Perfume Pen Pals: Byredo M/Mink and Steidl Paper Passion


Finally I'm wearing Paper Passion. I prised the bottle out of the red pages of its book box and dabbed some on my wrist. I'd never read any of the patter about what was supposed to be in it, so I had no expectations.

And when the whiff wafted into my nose, I thought, "It's Byredo M/Mink!" M/Mink is the perfume I've been circling since it launched two years ago. It's a smell that straddles the border between desirability and repulsiveness, a smell that compels me to revisit it whenever I pass it in a shop, because I can't tell if I hate it or love it.

The "acceptable" face of M/Mink is a sturdy patchouli, roughly cut with some kind of slightly sinus-searing woody amber. That's what I smell in Paper Passion. It's quite block-o'wood-y.

The "unacceptable" face of M/Mink is poppers and chlorine and animalic incense. I'm on the verge of gagging every time I smell its fruity bleach opening. It's really striking, and because I can never quite believe it's as gross as I think it is, I always go in for another snort. It's my childhood diaper pail sniffing game all over again!

None of that crazy stuff is in Paper Passion -- just the sturdy patchouli amber wood. I staged a dance-off between M/Mink and Paper Passion, and sure enough, they both do the woodblock frug. But! This was my Eureka moment with M/Mink, during which my conflicted disgust turned to unconflicted pleasure.

For the first time, I smelled the honey in M/Mink, and now I'm digging, not gagging. The honey was the unidentifiable something that disturbed but titillated me at once. Smelling, and then trying to name those smells: it's all a trick of the mind, isn't it? Up until today I didn't think I could ever wear M/Mink, and now that I recognize honey, it's all I want to wear.

But back to Paper Passion. It's M/Mink's serviceable plinth without M/Mink's exciting sculpture on top. It needs less paper, more passion.



I didn't want to say it before I tried the two side by side, but at first I thought your comparing M/Mink with Paper Passion was crazy. I'd only worn M/Mink once and I remembered it smelling like warm plastic. But now that I'm wearing it alongside Paper Passion, I don't think your comparison is crazy at all. (Hear that, KP? You're not crazy!)

First, I like the unacceptable part of M/Mink, the slightly animalic chlorine. But right behind it is that smooth woody base that makes Paper Passion so pleasant. And dull. I suppose it's necessary in M/Mink, as a contrast to the more difficult facets of the perfume, but in Paper Passion it just reads as "24 hours of Coldplay."

M/Mink: product contains no actual ink. Or mink.

I'd defend Paper Passion on the grounds that it's a conceptual fragrance and it fulfills its concept (it sort of smells like a glossy coffee-table book), but M/Mink is conceptual, too, it's supposed to smell like ink, and it does, but only when I think, "This is supposed to smell like ink." And squint my eyes just right. Otherwise, it just smells interesting and unique, which puts it higher on my list than Paper Passion. And yours, too, it sounds like. How long is your list now? Would people think you're crazy if they saw it?



  1. Well, with all that paper and all that ink and all that passion. I think you have the makings of a fine smelling novel. Or at least a sweet screenplay.

    Katie, Dan, I so enjoy your "84 Charing Cross Road" correspondence. Thanks for including us in all the fun.

    1. What a lovely comment, LS - glad you're happy to be included.

  2. I agree with you both. Paper Passion is a great concept, and the packaging is fantastic -- I love the bottle nestling in the cut-out book. But it's ultimately a rather dull scent for all the artistic ambitions behind it.

    I haven't encountered M/Mink yet, but have read a lot about it, both love and hate (and not much in-between). Your realisation that it's the odd fruity chlorine / animalic honey opening of M/Mink that elevates its more plebian base gives me hope for my bottle of Paper Passion. Maybe I can layer it with some of the more overtly daring bottles on my shelf to give it some new life.

    1. Nathan, if you combine your perfume sensibility with your culinary instincts, I'm confident you'll create a compelling sequel for Paper Passion.

  3. This is a cool post. I like how you shoot from the hip, letting him know that you're not feeling the fragrance. He had a good response as well.

  4. Ah! M/Mink! My favourite! I keep going to find a new scent but I always buy this one again. So filthy...

  5. Sheila's Comment above brought me to this post, which I found intriguing and fascinating! Now, I'm fixated on the fact that I don't know what poppers smell like! and my experimental days of finding out are long gone....Glad that I tried the things I did when I was young and dumb and unaware of my own mortality- have never had a regret about substances that weren't explored until Now- kinda wish I could go back and whisper to 20 yr old me that 38 yr old me would be reading a fragrance blog one day and would need this information!!!