The perfect fragrance is a marriage of a beautiful bottle – and the equally exquisite ‘juice’ inside. But there are few perfume houses which celebrate this union with more elegance than Maison Micallef: founded in Grasse in 1996, and now recognised for their luxurious perfumes – and for flacons unlike anything else in the world…
Maison Micallef brings together the talents of three individuals. First, Martine Micallef (the ‘M’ in the perfume house name): a woman born in St. Paul de Vence, in Provence, who grew up surrounded by art – and with her ‘artist’s soul’ was magnetised to the world of design, painting and sculpture. (She went on to open her own beauty salons.)
It’s Martine who’s responsible for the extraordinary ‘look’ of Maison Micallef: beautiful and bejewelled, each one a work of art – produced and decorated by hand, seducing connoisseurs from around the globe. Maison Micallef can now be found in 900 stores and counting – including their own stunning shops in Dubai – and is a favourite of some of the world’s wealthiest perfume-lovers…
At The Perfume Society, we always think of fragrance itself as a ‘work of art’ – and perfumers as artists. And the renowned ‘nose’ responsible for what’s inside Maison Micallef‘s bottles is Jean-Claude Astier. Through his talents, Maison Micallef perfumes share a signature richness that mirrors their precious containers. There are well over a dozen fragrances, for men and for women, across many ‘families’ – faithful to the concept of French haute parfumerie but highly influenced by the exotic scents found in Arabia and the Orient.
So: who’s the third individual in the Maison Micallef ‘triangle’…? The visionary Geoffrey Nejman (right), once a ‘hardened businessman’ (as he puts it) – until he was seized by a passion for the world of perfumery (and for Martine…)
As Geoffrey explains: ‘Martine sold her beauty business. I pulled out of my banking business and we pooled our resources and formed Maison Micallef. It started in the cellar of our humble villa in the south of France with one assistant – but now we are in more than countries and have a lovely atelier workshop, still in the Grasse area, which now employs about 20 people…
The word ‘artisan’ is widely mentioned in perfumery, nowadays – but rarely as accurately as when describing this perfume house. Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Nejman travel the world personally selecting the rock crystals to decorate the bottles, as well as the natural essences inside. Everything’s hand-weighed, mixed, macerated and filtered by hand, too – then shipped to the world’s most famous department stores and fine perfumeries.
As for the fragrances themselves…? Perhaps unsurprisingly, these perfumes are as opulent as the bottles which contain them, What they have in common, explains Martine, ‘is a sensuality, warmth and a softness.’
When we unstopper a gorgeous bottle, we certainly get a sense of the passion shared by this trio – which has been so expertly distilled into Maison Micallef‘s varied creations.
Quite a few of the creations feature oudh, much-loved in the Middle East, for its richness – but there is something for everyone: floriental Mon Parfum Crystal (with its sparkling transparency), tuberose-powered Ananda, or woodsy, spiced Gaïac. Sometimes, the fragrance comes first. Other times, explains Martine, ‘I may have already designed a bottle for which Geoffrey has to adapt the fragrance to suit it… We always work together at some stage.’
They are absolutely worth making a perfume pilgrimage to seek out. Take Ylang in Gold, described by the Now Smell This website as ‘smooth as silk charmeuse…’ With aromatic top notes of orange, geranium, sage, rosemary and artemisia, a heart of ylang ylang, rose, sandalwood, lily of the valley (and just a hint of mint), Ylang in Gold‘s base features vanilla, moss, musk and the unusual note of coconut – and according to that reviewer, ‘unites its materials into a mellifluous whole…’
You’ll find several different collections within M. Micallef, actually – like the Swarovski-adorned Ananda Collection, with Ananda itself: flowery, delicate, beautifully-balanced. Ananda: Black, meanwhile, is its tribute to tuberose.
The Jewel Collection – as the name implies – is encrusted with stones: Ylang, and Ylang in Gold (which you can see right), both rich in that exotic white flower, as the name implies), alongside Jewel for Her and Jewel for Him. (And honestly, these are bottles which make you want to throw a party in your bedroom – or maybe boudoir – simply to show them off.)
Most personal of all is Mon Parfum, ‘imagined and created by Martine according to her deep feelings’ – an expression of femininity, seduction and sensuality: a gourmand fragrance built on fruity notes, sweetened by touches of almost good-enough-to-eat vanilla and caramel.
Some of the most extravagant Maison Micallef bottles of all can be found in The Exclusifs Collection. For instance: discover a fragrance called Watch, which brings together Bourbon vanilla with tuberose and jasmine, in a rounded, crystal-decorated bottle with ab actual watch adorning the neck. Or Royal Rose Aoud, with a delicate heart of Bulgarian rose, contrasted with sensual, full-bodied elements of musk, sandalwood, patchouli – and that signature oudh note – in a stunning petal-pink bottle, also set with crystals.
And if money’s almost no object…? The Collection Crystal is surely the ultimate: each bottle is decorated by hand (and can be personalised with a name or message…) And on commission, in collaboration with a Swiss goldsmith who executes Maison Micallef‘s designs, extraordinary flacon can be created from 24-carat gold and semi-precious or precious stones: falcons, horses – whatever your heart desires (and your bank balance allows…)
And when we look at – and smell – Maison Micallef‘s creations, we’re quite simply reminded of that quote: ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever…’