Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Ma Griffe by Carven

A spicy, floral, dry and fragrant chypre with a subtle leather accord.

One of the great scents created in the 20th century.

The name translates to "My Mark" or "My Stamp." It is young, crisp and fresh.

Turin gave it 3 stars, named it a "green chypre," and saluted its "Miss Moneypenny spinsterish loveliness."

Barbara Herman found it "more wearable than either Cabochard or Bandit."

It was once dubbed "the prostitute's perfume." The combination of cinnamon and galbanum gives it a bright, crisp green note.

Top notes: Galbanum, Clary Sage, Bergamot, Citronnel
Heart notes: Gardenia, Jasmine, Ylang, Rose, Orris, Muguet
Base notes: Cinnamon, Tonka, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Styrax, Oakmoss, Musk, Benzoin, Labdanum

Wonderful for women of any age, who are young at heart.
16th October, 2014
Pursuing vintage perfume has its difficulties. Date? Formulation? Provenance? Concentration? At the heart of the matter is a question that can be asked of every perfume, whether vintage or current. It's a variation on the 'does one ever swim in the same river twice' chestnut: does one ever smell the same perfume twice?  Is my new bottle of Mitsouko the same perfume as my last bottle? Is Mitsouko Mitsouko? It's a high-school philosophy survey course sort of dilemma.

The problem with vintage perfume has to do with expectation. What do you expect from your ebay perfume purchase?  If it is a greater authenticity than a contemporary bottle offers you, be prepared to smell the disappointment.

Ma Griffe is my instructor on the topic. I've smelled 3 vintage versions made in the 1970s to 1990s and they all smell largely the same to me. Powdery and buttery, green but vague. Weak, indistinct, uninteresting.

This is the powerhouse green locomotive from 1947?  The legend that paved the way for the commanding green chypres of the mid-late 20th century? Of course it isn't. I'll never really know what the old girl smelled like in her heyday. I wasn't there in 1947, and to smell a bottle of Ma Griffe in 2014 that might have been produced in the 1970s can't compare. If you're chasing the authentic experience, like a junkie chasing that first high, it’ll feel like a hint of a memory. Like a dream at the tip of your mind's tongue.

So what to do?  Consensus is that the current Ma Griffe is rubbish and vintage is unreliable at best. Buying vintage doesn't usually give you the option of sampling or testing a perfume in advance of purchase. It's a stab in the dark.

So Ma Griffe is dead to me. It is the plight of perfumery and the perfume lover that over the course of time even iconic, seminal fragrances will go away. We blame IFRA compliance for reformulation, but forget to consider that the loss of past perfumes is inherent in the form. I enjoy the discussion of perfumery and the language that it prompts us to create. As for Ma Griffe, I'll have to be content with viewing from the sidelines of the debate. I'll never smell the perfume.

Still, it's worth it to have the discussion, don't you think?
19th June, 2014
This is for the vintage perfume

It opens up a bitter, dry aldehydic green, that unfortunately resembles the smell of the inside of my dad's Volvo Amazon in the sixties, a smell that always made me a little nauseous (is it the asafoetida that produces this effect?). It stays that way for a long time, and then dries down into a warm, spicy base that is rather pleasant. Lastly comes the woody base that lingers forever.

Launched (from airplanes over Paris) in 1946, Ma Griffe was the "it" scent for young people back in the fifties - rebellious and ground breaking. In our own fruity/floral times it might be considered too sharp and dry. Still, it is a classic and well worth a thumbs up for the quality of the ingredients and the originality of the composition (by perfumer Jean Carles, himself anosmic by the time he made it).
04th June, 2014
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I'm a guy and I'm wearing Ma Griffe right now and I love it. It is a GREEN green floral with one of the strangest notes in it that I've ever smelled. I can only describe it as "garlic-ey" and it must be the unusual asafoetida infusion. It is a "foul smelling" resin from a plant in the parsley family and much like civet and other types of binders that smell horrid by themselves--it combines with the other elements to heighten and enrich them.
Ma Griffe is a stand alone concoction. At once familiar and at twice; strange. A weird, exotic beauty that speaks of Old World European sophistication; but remains wild and woody. To paraphrase the old commercial: Made for a Woman, but strong enough for a Man.
04th April, 2013
I admit I inherited my grandmother's spray EDT...but she was NOT the stereotypical grandmother.

She was "high style", as much as she could accomplish in Indiana, a woman who looked snappy in the late 50's in stadium pumps, black & white jewelry & checkered jackets. Ma Griffe was the perfect fresh, powdery, but not sentimental scent for when I wore it later I could hear her laugh & see her shrug her shoulders....

I tend to wear somewhat more oriental or smoky scents in fall & winter, somewhat less "powder" in summer..more citrus & watery..

but I enjoyed wearing her scent, especially dressed up for daytime!
21st June, 2012
this was the first "grown-up" scent I bought, on a trip to Paris in 1972 before my French 'A' levels. I bought it together with "Jolie Madame" but I haven't bought that one again. Ma Griffe has stayed with me through all my love affairs and experiments with scents. It's a real "French Perfume" that conjures up the excitement I felt on a cultural trip to Paris. There will never be another like it. I've never been able to pick out the individual notes, it's just the story of my life!
20th May, 2012
jujy54 Show all reviews
United States
I'm wondering if what belleotero referes to as "meaty floral" is the asafoetida note. I have two Ma Griffes, an EDT that has that meaty floral (I would add "rotten") note, and one that doesn't. The one that doesn't has the modern stylized "C" spiraling around the cap, so I suspect it is newer. Regarding to older, rottener one, I just can't get past that opening. It messes me up.
22nd December, 2011
Some say there is a new version of Ma griffe? If so, pity. I doubt any reformulation could beat the classic Ma griffe. I love it's very diversified olactive pyramid:

Head notes: aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, asafoetida, clary sage and citruses
Heart notes: oris, orange blossom, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, rose
Base notes: labdanum, sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, oakmoss, vetiver, styrax

Oakmoss and vetiver, a great combination, often make for dark perfumes but Ma griffe remains a rather fresh and fruity chypre. At first, I thought this was almost a masculine vetiver-based EDT. However, the numerous floral notes plus the aldehydes has a "feminizing" effect on the whole composition which makes it a little harder for a man to wear. The first whiff when freshly applied has a short-lived bubble-gummy quality but as soon as the dry-down process begins, a rich green and woody base starts to emerge. Superb fragrance.
18th November, 2011
Oh, yes *sniffs it again* this is the parfum I was looking for!

Lovers of vintage classics like Nuit de Noel and Emeraude take note: Here's one more to hunt down and treasure.

This is what a fur coat should smell like. This is what MONEY should smell like.
29th June, 2011
I don't think my nose gets along very well with greens or chypres in general...I've yet to find one that I'm crazy about. I bought this and wore it a few times, but just couldn't get over the sharp bite of its opening notes. I did like the soft, powdery dry-down. I gave it to my aunt and she loved it!

27th March, 2011

Ma Griffe opens crisp and lush of Green Notes caresses
your senses of different shades though light and dark
swirls vibrantly like an Rousseau painting primal and
instinctive from the surface the opening gives an impression of innocence and the green notes adds that
metaphor as we walk further into the Ma Griffe Greenhouse the air becomes thicker and the floral becomes deeper The note of Peach steeps though the
air like a sensual Verita; Rose adds an velvety touch
to this dualistic scent Orris brings the earthy side
and nocturnal jasmine closes the middle with an green
herbal smell; The drydown turn Ma Griffe uninhibited
and Primal; Labdanum with a mixture of Civet adds a
Animalistic spirit Cinnamon brings depth and a bit of an edge; Watered musk dilutes the volume but noticible.

Ma Griffe dries to a dark and esoteric finish of
styrax and dry sandalwood,This scent is a Chameleon
crisp and green at the opening deep and reseinous
drydown, i would love this if it wasn't a bit cloying
but still a nice perfume i would give this
3 out of 5 Stars.
19th March, 2011
Perhaps it's the old vintage bottle, but this, in EdC strength, is not really green on me at all. I get a fleshy, almost meaty floral that is somehow fruity in its sweetness -- I think this is the ylang ylang -- not a fruit note per se. There is some powder too. A bit of cinnamon? It reminds me of Opium, in fact, but much less complex -- I sometimes layer it with Opium EdT. I tend to get tired of the fleshy-floral stage, which is somewhat insistent on me ... I love the soft, longlasting vanillic drydown.
21st October, 2010
I found a large, older bottle of this at a charity shop and got it for 99 cents. I decided I would wear it on the weekends while I save up for the big bottle of escale de portofino. Hmmmm. I like it. A flock of old ladies flew out of the bottle and started knocking me around with their powder puffs for a few minutes, but after they settled down, it got very nice. I put it in the refrigerator for upcoming hot days. I think of this as a cotton, linen and face powder scent
20th April, 2010
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Vintage versus reformulation. (refinements to this review to come)

Vintage: More powdery top notes, a tiny bit of citrus/bermagot. Sweet and dry.

Followed by the floral heart. Jasmine and gardenia and ylang-ylang for sure in the vintage. WIth the powdery undertone.

Basenotes ... the cinnamon (very light) tonka bean and vetiver start fairly quickly on me (dryish skin) and are pleasant. As they develop the powderiness that was present in the top persists, which may be the "old-fashioned" element to this scent.

I would not wear this every day, but it is lovely in its own way.

Now: the reformulation: aldehyde heavy, not as powdery. Almost eye-watering in comparison to the vintage. Not as refined, but not awful.

The reform. heart is still aldehydic and not as "pretty" floral as the vintage. As the heart develops it smells a bit more like the vintage, but there is a "darker" note to it that says to me the base is coming through.

The base...a heavier cinnamon hit, still a vibrant greenness to the scent. This vibrancy persists without the powderiness of the vintage, and makes the drydown softer, a little "darker"... and more modern than the original.

I like it, and could see wearing this.

(the ideal combo? A spray of each, on alternate wrists. It "vibrates". The strong aldehydes of the new and the powdery top of the old... the more beautiful heart of the old... accented by the sharpness of the new... the powdery base of the old with the dark shimmering softness of the new. IMO, that works.)
16th March, 2010
BayKAT Show all reviews
United States
I found a sample of htis in a hole in the wall store at the mall. I tried it on my wrist, and before I got home decided to buy a full bottle (Parfum de toilette)

Ma Griffe is a real chamelion. Sometimes it is dainty and sweet, like Princess Di on her wedding day. Sometimes it is edgy and sharp, like Lady Di when she became a cultural sensation. And sometimes it just plain bold and out there, like Grand Diva Di when she finally came into her own.

But in the end, this is one green chypre that has earned it's place as the Queen of People's fragrant hearts. It's just a classic and I can't imagine myself without it.
19th February, 2010 (last edited: 26th March, 2010)
What's that you're wearing? You smell like washing up liquid! my husband said. It was no such thing as Fairy liquid, it was Ma Griffe.

The opening is indeed very citrusy green, and it goes on for quite a while on my skin, making me feeling very fresh and clean. The drydown is a typical, old fashioned chypre drydown, exactly the way it should be done. It's a very classy fragrance, perfect for all occasions.

Needless to say, I like it so much more than my hubby does. I'm not sure though that it's that great on my skin, but I can appreciate it as a good scent.
07th February, 2010
I asked my son what this smells of to him. He replied 'it smells like the shade of a green tree on a hot day'. He is right. I wear this on the very hottest, most humid and unforgiving days and it refreshes and enlivens me. Its cool, green crispness creates a psychological reprieve from the worst our summer has to offer.
18th December, 2009
This is both a review and a memory. "Ma Griffe" means "my signature" -- and this has been my signature since about 1972 when I was 16! It was the second perfume I fell head over heels for, and unlike my other youthful follies, has not only stayed in production (though hard to find), it has stayed a favorite. I probably first experienced it when visiting my favorite aunt in San Francisco in the 60's. I didn't know it, but Ma Griffe was her signature scent too. In about 1972, Carven advertised it with one of the first "scratch and sniff" strips I had ever seen. It opened worlds to me -- very few commercial fragrances appeal to me with any immediacy, and I have never liked heavy sweet florals or orientals -- this was completely different. I didn't know from perfume descriptions at the time, but I thought the green packaging was perfect, and I described the scent to others as green -- there is an instinctive element to our adjectives. I carried that little strip in my wallet for weeks until I could find and get the scent for myself. My mother (sister of the SF aunt) was amazed that out of all the perfumes in the world, I would identify with her sister's scent, I always reminded my mom of her sister's personality. To this day if she smells me wearing Ma Griffe she will remark on her sister, who passed years ago. It is described here as old fashioned, but to me it is modern in it's distinctiveness and at every level has a lovely surprise, nothing like any of the more recent trends that have played out. For all it's green springtime freshness, there's something a little... risky, for lack of a better word ... underneath it all, perhaps the cinnamon, which adds a bite and keeps the floral notes from being sicky sweet. "Ma Griffe" also means, literally, "My Claws" in French. That is also part of the spice. MEOW!
17th December, 2009
A clean smell suggestive of early spring.
Many compliments on this. The bottle is
a keeper too so it makes for a lovely gift.
14th September, 2009
tanto Show all reviews
United States
To me, this scent reminds me of my mom's friend who back in the late 50's was a model for Dior. She was a lovely woman and every time she came from France to visit, she would bring my mom a bottle of Diorling and Ma Griffe. My mom wore Me Griffe all of the time. I remember it to be a very pleasing, clean kind of a scent and never "over bearing". Things were different back then and I am sure that Ma Griffe has been changed from its original formulation.
19th January, 2009
I read White Oleandar, in which Astrid (main character) idolizes and befriends a wealthy, elegant, old world sort of beautiful prostitute next door. Olivia (this prostitute) wears Ma Griffe, and what it means in the novel is profound. Fitch makes the scent seem almost magical. Ever since, I have wanted Ma Griffe (along with Penhaligan's Victorian Posy, the perfume Olivia gave Astrid) for my very own. So when I saw this on the internet at the bargain basement price of $21.95, I had to have it.

I have heard it has been reformulated for the U.S. market. This is the version I purchased. Even though I hear the original is much better, I am very pleased with this one. At first, I wanted it only for my collection, but now I wear it all the time. This has been my experience.

The bottle is very nice, much nicer than the picture on the internet. In reality, The liquid is a very faint green with a green glass platform that makes the entire base reflect green. It is glass while the top is plastic, and in the center of the cap is an encased riveted gold rod with a C (for carven) on top.

The smell was a bit surprising to me. It is woodsy, mossy, a tad soapy... as if you were in the woods somewhere on a rich estate in Europe sometime in the distant past. Think Atonement (movie or book).Then it dries to a softer, more powdery fragrance... less sharp, more intimate and refined, like the Victorian Era. The base smells like a secret. I'm really not sure if I could explain it any other way. In a few days, it was a new favorite.

I'm not sure if this has happened to anyone else, but I'm extremely sensitive to smell. For some reason, the smell of this sharpens color for me in the sun. I can see color in a much more vivid, observant light on a sunny day, although it seems to have no effect on me indoors. It also calmed me down quite a bit. I had been stressed all day, and when I put this on, it all melted away.

A great thing about this scent is the fact that it has all natural fragrances of "essential oils", which means it won't give you a headache. You know that feeling you get when the person next to you has on way too much cologne? This won't happen with this scent since the ingredients are natural: you won't repel people, even if you take a bath in it. Well, maybe if you take a bath in it. But you get the idea.

Also, the boyfriend likes it. He can't smell me enough when I'm wearing this:] And why do we wear perfume, other than to attract other people?

This scent is also nice in every situation, every age, every setting. It's subtle yet unforgettable, elegant, and independent in a demure and relaxed, unoffensive sort of way. To me, it says the wearer is completely comfortable being exactly what they are. Ma Griffe in french means "my signature". And this is exactly what this scent is.
19th September, 2008
This smelled like a mens bathroom on me. I'm not even joking, this was the conclusion of more then one. It was horrid. It actualy made me choke throughout.

It would smell cinnamon & good for about 5 seconds & then go back to that sage & aldehyde mess. I ordered a vintage bottle, it might be off, but pee & cheap cleansing products is not a classic to me.
I will try this again though!
14th September, 2008
This one took a little while to grow on me. At first sniff, I thought it smelled like some cheap hairspray I used to use in high school. Somewhere on the 4th or 5th wearing, though . . . WOW!

I purchased a small decant just to try but I think I'll be getting a full bottle soon. Very green and fresh on me, with good persistance. A nice change of pace from the fruity florals that seem to dominate my workplace. So old it smells new again.
27th August, 2008
This scent conjures up vivid memories of my grandparents beach house, so how could I not like it? Delightful childhood summer memories aside, though, it's a bit too powdery on me. Obviously, this is a summer scent for me, but a spritz in the air can evoke warm weather even when it's cold out.
27th August, 2008
dagmar Show all reviews
United States
I bought a bottle blind of this and am so disappointed that it disagreed with me. I tried so hard to like it, even tried it on my husband but -- just no. There is just a strong something -- or some memory of someone -- that is making it impossible for me to love, or even tolerate. So sad because the name, the history, the style, the bottle, even the font, is so great. Boo hoo.
04th July, 2008
Ma Griffe is an pleasant soapy chypre that iseems like a younger, more innocent cousin to Ivoire. The most dominant notes are vetiver, galbanum, moss and gardenia (just a hint). Ma Griffe is a lady-like scent that I'm not sure that I would really want to wear as it has an inescapable old fashioned aspect to it. To my nose, there are a lot better smelling, more interesting perfumes out there than Ma Griffe.
25th April, 2008

Ma Griffe is an excellent green chypre that I have been familiar with for years – I had a couple of aunts who wore this. I don't believe that the modern version smells as good as the one I remember – those reformulation issues, you know. This latest PDT version of Ma Griffe is still very nice, though. It opens with a strong aldehydic green – I get no florals in the opening, and I find the accord very refreshing and bright. It immediately settles down and soon the gardenia and jasmine emerge carrying with them their strong indole notes, and the indoles are definitely welcome in the mixture. The heart notes are quite floral but they manage to present themselves without becoming at all flowery. Of the florals, it is strongest with gardenia and ylang-ylang, and here, especially, is where the modern version of Ma Griffe isn’t as good as the original. Except for the assertive indoles, Ma Griffe is a rather delicate fragrance. It still has superior longevity, and remains charming and unique. (Edit of March 10, 2008 review.)

10th March, 2008 (last edited: 18th June, 2009)
I have worn this on and off all my life I think it is a "summer" scent and it reminds me of the sun, it is both a crisp cool and warm smell, I own vintage and new editions and they are similar although the old has more depth as if it uses more expensive ingredients, it is a classic that everyone should have in a collection.
14th December, 2007
This scent is Florence in the summer, a fountain of cool and green deliciousness.
06th December, 2007
I like soapy, but I found this pervasively so. Perhaps I tested it from an "off" bottle?

Not quite like others have described it to me...Im not so sure how to describe it myself for that matter.

To put it simply, I truly believe that this is a fragrance where, when applied, a person's individual body chemistry either "makes or breaks" the scent.

On my skin, it's soapy, with a sizzling sharp openning. On my girlfriend, it is soapy, but also quite floral, with a warm, unsweetened cinnamon stick, fresh from the spicer's, rushing through a power-punch-packing dry, green aldehyde, creating an aldehydic, green, soapy and spicy confusion.

I can't put my finger on what exactly I think of the perfume. So until the day I can express something more substantive, I will relegate it to the purgatory that is "neutral"...
06th December, 2007