Two by Germaine Monteil: Royal Secret and Galore

There's nothing like perfume to send women mixed messages. Germaine Monteil's 2012 comeback fragrance, Le Nouveau Parfum, is described as "exciting femininity in perfection". It personifies (we are told) a paragon who is "both strong and sensitive... extravagant and powerful while at the same time sensuous and gentle." That's one tall order! What scent are you going to give us to achieve it? (Hint: it's colored tutu pink.)

Now, I know we're not supposed to judge a perfume by its notes list, but do light citrus, white blossoms, vanilla notes, and amber crystals suggest that great and mighty things are expected of us? I don't much think so. If there is a language to perfumery notes as there is for flowers, someone in Germaine Monteil's R&D department is telling us we're pretty feeble. Yet it wasn't always so. Royal Secret and Galore are the proof-- two vivid perfumes overflowing with personality, made to be worn by a woman with backbone.

Royal Secret's position on the great continuum of scent is quite clear. Following Tabu by three years, it takes after that grand parfum de puta too strongly to pretend there's no relation. Then again, so does Youth-Dew, which has a strong character all its own. You could say the song's the same, but it's being sung in different voices, each with its own timbre and pitch.

So what makes Royal Secret different, special, unique? Just as deep, dark patchouli is Tabu's signature, and Youth-Dew's is the richness of sweet balsams, Royal Secret's secret is a mega-dose of geranium. Nice, right? Now ponder what Jolie Madame did for violets... only imagine fiery, rosy, in-your-face geranium on the receiving end of the leather. Yow!

In addition to parfum extrait and EdC concentrations, Royal Secret -- like Youth-Dew -- came in an affordably-priced parfum pour le bain, which is what I own. According to Gaia the Non-Blonde, it smells identical to the extrait-- a terrific deal for a femme on a frugal budget!

There's a mention of Galore at Vintage Perfume Vault, accompanied by a photo which Amelia credits to eBay seller ASenseforScents. Coincidentally, when I first wrote about Galore (or as I called her then, "The Sleeper"), JoanElaine -- who is a genius at perfume bottle identification, with too many bullseyes under her belt for me to ever second-guess her -- spotted a different photo of a similar perfume from the same buyer and tipped me off tout de suite.

Galore does remind me of several other "green" greats: on the dark end, Réplique with its piquant coriander note; on the light and crisp end, Estée Lauder's Private Collection. Age has soured its top notes somewhat, but they fade quickly, making way for a dignified chypre touched with vetiver and early-spring flowers. Though not necessarily unprecedented, it is very chic and calls to mind the tradition of self-possessed elegance of which all Manhattanites claim their share.

Unapologetically rich, Royal Secret and Galore demonstrate why perfume has been intrinsic to women's wardrobes since Nefertiti was on the throne. Femininity, by this account, is a panorama of epic scope... which brings me back to my original thesis. How have we fallen so far out of consequence with those who design our perfumes for us? So many fragrances now appearing on the market confine us to tiny (albeit cozy) cubbyholes. We're women with spending power who have been sized down to the level of little girls. The history of fragrance is a bending, changing, and sometimes cyclical affair, but by god, we're due for a reprise of scents like Royal Secret and Galore: upright, definite perfumes that pull no punches and send no mixed messages, to us or anyone else.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, lemon, orange blossom, violet, geranium, rose, lily-of-the-valley, lavender, galbanum, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla (Royal Secret); aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, narcissus, lily-of-the-valley, oakmoss, vetiver, amber, vanilla, spices, incense (Galore)