Count to ten...

Here I have ten Parfums MDCI samples, each vial containing just a few drops of fabulously overpriced fragrance. I admit that I had been intrigued by MDCI initially, but I have since found reason to repent my error.

First point: these are simply not very good fragrances. A number of really high-profile perfumers such as Pierre Bourdon, Bertrand Duchaufour, Francis Kurkdjian, and Patricia de Nicolaï signed them, but these creations do not represent their best efforts. Almost without exception, they smell like drugstore products-- shampoos, aftershaves, deodorant sprays. I'd noticed this back when I reviewed La Belle Hélène, which smells like any Garnier hair goop on the shelf; now I'm convinced it's a deliberate aesthetic choice for this brand.

Chypre Palatin doesn't smell like a chypre at all; it's more of a St. Ives body wash scent. So is Péché Cardinal, but at least it's got that nice little "sinful peach" pun going for it. Le Rivages des Syrtes I've already reviewed and forgotten. Ambre Topkapi smells like half-strength Old Spice, as does Invasion Barbare. Rose de Siwa and Un Coeur en Mai opt for the ladies' section of the drugstore; both positively scream 'feminine odor control'. Vepres Siciliennes, Promesse de l'Aube-- sweet nothings from the candy aisle. The only one that even remotely interests me is Kurkdjian's Enlèvement au Sérail, a floral moss with a bit of a rasp in its voice. But only if you'd never smelled any perfume before, ever, would you mistake this for something special.

Which brings me to the second point: Parfums MDCI's pricing is utterly ridiculous. A typical 75ml. bottle retails at a whopping $250-- $375 if you prefer the "deluxe" 60ml. flacons surmounted by resin-cast Roman busts. That's right-- less perfume, more hideous top-heavy sculpture! Apparently they let you mix and match flacons and fragrances, but what's $125 worth of extra special about that? Back in the day, Avon sold its equally tacky novelty bottles filled with your choice of perfume... and for far less than what MDCI demands.

I don't get it. I just don't get it. How does Parfums MDCI pull it off? The only explanation I can muster is that they've ratcheted the idea of exclusivity to a truly insane level that only hedonists could find appealing. If Parfums MDCI is a Satyricon to which only the most dedicated scent lover can secure an admission ticket, this member of the hoi polloi is comfortable out here in the rain, thanks very much.

Scent Elements: Really, really cheap-ass fragrance, expensively packaged and priced high enough to make a regular person throw up a little in his or her mouth.