“Superstitious” Alber Elbaz par Frederic Malle


Notes: jasmine, rose, peach, amber, incense, vetiver, patchouli, and aldehydes.

I was very excited for this newest edition curated by Monsieur Frederic Malle. It seems that this one is a similar idea to the Dries Van Noten collaboration from 2014. I loved Alber Elbaz’s work for Lanvin (and I would love for him to take over at Chanel but Uncle Karl seemingly will never leave us). However, I was wary when I read about the aldehydes in the fragrance. Make no mistake, Fragrantica might list aldehydes last in the notes for Superstitious, but this fragrance is all about the aldehydes. They are present from start to finish. And, dare I say it? This might be the scent that finally inspires me to love aldehydes and the way they show up on my skin.

I’ve noticed quite a few commenters on Fragrantica mentioning that the aldehydes in Superstitious have a clean laundry feel. This is not quite the case for me. The aldehydes definitely have a clean feel, but it’s more crisp and cool, not laundry soft. I find that there’s a biting edge to the opening here. It’s not a sharp citrus note, nor is it refreshing. It’s metallic without coming across as too harsh or chemical. This gives Superstitious a modern feel right away. It’s almost as if the fragrance is winking at you (like that eye on the bottle) saying this could be a vintage fragrance in the style of a classic Lanvin, but those modern aldehydes jump out at you, saying otherwise. I notice the jasmine appearing in the opening as well, white and luminous, to soften the aldehydes just a touch. This is possibly one of the most difficult openings I’ve ever tried to describe, as it’s very abstract. And I get the feeling that the abstraction was done very much on purpose.

Something else I’ve noticed from the comments on Fragrantica is the endless comparisons to the Grande Dame of the Frederic Malle collection, Portrait of a Lady. It’s inevitable, given the fact that Dominique Ropion composed both scents, and the similar rose and patchouli notes. (Although I have to be honest, the rose is undetectable to me here). Some people don’t feel Superstitious is really different enough to stand apart from Portrait of a Lady, and the rich patchouli in the heart admittedly is extremely similar. If Portrait of a Lady is your all-time signature scent, I understand that you might not get much out of Superstitious. Portrait of a Lady is an ode to a classic novel and is a beautiful expression of perfumery. Superstitious, on the other hand, is kind of an oddity. It’s like an ode to classic perfumery with a pastiche of modern elements mixed in.

If the opening was difficult to describe, the base is where things really get mixed up. The patchouli of the heart notes makes Superstitious a gorgeous warm and rich fragrance and, again, it’s almost in the vein of a delicious vintage Lanvin scent. The incense note starts to come in towards the base. It blends with the patchouli and weaves in and out, disappearing and reappearing again. It’s very seductive. There is something else noticeable too, and here is where I will link kafkaesque’s write-up of Superstitious because it’s a great piece of writing and because reading this helped me figure out the base notes here. When first testing Superstitious, I detected something screechy and chemical in the dry down. I wondered if it was the aldehydes turning on me, but this note is not the dry, crisp metallic edge of the opening. As kafka explains, it’s Ropion’s white musk making an appearance in the base. I’ve had similar experiences with white musk in other compositions, hence its status as one of my least favorite base materials. Fortunately, there is so much going on in this composition that the white musk doesn’t derail the whole fragrance for me.

Overall, Superstitious is a gorgeous, inventive, and sometimes puzzling perfume. It’s absolutely worth testing. Whether it’s worth purchasing is another question. The 100 ml bottle of Superstitious is up to $370. I would love to own this bottle with the chic design by Alber Elbaz, but it would be pretty hard for me to justify at this price point. There is always the travel spray, but even that is expensive for a small amount. Undina and I have talked about this in the comments on other posts, but it really is such a shame that niche price points keep rising higher and higher with no end in sight. Putting aside the idea of “exclusivity,” I’m afraid some of these brands will price themselves out of being relevant. I love Superstitious in all its abstract strangeness. But when you think about the price point, it’s very difficult.


Les Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle are available in the US from Barneys and Nordstrom. You can also purchase directly from Frederic Malle. I purchased a sample of Superstitious from Surrender to Chance. I plan to finish up my sample and purchase a decant. I won’t have the chic bottle design, but it’s the more reasonable option.

Both the image and info on notes are from Fragrantica.