Honeyed Luxe

honey dripping

– a review of Parfums Micallef Le Parfum Denis Durand Couture

When most people think of haute couture these days, they think of the few designers left who are true couturiers, red carpet events, movie stars and celebrities, those made-to-measure evening gowns the rest of us can only imagine. You might wonder at the exorbitant price tags, the extravagant details, the level of skill les petites mains demonstrate in beadwork, embroidery, pleats, lace, folds and the razor precision of cut and fit.

As someone who has handled a true couture gown (a vintage Balmain from the Fifties), I’ve always marveled at the inside, which is where I think couture really distinguishes itself. For an haute couture creation is at least two gowns in one – not simply the gown the rest of the world will see but a whole hidden universe of built in improvement underneath to accentuate and emphasize and blur those human imperfections away the world never needs to know.

I can imagine that would add a lot of extra va-va to your voom, knowing that no matter what happens, you are truly stunning – inside and out and from every conceivable angle.

There’s nothing new about that fertile field of mutual inspiration between perfume and couture – indeed, it’s been a mainstay of fashion and fragrance since the days of Charles Worth.

Now, in this relativistic anything goes ready-to-wear age, we have another collaboration between perfume and haute couture, only this one comes with a twist.

Denis Durand, a couturier based in Cannes whose work was featured on several stars at the recent Cannes Film Festival, commissioned a perfume from the house of M. Micallef, and just as it would be fair to say Martine Micallef has a definite fragrant aesthetic all her own, so too Denis Durand has a distinct feminine fashion forward fingerprint, which is how Le Parfum Denis Durand Couture came to be – henceforth referred to as Parfum Couture.


If you think the creation pictured above is stunning, take my word for it – Parfum Couture is equally breathtaking – at least, it certainly took my breath away. This is a dizzying, impossibly opulent perfume bordering on the decadent, and if Denis Durand had hoped for a reflection of his eponymous designs in a Chantilly lace-wrapped bottle, made with all the precision, layers and meticulous care of haute couture, then Martine Micallef and her in-house perfumer Jean Claude Astier accomplished that intimidating task with flying colors – and all the intricate curves and twists of that Chantilly lace.

A chic blast of cinnamon – not the usual sweet cinnamon often found in perfumes, but dry and fiery –  starts the show with its own fireworks display, teemed up with tangerine, so say the notes, but this cinnamon takes no prisoners and I get only a holographic impression of a green tangerine – like the flash of a sequin or a startling, drop dead sexy detail under the Klieg lights – before it’s gone.

Parfum Couture reveals its secrets slowly and in stages, each curving back and forth, up and down through the top, heart and base notes like an appreciative eye looking up and down la ligne and enjoying the view. The notes say Bulgarian rose, orange blossom, honey, as if to find the olfactory equivalents of lace, satin, faille and velvet and somehow breathe all of them whole into one vision – and such a one…

Into the heart, peeking just a little down this devastating décolleté, a slippery, slithery, satin flash gleams, and at this point, I’m no longer thinking of haute couture so much as the timeless feline growl of Eartha Kitt. That cinnamon made you look, but this tigerish, sensuous growl is what keeps you looking – and sniffing.

Animalis and honey, says the notes list, and there was some speculation on the fragrance boards about what Animalis is. A combination of labdanum and castoreum – which goes a long way to describe the overall effect – or else a compound made by Synarome used in many perfumes to illustrate that slightly predatory, feral purr that underpins the structure of Parfum Couture along with that liquid, golden – there is no other way to say it – honey, like a silk charmeuse glissade cascading off a pearly shoulder.

This Chantilly lace babe is every bit as wild at heart as that dress pictured above would suggest, but there’s much, much more to this slinky siren, and she hasn’t finished with the likes of you just yet.

She’s also not quite so feral as she seems, for that honey, a wild, very natural smelling, floral honey note that sings until the end – at least on me – when some long hours later – say, watching the sun rise over the Croisette – a soft, musky sandalwood remains to sing of a Night  – and a moment? – to Remember.

If you like your Orientals – and indeed, Parfum Couture is very much an Oriental – super-refined, super deluxe, super-powered and super surprising, then Parfum Couture is for you.

I can emphatically appreciate Parfum Couture’s curves and twists and catwalk turns. I do have one small problem.

Honey in perfume is one of my personal fragrant anathemas. I can eat it – as indeed I do. I can appreciate honeyed perfumes on everyone else but me. My skin amplifies honey notes to such an extent, it seems to expand them exponentially until they’re all I can smell for days afterward. Which is why I can never wear this wonder of fragrant and fashionable engineering, but I know plenty of people will, just to imagine themselves wrapped in the bespoke, breathtaking splendor…of couture, a honeyed luxe kiss they will surely make all their very own.


Notes: Ceylon cinnamon, Italian tangerine, Bulgarian rose, honey, orange blossom, Animalis, sandalwood, patchouli, white musk.

Le Parfum Denis Durand Couture is available at Luckyscent, First in Fragrance and Jovoy Paris.

Disclaimer: A sample was provided for review by Parfums Micallef.