Perfume has mystique. It’s supposed to add a powerful but invisible allure, they say. Men should feel faint in your sillage. A whiff of your fragrance should call you to mind, eyes cast seductively aside and all.1 Given the hype, I understand why so many new launches are for whopper fragrances with “sexy” stamped all over their branding. (Whether you actually find any of it sexy is another matter.)
Fortunately, Marchesa Parfum d’Extase takes a more subtle approach, and for that alone it’s worth smelling. Despite its ambitious name, Parfum d’Extase is delicate, fresh, and old fashioned. If you’re looking for purple fruit, heavy musk, patchouli, and gardenia, move along. There’s nothing for you here.
Perfumer Annie Buzantian developed Parfum d’Extase. Its notes include iris flower, star anise, black current, violet leaves, lotus flower, night blooming jasmine, Bulgarian rose water, orange blossom, iris root, ambrox and muscenone.
Parfum d’Extase goes on with a steam-iron whoosh of aldehydes and musk. Underneath all that steely clean shimmers a sweet floral focused on rose, violet, and jasmine, with a barely spicy, warm edge. It’s an easy, versatile fragrance, and I could see both brides and cubicle dwellers choosing it.
Parfum d’Extase didn’t impress me at first. It smelled vaguely rosy, dusted with that bug spray-like musk sometimes used to mimic oakmoss. Ho hum. However, the more I wore it, the more appreciated its complexity. I liked how the sheer warmth of Parfum d’Extase’s ambrox played against its mineral-clean aldehydes and musk. I liked the duskiness of the violet leaf and iris against the sweet rose and jasmine. Parfum d’Extase feels delicate and clean without evoking powder or ornamental bath soaps.
It took a good half of my sample spray in one go to make the most of Parfum d’Extase. You really have to slick yourself down with this stuff to smell all its nooks and crannies. Parfum d’Extase comes in a rollerball, but, honestly, I can’t imagine anyone who likes the fragrance enough to buy it settling for the scant amount a rollerball delivers.
And that leads to one of the fragrance’s greatest drawbacks: its lack of longevity. After its initial burst, Parfum d’Extase wears tight to the skin and poops out at about three hours.
If you like Parfum d’Extase’s linen-clean aspect, but the fragrance doesn’t last long enough for you, I’d recommend trying Narciso Rodriguez Essence. (Plus, the bottle is gorgeous.) If you like Parfum d’Extase’s elegant floral heart but wish it had more body, sample some Natori.
As for me, Parfum d’Extase in a body cream would be a nice after-bath, time-for-bed fragrance. If a bottle landed on my doorstep, I’d spray my sheets with it from time to time. I have plenty of other perfumes to ply their mystery during the day.
Marchesa Parfum d’Extase Eau de Parfum is available in 30 ml ($60) and 50 ml ($85) and a .34 ml rollerball ($25). Right now it’s only sold at Sephora.
1. A story about the mystery surrounding perfume: Last weekend I went to hear the legendary Motown singer Bettye LaVette speak. In her youth she dated Aretha Franklin’s husband, Ted White, a pimp. Lavette said White was essentially her personal charm school. He taught her how to “move, speak, and wear perfume.” She said she still has the bottles of Arpège and My Sin he gave her.