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