Samples of Ramón Monegal’s new perfume line, all fourteen fragrances, landed on my desk months ago. I was overwhelmed by the number of perfumes, but over the course of several days, and using each finger on both hands, and both wrists, and forearms, and even a friend at work, I tried them all. Some of the perfumes I immediately deemed unwearable (for me) — even applied in small quantity (they were hyper-feminine and sweet). The fragrance I had my female friend try, Kiss My Name, almost ruined our relationship; I applied only a drop to her wrist and this sent her sprinting to the sink where she furiously scrubbed her wrist with hot water and dishwashing liquid. Still, the fragrance persisted, nay, DOMINATED the office, because it was on the sleeve of her shirt. Her choices were few: walk around in her bra all day, shirtless (she said she seriously considered doing this), or grin and bear it till she got home and threw her shirt in the wash.
My overall reaction to the Monegal line was: “Ho hum.” Then I remembered what I’m always preaching: “To know what a perfume really smells like, don’t DAB, pour it on! Empty some samples vials!” There was no way I was going to devote two weeks of my life to Ramón Monegal fragrances (14 perfumes, 14 days) so I put all ten I’d consider wearing (deleting the “No way!” scents from the competition) on my dining room table, scattered them about, closed my eyes and picked five fragrances to wear over the course of a week. Today’s reviews are a result of that “game.”
Ramón Monegal labels himself a “master perfumer.” He is a descendant of the founders of the Spanish Myrurgia perfume company (whose most famous perfume in the U.S. was Maja). Myrurgia was bought by the Puig group in 2000 and the brand seems to have disappeared after the acquisition; it’s not even listed by Puig on its webpage. According to the Monegal website, Ramón Monegal studied perfumery at Firmenich in Geneva, and with Pierre Bourdon in France. (It also claims he created Inès de la Fressange’s eponymous scent; but I can’t find any evidence of this.)
Monegal credits literature as a major inspiration for his perfumes. Literature, or at least a well-appointed writing desk, inspired the Monegal “inkwell” bottle for his fragrances, too; and he has written his own novel (available in Spanish), La perfumista (synopsis: “Laura Nogués seems to have everything — a successful career as an architect, an enviable marriage, an active social life...yet a voice inside says that she needs something more. One day she decides to drop everything and devote herself body and soul to her deepest passion: creating perfumes. Laura launches herself into the adventure of shaping a project in which aromas are the heart of it all. In Grasse, in Provence of France — the birthplace of perfume — Laura makes her dreams come true and creates Jazmines, an architectural tribute to the five senses where she will find happiness and the true meaning of life. Her quintessence.”) Oy! (or…Olé!)
cedar bark, bay leaf, pepper, mousse vert, sarriette (summer savory), cedar, cashmere, dry wood accord
Dry Wood begins with a whopping (and masculine) accord of bay leaf, summer savory (a note that lingers into the dry-down), moss…and dry lime? As the perfume develops, a nice pepper aroma joins the greens; then, Dry Wood quickly becomes sweet and talc-y with a hint of powdery/opaque citrus, cashmeran and rather indistinct wood aromas. Dry Wood is manly and has a “Spanish Perfume” character (a smooth, well-blended fragrance with citrus, woods and herbs/moss), but when I say “Spanish,” don’t think “matador” or Almodóvar…think rich lawyer/judge in Salamanca (reserved and conservative, a bit of a square). After some hours on skin the cologne smells rather generic. Dry Wood is a nice enough fragrance, but for less than half its cost you can get a perfume that’s just as good (and much better in the base notes.) Dry Woods has astonishing lasting power and good sillage.
Tunisian orange flower, orange, petitgrain, neroli, amber, patchouli
I was happy this fragrance was one of my picks to review; I love a good orange blossom/orange fruit perfume. Entre Naranjos begins with a sweet “orange flower,” a flower made of orange juice and orange blossom (a rather “glass-y eyed” orange blossom, not romantic — lush or creamy—in the least). Mixed with the fruit and flower is an almost “food-y” light amber note (a tad candied and artificial…as if you made amber “fudge” from imitation woods/vetiver, patchouli and vanilla). This is a sheer perfume, but not “fresh”, to be blunt: it smells stale. Entre Naranjos’ overall character is bland and possesses not a hint of originality or “luxury.” Add poor lasting power and no sillage to speak of and you have a most untempting fragrance.
Italian iris, Egyptian cassiopiae, framboise, ylang-ylang, Egyptian jasmine, Virginia cedar wood
Impossible Iris opens with a beautiful “white” aroma that reminds me of a fresh, and ample, bouquet of Thalia narcissus, indolic and vibrant. (For those of you who have not smelled Thalia narcissus, imagine jasmine in full spring bloom or a mass of Clematis armandii blossoming over a patch of dew-moistened violets.) Though the indoles fade, the pretty, sweet white floral and violet aromas persist. As Impossible Iris dries down, raspberry fruit aromas mix with the violet to make an interesting accord (that is, until the raspberry begins to dominate the flowers; if raspberry in perfume is your enemy, don’t try this).
I’d wear Impossible Iris because it conjures some of my favorite garden flowers, but I’m betting most men would find it too feminine. “Impossible” iris is a good name, because no iris (flower or root) smells like this. And, pray tell, what exactly is “Egyptian cassiopiae?” A variety of clematis? Or...? The extreme dry-down of Impossible Iris in no way matches the lush opening: there’s a wan, phony wood note that I find off-putting; it arrives five hours into the perfume’s development and that’s when I’d reapply the perfume to make the jarring note vanish. Impossible Iris has great lasting power and excellent sillage. Of all the Monegals I’ve tried; this is my favorite — it’s “fun” and cheery…it certainly improved my mood on the dreary day I wore it.
Somali incense, Indonesian patchouli, bourbon vetiver, green cedar wood, cinnamon, extract of beeswax
Cuirelle begins with incense (rough cedar, maybe some cumin, and a “lighter fluid” note); this harsh beginning quickly disappears as a honeyed accord arrives (reminding me of sweet/spicy tobacco leaves — and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb and Diptyque Volutes, but not smelling as good as either one of those). There you have it; Cuirelle doesn’t develop much after the first five minutes unless you count a VERY faint “toasted coconut” moment or two. As with most Ramón Monegal offerings, Cuirelle has great lasting power and good sillage.
Arabian Agarwood, leather, nutmeg, vetiver, musk cocktail
Agar Musk is a sweet, cedar-y oud-leather perfume. At first, I thought Agar Musk was going to give me some of the “oomph” of Le Labo Oud 27 (the oud note smells similar), but Agar Musk quickly becomes a sheer, linear oud scent — with a “pencil-shavings” note. Unlike most other Monegal fragrances I tried, this one didn’t have good lasting power, except on fabric.
After trying all the Ramón Monegal perfumes (full-on or by generous dabs), I feel most of them are “front-loaded” fragrances: the most interesting aspects of the perfumes come on strong the moment you apply them to skin. Then? As the fragrances develop (quickly), there is a steady decline in the quality of ingredients and ingenuity. All the fragrances I wore ended up smelling just “OK” by the end of the day. Ramón Monegal needs to spread out the love and make the perfume bases as good as the opening notes; no way are the perfumes as they stand worth almost $200 for 50 ml.
The perfumes reviewed here are all Eau de Parfum strength, and are $185 for 50 ml.; they are available at Luckyscent and Neiman Marcus. Ramón Monegal just launched a new perfume — Pure Mariposa (exclusive to Neiman Marcus).