There’s nothing we love better than a fresh new fragrance, and when it’s produced by the French heritage brand Parfums de Marly, it’s hard to top. There was quite a bit of buzz around the release of Althair, so I was excited to give it a try, especially following the success of some of the earlier scents by PdM, such as Valaya, Delina, Sedbury, Kalan, and Pegasus.
First Impressions of Althaïr
This was created to be a masculine scent, but many people consider it unisex, and I expect a confident woman could easily make it her own. Like the earlier scents, Althaïr’s packaging is luxurious and high-end, inviting a multisensory experience. The creator, Julien Sprecher, wanted to create the scent based on a specific pigment.
He housed this tribute to bourbon vanilla in an amber, autumn-aligned bottle. It also comes fitted with a leather casing for the bottle, which adds to its overall masculine elegance. The name means ‘flying eagle,’ and it is also the name of the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila.
What is the journey like?
This scent was designed to be of a gourmand nature. From start to finish, that’s what you get. Upon the first spritz, you encounter an amber-woody base and light top notes of orange blossom, bergamot, and Ceylon cinnamon. Heart notes bring bourbon vanilla – again, gourmand is the idea – and elemi. The base notes include guaiac wood, ambrofix, praline, and musk.
“Althaïr explores a majestic, subtle and surprisingly fresh vanilla that is elegant, generous and charismatic.” Julien Sprecher, Founder and Artistic Director of Parfums de Marly.
When it hits your nose, you immediately pick up the intrinsic sweetness. That’s the bourbon vanilla, the cardamom, and the ambrofix – but it’s very elevated and exceptionally well-balanced. As intended, you feel transported to ages that have long since passed, as Sprecher has somehow managed to capture their scent. Created collaboratively by Julien Sprecher and perfumers Hamid Merati-Kashani and Ilias Ermenidis, Althaïr boasts a captivating contrast between traditional and disruptive notes, delivering distinct opulence.
Bourbon vanilla is a select ingredient with a particular tie to the period that inspired this scent. The kind used for Althaïr is a direct descendant of the variety introduced during the reign of Louis XV and his perfumed court. This type of vanilla is now being cultivated on the island of Madagascar in an entirely ethical, sustainable, and traceable way.
Parfums de Marly finds its inspiration in the French Royal Court of the 18th Century. Many consider this time the golden age of fine perfumery in France. Their name comes from the Château de Marly, a favorite residence of King Louis XV, who was famous among other European monarchies of the time for maintaining ‘la cour parfumée‘ – the perfumed court.
The king so loved fine fragrances that he expected a different scent for his apartments every day, while streams of perfumes had to flow from the royal fountains and enrich the court air. Drawing its inspiration from this dazzling period, Parfums de Marly revives and updates this tradition of exceptional perfumery under the creative control of experts to reflect modernity with a clear concept of aesthetics.
How does it last?
Parfums de Marly has a reputation for producing scents that perform well, and this is no exception. Althaïr lasts 10-12 hours on the skin. You get around 4 hours of decent projection until it gives off a soft beam about an arm’s length from the wearer. My husband spritzed it in the morning, and I still smelled it on him the next day.
What’s the verdict?
I cannot remember seeing him react to a scent like he did to Althaïr – it was instant infatuation. H is always complaining of struggling to choose a scent because it’s usually either too floral or too spicy. Althaïr, on the other hand, is so well-balanced that it’s hard to identify one distinct ingredient over the other. He described it as unique, a mix he had never experienced. It’s a scent that makes the wearer stand out in a crowd.
Yes, it’s sweet, but it’s not aggressive. There is also a light chalkiness, along with smoky, creamy notes. Some may consider it a bit strong for the day, especially as it travels and lasts most of the day. I think as long as you keep it light, you’ll be the best-smelling human in the room.
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What makes bourbon vanilla stand out the way it does in Althaïr?
Some cultures consider it an aphrodisiac, while others prize it for soothing, comforting properties that alleviate tension and stress. Vanilla’s round, warm, and gentle notes make it an extremely precious raw material. Perfumers even refer to it as “black gold.”
Explorers brought this ingredient back from Mexico at the end of the 18th century. Growers introduced bourbon vanilla in the greenhouses at Versailles at the same time as cocoa. Interestingly, perfumers extract it from the pod of a plant that resembles the orchid. By some accounts, Madame de Pompadour would slip some into her chocolate before rendezvousing with the King.
Where do I find it?
Althair is available on Parfums de Marly’s online store at $350 for the 125ml option. You can further snag both the 75ml and the 125ml from Skins Cosmetics and other niche perfume houses, available both in-store and online.