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Ma Bête – Floral and animalic and an erotic tease - April 4, 2016

Poster for Jean Cocteau movie "La Belle et la Bête", 1946 - Wikipedia

When people meet me and learn I’m a perfume blogger, they are full of questions: What’s your favourite perfume? Answer: any I’ve written about on this site. How did you learn so much about smell? Answer: I pay attention to the smells around me – all the time. How can I learn more about perfume? Answer: read Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume by Barbara Herman.

The book talks about how 20th century perfumes broke away from previous notions of fragrance. For example, they blurred gender lines and often celebrated, not masked, the natural smells of the human body. In such ways they were subversive and became part of the social rebellions of the modern era. The span of the book, the depth of the research and glossary of perfume terms and ingredients make it a must-read for any perfumista. It also makes Barbara Herman someone every perfumista should know.

Ms. Herman is a vintage perfume expert, historian and consultant. She collects, researches and writes about vintage fragrances on her blog YesterdaysPerfume.com - one of the best go-to resources on topic out there. Her work has also appeared in likes of The New Yorker, The New York Times, Allure, Newsweek and Esquire UK magazines.

All of this passion for vintage perfumes inspired her to bring sexy back and, in 2016 she launched a niche fragrance line called ERIS Parfums. The line debuted with three fragrances composed by Antoine Lie – Belle de Jour, Night Flower and Ma Bête – each inspired by the eroticism of vintage animalic floral fragrances.

Eris is the Greek goddess of discord, spite and jealousy. She’s a stirrer all right, and the perfect name for Herman’s line: "Antoine Lie and I have reimagined the intensity and eros of perfumes of the past for a contemporary audience. We wanted to bring back the emotion of animalic perfumes," says Ms. Herman on an interview.

All three fragrances are FBW, depending on what you are looking for and Ma Bête is what I’ve been looking for - for a long time. It was inspired by the 1946 Jean Cocteau film La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), the familiar fairy tale centred on the transformation of a beast into a handsome prince through the true love of a kind, pure-hearted woman.

Ma Bête opens with aromatic neroli – citrusy, honeyed and floral and aldehydes, all fatty, waxy and floral they give it a vintage feel. The florals are warmed with spicy, earthy nutmeg. It’s romantic, warm and beautiful – but this is just the start. The top notes are amplified at the heart with sweet, indolic, animalic, jasmine and spicy, earthy cypriol and warm resinous styrax.  As it moves to the base, I smell balsamic, woody cedarwood, licks of patchouli and bold, erotic animalic notes.

These are the notes I smell, but it’s the effect they create on me that’s the reason I love this fragrance. It’s a feminine, floral, seductive beauty brushing up against a virile, animalic, male beast and then backing away over and over again that makes Ma Bête an irresistible, erotic tease.  And, like any good tease, where you start with is not where you finish.

Ma Bête is confident for sure, but not brash or aggressive, Mr. Lie has too much skill for that, but it does have what he calls a “raunchy elegance”.

You know, as I sit here sniffing Ma Bête on my wrist, I’m beginning to think that maybe reading the book can wait….just start with the juice.

Ma Bête is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.