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Ma Griffe - Something to celebrate

Image - Summer in the Kawarthas, Ontario -

Hot, hot hot. But I’m not complaining, just commenting. Summer is so short – only eight to ten weekends in the entire year, really – I savour every day with sun and heat.

I’ve been craving green, so I reached into the back of the drawer where the “forsaken” scents have been resting, in search of Ma Griffe. Such a beautiful bottle – a slim square column of the coolest translucent green with a gold rimmed cap. I feel cooler just holding it.

Ma Griffe is in the fragrance family known as chypre (French for Cyprus), which is built on a complex of moss, citrus, and woody notes – oakmoss, bergamot and labdanum. These three notes form a distinctive strong accord, which is then combined with herbal, floral, fruity or animalic notes, and the resulting scents are characterized as strong, spicy and powdery, some of the most famous being Mitsouko, Femme, Miss Dior, Diorella, Bandit, Ma Griffe, Aromatics Elixir, Chanel 19.

I’ve always liked chypres – I love Mitsouko -  but they’ve been overshadowed for the past decade by the fruity florals. Because of their strong, sometimes eccentric character, they tend to be “love ‘em or hate ‘em” kinds of scents – they connect easily to moods and memories, prompting visceral reactions - and they’ve been unceremoniously dumped into the “old lady” category. The truth is that these great classics are works of art, which anyone interested in perfumes should track down and seriously sample. There’s nothing like ‘em.

Ma Griffe was created for Carven, a French couture house, by Jean Carles, and launched in 1946. It is a green floral chypre, very radical and modern at the time, and was designed to appeal to the post-war woman who was young, independent, worked, and dressed à la mode – the name means “My Signature”. The notes at the top are: – aldehydes, bergamot, galbanum and clary sage; heart: – jasmine, gardenia, ylang-ylang, and rose; base: - sandalwood, vetiver, oak moss, cinnamon, labdanum, and musk.

The opening is shocking and starkly green – grass and herbs layered with citrus – and goes right into your brain. In a micro-second you are transported to the French countryside – walking and inhaling the cool green air from the fields, feeling the warmth coming back up from the earth. The intense green fades , and the gardenia and jasmine inject an indolic note along with the sweetness of rose and ylang, keeping Ma Griffe from become flowery. Spices and resins in the base appear quickly and the fragrance expands into a green mossy cloud, close to the skin, never sweet or cloying, but with a soft musky base which I think is very subtle and sexy.

My roommate at college grew up in Paris and she wore Ma Griffe. She said it reminded her of emeralds, the way they would smell if we could smell them. Ma Griffe WAS her signature, it really suited her, but when I snuck a spritz it never smelled as good on me, or so I thought. Time has changed that misdirected notion. Now I love it on me.

Ma Griffe is totally unique, green without being sour or too clean, spicy without being oriental, and incredibly modern to my nose. The current version has changed from the original – it’s less intense and doesn’t last as long on the skin – but it is still amazing.

The fruity floral generation of perfumistas is missing out on great perfumes when they shun the chypres like Ma Griffe as "old lady" perfumes. To be fair, they're hard to find on retail shelves, and unless they've been re-launched, the packaging is dated so shelf appeal is low. But I’ve noticed that new perfume launchs show signs of departing the current fruity trend – Nuit de Tubereuse by Bertrand Duchaufour, for example – and are moving toward the more complex classic chypre. To me, this is a hopeful sign that art and not marketing, will become the driving force  once again in the perfume world. 

Ma Griffe and chypres - something to celebrate. Hallelujah! There's nothing like 'em.


Ma Griffe is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.


An unexpected find

Was trolling the fragrance shelves of my local Winners yesterday and happened upon a bottle of Ma Griffe at a bargain price. It was raining in sheets outside (make that blankets--someone had turned the clouds full on!) but where I stood, sniffing that lovely green bottle, it was fresh and sunny and very, very green!

RE: An unexpected find

Ah, the power of perfume! Ain't it amazing? Keep sampling, sniffing, and trolling those shelves and pretty soon you'll have a drawful of bottles with beautiful scents - that's how it starts.....

Winners find!

I was sniffing around the fragrance shelf of my downtown Toronto Winners today, and -- yes -- came up a winner: found a bottle of Ma Griffe and of Habanita. Had tried perfumeniche's sample of Habanita and loved it so grabbed that bottle; and picked up Ma Griffe -- which I hadn't sampled yet -- because I remembered your post about it Kay. It's lovely! Green and smart and yes, modern, not at all old lady -- smashing!

Re: Winners find

So glad you love Ma Griffe - amazing what will turn up at Winners when you know what you're looking at!!

RE: Love the Sizzlin' Summer Pack

What a great idea - perfumes for a road trip! If you're travelling south into hot humid weather, the scents in the Sizzlin' Summer Pack will be spectacular....... I hope you're all good at sharing, 'cuz once your girlfriends get a whiff, they're gonna want some of your sizzlers, for sure!!!
Have fun, and send us some "notes" from the road!

Love the Sizzlin Summer Sample Pack!

All 4 scents are just perfect for a summer road trip with the girls. Love learning about their 'notes' and noting which ones work best on me. Thanks perfumeniche!