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Promenade in the Gardens – Expect something different – June 6, 2014 New Fragrance Listing

Image - Wikipedia - Parterre in an English Garden by Jasper33, 2007

Gwen and I spend just a few dollars on perfumes every year, a result of our insane perfume obsession, as well as the fact that we only write about perfumes we love and own. We share all of our precious scents with you through our Decant Store, so when a new scent hits the smell-o-rama jackpot and we sell a gazillion decants because you’ve read about it in a magazine or a newspaper article, or you’ve smelled it in a store or sniffed it on a friend and decided that you absolutely must have a sample to try yourself, we have to order second, third, or more bottles to keep up with a scent that’s dangerously low, down to its very last delicious whiffs.

Martin Margiela Untitled, which Gwen wrote about here, is one of those jackpot scents. It was launched in 2010, and I can’t tell you why it’s grabbed so much attention – still. Good press, perhaps, or maybe just because it is “untitled” and not bound by pre-conceived notions, or maybe because it’s from a Belgian designer label known for its avant-garde edge. Untitled, by nose Daniela Andrier of Prada fame, is a green scent, which differentiates it from the ubiquitous kool-aid and patchouli mainstream, and it’s also not “a cool, clean springtime green scent…it’s woody, dark green, shot through with dirty jasmine, warmed by incense softened by musk. Deep, sensuous and gorgeous...” Smelling is believing, as we perfumistas say, and many of you have ordered Untitled to sniff on your own skin.

Who is Martin Margiela, you might ask? The Maison Martin Margiela label isn’t a niche brand – its fashion licence is owned by Diesel, and the fragrance licence is held by L’Oreal, But the name does have a certain exotic flavor or panache because M. Margiela has always been a bit of a mystery in the fashion world - he’s never been identified in a photograph. Maybe he’s dead, maybe he never existed. The line is often referred to as MMM, or 3M - the label has no logo, the packaging is anonymous, there’s no real identifiable visual reference for the brand, which is highly unusual in the fashion biz. Regardless, it remains successful and in demand by fashionistas.

In 2012, Martin Margiela Replica fragrance was launched, an extension of the 1994 Martin Margiela Replica fashion label that preceeded it, and which featured trendy reinterpretations of classic vintage styles from around the world. The concept of the fragrance line is stated as a  “ Reproduction of familiar scents and moments of varying locations and periods.” Visitors to the website are invited to share:

“#SMELLSLIKEMEMORIES - Share your photo on and continue to create this olfactory and collective memory”.

So the idea, as I interpret it, is to assign your own memories to the scents in the bottle, which is basically what I think we all do when we smell perfumes, anyway.

Three scents were launched in 2012, Promenade in the Gardens was one of three additions in 2013. The label on Promenade in the Gardens, a floral chypre which I bought at Barney's in New York, states:

Provenance and Period “Oxfordshire, 1986”

Fragrance Description “Shaded and flowered paths”

Maybe Carlos Benaim, the excellent nose who created this crisp floral, was in Oxfordshire in 1986, but I sure wasn’t. I was nose-deep in training pants and singing clapping songs, but I was, in actual fact, in an Oxfordshire garden in 1972, so I’ll stay with the story. It continues on the MMM website:

"The romanticism of British gardens, where wanderers can lose themselves in the fresh green glades, or come around the organised chaos of an outcrop to find themselves suddenly surrounded by floral notes."

And that’s exactly how Promenade in the Gardens hits me – a crisp green mossy accord out of the bottle, with a slight dampness attached to it, like my nose detects from just-mown grass. It gets a little darker, with the sharp green-ness of galbanum, and then, around the corner, the notes open up into a lush white floral accord edged with an herbal aroma of coriander and a twist of orange zest. The opening smells and feels like a perfect summer morning.

Into the heart, the floral accord becomes more classic with the addition of sweet jasmine and the “spice girls”, rose and peony, but it’s difficult to pull out individual notes – the accord is lovely soft florals growing on a green sward. The base gets slightly darker with vetiver and patchouli adding a rooty earthy aspect, and sandalwood smooths the dry-down into a creamy understated richness.

Promenade in the Gardens is different from what I expected. I thought I would smell the sweet sensuous headiness of a cultivated garden, but the memory image I conjured was the cool green elegance of a natural garden. Much more cerebral than Untitled, it could be Oxfordshire in 1986, but for me, it’s more like Vancouver in 1978. I wonder if you’ll be surprised by where and when your memory will promenade after you get a sniff of this Martin Margiela scent.

Promenade in the Gardens is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.