It’s not often that a perfume’s inspiration parallels memories in your own life. Dior’s flagship headquarters at 30, Avenue Montaigne, and the famous “Dior Grey” were big parts of my childhood and teenage years. As a small child, I spent endless hours in the beautiful, grey-white mansion: I often sat on one of the large, grey, stuffed and studded, round banquettes in the vast, rectangular room on the second or third floor with its wall of tall French windows as I waited for my mother to try on clothes. I would sit and stare at the floor, looking for dropped pins in the light grey carpet as one of the elegant seamstresses would flit around my mother, making alterations. I became a little pet to a few of them who were always amused by my efforts at “helping,” and by my unsolicited opinions on the outfits in question. And Dior Grey — that special, elegant twist on dove grey that is the signature colour of the house — became a favorite of mine, to the point that I often wanted to have a room in that colour. And, eventually, I did.
Later, the third or fourth time I lived in Paris, I was a teenager and our flat was two blocks away from the flagship store. Monday through Friday, I would wait for the school bus to take me to my high-school in St. Cloud, and the pick-up location was exactly catty-corner or on a diagonal line across from the store. I spent countless mornings, staring at that beautiful, elegant facade from afar and trying to see inside the windows. As an adult, Dior Grey remained one of my favorite colours. And, right now, my bedroom is done to approximate the interiors that I remembered from childhood: the walls are painted Dior Grey, the furniture is silver, mirrored or white, and the room is filled with silver and black touches.
Having been imprinted with Dior from childhood, much like one of Konrad Lorenz’s ducklings, it was virtually impossible not to have high expectations for a perfume that is meant to evoke both Dior’s flagship headquarters and its trademark colour. In fact, I knew that nothing could possibly live up to that weighted mental baggage, so I intentionally and explicitly tried to wipe them all from my mind when I tested Gris Montaigne.
It is brand new, just released, and the latest member of Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier, but I go by the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The Privée line consists of thirteen perfumes that are exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. (It would have been fourteen, but Gris Montaigne has come in to replace the glorious Mitzah which has essentially been discontinued — to justified howls of horror from perfumistas across the world.) Like the rest of its siblings, Gris Montaigne was intended to illustrate and celebrate key moments in the life of its founder, Christian Dior, and was created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior.
Dior describes Gris Montaigne in a way that brings back a flood of childhood memories:
And if grey were a perfume?
The olfactory signature of the Couture House’s legendary location, 30, Avenue Montaigne, has become a reality. The perfumer’s response to couture, this sophisticated chypre fragrance is a bold interpretation of the Dior Grey. The Couture Grey featured in the collections since 1947, the Grey Emotion of Christian Dior’s family home in Granville, Pearl Grey like the facade of the boutique on Avenue Montaigne.
Colour becomes a perfume: a burst of citrus, a floral heart of Turkish Rose and Jasmine Sambac from the Indian region of Tamil Nadu, followed by a woody note heightened with Indonesian Patchouli set against an ambery backdrop of moss.
The notes for the fragrance, according to Dior, are simple:
Essence of Calabrian Bergamot, Turkish Damask rose, Indian Jasmine Sambac, Indonesian Patchouli, and Absolute of Macedonian moss.
Gris Montaigne opens on my skin with a light citrus note, followed immediately thereafter with florals headed by rose. The bouquet sits atop a patchouli base that is, initially at least, beautifully flecked by soft amber, creamy sandalwood and the lightest sprinkling of powder. The rose is infused with quiet inflections of bergamot, while the patchouli adds a subtle warm and fleshiness to the very delicate note. There are also subtle touches of oakmoss in the base; it doesn’t feel like pungent, dry, arid, almost mineralized oakmoss, but it doesn’t feel completely bright green and fresh, either. The prettiest part of the perfume in those early minutes is the sandalwood. It’s nothing like real Mysore sandalwood with its distinctive spiciness, richness and depth, but the synthetic version used here has a lovely softness, creaminess and smoothness.
In its very earliest moments, Gris Montaigne is lovely. The light sprinkles of powder — combined with the very subtle oakmoss — make the perfume feel both classique in inspiration and a modern, neo-chypre in type. It’s a delicate, feminine, refined scent and, call me crazy, but it actually does evoke both the colour grey and the Dior rooms at Avenue Montaigne. For all that I tried to ignore the name and its associations, for all that I went into testing this perfume with the express plan of considering this an unnamed scent (“Just consider it Perfume ‘ABC’ from House XYZ,”), somehow, I can smell those rooms. The reason is the clean, floral, feminine, restrained, gauzy aroma. It’s almost a little sterile in its grey softness. But that word seems unfair because of all the negative connotations, so let’s say instead that Gris Montaigne has a touch of the restrained, aloof, professional, endlessly feminine, floral and slightly powdered feel of those coolly muted, elegant rooms.
Ten minutes later, the perfume starts to change. Cedar starts to rise to the surface, adding a quiet dryness to the floral notes. Unfortunately, the patchouli also starts to become more dominant, turning Gris Montaigne into a distinctly fruity-patchouli rose atop that base of dry, peppered cedar. Purple patchouli is not only my least favorite kind, but it’s also a common note in a lot of commercial, inexpensive, fruity-floral fragrances today — and big reason why I can’t stand many of them. There is something about its character in Gris Montaigne which reminds me of Chanel‘s Coco Noir, except the Dior is drier thanks to that cedar note and isn’t so clobbered by the fruity-patchouli (which I thought verged on the bullying in Coco Noir). Despite that, from the 30-minute mark to the 90-minute one, the purple patchouli and the dry cedar battle for the rosy heart of Gris Montaigne. The trio always rests above that light oakmoss base flecked with the smallest touches of amber and sandalwood. I wish the sandalwood were as noticeable as it had been initially but, alas, there isn’t much of it.
Gris Montaigne, like the rest of its siblings in the elegant Privée Line, is a beautifully blended perfume. Like the newly redesigned, revamped Paris headquarters, it’s light, airy and filled with bright touches from that fruity-patchouli whose almost syrupy sweetness seems to dominate for a good portion of the second hour. God, there is so much of it! At other times, however, especially right after the end of the first hour, it feels as though cedar has almost taken over. Increasingly, Gris Montaigne has an abstract element to it as well. One sometimes has the impression that it’s nothing more than an ordinary, common, generalized, nebulous, fruity-floral patchouli perfume. Even when jasmine joins the party, around the 90 minute mark, it doesn’t do much to transform the scent or to give it greater nuance.
And Gris Montaigne goes further downhill from there becoming softer and hazier with every passing hour, with only the purple note really standing out as something distinctive. (Oh so much purple patchouli!) By the start of the fifth hour, Gris Montaigne is a sheer, bland, floral-patchouli scent infused with some spicy dryness atop some light amber. There is a small modicum of relief in the eighth hour when the sandalwood re-appears. It actually works well with the patchouli, creating a spicier, richer version of the note than what flickered at the start. But the sandalwood is just a small touch, and it really doesn’t change what is the sole note left in Gris Montaigne at this point: fruity patchouli. The rose is a whisper, there is no jasmine, the powder vanished after the first 10 minutes, and the cedar threw in the towel a while back. In its final moments, Gris Montaigne is a simple note of abstract, sheer, general sweetness, and nothing more.
All in all, Gris Montaigne lasted just under 10.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It became closer to the skin about 90 minutes in and had minimal projection, but the forcefulness of that patchouli made it definitely noticeable if you brought your arm anywhere near to your nose. Gris Montaigne didn’t become a skin scent until the fifth hour and, like all the Privée perfumes that I’ve tried, it has surprisingly enormous longevity given the moderate-to-low sillage.
I hate to say it, but Gris Montaigne feels extremely generic for most of its lifespan. It’s a refined take on a thousand similar fruity-floral scents, but not much more than that. You may be wondering how much of my assessment is due to my personal baggage involving that name and the perfume’s inspiration. It’s a fair question and the answer is: my assessment is absolutely tainted by it. Because, without those strong personal associations, I would rip this perfume to shreds, especially over the patchouli. The sole reason I’ve being half as kind as I am is because of the beautiful opening minutes and because of my nostalgia. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, Gris Montaigne is far from being a worthy successor to Mitzah, even though the planning and development of Gris Montaigne meant it had to be in the works long, long before the decision to discontinue the other fragrance.
In placing Gris Montaigne in the context of its siblings, I realised two things. First, Gris Montaigne seems to reflect a desire to take advantage of the modern, mass-market hunger for and profitability of fruity-floral scents. Second, it also symbolizes a shift in the colour spectrum of Dior’s Privée Line away from the darker, richer, orange-brown labdanum glory of Mitzah, or the amber-coloured hues of similarly spicy, deep fragrances like Ambre Nuit and Leather Oud. With the discontinuation of Mitzah and Vetiver, the arrival of Gris Montaigne seems to turn the hues of Dior’s Privée Line into something much more floral, pastel, and light in colour. It may be an unfair assessment, and it’s probably wholly off. Yet, I can’t help feel that Gris Montaigne marks a move towards something more pale, more bland, and more commercially… er… fruitful. (Pun intended.) Bottom line, Gris Montaigne is pretty, but in a way that makes it like any number of commercial scents out there, from Chanel’s Coco Noir to…. well, take your pick.
All my criticisms notwithstanding, I do think there are a lot of people who will like Gris Montaigne, especially if they keep their expectations low. For one thing, it is a very easy fragrance to wear, the sort of thing one could just spray on and go. Everyone needs a versatile perfume that is uncomplicated and could fit a variety of situations, from the office to a child’s playdate to a dinner date. Gris Montaigne would absolutely work for that. It is also a scent whose very feminine nature and restrained sillage will make it practical for those who prefer more unobtrusive scents while still keeping an elegant and refined edge. I think it will generally be a little too feminine for the average guy — but I also don’t believe in gender lines in perfumery, so if you can rock it, wonderful!
I did my best to be fair to this scent, but if you think I failed in that endeavour, I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of the past, and it makes the nature of a review even more subjective. But I’m convinced that — if I were given Gris Montaigne to smell blindly — I still wouldn’t like it and my bottom line would still be the same: it’s nothing special.
Wow, so many mixed feeling in this one long review of Gris Montaigne. You know well I crave for luxury in perfume and I don’t like when the scent is too complicated for me. I was excited about this new Dior excplusive release since Bois d’Argent is the only Dior Privee that I tried.
I risked and bought a 10ml decant of Gris Montaign in a split organized at FFF. It should arrive any day and I really hope that it will smell better on me than on you. If not I will re-sell that decant, just as I did with Bois d’Argent which completely didn’t suit me.
Well, you don’t like patchouli when I usually do, but I don’t know how you feel about the purple kind. What you think of the fragrance may depend a lot on that. As for the Privée Line, didn’t you also try New Look 1947 and like that one? I could be getting things mixed up, since I’ve got a bit of a headache, so forgive my confusion, my dear.
I don’t know how purple patchouli smells like. But if I don’t like it I will really use two-three sprays and re-sell it, or keep it for swapmania.
Ah, you’re right, Undina sent me some New Look 1947 but I only tried it briefly, not a full wear yet.
What time did you post that review? 3,4 in the VERY early morning?
If you’ve smelled fragrances like Coco Noir or half a dozen commercial fruity-florals fragrances, you’ve smelled purple patchouli. Believe me, you will recognise its fruited nature. I’m going to be very intrigued to see what you think of both the note and of Gris Montaigne itself. I think you’ll like it, but you won’t be wow’d by it. As for the review, it was about 3:40 a.m., I think. It’s now just after 4 a.m., so I’m going to try to get a few hours sleep. Good night, my dear!
Yes, I’ve smelled Coco Noir, it was featured in one of my earliest Quick Sniffs. I remember I kind of liked the scent, even though it wasn’t something special. We’ll see how thing goes for Gris Montaigne. It’s better if I’m not wow’ed by it, I can’t afford and can’t get a full bottle.
What a wonderful memory- thank you so much for sharing it! My own childhood memories of hanging out at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York come to mind (there are definite benefits to being a well-behaved child). I’m sorry that the fragrance was so ordinary. I am eagerly awaiting a decant of Mitzah based on your earlier review.
I can just imagine you at Sotheby’s and Christie’s! Aren’t the best childhood memories the ones that involve adult places that carry some sort of history or awe? It just makes it more special to be included and to see all the inner magic. 🙂 As for Mitzah, I can’t wait to see what you think of it!
Great review, Kafka…I love your recounting of you spending time in THE Dior boutique as a child. It’s too bad that it ended up being ordinary when it could have been so much better. I will seek this out to try when it’s available in the stores because sometimes, the “ordinary” hits the spot!
Now, I need some clarification — why is the Las Vegas store considered the only Dior boutique in the United States? There’s one on 57th and 5th in NYC.
I’ve always heard the Las Vegas store described as being the only one, perhaps in the sense of full range, including the full range of beauty/fragrance products. It was the only one that Dior itself listed on their website when they would have a note about a product being available in a US store. Like back when I first did Mitzah, Dior gave only the Las Vegas store with their phone number as a way of getting the perfume offline in the U.S. Not the NYC one. Since Dior considered Las Vegas as their only one, then so did I. 🙂
Let me know what you think of Gris Montaigne (and all that bloody purple patchouli) when you try it. I’m most curious!
P.S. — I think the NYC store is much more about the clothes and bags, with only a few of the beauty/fragrance products.
What wonderful interiors and wonderful memories, Kafka! I can just imagine what your room must be like: very elegant, luxe, luxe, calme, et volupté. Just the perfect space to breathe and decompress.
Gris Montaigne is the only one in the Collection Privée line-up that I do not recall smelling. I should go back and see. As for Mitzah, this review reminds me that I haven’t gotten around to giving you an update yet! Mea culpa!
Alas, me and Mitzah are not meant to be. It’s very wearable, but maybe a little to smooth, little too quiet for me, and dare I say a little too pretty for me. It’s not really for me and on my skin, it also disappears too quickly. However, I am very happy to have a little decant courtesy of amazing Undina! As Hajusuuri would say, “Money saved.” 🙂
Heh, the funny thing about the incredibly longstanding influence of Dior on me is that Dior was never my favorite couture house, but my 2nd favorite! It was always Yves Saint Laurent uber alles. I worshiped at his feet, and not just because of my obsession with Opium. I truly thought Yves St. Laurent had the most perfect clothes EVER. His 1970s smoking jackets and sleek black lines full of seductiveness….. Holy Mother of God — nothing like them ever. Nothing. Yet, Dior seems to have left the longer influence in small ways on me.
As for Mitzah, I’m sorry it didn’t work out but I’m glad you got to try it at least to see for yourself. I’m curious as to how much you applied, because if you applied a lot and it still didn’t last on you, then that’s really bad. But, yes, it is a very smooth take on labdanum, and without the edge or layers that some other similar labdanum-centered scents can have. Like the mighty “M” from Puredistance which we both adore.
I kind of wanted the full on Mitzah experience so I covered myself with it! And by the time I walked out of my building and got to the subway, pffffft! Gone.
But M, the mighty M. A spritz or two and I am SWOONING all day long. A full-bottle is definitely on the wish list. If you hear about a split or want to go in on one of those too, let me know!
Speaking of YSL, did you ever see the documentary L’amour Fou? It was about YSL’s relationship with his partner but a lot more than that. It was awesome, and I’d recommend if you were a fan of his!
I think so, but I’m not sure. The name definitely rings a bell, but I’ve seen 2 diff. documentaries on YSL over the years, and I’m not sure if this is one of them. BTW, remember the Greecies? I think we were still there when YSL died. I remember posting how utterly and completely sad I was, how hard the news hit me, and the TON of memories I had involving YSL in the thread devoted to celebrities who died. People’s reaction: ::crickets:: LOL. I know people thought me completely crazy, but yeah, I’ve always been and *will* always be a die-hard YSL fan.
Hmmm, maybe! His clothes were really beautiful – they show a lot of footage from collections he did over the years and so many were really just phenomenal. But the thing that really got me? His art collection. Absolutely astounding.
Well Ms. Baconbiscuit…perhaps you need to add 1 or 2 more sprays to make it a public service announcement. If your run out of Mitzah, I can share some of mine. Discontinued, be d-mned.
I think I sprayed 8 . . . . 🙂
But glorious M! That will last me a while! Thank you, Hajusuuri!
I just realized I said “for me” a bunch of times. Forgive me, dear Kafka! Trying to pack and read blogs at the same time!
Ah, to have your life experiences, Kafka. I would love to be able to see such places. Your descriptions of both locales and scents always intrigue me.
I will probably have to sample this as well, mainly because your descriptions always pique my curiosity, both good and bad. 🙂
You’re very sweet, Kellilee, so a hug to you, my dear. But there were a lot of stark lows to go with some of those experiences, so I truly wouldn’t wish most of it on anyone. There’s a reason for my choice of posting name. LOL. On a happier note, don’t forget to let me know how some of the samples you ordered worked out for you. Like the Ambre Russe. I remember that you ended up liking Hedonist, right? (Or am I confusing things?)
Thank you, Kafka! I’m sorry for your dark times, but the stories of the good memories are amazing. I’m glad you are where you are now and can share those good memories with us all. 🙂 I’m still adoring Hedonist and still trying to figure out how to purchase it (oh, to be independently wealthy!). I am still enjoying my Ambre Russe, and I finally ordered my sample of Molecule 01 to see how anosmic I really am to Iso E Super. That should arrive later this week, so I’m excited to perform my test on it!
Oh.My.God. Molecule 01!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Crikey, you’re an adventurous one, you are! With luck, you’ll find it a wonderful pheromone and won’t detect any of the things that so plague me with ISO E Super. I have to say, I’m very impressed, my dear, at your inquisitive, exploratory, open mind and desire to get to know more notes. I think that’s beyond wonderful and give you a huge, massive “BRAVO!!!”
As for Hedonist, I’d love a bottle of that one too. So, if you figure out how to make money grow on trees, please share your secret. 😉 You know, if it were bigger, one could split it, but it’s only 1.7/50 ml oz, so it’s not quite as conducive or practical. Still, if you ever find a friend who wants just 25 ml, that may be one way to go. It may be cheaper to get it directly from Viktoria Minya and split it, depending on the exchange rate, and split it but the bottle is so stunning, who would want to give that up??! (As you can see, I’ve pondered the issue of Hedonist a little. LOL.)
It was lovely to hear about your childhood and teenage memories Kafka 😀 , particularly those happy memories in the Dior house. I´m going to assume you are French since you seem to have lived in Paris for a long time. The first time I visited Paris I was a child and strangely my strongest memory is the smell that French bakeries, patisseries and cafeterias have, and the atmosphere of a rainy Paris. Of course back then all I cared about was Eurodisney, so I didn´t pay too much attention. Three years ago, as a twenty year old I revisited Paris, and this time I visited the famous Avenue Montagne and the 6th district, and I can tell you your review just made me travel back to the Plaza Athenee hotel, the Chanel boutique I saw and entered and the Louis Vuitton and Valentino boutiques as well. I don´t really remember the Dior one too well but your review did travel me there. Given the love I have for this brands I´m sure I would have been more impressed with this aroma, although I´m glad you at least liked the opening of the perfume. The last perfumes of Dior I remember are J´adore and the much stronger Poison, I can say I like both but wasn´t blown away, maybe I should smell them again. Yesterday I had the Chance to smell Chanel Mademoiselle EDT which I immediately connected with my experience in Avenue Montaigne, so I find a funny coincidence to read your review on this Dior perfume today. There are no Dior boutiques here, only mall stands but on October I will be probably revisiting Paris and now I have to smell quite a few perfumes it seems 🙂 .
Sorry for the long post
NEVER apologise for length to ME of all people! I *adore* details and length, my dear, as you know full well by now. 😉 😀 I loved hearing about your memories of France from the patisseries to the Plaza Athenée! I can’t wait for you to go back and have the chance to explore some more, especially all the shops! As for me, I’m not French, actually. But I did live there for quite a substantial amount of time when all the various different periods in my life are put together. North and South, if you will. I’ve led an extremely nomadic existence and have moved around a LOT, but France is perhaps the place that has had the greatest influence or impact on me. 🙂
Kafka, thank you for sharing your memories: I enjoyed reading them.
As to the perfume itself, I tried it yersterday on paper and then on my vSO (I was our of the skin RE by that time). Though I rather liked it I agree with most things you said (but I liked the color in a bottle). I wouldn’t refuse a bottle from the sky (I couldn’t even get a sample! 🙂 ) but I do not see more than a decant of this perfume in my future.
The colour in the bottle is lovely! It was my favorite part of the perfume…. 😉 😀 (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. lol) BTW, so, so, so glad to see your smiling “face” again. Welcome back, my dear.
You can’t even imagine how much I enjoy being back!
What a fun review! What memories! It was great to read how this perfume tied to your own childhood memories. Naturally, it could never live up to the expectations you set (which you freely admitted) – but even with that set aside, it sounds a little underwhelming, although totally lovely. That’s been my experience with a number from La Collection Privee. They are nice enough, and the pricing is good, but I just don’t feel passionately about them. I will still make an effort to try this one eventually, although probably from a swap and not via a STC purchase.
See, the thing is, I went into it determined to pretend it was a totally separate perfume, something without this name, without these associations and without this inspiration. I even put “Perfume ABC” as the heading on my notepad, instead of the real name. To the extent that one possibly can, I tried to wipe out all associations from my mind and smell it as if in a vacuum. And it still was underwhelming with terrible bits (oh my GOD, the extent of the fruity patchouli at one point!!). It was only when writing the review (from previously written notes) that I let myself get into the name. In all honesty, it wasn’t that the perfume set up expectations; it was that my nostalgia led me to be far kinder to the perfume than I would have been otherwise. I truly think that — expectations notwithstanding — I would have disliked this perfume if I’d smelled it blindly. It was just so damn generic and fruity-patchouli! Ugh.
I’ve said before and I’ll say again – generic and boring are bigger crimes than being outright bad. What a shame – it would have been so cool if it could have met your expectations. It could be a nice link to the past. Alas, there’s always vintage Opium. 🙂
My previous attempt to post failed apparently.
The perfume doesn’t seem to be up my alley but your bedroom sounds gorgeous! What paint did you use to achieve Dior Grey?
Benjamin Moore’s Dior Grey was, in my opinion, a wee bit too dark for true, real “Dior Grey,” so I had it mixed with Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Grey (or something Stonington). That seemed to do it. 🙂
Thanks. I’ll make note of it for any future home painting.
Oh what beautiful memories! I felt like I was right there with you, surrounded by such luxury! I can dream right!?!
It really is a shame that Gris Montaigne turn out to be a disappointment. It sounded so promising at the start! Either way, your memories just confirm my desire to visit Paris for on my 40th birthday and spend a month out there! I’ve got three years to iron out the details.
You have to go, Jackie. Forget the perfume; for someone like you, the fashion will make you keel over!!! I can just see your expression as you go through Avenue Montaigne, from one couture house to another, and the glazed look of stunned awe on your face. You really MUST go to Paris, my dear! Only problem is, I wonder if you’d ever come back….. 😉 😀
You’re so right, I would be completely overwhelmed and in awed by the fashion…but in a good way! I’m also afraid I would never want to come, my family would kill me! lol
But Paris is something everyone should experience once in their lives.