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Martin Margiela (Untitled) L'Eau

Cool as a cucumber.  Cool as crisp linen sheets.  Cool as an ice cube, drizzled over sun-sizzled skin.  Some fragrances, The Scent Critic has experienced, have a temperature all of their own – and Maison Martin Margiela (Untitled) L’Eau is definitely on the ‘chilled’ side:  a perfect summer spritz, if we ever get the blazing days that a British summer promises (but has so far failed to deliver).

Actually, I believe fragrances have a ‘colour’, too.  And in fact, a lot of work goes into creating a ‘juice’ inside the bottle, to ensure it matches the fragrance’s ‘vibe’.  In the case of Maison Martin Margiela (Untitled) L’Eau, this slight mouthful of a scent, I think they got it spot-on:  a limpid pale green – which couldn’t be anything but refreshing, could it…?

Quite simply, it smells green.  Close your eyes and sniff, breathe in the mossy mid-notes and the buchu – a relative of blackcurrant (this has a decided Ribena tang, like rubbing your fingers on a Ribes plant).  And I defy you to get anything but visions of green swimming into your mind’s eye.  I’m right there, myself, in a shaded wood, lying on slightly damp ground and looking up into a leafy canopy.  I’m seated in a French chateau garden, one that’s bi-sected by immaculate topiary, with limestone gravel underfoot.  (There’s a sort of ‘flinty’ quality in this scent, somewhere – the scent of a statue, or a piece of chalk – adding an even more intriguing dimension.) 

Or maybe I’m clipping a privet hedge on a leaden afternoon:  this has a definite note of privet, that archetypically suburban hedging plant, which – when allowed to flower – has a seductive sweetness, to contrast with its leafy sharpness.  (Trouble is, privet hedges usually belong to men who regard stainless steel garden shears as the modern equivalent of a warrior’s blade – and feel compelled to slash everything in sight.  So alas, privet’s usually given a short-back-and-sides long before the deceptively dainty sprinkling of powerfully fragrant white blossoms is allowed its moment in the sun.  Or even its moment in the shade.)

Last summer, I fell heavily for the first incarnation of this fragrance.  Found myself compulsively going back into a Sephora store, to spritz and re-spritz, before finally getting my hands on a bottle.  I like this just as much, if not more:  a fresh-in-every-way new take on the original, squeezing in extra citrus notes in the overture – a squirt of grapefruit, and lots of mandarin (reminds me of a favourite old L’Artisan Parfumeur, because of that).  Thanks to the citrus, it has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Eau Sauvage moment, too.

Fleetingly, it goes slightly ‘soapy’ – good soap, expensive soap, but soap nonetheless.  (I’m thinking Palmolive…?)  Maybe that’s the promised orange blossom.  There’s curly mint, in a dry, aromatic rather than a toothpaste-y way.  For me, there’s also a nose-tingling, almost black-peppery quality to it, at times.  But then the deep green notes ricochet back in again, taking you deeper into the fragrance’s chlorophyll heart.  Base notes?  Hard to put my finger on any, except maybe the pepperiness.  Instead, it goes sort of dreamy and airy and softly, to the point where compulsively you just have to hit the very sexy pump-action ‘trigger’ spray, and re-spritz.

The reality is, alas, that if you poll the average Primark or M & S customer, they probably wouldn’t have a clue who Martn Margiela is.  Quirky, famous for swimming against fashion’s tide, he creates clothes that those-in-the-know collect like Fabergé eggs, Victorian watercolours or (much more likely) mid-Century modern furniture.  His clothes are sophisticated, intelligent, for connoisseurs – rather than something you can just shrug to schloomph around the shops.

All of which could apply to (Untitled) L’Eau, too.  This scent certainly deserves to move Margiela out of his tiny ‘designer’ niche, and make him familiar to a wider audience.  Though it isn’t something you’d wear to make you feel sexy, but for yourself.  It belongs on someone who’s comfortable in her skin.  (Or his.  I’d happily smell this on a man, BTW.)

On a hot, hot, day, preferably.  In a shady garden.  With an icy Gin & Tonic, within easy reach.  (Well, a Scent Critic can dream, can’t she…?)

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