Monsieur Balmain by Balmain isn’t so much a scent as it is the hologram of a perfect lemon emanating from a bright yellow perfume bottle. It’s a cheeky, fun and deceptively simple fragrance that stands as an excellent bookend to those ponderous woody orientals brooding in the back of your cabinet.
According to the Balmain website, ingredients include mint, lemon, bitter orange, verbena, bergamot, petitgrain, rose, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, moss, sandalwood, vetiver, sage, cedar and amber. But you can forget about all of that right now, because this scent is simply zesty lemon rind and bright acid that dries down hours later to a dusky pith note. It’s as joyous and invigorating as being woken up by sunlight.
Monsieur Balmain is remarkable in that it’s unrelentingly linear. It's neon-light Vegas Strip lemons all the way down until you reach the rind, and then the ride is over. This is nowhere near your typical "I decided the dryer sheet was enough fragrance for me, thanks" men’s cologne offering. But despite the billboard-sized smiley face shine, it also has enough backbone not to get on your nerves after the first few minutes. There’s a hidden, subtle steeliness (most likely from the ginger/vetiver midnotes) that helps to tone down the sheer citrus blast from the top notes.
|Duck! It's a citrus blast!|
The original release came back in 1964, designed by Germaine Cellier, who also did up Bandit and Fracas for Robert Piguet. This formulation hung on until the mid-80’s then was discontinued, only to reappear in 1990 with its current ingredients. Evidently the older version also included notes of patchouli and lemongrass as well as a more animalic drydown, which would be an interesting counterpoint to sample alongside this more recent release.
But if you love daring fragrances, sheer exuberance, or even show-offiness in the construction of what you splash on in the morning, Monsieur Balmain is a delight. It’s the perfume equivalent of a great seersucker suit with a straw boater to match. Definitely the scent to wear next time you need to go singing in the rain, and easily one of my all-time favorites.