Whenever there’s the chance to meet the charming Clara Molloy with her boundless energy and vision, I always do. One of the delights of the perfume industry, Clara seems to literally live her dream – as shown in her travel inspired perfume brand, Memo. With Alienor Massenet, nose of the brand, they see fragrance as a means of taking a magical journey, extended beyond its end and constantly revisited. Imagining the bottle as a destination appeals to them both. Clara and the supremely talented Alienor (creatice of fragrances such as Liz Earle Botanical Essence No.15, Chloe Eau de Fleurs and many Memo big sellers such as Lalibela and Italian Leather) each have ideas, then visit the location looking for the depth and soul of the the place and, using their experiences to include the ambience, the air, the feel of their destination, to encapsulate this in a bottle.
Most of the time it works and the popular Leather series has been a testament to that. Italian, Irish and French Leather versions (the Cuirs Nomades) may all have the same smooth leather and musky bases but the subtle differences are laudable. The next stage of this Memo category of leather fragrances is the superb African Leather. One of Memo’s best releases to my mind. It glides on the wrist with a burst of oily, sweet, mossy Vetiver woodiness and fine Patchouli smokiness that builds to the most glorious sweet of subtle earthiness combines with freshness, like the sweep of a hot African breeze across the plains, with hints of the Africa’s raw nature.
Massenet, herself says that ‘..Africa is a land teeming with contrast. It’s a place of vivid colours, pungent odours (animal, spice, earth etc) and strong sensations.’ Massenet, along with Molloy, travelled back to Africa to re-capture Massenet’s early memories of a long trek in the Sahara desert as well as wandering the souks of Marrakesh and her frequent trips along the Nile.
Massenet set out for African Leather to be a potent mix if strength and energy and boy has this delivered. Molloy and Massenet reworked the molecular distillation of the patchouli and Vetiver used in African Leather to produce a scent that differs (and oh, how sweet and refined) from their classic counterparts. But it is the big sweep of geranium absolute that gives the heady floral feminine doze of difference and contrast that lifts this fragrance into superior mode. Sitting alongside the potent mix of spices – pepper, cumin seed, cardamom and saffron, African Leather is the first whiff of Africa from a superior luxury Safari.
African Leather manages to be both faintly brutal and intoxicatingly seductive, merging feminine and masculine energy that smacks of the Occidental wanderlust. This is a modern leather fragrance seeped in aspects of finer living that’s wearing ‘I’’ve travelled’ on its (designer) sleeve. African Leather’s wow factor is, quite frankly, it’s difference to any fragrance out there at the moment. It’s contrasts and juxtapositions of finesse and rawness give an edge to what is really a very complex and superior work from Massenet and Molloy. This may just topple Lalibela as Memo’s biggest seller.
Memo release African Leather in October 2015 available from www.harveynichols.com priced £168 (75ml)