Mémoire d’une Odeur Eau de Parfum by Gucci Review
Reserved, gentle, and demure, Mémoire d’une Odeur is perhaps the polar opposite of Paloma Picasso’s Paloma Picasso. One of the softest and airiest fragrances I’ve smelled to date, this is an understated, underrated, utterly unique offering from Gucci. It’s not at all the sort of scent I’d expect of a 2019 designer perfume release, but life is full of happy surprises.
This is musky, hazy, airy, and just a bit aromatic and green, laced with soft white jasmine petals. Every once in a while there’s a flash of chamomile or a streak of toasted almond, but for the most part, this is a perfume that’s about soft, gentle greenish aromatic notes, uplifting and light.
Strangely, on me, Mémoire d’une Odeur reminds me very strongly of Hermès’ Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. More specifically, the very first time I tried Monsieur Li, a year ago almost to the day. When worn in summer, Monsieur Li is bright and citrus-sparkly and all about kumquats to me for much of its ephemeral lifetime. In winter, though, it’s more of a floating, almost aqueous green scent, with faint, incredibly gentle hints of jasmine drifting on their backs along the cool and lazy river.
Though the two perfumes seem quite different on the surface, Mémoire d’une Odeur feels to me like a flanker of Le Jardin de Monsieur Li that subtracts kumquat and adds bitter almond. They’re both hazy and musky in a light, airy, ambiguously green sort of way, laced with a faint, pretty, innocent jasmine, declawed of all its sharp indolic edges.
I hadn’t quite known what to expect of the perfume-ified advertised chamomile note. I do detect something I recognize as chamomile here, but it’s far fainter and more fleeting than I had anticipated.
When I put my nose right up against my wrist and breathe deep, searching for it, I can sense something herbal and flowery and yellow that has enough similarities to chamomile so as to be recognizable. It isn’t the smell of a fine chamomile tea, really, nor the chamomile-based mixture in my hair. It doesn’t even have the curling, stinking sort of pungent scent that wild and dried chamomile daisies can sometimes have.
Though it doesn’t smell quite like actual chamomile tea, there’s a very calm, tea-like timbre to Mémoire d’une Odeur. A casual observer would be forgiven for thinking of this as a softer, slightly sweeter green tea sort of note.
This isn’t at all as aromatic or herbal or green as I had anticipated. On me, the chamomile weaves in and out, a delight of a note to catch when I breathe in deply that is otherwise often absent. There’s a general green dewy aromatic herbal thing going on throughout the opening that’s more prominent than anything about the chamomile.
About thirty to sixty minutes in, I start to become aware of an almond note entering the picture. As far as almond notes go, this one is just as soft-spoken as the rest of Mémoire. It isn’t biting or at all sharp, not boozy or liquor-like, not cherry-like the way pure almond baking extract is, not playough-vanilla-sweet.
It’s described as a bitter almond note, but that’s a bit of a misleading gimmick. Nothing here feels bitter in any way. Bitter almonds truly aren’t bitter — at least, not in their aroma. They have a sweet, nutty, distinctly marzipan-like smell. Bitter almond material is often used in creating accords we simply refer to as almond. They’re far more fragrant than sweet (“regular”) almonds in their raw form. Regular raw almonds have no smell at all, while bitter almonds are nutty-sweet marzipan heaven. Even almond extract for baking is made from bitter almonds, not the regular kind you can eat.
So defining this as bitter almond is a bit of a gimmicky grab for distinction. All almond notes in perfumery are actually bitter almond, more or less. When’s the last time you smelled a plain ol’ regular almond and it smelled like anything?
Anyway, the almond note here is faint, soft, and warm, with a modest and understated sweetness to it. It feels just a little bit baked in timbre, cozy and warm, like a baked almond cookie with very little sugar in it. It’s toasted and nutty and subdued and, like the rest of this perfume, just a little bit dusty.
Something about this dusty, subdued baked good aroma reminds me a little of a certain phase in the opening of Mugler’s Womanity. That one’s much louder and more pungent, all cinnamon-salt cookies and dusty fabric warehouse. The effect is much more subtle here, but that vague dusty, musky baked good smell is present all the same.
It’s not a dusty note that’s annoying or that makes me want to sneeze. It doesn’t feel old or dated or abandoned. To me, it feels quite cozy, like home. Everybody’s place is a little bit dusty. Even if you clean all the time, you’ll never entirely be rid of it.
It’s comforting in the same way to me as the smell of the heating coming on in the winter is. You know that warm, dusty smell that makes you think of winter holidays and snow and the smell of cookies wafting up through the vents? It’s a little like that.
The almond note in Mémoire d’une Odeur is my favorite almond note thus far.
In a funny sort of way, bitter almonds are what actually got me keenly interested in fragrance in the first place. I’d grown up playing with and mixing my mother’s essential oils, but a bitter almond during my teenage years was my true fragrance awakening.
One fateful day, I’d cracked open the seed of an apricot and eaten the bitter almond inside out of curiosity (don’t try this at home, kids, they contain cyanide — but not enough that one nut would kill you) and was simply enamored with how it tasted and smelled.
We all do stupid stuff in college, right? Some people drink. Some people party. I ate apricot kernels.
I decided I needed a way to indulge this insatiable bitter almond craving that didn’t involve cyanide poisoning. (I did briefly just having one a day and building up a tolerance Princess Bride Style. But it turns out Mithridatism only works for complex biological poisons that provoke an immune response, like various snake venoms. Since cyanide directly damages cell membranes, microdosing it wouldn’t actually do any good. Fun fact.)
Then I realized I’m an adult with agency and a job and stuff now and can just buy perfumes instead of feeling so enamored from afar.
So I went down a rabbit hole of reading fragrance blogs and looking at different almond fragrances. Not the same as bitter almonds, but what can you do? I read The Candy Perfume Boy’s roundup of almond fragrances, settled on L’Homme Ideal EdT for some reason, and ordered a decant from MicroPerfumes.
And that’s where it all began, really.
Anyway, enough of my recipe-blog-style personal tangents. Back to the perfume.
Mémoire d’une Odeur is a largely linear scent. The almond comes in an hour in, and from then on everything fades out gradually, until the very end. Some eight hours in, when I’m impressed to smell this seemingly feeble perfume still clinging to my skin, I become aware of a slightly sweeter final phase to Mémoire. The light, fresh, airy green musk is finally gradually fading out, leaving behind a trace of bitter almond on a bed of sandalwood and vanilla (and allegedly cedar, but I certainly don’t get any here).
For this final act, Mémoire is defined by the rich warmth of sandalwood, sweetened just a touch by a modest vanilla and that familiar baked bitter almond. It’s an unexpected and lovely goodbye, quite different from all the previous phases of the scent, simpler and warmer.
It’s a bit of a sharp turn towards a sweet and cozy vanillic finish, but not at all an unpleasant one. Past this point the perfume becomes to faint that this effect rapidly approaches the my-skin-but-better phenomenon. It becomes a faint, silky cloak of sweetness and musky warmth clinging quite closely to the wearer, leaving you questioning whether that’s perfume or you just smell like this now.
Past eight or nine hours, Mémoire d’une Odeur finally waves its goodbye, and I am finally left wondering whether I smell anything at all.
As an aside, I do very much enjoy the vintage-inspired bottle design of Mémoire d’une Odeur. Something about most Gucci bottle designs feels a bit tacky to me, but this one is nice and understated. (Of course, that perception of tackiness is likely fuelled by the way Gucci has become the mainstream influencer’s go-to garish luxury brand to flaunt in tactless music videos and tone-deaf TikToks. Which is nobody’s fault, really.)
Yes, Mémoire d’une Odeur is milquetoast. That’s by design. It’s light and airy, a little dusty, and incredibly faint, but that’s what’s charming about it.
Gucci describes this scent as having a mineral aromatic accord. This threw me at first because I don’t get anything at all flint-y or Flinstones-hard-vitamin-like or at all like stones or minerals here. This certainly has nothing of the hard flint edge in Hermès’ Terre d’Hermès Parfum, or even the sparkling bite of clay in Imaginary Authors’ Memoirs of a Trespasser.
Perhaps in the most abstract sense, Mémoire d’une Odeur feels like cool water running over a smooth gray river pebble, but it doesn’t actually smell like river or pebbles. I have no idea how this could feel remotely mineral to anybody.
This, as it turns out, was a misunderstanding on my part. Apparently, to Gucci, mineral means “airy, musky, transparent, and authentic.” To me, it means “smells like rocks.”
Well, that clears things up. This is certainly light and airt, musky and transparent. It’s calm and still and a little bit zen, in an English country garden sort of way. At its center is a feathery-light, just-slightly-aromatic light-green muskiness that calms the soul.
For all its softness and mildness, Mémoire d’une Odeur surprises me by lasting a solid eight hours.
Granted, to say it’s still there after eight hours is incredibly generous. It’s a very soft waft of a skin scent. But then, Mémoire d’une Odeur is a faint, mild almost-skin-scent the whole way through.
Still, this is a perfume that lasts all day, albeit faintly. I suppose it is an Eau de Parfum, after all, but with all those mild and airy notes I’d expected this to be ephemeral.
This isn’t as outrageously faint in projection and sillage as something like Maison Martin Margiela’s Soul of the Forest or Comme des Garçons’ Sherbet Series 5: Rhubarb. The projection is small, but there is a little bit of it there, at least in the beginning.
If you’re very fond of Mémoire d’une Odeur, you could probably get it to project at a reasonable level all day by spraying yourself wet. I’m a conservative sprayer — usually two or three spritzes absolute maximum — and as much as I enjoyed my intimate experience of Mémoire all day, I couldn’t help but wonder whether a fourth or even fifth spritz would turn up the volume a little bit.
Still, I caught whiffs of Mémoire d’une Odeur all around me all day without having to bury my face in my wrist. That’s a feat for something as soft-spoken as this. Mémoire is quiet, to be sure, but there is some projection going on consistently until the end, and that’s more than the instant-skin-scent types can say for themselves (spray for themselves?).
What a lovely perfume this is to enjoy as an intimate personal cloud. No one can really smell it but you, but it sticks close all day long for you to enjoy.
This feels like the sort of close-to-the-skin scent an incredibly shy girl-next-door sort of character in a movie might wear. You know, the sort of character that’s painfully shy but has to help our main hero out with some sort of minor task, and then when they’re sorting through her attic for some menial thing they find a mysterious clue that binds them irrevocably together?
And then our main guy is gradually impressed by her incredible talent and intelligence, that she’s so used to keeping entirely under wraps, and ends up falling deeply and painfully in love with her, but feeling like he can never fully express that to this delicate, demure, painfully shy gazelle of a woman?
This perfume smells like her. Mémoire d’une Odeur is polite, quiet, unobtrusive, and nice. Wearing it is a mild, pleasant experience. This isn’t just faint in its projection: every note in it is quiet and soft, blended into an intimate haze that sits politely and quietly without making a big sophisticated show of its politeness.
Introverted and simple, Mémoire d’une Odeur is a calm, modest, grounded sort of pleasure. Peaceful, respectful, and light. So often, light airiness seems reserved for calone-y, water-y aquatic scents, such that the two qualities seem almost interchangeable.
Here, though, that lightness and feathery airiness is alive and well with nary a fresh blue molecule in sight. This isn’t at all soapy or laundry-like or unnaturally fresh. It isn’t powdery beyond a general musky texture and the dry crumbling of the almonds. It’s a Christmas miracle.
Soft and gentle almost to a fault but strong enough to stick around all day, Mémoire d’une Odeur’s mildness is its greatest weakness but also its greatest strength. On one hand, why would I want more of something so soft-spoken and plain? But on the other, what can compare to such a simple, peaceful sort of pleasure?
Hence, I’m quite fond of Mémoire. It’s a lovely soft scent for moments when you’re in a setting where a loud fragrance wouldn’t be polite. Wearing this to work is the polar opposite of wearing Paloma Picasso. But sometimes, a bit of calm, demure comfort is just what you need, and that’s when Mémoire d’une Odeur really shines.
This is so soft both in its volume and construction that you can take it with you anywhere and have a little cloud of hazy calm with you. It’s kind of a slight rhyme of Hermès’ Le Jardin de Monsieur Li, in my opinion, so much that it would be difficult to justify owning both unless you really adore both the kumquat and almond versions of this base aromatic green musk.
All in all, unexpectedly lovely, and a bit unusual for a designer scent. Prolific nose Alberto Morillas has once again hit it out of the park with this one, and I’m really glad Gucci gave him the space to do something a little unusual.
This doesn’t seem like the sort of scent most designer houses would present today as a focus group hit, but I can see where the marketers were going in permitting this. When it comes to the TikTok cottagecore crowd, the fairycore people and lovers of the fae, people in search of something forelorn and cozy and a little dusty, Mémoire d’une Odeur lands in all the right places.
This is a calm, soothing, mild daily scent for an incredibly anxious generation. It’s a pocket of forest fairie magic and a warm cup of tea in your slightly dusty attic all in one. It’s a subtle and understated fairytale.
Mémoire d’une Odeur Eau de Parfum by Gucci
You can find samples and decants of Mémoire d’une Odeur EdP at Scent Decant.
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