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Myrrh Casati – A living work of art – February 27, 2015 New Fragrance Listing

Image - Marchesa Casati by Augustus John, 1919, Art Gallery of Ontario

Every era in modern history has its femme fatale, a woman who grabs the social order by its watered silk lapels and lustily demands that it celebrate her brilliance. Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino was famous for doing just that. Born in Milan in 1881 to a very wealthy family, she inherited a fortune and spent the better part of her life spending it on her hugely lavish and eccentric lifestyle. “I want to be a living work of art, “ she said.

With her flame-red hair, kohl rimmed eyes, and dark Gothic style, she beguiled famous painters, photographers, and sculptors of the 1920’s and 1930’s, who immortalized her in their work - many became her lovers. Entertaining writers, musicians, artists, dancers, and bon vivants in her Venice palazzo and estates in Paris and Capri, Luisa Casati became a legend in Europe, a patron of the arts, scandalizing society with her perversions and obsessions such as having nude gilded-in-gold-leaf servants at parties, parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs, and wearing live snakes as jewellery.  She cultivated and cherished her aura of mystery and madness, the darkness was part of her, her mask and myth. (Click here to go to the official Marchesa Casati website and learn more about this extraordinary woman).

Massively in debt later in life, she eventually settled in London, where she died in poverty in 1957 at the age of 76, but her unique celebrity has lived on to inspire contemporary designers such as John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. The Marchesa fashion brand is named after her.

And now this perfume Myrrh Casati with its focus on the myrrh note is named after her. Myrrh, a tree resin that has been used for millenia  – to embalm the dead in preparation for their journey into the next world, as medicine to relieve pain and to heal the body, for religious ritual and prayer when mixed with frankincense, for purification and adornment as perfume. Myrrh, bitter and spicy and sweet, mysteriously powerful and elusive, a note that speaks to the soul.

Myrrh Casati is part of the Monogram Collection from Maison Mona di Orio. Since Mona’s death in 2011 her partner Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has continued the company they formed together, creating new fragrances by contemporary noses which incorporate Mona’s characteristic Chiaroscuro style. Creating contrasts with light and dark, bright sparkly notes layered with darker seductive ingredients, Mona constructed fragrances like a composer uses harmonies, resulting in scents that appear minimalist but reveal themselves through the dry-down as brilliantly faceted compositions which play beautifully on the skin. The Monogram Collection continues her signature style and is a tribute to Light and Dark.

Myrrh Casati was composed by perfumer Melanie Leroux, and it plays a duet of red berries and pink pepper with its opening notes. This is sharp and spicy, a nose-tickly concentration of notes that is unexpected.  Almost immediately I can smell the sweet myrrh, its bitterness swelling the duet into a fuller three-part harmony which begins the transition into the heart. 

Myrrh is surrounded by green cardamom and golden saffron, two spice notes which always add an exotic quality – cheetahs and snakes - and then wafts of black licorice, which darken the myrrh note, adding a layer of ominous mystery as the heart notes develop. I love this central accord, it is so perfectly blended and has an almost honeyed aspect to it.

In the final stage, incense and benzoin send up flares from their smoky embers. Herbal patchouli, then cypriol with its woody earthy nuance, and guaiac create a soft oud accord which hovers in the background, and the basenotes swirl around the myrrh, creating a smoky haze . The myrrh note is pure and incredibly beautiful as it slowly fades into the far dry-down. Myrrh Casati smells like soft suede on my skin, its distinct bittersweet note now part of my body.

I love Myrrh Casati. Melanie Leroux has created a stunningly different fragrance that really does tell the story of its enigmatic namesake. Bright, spicy, sweet, bitter, dark, veiled with a smokiness which hints of unspoken sorrow, it’s a complex story of contrasts with a monumentally strong note as the core.  I think Mona would definitely give it two thumbs up. The Marchesa would likely bathe in it, or drink it….

Myrrh Casati is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.