Sceptical: Superstitious for Frederic Malle

Let’s look beyond the narrative Malle and Elbaz set out – I am incredulous, forever sceptical, and am not willing to accept it at first glance. My suspicion may be wrong (of course), but launching Superstitious seemed to be the next logical move for the Frederic Malle brand, injecting a jasmine-centric scent in the line up in order to fill in the gaps. There doesn’t seem to be a style or note missing in the brand now, from the groovy, cosmic expressiveness of violet clashing with concrete in Dans Tes Bras, the shivering wall of crunchy aromatics in Angelique Sous La Pluie, and now the grand floral aldehyde evening dress of Superstitious. It’s a tactical move, and perhaps the tactical trumps love (Elbaz and Malle seem so infatuated in the media surrounding this work), or perhaps it does not. Nevertheless, it’s something to keep in mind.

Is Superstitious excessive if Iris Poudre already exists? Comparison is a must. Both are floral aldehydes. But, Superstitious, when held in contrast to Iris Poudre, demonstrates two different styles within the same camp. Watching Iris Poudre as it progresses showcases the hard angularness of the floral aldehyde, where the cool metallic tones of iris are meet with an upright gloss of metallic effects and chunky musks. Iris Poudre is a firm velvet which moves from cool to less-cool, never quite warm, and ever increasing in plushness; something expected of the style. Superstitious, on the other hand, is strikingly more postmodern with a generosity of aldehydes. Despite being of higher dosage, the aldehydes are worked into and sculpted to form something curvaceous from something fiercely angular. And in that way, it’s a new dimension for aldehydes – demonstrating a supple intensity without losing the effervescent shimmer, only minimising it –  producing a style that could arguably be warm rather than cool, and fatty, wax-like over singing and acidulous.

Superstitious’ heaviness of jasmine, which as a note is mercurial and long, and particularly showcased here as thick and oily, attunes itself well to this style of fatty aldehyde. The iris in Iris Poudre attunes itself to the work’s well-defined metallic framework, merging into a single coherent idea within this style of cool aldehyde. In short, either work. Iris Poudre is far more spectacular, easily, for it moves in a way Superstitious does not, and on that basis alone they are distinguished from each other. So, what’s the problem?

 

Photo by Frederic Malle

 


It pains me to criticise volume and projection, but such grand promises and concepts need to be met in reality, and as a matter of principle things need to be played at the right volume for that to be so. Celestial notes need to sing, and earthly notes need to hum; that makes good contrast, and there’s too much humming in Superstitious. The rich application of aldehydes in Superstitious lose characteristic tenacity and read akin to a snuffed out candle encased in polished crystal glass; or perhaps the tight brightness of extra-brut Champagne, whilst the equally rich application of Turkish rose and Egyptian jasmine give thickness, and despite the lascivious and spiced contrast against the pure off-white of aldehydes, that is not enough, and the richness is capped at a lacklustre capacity, limited by the quiet, intimate volume of the fragrance.

And so there’s an imbalance between intensity and volume. The intensity is there, the volume is not. Superstitious reads as stuffy, too confined, and pressurised beyond comfort. It requires a freedom from its density, and the classical base which purrs with oily, earthy vetiver and warm sandalwood continues to highlight this problem of composition.

How can I justify this criticism? I am not saying this is a bad fragrance. It is technically well-put together. Within the whisper of its composition are well-defined and separated variances of volume and texture, and a subtle contrast of its viscosity: the purity and likeness of clinical alcohol within aldehydes, and the oily syrup of a melange of floral extracts – but this tension needs a rush – it needs something to suggest off-balance or asymmetry, and I find myself asking for it again and again with every instance of Superstitious on both blotter and skin. And that is why I am a sceptic towards Superstitious.

Snuffed out candle.

Subjective rating: 3/5

Objective rating: 3/5

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8 thoughts on “Sceptical: Superstitious for Frederic Malle

  1. Loved it as soon as I tried it, for me the rose and jasmine weigh in equally, and combined with the ever-lasting aldehydes make it a knock-out. You’re right re:projection, but projection has never been an issue with me, and I do get a good 8 hours of longevity. And maybe Val is right about geing over 50? Skin chem changes with age, and I haven’t been 50 in awhile!😂

  2. Oh thank goodness for you Liam. I’ve been wearing this over the weekend and you’ve nailed it, for me there’s a third element that’s missing that would open this up, make it more generous. It’s so huge but somehow overly constrained at the same time. I love an indolic jasmine but this was just not working for me. I can see how masterful the construction is but, just, for something named for an apparently instinctive methodology, it feels somehow too calculated…

  3. I agree that the whole composition is quite masterful, yet highly constrained; especially after the aldehydic burst dies down after half an hour. I cannot help but liken it to First edt. I had hoped, from the joyous opening, to have a development more pronounced and parabolic. It just didn’t happen for me. Still, not all olfactive nasal candy has to abide by my demands for ultimate fulfillment. For the price of one 50ml bottle of Superstitious, I can buy a bottle of First edt and a No 5 of choice, and quench my need for aldehydic jasmine firecrackers.

    To grant Mr Malle and his team their due, they have produced an offering that harks back to an era since passed. It is a welcome change, and it could have been much worse. Think sweet fruitchoulli. This may just turn perfumery trends. And for that, I’ll sacrifice the ride I was expecting.

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