Le Mat is a study in decrepitude. Picture a time-release reel of a rose blooming violently and then slowly desaturating in hue from a pulpy, blackened red to brown, dirty gold, and finally grey – a smudge of ash crushed between the pages of a book. Everything bracketing the rose is desiccated, from the dried fallen leaves of the patchouli to the hay and dried honey spackle of the curry-ish immortelle. It smells like summer grasses so bleached by the sun you can almost hear the cicadas. The dense spicing of nutmeg, clove, and black pepper force-ages the rose and buries it under a fine layer of white powder, like the mastic coating on a nubbin of Orthodox incense.
I have never smelled anything this dry that is also this beautiful. But dry doesn’t mean dead. Le Mat is more like a string of DNA captured in amber than a fossil – there is life here yet. Bury your nose in the white dust of Le Mat, breathe on it, and sometimes a small, fleshy part of the rose or the damp soil of patchouli springs to life again. It is this momentary, but repeatable, capacity for reanimation that makes Le Mat so special.
There are some parallels to 1876 (Histoires de Parfums) and Afternoon of a Faun (Etat Libre d’Orange), especially in the dry potpourri rose of the former and in the curried-maple immortelle chypre feel of the latter, but Le Mat is far less dandyish than 1876, and it is much drier and more controlled than Afternoon of a Faun. Perhaps in spirit and feel, the fragrance it comes closest to is Bruno Acampora’s magisterial hay chypre, Sballo. Both romantic and deeply moody, Le Mat is a perfume for empaths and writers and madmen who howl at the moon.
Source of sample: The sample is over six years old at this point, so I can’t remember whether I bought it or received it in a swap.
Cover Image: Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash