VERT ET BLANC: : : MA GRIFFE by CARVEN (I946)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest post by Gabrielle

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I sit here about to write I cannot help but have a profound longing for the springtime.  Outside there is enough snow to make one think that this was a village in the Swiss Alps, yet the first day of Spring is less than three weeks away.  Such disparity is the fate of those who live in New England I guess.

 

I am someone who does not mind the snow, I am usually enchanted by it, but with another snow-fall on its way this evening…well, I have had enough.  I want to see green grass and flowering buds, I want there to be a rebirth of nature… I need to see green grass I tell you!

 

As you can tell, I am now anticipating – longing for would be more truthful – the arrival of Springtime; more than I can ever recall. Seeing that it is still further off than I would want, I have decided to apply one of my favorite scents, one that will make me feel that greener, brighter days are not too far off.  That magical scent I have worn for most of my life, one that always feels like Springtime in a bottle,  would be Ma Griffe by Carven.  A truly spectacular fragrance that never fails to put me into a sort of optimistic, nice weather is almost here, all things are possible, kind of mood.

 

 

 

Ma Griffe, which translates roughly to “my mark” or “my tag/label” was created by Jean Carles in 1946.  The fact that Jean Carles was capable of creating such a glorious scent at that point in his career is truly amazing, since by this time he was already completely anosmic and had to rely on his vast fragrance knowledge to compose the fragrance. But if that was not challenging enough, he managed to create a scent that marries green and white, Madame Carven’s signature colour combination, into a masterpiece that is still relevant almost seventy years after its launch.

 

 

Whenever I wear Ma Griffe I am completely dazzled by the way the scent combines green notes along with creamy white florals and seamlessly transitions from top notes through to the base notes without missing a beat.  Which makes me think of how whenever I wear Ma Griffe I always find my self humming Grieg’s Morning Mood: I tend to have a multi-sensory experience whenever I wear particular scents, Ma Griffe being one that truly opens me up to colour and sound as well as imagery.

 

 

 

Upon application, the first thing that strikes you in the opening are the aldehydes; such beautiful nose tickling aldehydes. Not to worry though, Monsieur Carles has tempered the aldehydes so they will not become too rowdy and take over.  But, before you have too much time to indulge in the aldehydic opening, here come the green notes, courtesy of galbanum and clary sage, which balance the aldehydes so perfectly you do not feel too overwhelmed by them, much in the same way that the opening of Morning Mood is balanced perfectly between the flute and the oboe, neither taking over too much, each just there to compliment the other and move the piece along.  You then notice the slightest hint of citrus there also, the effect of walking outside on a Spring morning and experiencing the glorious freshness, but then becoming aware that the sun is gently caressing your skin.

 

 

Before you have realized it, you are aware of the flowers.  A bouquet brimming with all the glorious white flowers one could imagine, the jasmine in particular catching your attention.  But this is not a dirty jasmine: this is a soft, velvety, creamy jasmine.  One that caresses and soothes, one that makes you feel as if you have just been wrapped in luxury.  Yet you are still aware of the lingering greens in the opening, perfect. You then start to notice that the jasmine is not alone, and slowly become aware that gardenia is there also; rich, creamy, sweet and sensuous, yet never cloying nor overbearing.  Before you know it the ylang-ylang, also accompanying them, makes herself known.  This is when you start to understand how reserved she can truly be, when added so perfectly by the hands of a master parfumeur such as Carles.  Truly, the ylang-ylang just adds depth and dimension to the the scent: it never takes over, never takes the scent into exotic territory, marrying perfectly with the other white florals to lend balance and polish to the greenness of the scent.

 

 
Wait, though -there is still yet another presence joining in… the rose. How could we ever have such a glorious bouquet without the rose?  While not knowing if the rose is red, or pink, or white, I have always preferred to believe the essence used was of the white variety.  In such a lush, dewy application of rose absolue, one can only imagine that creamy white roses were used. Such is the nature of the rose used in this: pure creaminess and smooth.

 

 

 

The perfection with which the florals are executed is an amazing accomplishment.  It makes one shake one’s head in disbelief that Monsieur Carles could not perceive any of this while composing the scent, yet he composed with such aplomb.  This also brings me back to Morning Mood, the way in which the orchestral movement opens up so seamlessly after the oboe and flute play their part.  Yet the oboe and flute are consistent throughout the piece, just in the same way the green notes remain with us lingering in the background throughout the scents development.

 

 

 

 

Now we have a shift, and every thing starts to relax as we begin to recognize the vetiver.  Are we at the base notes yet?  Has the scent run its course?  Or has the vetiver been lingering in the background the whole time?  Well, after many wearings I have come to understand that the vetiver starts to make itself known from the beginning, in a very subtle way.  We are just so enraptured with the aldehydes, the citrus, the greens and of course the glorious creamy white floral notes, that we just have not taken notice of it.  It is only as the green and floral notes start to move along and soften that vetiver comes into its own, a vetiver that is not left to its own devices, but is tempered, on its best behavior, not trying to steal the spotlight.

 

 

In much the same way as Morning Mood keeps interjecting different movements towards its finale, we notice that there are other notes here as well. One of the most intriguing is a spicy note.  I am always so profoundly surprised when I become aware of a hint of spiciness.  But it is so delicate that it takes a few moments to understand which spice it may be.  I am always so tickled when I become aware that it is cinnamon. Cinnamon!  Yes, cinnamon. Who would have ever thought to add cinnamon to a green, floral, chypre scent?  Well Monsieur Carles did and it is amazing.  It not only never truly smells of cinnamon, it somehow manages to smell as if we are thinking of what cinnamon smells like, just the reflection of spiciness, just the subtle personification of cinnamon.  It melds so perfectly in with the whole it never feels out of place, again adding to the overall seamless quality of the scent.

 

 

 

 

The final appearance to be made is the tonka bean and benzoin combo.  Why do I say combo and not treat them as individual notes?  Because the two meld so perfectly it really takes a bit of work to discern what is what.  The two add just enough weight to the base of the scent as to prevent it from floating off into the ether, or just fading away.  They help carry the remaining impressions of the scent on for quite a while after initial application, just as in the closing of Morning Mood.  Yet, just as in Grieg’s piece the familiar theme is there until the final note plays, the greenness and creamy floral notes linger on until the scent finally and gently fades to its close, which I am happy to say almost fifteen hours later is just happening.

 

 

 

The most amazing thing about Ma Griffe is the ability it has of making me feel so optimistic, youthful, and hopeful while also giving the effect of being perfectly polished and put together.  You feel as if you are a worldly ingenue, if that is even possible, no matter what your age. Definitely a scent worth experiencing in vintage form: mine is a bottle of extrait from the 1940’s that was still sealed in its outer paper when I found it years ago.  It is truly not only a classic scent, but should definitely be regarded as one of the masterpieces in the art of scent from the 20th century.  This is a fragrance which does not show its age, nor does it ever feel “dated”.  This scent is as much relevant today as it was almost 70 years ago when it was released.  It is the fragrant equivalent of an older woman who looks 20 years her junior, at the least.

 

 

 

Even some of the greatest scents cannot say that, but then again, so many of the greats have had a lot of work done…even Ma Griffe.  Since I have not smelt the recently re-released version, I am not able to tell how much it has in common with my beauty…hopefully it was only just a little nip and tuck, not an overhaul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gabrielle is the writer of the perfume blog Brielle’s Musings. 

22 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Floral Chypre

22 responses to “VERT ET BLANC: : : MA GRIFFE by CARVEN (I946)

  1. I also adore this scent and marvel, completely, how a person could compose it while having completely lost his sense of smell – truly an accomplishment of Beethovian proportions.

    There is something so vivacious and gorgeous in those initial top notes that I find really appealing to the senses and emotions, yet I have never been able to prise it apart at all. This detailed piece has made it less abstract – it was interesting to go deeper into the scent. Truly one that is uplifting and perfect for spring. I agree with you completely.

    • Thank you so much for allowing me to share my love of Ma Griffe on your blog.
      This fragrance is one of the top 5 fragrances I hold dear to my heart. It is such a truly wonderful scent, one that never fails to make me feel great.
      I am sure anyone who wears this will not be able to resist its charms, how could anyone,
      Do you own the original extrait? It is truly amazing. If you do not I will have to send you some.

  2. Thank you Brielle. Recognize your ‘griffe’. Will put your words in with my little Carven collection, in memory of my mother. She wore Chasse Gardee. Tempted to try Ma Griffe … Worn by her rival in love!

    • I am DYING to know what Chasse Gardee is like as well.

      • I will have to send some of that to you also. It is the more mysterious counterpart to Ma Griffe.
        I really think you would enjoy it, the vetiver is more pronounced than in MG.

      • Sounds right up my street. I have a mini somewhere of the Ma Griffe parfum, and I do remember being amazed by it. I am slightly addicted to the almost harsh greenness of the edt though. That green aldehydic rush I have never quite encountered in any other perfume.

    • Oh Nelleke, you must try Ma Griffe, you must. I love that your mother wore Chasse Gardée and her rival in love wore Ma Griffe. It sounds so intriguing, wooing a man with scent.
      Chasse Gardée shares some of the greenness that Ma Griffe has, but CG is a much deeper scent. I always view Ma Griffe as the initial jaunt into the garden: green, bright, creamy florals, warm drydown. Chasse Gardée is moving through the garden and towards the woods: deeper green notes, rich mossiness, darker shadings and a chiaroscuro in the overall character.
      Ma Griffe is the ingenue, Chasse Gardée is the sophisticate she wants to become one day.
      You really must experience Ma Griffe, you must!

      • I love the idea that they are related and gradated. I am not too big on moss, but huge on vetiver, so it sounds like a scent I need to try. I did always enjoy the Carven Vetiver as well, even in reformulation. So gentle, somehow, yet preserving something reserved and enigmatic.

  3. jennyredhen

    Brielle what are the other 4 perfumes in your top 5. I am going to buy some Ma Griffe because of your review, also Ivoire de Balmain because of what I have read on this blog as well as Fidji. All vintage ..almost impossible to find in NZ so ordering from United States. you people are bankrupting me.. but I am loving it!

    • I worry you are going to find some of these too old-fashioned, but in my view you are still going to go out smelling gorgeous and very classy. Ivoire: how lovely it is in vintage, so feminine and sassy.

    • Jenny, my other 4 favorites are: Fête de Molyneux, Fille d’Eve de Nina Ricci, Sheherazade de Jean Desprez and Femme de Rochas. I do have so many others I adore, but these, along with Ma Griffe, are some of my true favorites. Fête and Femme have a strong similarity in composition, both are fruity chypres.
      I think you would find any one of these to be a great fragrance, one that makes you feel good wearing it.
      Ivoire is such a glorious scent also, I have worn it for so many years and just adore it. Fidji, if you can find a vintage version especially, is just amazing. It always brings back such wonderful summertime memories.

  4. Neil, it is interesting how you mention the harsh greenness in the EdT, that is exactly how I would describe it. It is an explosion of greenness and aldehydes, one that just slaps you in the face with an unapologetic swat.
    I can see how you would enjoy that, especially on a warm day. It truly is unique to Ma Griffe, I do not know of another scent which has this opening.

  5. jennyredhen

    Finally got a bottle of this… love it… Saw a review that said Ma Griffe smells like shade under a big tree on a hot day.. Its a hot day here. I got the latest version but apparently its not too bad compared to the vintage???

  6. jennyredhen

    still happy with ma Griffe. havent had Iviore yet.. Fidji too sweet.

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