July 13, 2012
In the movie The Natural the character Memo Paris, portrayed by Kim Basinger, is meant to seduce our hero Roy Hobbs off of the righteous path which is right in front of him. In the movie Robert Redford’s Hobbs lets go of Memo and eventually goes on to find his new life with his first love and their son. The book version, by Bernard Malamud, has a much darker ending as Memo does lead to Hobbs’ undoing and the last scene of the book is of Hobbs weeping over his failure. In many ways the real life perfume house of Memo Paris has brought me joy from their fragrances and also tears of frustration at my inability to get this Europe only line of perfumes delivered to me.
That difficulty in sourcing these fragrances means I usually get them six to nine months after they’ve been released. Such was the case with Memo Shams which was released in the second half of 2011. If I had received this stunning fragrance while the calendar still read 2011 this would’ve been a contender for perfume of the year for me and certainly would have been on my top 25 for the year. This has been a stunning addition to my library but I shouldn’t have been surprised.
In dribs and drabs I have tried a few of the offerings from Memo and of the ones I have tried the one commonality I have found is the central note of each composition is never allowed to overwhelm. Instead a Memo perfume is all about making that note play well with others. Inle takes osmanthus and makes it seem like it has been tea dyed. Siwa adds vanilla to a full host of grain accords making it seem like a fragrant breakfast. Lalibela places rose on a censer and lights up the incense. Finally Sundance is an ode of opposites as tuberose and pear wrestle beautifully for control. As good as these were none of them prepared me for the tour de force that would be Shams.
Shams is the Arabic word for sun and this fragrance shows that oud can be bright as a desert sun when used properly. A spicy scirocco blows across the desert and it brings the desiccated bones of oud and resins along with it. This wind never picks up power that overwhelms. Instead it is a constant breeze enveloping you in a corona of beauty.
The spices that kickoff shams are pepper, ginger, and saffron. I can’t find out who the perfumer is behind this but whoever it is has a deep understanding of these three spicy staples of perfumery. At the beginning of Shams the pepper is at the core of things but the ginger is almost an extension of the piquant quality of the pepper and the saffron adds its opulent beauty on top. I didn’t think I wanted this to end but the oud actually improves and amplifies these three notes. What is also very interesting to me is that the spicy notes seem to completely blunt a lot of oud’s more difficult qualities and instead accentuate the spicy woody quality of oud. This is where Shams lingers for hours on my skin. Very late in its development some styrax and balsam make their presence more pronounced but not intrusive.
Shams has outstanding longevity and average sillage. This has held true for all of the Memo fragrances I’ve worn and that makes them great all day choices for me when I want something sophisticated to carry me from morning to dinner with friends.
I am working hard to find a source for the new 2012 Memo release, Quartier Latin because I don’t want to potentially miss another great fragrance in the year it is released in. I’ll let you know if this ending is Redford or Malamud.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.
–Mark Behnke, Managing Editor