Sunday, May 13, 2007

Montana Parfum de Peau by Claude Montana : Perfume Review for Mother’s Day

I was not planning to write a special review for Mother’s Day, in fact, I had been preparing a different review for today. But something happened yesterday, a strange coincidence, a little touch of fate that prompted me to suspend the piece I had prepared, in order to write this one, a Mother’s Day special.

As it has probably become clear by now, Saturday mornings are perfume exploration days for me and yesterday was no exception. I went to a specific perfume boutique to try out some fragrances I was not very familiar with, in order to decide which one to order online from a gift certificate I’d been given some days ago. I was walking purposefully next to the countless shelves of perfumes to reach the specific section, when my eye caught a certain blue box that made me stop dead in my tracks: Montana Parfum de Peau by Claude Montana. My heart missed a beat; I had not seen it in years, more than a decade to be exact. I thought that it was out of circulation and that I’d never happen upon it again. I was immediately flooded with emotion: On the day that every boutique in town was filled with shoppers buying gifts for Mother’s Day, I happened upon the one long-lost perfume that says 'mom' to me like no other. The coincidence was not lost on me; I knew I had to buy it and write a Mother’s Day special for today.

My mom has never been fickle with her fragrance choices. She always picks a single signature scent and sticks with it for years until something prompts her to change it. During the time that I was growing up she went through three different perfumes: Paris by Yves Saint Laurent, Nina by Nina Ricci and Montana by Claude Montana. Out of the three, only Paris is still widely available. And out of the three, it is Montana that rouses the strongest memories inside me. Wearing it now, I become a child again, reliving a scenario so oft-repeated it’s been imprinted in my mind like a schema. My mother is about to go out for the evening with my dad and she laughingly puts me into her bed to watch her, as she is getting ready. “Do I look alright, darling?” I nod, wide-eyed and utterly in awe of her dramatic blue eyes, shiny blonde hair and extravagant eighties outfit. She is about to leave and there is one last touch to complete her outfit, the perfume. Apprehension – I know my nose is going to sting and burn for a while before I can start enjoying it. I do not know whether I love or hate this perfume, but I say nothing of the sort. It forms a peppery cloud around her and she tells me I can sleep in her bed as she presses her nose against mine. The scented trail she leaves behind is so strong, it will stay with me for hours, in the air, on my skin, on the bed linen. Mom. Paris was youthful innocence, Nina was a return to romantic femininity, but Montana was always my mother as a sexual animal, a self-confident woman filled with joie de vivre and sensuality. A side of her that took me a while to consolidate with her daily image.

Montana is a floral chypre that opens up with an overwhelming burst of pepper and cardamom, combined with juicy fruits that excite the senses and leave the nose tingling. The ginger and carnation at the perfume’s heart enhance and prolong the peppery spiciness, while rose and tuberose give the fragrance depth and substance. It is the base notes however, which turn this into a truly magical concoction: amber, cedar, patchouli, olibanum, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, civet and by far my favorite of all animalic notes, castoreum, all blend together perfectly, leaving me breathless, gasping for more in a state of addiction. Not only is Montana extremely unique and grossly, clashingly peculiar, it is also deviant by nature. Having forgotten all about it for years and now experiencing it again, I realize now I had been looking for controversy and dissonance in all the wrong places. No wonder Muscs Koublai Khan smelled tame and friendly to me, when my olfactory bulb still retained the memory of Montana in its depths. Fur, sex and exuberant abandon were all waiting for me there to be rediscovered and no substitute would do. Seeing the listing of oakmoss on the box makes me surmise that this is a fresh bottle. Hopefully that means we will never have to part again.

I’d always thought of my preference for perfumes that sting and burn the nasal cavity (Paloma Picasso, Rose Cardin, Wrappings...) as a personal idiosyncrasy, a very personal taste I’d somehow developed. I thought of it as a personal quirk, an eccentric oddity of taste. Only now do I realize where it stems from and the reality of this leaves me slightly shaken, as though part of my originality has been stolen away. Yet at the same time I’ve gained insight; “Know thyself” advised the ancient Greeks and I do know just a little bit more now. My bond with my mom has been strengthened. The invisible line that connects us has been reinforced one more time. I love you, mama. Happy Mother’s Day, this one’s for you.

Images of Montana ads through the years, courtesy of
Image of Montana on fur, my own.


helg said...

A loving tribute to your mum and a very individual perfume from the 80s. An untamed one! Good for you to get a bottle.

Divina said...

Hiii Helg...I've actually been sort of emotionally drained all day after writing this piece. I've been wearing Montana since yesterday and wondering how I ever managed to do without it, how I never craved it before. It smells just like it did back then and I in turn feel as though all I described happened yesterday. Thank you for reading and posting on this.

Abigail said...

There was something about growing up near certain perfumes...Even though I didn't like them, some subconcious part of me assumed that when I grew up I would smell like that. It's strange, and it still makes me want to rebell a little bit, and also comforting and nostalgic.

Glad you found your mama's perfume, it was obviously meant to be.

Divina said...

Hey Abigail! I must admit you've got me curious... Would you like to share what those perfumes were?

TMH256 said...

Divina! What a beautiful piece and tribute to your mother. She, I'm sure, will be extremely touched by it. And your description of Montana is a great one! You definitely must try Coup de Fouet by Caron.

I too remember several that my mother wore. One in particular was a scent that my step-father bought for her. He was not a fragrance person, but one day he went shopping for her with the specific purpose of buying a scent. What he found was Diva. At the time, it was exclusive and expensive. My mother wore it so incredibly well. I'll have to find some so that I can do it justice with an accurate review!

Have a wonderful day!


Divina said...

Dearest T, thank you so much for your words and for sharing this with me.. You mean Diva by Ungaro right? I will be going away for a few days this Thursday but after I come back I will gladly send you a sample of Diva! I would love to read your review of it. (((hugs)))