Suzanne's Perfume Journal

November 7, 2014:

Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus eau de parfum is described on my carded, retail sample as having notes of tuberose, gardenia, orchid, orange blossom, oak moss, sandalwood, ozone, amber and musk. (I just saw that the notes on the Neiman Marcus website for this perfume are different and more numerous—and include three different citrus notes as well as jasmine.) It is currently priced at $200 for 50-ml. I received my sample as part of a birthday fragrance package from my dear blogging friend, Ann, of Perfume Posse.

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“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” James Taylor once said in a song, and sung in his dreamy style, that advice sounds simple. A relaxed posture, an appreciation for spontaneity, an acceptance that everything is subject to change: I imagine these traits as part of the secret that allows one to go “sliding down, gliding down” through the ride of life. Yet I’d bet good money that those who do it best also possess a quietly steely will—a determination to show up and do the work that helps them navigate the currents and not simply be blown about. At any rate, I was thinking about these things when I was wearing Pure Mariposa, and I suppose it’s why I really like this perfume. It is both lithe and strong.

The Quaking Aspen has a long telescope of trunk; the cheerful waitress rises at dawn, wears sturdy shoes and stores a revolving roster of faces and menu choices in her memory banks. Daisies probably have secrets to their persistence and the orioles no doubt have spent millennia perfecting their acrobatic flight skills, though, admittedly, I don’t know much about either. What I do know is that all possess an upbeat and easy-going demeanor—a graceful way of moving through the world—that flies over a core of strength more felt than seen. Pure Mariposa is composed on a similar structure: it’s one of those perfumes I admire for its sunny nature, breezy beauty and intelligent design.

I wasn’t awake to see the first winter snowflakes swirling in the air this past weekend, but my sister told me they’d arrived and it’s not surprising. I probably should steer my perfume writing accordingly, towards the discussion of a cozy comfort scent or a big oriental that goes great with cashmere, but one of the most beautiful perfumes I’ve sampled recently is Spanish perfumer Ramon Monegal’s creation Pure Mariposa (the full name is Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus, as it was created exclusively for that upscale department store), and it draws its inspiration from the butterfly (mariposa means butterfly in Spanish). The name couldn’t be more fitting: this perfume’s white floral heart has a tangerine-like nectar about it which imparts a sense of color, lift and delight while, at the same time, vibrates against a mossy chypre-like base. By virtue of its name and the fact that it’s a shimmery floral perfume, Pure Mariposa might strike one as the perfect scent for spring and summer, but this is not an airy butterfly scent in the way that L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse Aux Papillons is, for instance, with its white florals rendered wispy and fine. I happen to love that one too—it also is well-named, focusing more on the chase of something that is diaphanous and elusive, whereas Ramon Monegal’s perfume offers up a different point-of-view. To me, it’s a statement about being such a creature.

Butterflies in autumn shades of black, orange and olive green are pictured on the retail, carded sample of Pure Mariposa, and though whimsical in terms of their rendering, at least one of them is meant to resemble the Monarch butterfly—again, a perfect match to the perfume. Pure Mariposa has enough olfactory weight to remind one of those late-summer butterflies and their incredible migrations (Monarchs in the eastern part of the United States migrate as far south as Mexico and can cover 50 to 100 miles per day before reaching their destination). Likewise, Pure Mariposa is full of floral fluidity, but its olfactory wings rest on a frame that has an impressive tensile strength. At the end of the review, I’ll provide the perfumer’s full list of notes for this fragrance, and hopefully before then, I’ll have described its flight pattern on my skin. First, though, here’s a list of the things this perfume makes me think of when I’m wearing it:

  • Quaking Aspens with their flutter of nodding leaves that make me think they’re happy to see me when I pass them on my walk.

  • Cheerful waitresses who alight at one’s table with coffee at just the right moment and get everyone’s breakfast order right, on a football-weekend when the joint is crowded.

  • Daisies that spring up at the corner of a farm field planted in soybeans (and pesticided to the point of being impervious to intruders), yet there they are, a wink of good cheer in a sea of green.

  • A male Baltimore oriole songbird moving with trapeze-like grace as he cascades his way from the top branches of an oak tree to the bottom, his orange color quick and flashing as he hangs upside down and then freefalls from one branch to the next.

To a large degree, Pure Mariposa is an orange blossom perfume (at least to my nose), and though orange blossoms don’t smell like oranges, there is either a phantom or real note of orange that accompanies the perfume, not just in the fleeting top-notes stage, but into its very heart. It’s a brisk and bitter orange note that reminds me of an Orangina when it first hits the skin, but as the orange blossom and accompanying white florals develop and come to the fore, it begins to smell more like the scent of a tangerine, lighter and sweeter. (It reminds me of bigarade, the “bitter orange” fruit which produces an essential oil that is surprisingly juicy smelling.) The combination of the two—the orange blossom bouquet and the piquant orange citrus note—very nicely translates into the idea of a butterfly: to my nose, these notes always smell as if they hover at least two octaves above other notes in the olfactory scale. Combined, they signal a state of sunlit, soaring joy.

If I didn’t have a note list, I’d have figured Pure Mariposa’s white-floral accord as largely consisting of orange blossom and jasmine, but the perfumer doesn’t list jasmine among the notes and identifies the other florals (besides orange blossom) as being tuberose, gardenia and orchid. Such an accord would normally play out with a certain amount of indolic headiness, but Pure Mariposa is not indolic, carnal or even what I would call heady. Though uplifting and joyous, the florals never soar out of the stratosphere, becalmed as they are by a base that adds enough bitter greenery, cool moss and amber weightiness to pull this nectar down to cloud level, ensuring that the perfume is naturally buoyant rather than perky or excitable. Of course, perfumistas who don’t care for the high-pitched floral sweetness of orange blossom probably aren’t going to be won over by Pure Mariposa, but those who are fans of the note have something to celebrate. Here is an orange blossom-heavy perfume that truly has a pyramidal development on the skin (I don’t know about you, but I find many orange blossom perfumes to be rather linear). It is a slow development (a gradual unfolding)—one that gradually takes place over three or four hours—but the floaty bouquet eventually transitions to a base that has a good dose of sandalwood in it. Not the super-fatted and vanillic sandalwood which so often provides a cushion to oriental perfumes, but a lightly creamy sandalwood with a smoky edge … a lean sandalwood, more woody than creamy, sometimes smelling as if it’s attended by a tendril of frankincense. It doesn’t make itself known until several hours into wear time, but when it arrives, it’s a lovely surprise—as if the white petals of Pure Mariposa have drifted down from the sky and found a resting place on a weathered branch of tree. It conjures images of the butterflies arriving in the half-parched Mexican landscape where they’ll take their respite from winter.

Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa: A Beautiful Way to Fly