My mother, a glamorous attorney and gifted writer, gave me a copy of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby when I was fifteen. It has been my unrivaled favorite ever since. Fitzgerald is a legend here in Baltimore, second only to Edgar Allen Poe. “I belong here,” Fitzgerald wrote, “where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite.” Fitzgerald wrote his final novel here, Tender Is The Night, an overtly autobiographical account of a woman whose mental instability and infidelity destroy her husband. I live across the street from the building where Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived while Zelda was being treated for schizophrenia at the Johns Hopkins hospital. Whenever I pass by, I wonder how they lived, how he looked at her. Was there still love in his eyes, or was he as devastatingly cold as the Baltimore winters?
Fitzgerald never tackled the subject of perfume in his writing, but I have always found the fourth fragrance in our sexy series, Musc Ravageur, to be bizarrely evocative of Gatsby. Upon meeting Tom Buchanan’s mistress, Nick says, “There was an immediately perceptible vitality about her, as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.” From the moment it leaves the bottle, Musc Ravageur is scorchingly sexy. It opens with a blast of cinnamon, then briefly lightens up once the citrusy bergamot note appears. From here Musc Ravageur ventures into very strange territory, taking on a metallic smell that is apparently caused by the lavender note. For about 15 minutes, it truly smells like cool, gleaming metal. This stage recalls Gatsby’s description of Daisy Buchanan’s legendary voice: “Her voice is full of money.” You really can smell the coins and their sweet, hypnotic melody.
After the lavender fades, Musc Ravageur is all powder and spice, vanilla and amber. Musc Ravageur is a woman with hair the color of a chocolate bar, her dark, knowing eyes made even darker by khol. Her lipstick matches the color of the ruby teardrops that hang from her ears. She has a devastating smile. Musc Ravageur is an unparalleled seductress, but that curious metallic note, the “deathless song” of Daisy’s voice, makes it much, much more.
Now, the Frederic Malle line is not cheap. Musc Ravageur is actually one of their most inexpensive fragrances, at $140 for 50 ml and $210 for 100 ml. The Malle line is also difficult to find in the United States. You can buy the Malles on the Barney’s New York website, but if you want to try them before dropping a Benjamin or two, they are only available at Barney’s New York (but only the ones that are actually in New York) and the Frederic Malle store (also only in New York). If the price and inaccessibility don’t appeal to you, I suggest one of my personal favorites, the closely related L de Lolita Lempicka. L and Musc Ravageur were created by the same perfumer, the very talented Maurice Roucel, and share many characteristics. L is not quite as rich as Musc Ravageur, and is softer and more snuggly than “ravageur”. L is $69 for 50 ml at Sephora, but can be found for much cheaper online.
Disclaimer: Frederic Malle used to have a program where you would fill out an online survey, and they would send you three free samples. The samples are still free, but now you have to pay for shipping. I received my sample of Musc Ravageur through this program.