This is a seriously polarizing fragrance, it seems. Both in the fragrance itself and the way it has since evolved. If you're planning on buying a bottle of this fantastic scent, be aware! The second formulation is a far-cry from its 1994 red-paisley predecessor. The former adds a strange, overwhelming citrus note to the fragrance, and I'd argue those in search for something more haunting and cold may be left disappointed. There's yet a third formulation that I've yet to try but is apparently even further removed from the original.
That aside, the first formulation--which I'm interested in reviewing--is damp, mold, dank incarnate. Think cold stone, still water, moss and mustiness. It's decidedly "wet" and subdued (almost tragically so. I wish this were an edp or it had a bit more sillage or heft) but dries down to an almost sweet incense. This is a NICHE cologne. Not vibrant or palateable to the maintream in the slightest, but I say this in the fondest way possible. I love it. It's the most evocative fragrance I've found in my search for a sombre smell. People have likened it to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, or a Catholic cathedral Mass (Aptly named, Etro.). I'd say that's right on the money. It's a hard find, but honestly worth the search if you have an interest in such a reminiscent smell. I've heard people say nothing comes close to capturing the aforementioned notes like this scent, and in my 30+ sample search for something similar before I finally found Etro's Messe de Minuit eau de cologne, I'm afraid that they're right. It's chilling and perfect.
Messe de Minuit (vintage '90s EDC version) is another peculiar and mysterious scent from the "golden era" of Etro parfums. It opens with a really balsamic, vibrant citrus-herbal accord of aromatic herbs, candied citrus notes which manage to smell sweet and sugary but at the same time much bitter and fresh, on a resinous base of olibanum and "something" which I am unable to identify which smells quite dense, sticky and carnal, like a lighter version of castoreum. The scent is undoubtedly unique and intriguing, it's a dusty, Oriental, mystical blend, really luminous (in a rather unusual way – a "grey morning" transparent luminosity, forget any predictable "summer" light) but at the same time dark. The balsamic is all over: balsamic herbs, balsamic resins, balsamic incense. Finally the sugary feel is also peculiar and compelling, it's not a gourmand sugar and not fruity, it's more a really spicy, resinous, almost "fizzy" sweet note, with just a taste of citrus. A lot of interesting contrasts and nuances going on. In a way it's surely an "incense" scent, although more earthy, organic, spicy, herbal than most of others – plus the incense is resinous, thick, Oriental, so don't think of any dry, synthetic, austere incense à la Avignon (to which Messe de Minuit, at least this early version, has not really much in common). The incense here smells more of dry myrrh, church woods, stale nuances of dusty furniture, old books, with a thin breeze of cold air. It fascinates me a lot how this scent recreates a mystical mood avoiding a bomb of incense, it's rather a really well played harmony of other "ambiental" suggestions – woods, furniture, flowers, dust... really meditative and captivating, surely a memorable and unique fragrance. The only "con" is that it's quite bold and long-lasting, and being fairly peculiar, it may not be the safest scent for a blind buy – in other words, it's not really versatile and "crowd-pleasing", better try it. Surely worth it!
I generally leave reviews to the younger people, but having used the ORIGINAL Messe De Minuit I can assure you that the current formulation is about 1/10 the strength of the original and is an entirely different scent. The reason I am writing is the fact that I'm totally disgusted with the new formula. By the way, if you ask Etro what has changed, they reply "nothing". B.S. !!
This one opens with a peculiar sweet-pungent fruity accord that quickly resolves into sweet spices with honey and a touch of incense. Yes, the effect is "churchy," but also rather gourmand, in an apple spice cake sort of way. The sweetness is tempered by a faint soapy accord in the background, and by a wisp of smoke that accompanies the incense.
This is a dark composition, to my way of thinking, but it's dark like molasses or buckwheat honey, warm, thick, and luxurious. Certainly not austere or "gothic" in any sense.
Messe de Minuit remains fairly linear once its middle notes emerge, finally drying down to a sweet ambery finish. For me the most interesting aspect of this fragrance is the rapid transformation from the almost vinegary, acidic fruit opening to the sweet, smooth heart. Overall, I find it very pleasant, but not terribly compelling.
Divine Midnight Incence
The opening blast is sensational: orange, petitgrain and bergamot with a strong underlying spice blanket. Without further ado a beautiful myrrh comes to the fore, which remains the core of the spice in the drydown, accompanied by a gorgeous cinnamon of the highest class. This myrrh-cinnamon duo is a beautiful combination, and like the pillars of a cathedral it hold the whole fragrance together. In the base labdanum and a musk is added, but towards the end the cinnamon prevails, and the scent becomes lighter and less spicy, as if the showdown gradually resolve. The end is much less dark shows more levity. A wonderful incense scent, with splendid silage and projection, and an excellent longevity on me - around nine hours.