I am drawn to perfume because there are so many times and places in my life where the smell of a place is as much a part of the experience as anything else. One of the places where I have very distinctive memories of a smell is camping while the desert is in bloom. This usually takes place around this time of the year often reaching its peak right now. It is such a contrast to the red rocks and sand to see color where it usually isn’t. As far as I know none of these flowers have been used as is in a perfume. They certainly transform the smell of the desert from its spicy mineralic baseline into something more genteel. Harsh turns to colorful fantasia. Rocky turns to floral. There are a number of perfumes which have attempted to capture this accord. The new Memo Marfa comes as close to getting it right as I have tried.
Marfa is the first in a new collection within the brand called Art Land. The name comes from the town in West Texas of the same name. It is a city of approximately 2,000 of which a disproportionate amount are artists. It sits on the edge of the desert at the crossroads of US 90 and US 67 north of Big Bend National Park. If you are a movie fan it was used as a location for the movies, Giant, Fandango, There Will Be Blood, and No Country for Old Men. I have never been to the city, except through these films, but it is part of the same high desert of the American Southwest I am familiar with. Creative director Clara Molloy along with her longtime collaborator perfumer Alienor Massenet set out to capture the city. For me they captured the desert surrounding it while in bloom.
The floral mix Mme Massenet settles upon is one of tuberose absolute and orange blossom absolute. Marfa is primarily a tuberose perfume. Except there are bits of the desert underneath which remind you of what will remain when the flowers are gone.
Marfa opens on orange blossom which is quickly joined by tuberose. The orange blossom attenuates the tuberose. It also reminds you that it is the subtler of the white flowers. The balance Mme Massenet strikes is very nice. With the florals the first reminder we are in the desert comes with a sharp green “agave accord” it has a sort of spikiness to it which makes it an interesting contrast to all that is going on with the florals. It has the added effect of opening up the camphoraceous nature of the tuberose more fully. If you’ve ever taken a deep breath of arid desert air it feels a lot like that sinus clearing breath. The final part of the development of Marfa is the dried out wood left behind later in the summer. Cedar, sandalwood, and a few white musks form that accord as the desert reclaims its ground although the tuberose stays around even when the woods take over.
Marfa has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will not be actually spending this spring anywhere near the desert. Thankfully Marfa is going to take me there when I want to imagine I am there.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Memo.