I have two reviews for Frederic Malle Dries van Noten. The first review is the matter-of-fact one. Frederic Malle has stated that he wanted this perfume to capture Flemish desserts, and perfumer Bruno Jovanovic’s interpretation is remarkably literal. Think Jeux de Peau, Serge Lutens’s danish with apricot jam. Dries van Noten is a more polished pastry, a crepe drizzled with lemon juice and sugar. I like Dries van Noten best at the beginning, when the bite of saffron and the lemon note temper those very sweet waffles. The sandalwood dry down is pretty, but no matter how many times Frederic Malle says “Mysore sandalwood”, I find it a little scratchy and thin.
Dries van Noten is $180 for 50 ml. There are very few perfumes that are actually worth $180 for 50 ml, and I personally do not feel that Dries van Noten is one of them. If it had more saffron and creamier sandalwood, I might consider $150. But it’s probably worth noting that I can’t think of any particularly similar fragrances that would be cheaper substitutes.
Now the second review.
I wore Dries van Noten when Drew was visiting from London this past week. It was the right perfume for the polka-dotted dress I wore to impress him on his first day back. It was the right perfume for our sunny walks with the cat stroller under the magnolia and dogwood trees. And it was the right perfume for my inevitable endless crying on his last day, when everything was a last; the last time he would hold the cat that he helped me choose, the last time we would go to a favorite restaurant together, the last time I could reach for his hand and feel him squeeze back.
Frederic Malle writes that Dries van Noten is supposed to convey “the sober warmth” of Belgium, and I really and truly sense that. For such a sweet perfume, Dries van Noten is not particularly light-hearted. Seriousness is a rare quality in modern perfumes, which are more likely to be marketed as “playful” or “flirty!” Drew’s visit was wonderful, but it was also incredibly sad, and Dries van Noten felt somehow respectful of both of those aspects of our time together.
I’m still not paying $180 for it.