Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Maria Amalia by Morris : Perfume Review

Maria Amalia, archduchess of Austria and princess of Hungary by birth, duchess of Parma by marriage, is perhaps better known to me as the sister of Elizabeth of Bavaria, affectionately known to most as Empress Sissi. Indeed, even though I object to monarchy (I am Greek, after all), I always did end up being fascinated by the more romantic stories of monarchs and have spent many a wonderful winter night throughout the years listening to my dearest, biography obsessed, friend Peter talking to me about the lives of princesses, pharaohs, sultans and their wives. What do I remember about Maria Amalia? Not that much – her sister, Empress Sissi with her unhappy life and countless travels always proved to be a much more interesting topic of conversation. So, when I came across a perfume called Maria Amalia, I cannot say I immediately made the connection between the name and the duchess. As it turns out though, the perfume is indeed named after her, and not just as a tribute. Purportedly, this is the real deal, Maria Amalia’s own personal fragrance, recreated from the jus found in her hunting lodge, when a precious coffer was uncovered, guarding inside a flacon of splendid crystal. The pamphlet that accompanies the fragrance paints a very romantic picture of Maria Amalia, speaking extensively of her wondrous beauty, her sense of style and her azzure blue eyes that could be magnetic and icy at the same time. The article about Maria Amalia on Wikipedia paints a harsher, or much naughtier if you will, picture of the duchess, focusing instead on her ‘immoral’ way of life and her political games. One thing that emerges from both readings though, is that Maria Amalia must have been an incredibly independent spirit, strong, rebellious and full of explosive desires that led her to want to taste every kind of entertainment in life.

The fragrance itself opens with a slightly fruity accord which refuses to linger longer than a few fleeting moments. Then, a trio of magnificently complimentary notes is presented to the nose: cardamom, ginger root and angelica. Ginger acts like the balancing point, as though flanked on each side by the other two notes. On one side, the wonderfully resinous, bittersweet cardamom enhancing the scent of its familial ginger, while the ginger itself penetrates the depth of cardamom with its citrusy tendrils. On the other side, the bracing, acutely sharp scent of angelica, serves to enhance the herbaceous profile of ginger, making it stronger, fortifying the senses, penetrating the senses and jolting them into attention. I simply haven’t the words to describe better how beautifully these three notes compliment each other, and I am left simply deconstructing them, hoping that imagination can fill the gaps. I do love sharpness in a perfume, and it is most pleasing to me that in this particular scent, the sharp vein courses through its development for hours. For a while, I get the sense of something deeply earthy, imparting an impression of wet, rich soil, strewn with aromatic spices and herbs. As this image begins to disappear, the soft scent of May rose slowly rises to the top, its petals laced with nutmeg and its stems surrounded by cinnamon bark. The result is very well blended, with no spiky edges. The marriage of notes is subtle and I struggle to pick out any particular note overpowering the rest. Smelling close, there is perhaps a thin lemony vein, continuing the trail ginger had started earlier...Rosewood, perhaps? As mentioned earlier, the sharpness I so love is indeed present in the drydown and makes for a most interesting combination with the base notes of fragrant woods and resins. Beautiful, cinnamic, resinous myrrh is blended with a touch of patchouli and a generous amount of creamy sandalwood that is so wintry, so warm and lovely, it actually manages to make my heart pick up speed.

Is this the fragrance Maria Amalia preferred? Was it one of many, or was it perhaps her signature perfume? What does surprise me about this scent is how masculine it is. Is it possible instead, that the fragrance found in her hunting lodge was not hers, but one bought for one of her numerous lovers? Or even perhaps, for her younger husband? Despite the feminine flacon it is sold in, despite the feminine name, my immediate impression is one of quiet masculinity. Yet, it has none of the abused, common characteristics of mainstream masculine perfumes. By this I mean of course that one should not expect to find anything obviously masculine about it, or otherwise overtly citrusy-fresh or god forbid, marine. It is just an impression I speak of, but one strong enough to elicit the same response from a friend of mine too. This is not a fragrance that is traditionally feminine, and yes, it will be just perfect on male skin. (purrrrrrfect? oops, sorry...) I do have to add though, that its sharpness might put some people off. The first time I tried this on my skin I did get reminded of the sharpness of Vanille Exquise, which is not too surprising since they both contain angelica. A side-by-side comparison though, revealed that although they do share something common in the way they are sharp, Vanille Exquise is smoother and Maria Amalia fuller. The latter manages to disguise its sharpness better, embraced as it is with so much warmth from all the spices, woods and resins. I do hope this little comparison helps. I felt a warning was in order since sharpness is not always well received, and it is better to be forewarned. How do I feel about buying this? I love it, and I am glad to have it. However, I do feel a slight twinge of remorse. The Eau de Parfum ConcentrĂ© is hideously expensive – perhaps due to the crystal flacon, perhaps due to the higher concentration, or both... The Eau de Parfum Spray which I originally rejected, has just as much tenacity, it can, occasionally, be found dirt-cheap online, and if my memory serves it happens to smell a tad different, a bit more feminine and soft. Dabbing perfume delicately is a sensual ritual though, and the high concentration does mean I am left with a lovely sheen on my skin. I don’t regret this, but I know what I will be buying next time if I manage to finish this one!

As always, I am going to be giving out a sample of this, since it is hard to find, so do leave a comment. I’ll announce the draw winner next Wednesday.

Images: commons.wikimedia.org and Author’s own.


12 comments:

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
Ginger, cardamom and angelica - this sounds absolutely lovely. I'm almost able to sniff it now, from your evocative description. I think that this would be a most fitting perfume for autumn, and its subtle masculinity makes it all the more appealing. These afternoons I'm walking home, shuffling through the leaves, and I am aware of the rather sad and nostalgic smell of a forest floor, even in my urban surroundings. What a shame it is so difficult to find and that the extrait is so expensive...
Linda

chayaruchama said...

Oh dear Lord-
May I enter the drawing, please ?
I'm salivating...
Woop, woop !

Gaia, The non-blonde said...

Sounds perfect. I'd love to try (going right away to troll eBay for it). I'm kind of a royalist,easy to be when you're in America and the whole thing is just glamorous and exotic from a distance :)

dinazad said...

Never heard of this, but it sounds absolutely GORGEOUS! Would love to be in the drawing!

Divina said...

Goodmorning, Linda! You are right actually - it fits perfectly with fall weather. I don't know if the edp concentre is as expensive in Italy (where I think this perfume comes from). It would be interesting to know what it costs over there. Somehow I have a feeling that it might be cheaper. I know that I would not buy the concentre again because of the forbidding price. I would instead wait until I found a very cheap edp spray online.

Divina said...

Chaya my dearest, of course!

Divina said...

Hey Gaia :) I found 2 bottles of the spray last time I looked on eBay (a couple of weeks ago). I'll enter you in the drawing of course too.

Divina said...

You're in of course! I am happy I have not scared you guys off by describing it as having a sharp vein :)

italian girl said...

Please enter me.. I think it sounds really unique and different from the yawns coming out now..
thnx

Divina said...

Ciao bella, nice to see you again :) You're in of course.

edwardian said...

Now you make want to go out and smell Maria Amalia even tough I think it's not easy to find, I'm sure I've never seen it in my city.
This must be some sort of revenge since, in those times, part of northern Italy was under the control of the Austrian Empire...
Anyway, if it is sharp, masculine and contains ginger, angelica and cardamom I want the austrian invaders to come back, resore the empire, bring their perfume and ban Angel forever.

maitreyi1978@yahoo.com said...

I would like to try this. You make it sound so lovely. I love your site.