I admit that I was rooting for Dans Tes Bras to be a winner even before I’d smelled it, because it’s considered the edgiest entry in a brand that focuses on giving us the most super rich, but straight-forward versions of single notes or styles. I kind of like the idea of the quirky one in the bunch being a soul match for me. I had smelled it briefly on a trip to Brussels and in a flurry of twenty other fragrances all competing for nose space, its pale, violet-tinged reticence intrigued me. But when I ordered a sample to investigate further, I discovered certain problems with it.
First of all, the weirdness of the fragrance – which comes from the interplay of the loudly synthetic elements (cashmeran, a woody-ambery sandalwood amplifier like ebanol or javanol) and natural-smelling green and floral elements (violets, heliotrope, I think mint or something aqueous) – does not go nearly far enough to catch my attention. It's weird, but not weird enough.
I’ve been playing around a lot lately with M/Mink, and although I’m not sure I like it enough to buy it, I find that the line between industrial and natural in that scent constantly shifts around, so all my attention is bound up in trying to unwrap the elements from each other. Dans Tes Bras, in comparison, has a little oddness to it, yes, but doesn't carry it forward in any compelling way. Once you’ve identified the elements at work to produce that salty, green, musky tinge it carries, the fragrance has nothing left to show you. It doesn’t help that it becomes ever more synthetic in feel as the day wears on, developing a soapy, shrill accent that runs perilously close to Windex or windscreen wiper fluid.
Now, I don’t mind references to industrial or bathroom products if they’re paired to really natural, earthy notes in a conscious effort to ground them – the bleach and toner ink played against dry patchouli and honey in M/Mink, for example. In Dans Tes Bras, though, the functional product notes are too unadorned, and I don’t find it pleasant to catch whiffs of Windex as I’m moving around the house. As a busy mum whose fragrances often encounter cruel treatment at the hands of washing up liquid, hand-soap, and latex gloves, I’d rather not cultivate that aura deliberately.
The clincher in the deal, though, was Dans Tes Bras’ eventual resemblance to Dries Van Noten, in particular that nutty, sawdusty sandalwood in combination with the “poured concrete” fuzziness of cashmeran. Dans Tes Bras is saltier and more floral, and Dries Van Noten more vanillic, milky, but ultimately they share that same cashmere-blanket level of blandness that I just cannot appreciate. My apathy comes partly from the fact that it all melds into one pale mass, with nothing differentiating one note from another, other than an abstract impression of something salty, like licking minerals off a sunny rock. In the end, it smells pleasant but banal, like the scent of eye drops or miscellar water squirted onto a cotton wool ball.
To sum up for you lazy bastards who didn’t make through all of that (TL:DR), Dans Tes Bras is not weird enough to be interesting, and not beautiful enough to lust after for beauty’s sake.
I like this one. It's wearable. It smells modern and comfortable, mixing synthetic and natural ingredients reminiscent of the Guerlain Samsara I tried recently: adding synthetic flair to sandalwood and jasmine; in this case with a hint of a smell I associate with the color green: a floral smell that seems to include the stems.
Well, despite I really, deeply dislike this brand, its approach to perfumery and its utter pretentiousness, I must admit Dans tes Bras is probably one of the nicest offerings by Malle (that says it all). Still dull for its price range and with a quite mediocre evolution, but well, there’s worse than this. It opens as a laid-back, cozy, simple yet quite refined and clean – a soapy, warm, talc and soothing kind of “clean” - powdery scent which blends a sparkling bergamot head accord, a rich, pastel lavender-violet-heliotrope heart and a smooth, warm musky-vanillic base enriched by Oriental notes of (I think) tonka and soft woods – for once, I clearly get a decent sandalwood reconstruction, with its proper “milky soapiness”, refreshed by an edgy note of cedar. All tinged with a very pleasant and subtle whiff of earthiness, avoiding any plushy-sweetish gourmand effect often associated to this type of compositions. On the contrary, Dans tes Bras feels initially very airy and actually quite simple too, with no traces of the “complex sumptuosity” that you often find in this type of Oriental powdery scents. Synthetic as hell, but well played.
So, a classy and affable Oriental cloud of talc at first, with powdery-floral-woody notes a bit in the vein of Villoresi Teint de Neige, or Boucheron Jaipur, with quite some differences though: smoother, cleaner, way simpler, much fresher, less sweet and completely “un-spicy”, more focused on gentle notes of violet and heliotrope paired with crisp woods and pine-infused balsamic notes of lavender. I really appreciate the initial herbal-balsamic vein which brings in a touch of “fresh air” and makes Dans tes Bras smell like a weightless, almost “healing” interpretation of a classic powdery Oriental floral scent. It feels extremely soapy and comforting to wear, and it performs quite well, with a transition towards a drier, earthier... and sadly, so much more mediocre drydown, which just like a beautifully painted Barocque trompe l’oeil concealing your crappy toilet, reveals the “hidden nature” of this fragrance: a flat, extremely synthetic base of “white flowers”, musky violet and generic “soft woods”. Not abysmal, but it’s always disappointing to see some “magic” vanish away so soon, especially if you’ve just spent a hell lot of money for it. I wonder if niche brands work with marketing agencies providing them with reports calculating the average time a customer needs to try a scent, complete the decision process and pay for it, and compose their scents accordingly. The transition is truly sudden here – from an almost-very-good fragrance to a cheap fabric softener.
Nonetheless, despite the disappointing evolution, I don’t feel bashing this scent. Or well, just a tiny bit. Even if it smells more and more cheap as minutes pass, it still keeps a pleasant presence on skin. So overall I would surely consider this not full bottle worthy at that price, not even half of it, but if you get it as a gift and you inexplicably resist to the temptation of making some good money out of it, I guess it can be nice to spray this for a sunny morning out for grocery shopping – completely pointless, but I guess it’s the kind of nonsense bourgeois “shabby chic” acts many Malle’s customers love.
A soft, intellectual-type of fragrance..
With this fragrance, Frédéric Malle brought back Maurice Roucel (creator of Musc Ravageur) to make a scent which captured the smell of warm skin... salty, warm and sensual. To do this, Roucel used a lot of Cashmeran®, a synthetic compound which smells like soft wood, sweet almonds, warm spices and light musk. What you get is a very intimate creation (entirely synthetic), but very sensual.
It works on two levels I think. One as a powdery, purple floral type (violet flowers, heliotrope, hints of jasmine), the other as a darker woody, musky, almost mineral-like fragrance (with Cashmeran®, White Musk, Incense, Patchoulli and Pine needles). I think the combination of these two levels (sweet & powdery vs dark, earthy & woody) is what confuses people when experiencing it.
To my nose this comes across mainly as a sweet, musky, earthy, violet & heliotrope type of perfume. It basically has a warm, musky powdery vibe which could work on either a man or a woman. I would say this reminds me a lot of a cashmere sweater, worn in winter by the fire. I see this as a perfect cold weather fragrance. Also, like many of Frédéric Malle perfumes, a little goes a long way. This would certainly last for a very long time if sprayed on a scarf or a sweater or any other material... and I think it would definitely compliment autumn and winter clothing very well.
I'll be honest, Dans Tes Bras is not a perfume to be fully understood at first sniff. It took me a long time to understand and warm up to it. This is why I call it an "intellectual" perfume, because once you realise how cleverly this is made, you really start to appreciate it even more. Nearly all the notes are synthetic, but they are very expensive and the perfume as a whole is extremely well made, but can be complex to a lot of people who don't have too much experience with a wide variety of perfumes. Synthetic notes, when used in the hands of a master perfumer like Maurice Roucel or Jean-Claude Ellena can influence incredible perfumes and make them works of art. Therefore there is no shame in buying a perfume that has a high concentration of synthetic notes (like in Dans Tes Bras) but especially when used so cleverly and inventively by the perfumer as to give you something really amazing to wear.
Even though I refer to Dans Tes Bras as an "intellectual" type of fragrance, I don't think you really need to have an incredibly advanced range of smell to appreciate this one. I think most people would see this as a sweet, musky, powdery scent (which is warm and sensual and expensive smelling). Another group of people may find it too dark and earthy and "weird" if they are not used to it. From my own experience, I've found that you actually need to give this one time on your skin, and a few wearings in the right amounts, that's when you can really start to appreciate it... and if you research how cleverly this has been created, you will perhaps understand and maybe appreciate it even more.
Get a small sample, wear it sparingly over a few days in the right weather, and see if you like it. Upon wearing this, you may get the impression of being in a deep, warm hug with someone you love. After all... it's name, Dans Tes Bras means In Your Arms.
Congratulations to Maurice Roucel! His Dans Tes Bras for Frederic Malle wins my award for Weirdest Top Note in Recent Memory: mushrooms. Not earthy forest-floor-and-compost mushrooms, either. Nope. These are cultivated mushrooms – the ones that come pre-sliced in the produce section of your local supermarket. Heck, I can even smell the little cardboard cartons that they come packed in. The much commented upon and peculiar “hairspray” top notes of Roucel’s Insolence have nothing on this oddball opening gambit.
The mushrooms dominate for roughly half an hour before a slightly sweet, aldehydic (or is that salicylate-seasoned) violet accord partially displaces them. The dank, musty echo of the mushrooms offers an unconventional but effective counterweight to the violets, and keeps Dans Tes Bras from becoming cloying or claustrophobic as some violet-rich scents can be. (Dans Tes Bras’s violet accord is also spiked with a cool, brisk, peppercorn/camphor accent that I’ve caught in Bertrand Duchaufour’s Magnolia Romana and perhaps Serge Lutens’s recent Serge Noire. Could this be the new niche fragrance note du jour?)
As it evolves, Dans Tes Bras becomes progressively more dry, warm, and woody. After two or three hours there’s very little sweetness remaining – just a shadow of floral notes over velvety-soft woods. The Frederic Malle marketing copy proclaims that Dans Tes Bras is meant to evoke “the odor of warm skin.” I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I will assert that Dans Tes Bras functions as a “skin scent.” While not exactly weak, it is highly transparent and wears very close to the skin.
In temperament and style Dans Tes Bras is about as far removed as possible from Roucel’s first composition for Frederic Malle, the flamboyant and extroverted Musc Ravageur. Where Musc Ravageur is a brash and provocative exhibitionist of a scent, Dans Tes Bras is a guarded, demure, yet mysterious fragrance. Anyone expecting the exuberance of Roucel’s Insolence, Tocade, or Misssoni will be disappointed, but Dans Tes Bras’s understatement mustn’t be confused with blandness. It’s an odd, puzzling, and unique scent, with a decidedly “synthetic” flavor. Not synthetic as in “cheap smelling,” rather synthetic and proud of it. Once the mushroom accord recedes, there’s nothing remotely naturalistic about Dans Tes Bras, and even those photorealistic mushrooms possess an oddly surreal quality.
My lasting impression of Dans Tes Bras is of a subtle, sophisticated, abstract scent that travels far during its development without ever making too much noise. I must also say that why Frederic Malle is marketing it as a feminine fragrance is completely beyond me: Dans Tes Bras is as gender neutral a scent as I have smelled in years.
I should say at the outset that my reason for sampling this was to experience dusky floras expressed in a unisex scent. That, this is not, but it is incredibly good.
Huge floral opening of jasmine, and I thought, heliotrope, although the latter is listed as a base note. I wish I detected more clove. Within the first ten minutes or so, the violets attain prominence and significantly (perhaps unnecessarily) brighten the space. There is a slight suggestion of a candy shell--violet pastilles have been mentioned--throughout the opening, but this is not a candy scent. Palmolive has also been mentioned, and I have to say, I agree, but this is merely a brief detour. Don’t worry about it, it fades within a half-hour or so.
The drydown is something entirely different. The early stage is evocative of the way your partner smells at the end of a day at the beach: traces of salt, sea air, and non-descript lotion smelled close on the body, with perhaps a violet or two blooming a block away. Actually, it’s not merely evocative of this, this is literally what it smells like. Very sensual. A few hours into the drydown, the evolution continues, with the salty edge giving way to a musk that thankfully never dominates, the whole remaining subtle and discreet, yet increasing in sensuality. There has been much talk of scents that smell of sex. This may be one of those, but it is not brash or pornographic, it is soft and intimate, as the name suggests. The heliotrope is very subtle, if present at all. Others have found it overpowering, but that was not my experience. Additionally, the fungal/mushroom/bread notes are not present on me. Longevity is great. Projection and sillage are fairly low, but appropriately so. If they were stronger, it might become vulgar.
Thumbs up for the closely worn beachy and nearly erotic drydown, even though I keep wondering, "do I want to smell like this, or do I want my partner to smell like this?" followed by "does a woman ever want a man to smell like this?" I am still not sure how to answer. I can only say that the fragrance is exceptionally good, irrespective of the wearer's gender. Quite a journey.
27th February, 2013 (last edited: 25th March, 2013)