Have you ever seen the optical illusion that looks both like an old hag and a young woman, depending on how you approach it? That’s how I feel about Parfums MDCI Péché Cardinal. Not that it has anything of the old hag. Not at all. But come at it one way, and it’s nothing but caramelized peach. Look at it through a different lens, and you get tuberose. Peach. Tuberose. Peach. Tuberose. It’s kind of marvelous.
Perfumer Amandine Marie developed Péché Cardinal, released in 2009. It has notes of peach, blackberry, black currant, davana, coconut, lily, tuberose, plum, sandalwood, cedar and musk. When I fist smelled Péché Cardinal, I decided I was smelling a peachy floral. After that, peach is what I got whenever I sniffed Péché Cardinal. It was a plush, fragrant, earthy peach, but among the riches of my Parfums MDCI sample set, it fell to the back.
During a post about perfumes that smell like Champagne a few weeks ago, a commenter mentioned wearing Péché Cardinal for New Year’s Eve. She inspired me to pull out my sample and dab it on. I ended up wearing it four days straight. When I decided to review Péché Cardinal, I looked up its list of notes, saw “tuberose,” and sniffed it again. Suddenly, tuberose popped up in the front row. Wait. Was Péché Cardinal maybe a tuberose fragrance after all? I’d always thought of tuberose as fruity, although perfumers often seem to play up its gaseous, leathery, or green notes. But I’d never thought of peach as particularly tuberose-like. Maybe what I smelling in Péché Cardinal was tuberose and not peach at all. It was perplexing — in a good way.
Péché Cardinal kicks off with ripe, but not overly sweet, peach (or tuberose). Seeing blackberry and black currant on a list of its notes draws it to my attention, but otherwise I’d think I was smelling a lush peach that didn’t cleave to the ultra-sweet “peach” that infests supermarket candles and car air fresheners, but rather was a true peach with hints of the garden about it. Either that, or I was smelling a fruity, welcoming, non-diva tuberose.
A thread of clean musk runs through Péché Cardinal, lightening it and moving the composition away from smelling like dessert but not so far as to waft shampoo. After an hour or so, what smells like benzoin — warm and chewy and a nice complement to the peach and tuberose — settles in, cushioned by wood. My only quibble with Péché Cardinal is the bit of sharp woody musk that creeps in toward the end of its life on skin. It’s not the cedar and clean musk I smell earlier, but the woody musk that was so popular for a while in nouveau chypres like Miss Dior Chérie (now called Miss Dior) and Lanvin Rumeur.
On a one-to-ten sillage scale with Christian Dior Poison a ten, Péché Cardinal weighs in at about a seven. It lasts a full eight hours on my skin, and a brisk bicycle commute home reawakens its tuberose.
I’ll use every drop of my Péché Cardinal sample and relish it. And I’ll never drink a Bellini without smelling phantom tuberoses, or sniff a tuberose without seeing a peach, all gold and red, oxidizing in the fruit bowl.
Parfums MDCI Péché Cardinal costs $250 for 60 ml, and $275 and $700 for the resin bust and bisque bust-topped 60-ml bottles, respectively. For information on where to buy it, see Parfums MDCI under Perfume Houses.