yeah? 2015 ushered in some remarkably shitty perfumes but the discussion has reached critical mass and the conversation is more interesting than the perfume.

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The perfume review part:

Mamluk riffs on the bread-and-butter gourmand quality that Christopher Sheldrake investigated in Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau. It phrases oud as a near-gourmand note, surrounding it with sweet and savory modifiers. An almost candied quality lasts from start to finish, but it defers to the buttery, savory aspects that make Mamluk wear like white truffle burnt-butter and clean skin. I imagine that someone wearing this might get a lot of lascivious, ‘I could just eat you up!’ sort of comments. It is a potent but balanced perfume with a deceptive smoothness, not so much a blend as a minor key harmonic. It’s not particularly pretty from most angles, but it is an uncommonly beautiful perfume and is satisfying to wear. Though not a perfume for all people or for all occasions, it is distinctive but proportioned and strangely elegant. Categorically it is an oud (ie. a trend past its shelf life) but it is a smart, playful composition and *chapeau* to Xerjoff for queering the oud norm so effectively.

 

(image Daniela Rossell, “Ricas y Famosas”)

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