As much as I love Frederic Malle – I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this latest one. Not that I didn’t like it, but it was so different from Malle's previous outings – where there's normally an intoxicating rose or a spiky citrus that knocks you off your feet (Eau de Magnolia and Lipstick Rose I’m talking about you…) Outrageous created by perfumer Sophie Grojsman (the nose behind YSL Paris, Calvin Klein Eternity and Lalique Lalique plus others) was a bit more … “hmm.” Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It just forces you to think a bit more about them.
In pure descriptive terms, it's a fresh, masculine blend of green apple underscored with woods and musks. The packaging reads “A night in Rio… A caipirinha cocktail… Brash yet sophisticated, erotic and outrageous: top notes of bergamot, mandarin and green apple explode against a sensual but clean backdrop of cedar wood, white musk and ambroxan. Exhilarating, joyous and full of colour!”
I couldn't put my finger on what I wasn't sure about, until the words "green apple" hit me - and I realised I have a nascent snobbery over “synthetic, fruity” scents, associating them with mainstream commercial fragrances. But then again, why the hell not shouldn’t they have their place in the niche market? And for a scent inspired by Rio, this would only be natural (as "fruit" scents do better in Brazil than anywhere else).
There’s a lot of snobbery surrounding synthetic fragrances in general (I think it’s a purist attitude that spills over from the whole “clean eating” movement – two words when put together make my skin crawl … ) Although it’s described as “a night in Rio” to me, this is a scent for any city lover. Being “man-made”, there’s nothing natural about the city, but many see a beauty to it: the concrete buildings of The Barbican; the cityscape if you take a bus along London Bridge - even if you pay a visit to St Mary’s Axe (aka “The Gherkin”) you can marvel at the juxtaposition of that gargantuan glass cornichon with the neighbouring St Helen’s church of Bishopsgate that dates back to the 15th Century. I myself spent part of my childhood in a high-rise tower block in North London, that seemed to touch the sky and was a continued source of wonder and fear to my 4-year-old self ("what if it topples over one day?"). Safe to say, the countryside does nothing for me – I enjoy it for a day or so, then long to return to concrete, towers and traffic noise.
Hence Outrageous is ideal for those who don’t instantly identify with “naturals” who prefer something with synthetics that’s slightly more obscure and interesting. Of course there’s nothing wrong with a dazzling rose or jasmine, but that doesn’t always have to mean natural is best. People underestimate the weird and wonderful things synthetics can do – Chanel No.5 was one of the first fragrances to flex its synthetic muscles (it’s got aldehydes in it which are responsible for that dazzling sparkle) and modern synthetic classics like Escentric Molecules continue to allure and fascinate. The same can be said of Outrageous. Yes, there’s the immediate “bite” of apple and mandarin which some could be taken aback by, but give it a chance to warm up on the skin. The cinnamon notes come through, together with the cedarwood and you begin to realise there's more to it that meets the eye, just in the way city life is far more multi-faceted than pollution, crowds and angry commuters.