Love and marriage, virginal propriety and lusty naughtiness. Marrions-Nous runs the olfactory gamut from the virginal, cool aloofness of an aristocratic aldehydic floral, through the consummation of lust with darkly skanky notes, before ending with a sigh as creamy smoothness. The fragrance was released by Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“) in 1928 and feels very much a product of its time, a decade when the cool hauteur of Chanel No. 5 had become a runaway hit that revolutionized perfumery, but one in which Josephine Baker also ruled the stage and naughty, animalic seduction was in the air. I find Marrion-Nous to have been influenced by both competing trends, resulting in an elegant fragrance that is one-part aristo in white, one-part Mae West and a Folies Bergère showgirl doing the can-can in black.
Technically, however, Marrions-Nous was inspired by “Gai! Marions-Nous” [“Great! Let’s Get Married”], a successful 1927 novel by Germaine Acrement that later became a famous play. As Oriza explains on its website, the perfume house was moved by the play to make an eau de parfum that was meant to be “an expression of sensory playfulness.” The various notes were intended to be symbolic parallels to the various stages of the romantic process:
Inspired by love and marriage, which are not always related to each other, “Marions-nous” offers the virginal touches of orange blossom, rose, jasmine, and hyacinth.
In an interplay of propriety and informal understandings, the marriage reaches its peak as the heart succumbs to the essences of carnation and iris and the comforting accents of aldehydes and Ylang Ylang.
On the chessboard of Love, mutual consent seals the arrangement… and we slip into the gentle clutches of sweet emotion.
Tonka Beans, Musk Tonkinese accord, Civet, and Sandalwood add their fragrances to the happy ceremony… “Gai! Marions-nous!”
The original press release from Oriza had a few errors in translation, like “orange water” for orange blossom, “cloe” for cloves, and “chive” for civet, but what caught my attention was the mention of “Musk Tonkinese.” That is a form of deer musk, one of the truest and earliest forms used in perfumery, but also one which is now banned for ethical reasons. Oriza tries to make sure that its re-released fragrances are as true as possible to the original formula, but they also carefully follow all modern regulations and laws. There is absolutely no way they would violate the law by using illegal deer musk.
So I wrote to them to ask about the “Musk Tonkinese,” and to see if they had used ambrette seeds and civet as other perfumers have done, like Parfum d’Empire with its Musc Tonkin. And that is precisely the case here. Oriza replaced the now-illegal musk with a mixed accord compromised of civet, ambrette, and smoky styrax resin. Given that the base layer of Marrions-Nous’ perfume pyramid already includes civet, the end result is essentially a double dose of the skanky note.
The complete and corrected list of Marrions-Nous’ notes are as follows:
Top Notes: Orange blossom, Rose, Jasmine, Hyacinth.
Heart Notes: Red Carnation, Cloves, Iris, Aldehydes, Ylang-Ylang.
Base notes: Tonka Bean, Civet, Musk Tonkinese accord [civet, ambrette, and styrax], Sandalwood.
Marrions-Nous opens on my skin with a cool floral-aldehydic bouquet that is strongly reminiscent of the Chanel style, but also contains a dash of DNA from vintage Bal à Versailles. The bouquet consists mainly of fatty aldehydes, orange blossoms, and a heavy dose of carnation, all lightly flecked with jasmine. Tiny drops of rose are sprinkled on top, then the whole thing is nestled within the sheerest cocoon of civet with golden musk. The latter doesn’t feel vegetal the way that ambrette can be, but there is a certain feline, pissy quality from the combination of skanky notes. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, I’d roughly approximate the main elements in the opening to be as follows: the orange blossom at an 8.5; the carnation at an 8; the aldehydes at a 7.5; and the civet and musk accord at a 3.5 or, at best, a 4.
The whole thing is incredibly sheer and light. I started with 3 small spritzes from my slightly wonky, occasionally dribbling atomizer, resulting in about 2 inches of projection but Marrions-Nous felt so translucent that I added another 2 spritzes for good measure. In total, I applied the equivalent of about 2.5 to 3 small sprays from an actual bottle. The increased amount improved the projection to about 3 inches at first, but the perfume still felt extremely gauzy and demure. The more noticeable change, however, was that the aldehydes and civet seemed even stronger.
I’m not a fan of aldehydes. At all. They always turn soapy on my skin, which is why Chanel‘s signature opening of an aldehydic floral bouquet makes me avoid a good number of fragrances from the house. Here, with Marrion-Nous, the aldehydes are soapy, smell a little lemony, and combine with the other elements to smell more and more like something put out by Chanel in the 1920s. Coco released Chanel No. 5 in 1921 and its raging success had made Chanel a very rich woman by 1927, when the Marrions-Nous play inspired Oriza. It is plain beyond words to me that the new Chanel style must have influenced Oriza, just as it had so many other houses. There is nothing wrong with that except, as I said, I am not a fan of Chanel’s signature aesthetic, so none of this was a positive for me personally. I am in a definite minority, though, as people the world over think Chanel No. 5 is an exquisite masterpiece, so I imagine that Marrions-Nous will also be seen as incredibly chic, classic, and elegant.
The resemblance to Chanel No. 5 grows even more pronounced roughly 25 minutes into Marrions-Nous’ development when the jasmine surges to the forefront. The rose and aldehydes are hot on its heels, while the orange blossom and carnation fall back quite noticeably. Out of nowhere, a very floral iris and velvety ylang-ylang dash onto the scene. The end result is a close horse race where all the florals are jockeying for position behind the main trip of aldehydes, jasmine, and rose. The civet and skanky musk connect them all together like thin ribbons around a bouquet.
I may not be a fan of aldehydic florals, but even I will readily admit that there is an effortless chic and sophistication about Marrions-Nous. And it only increases as the perfume further develops. 30 minutes in, the fatty aldehydes start to lose their soapiness and settle into a thin patina of coolness that has a sort of finishing effect on the other notes, much like a Photoshop filter that smoothens out the wrinkles, only this one adds a clean, feminine softness. The end result consistently makes me think of the willowy, cool beauties from the 1920s and 1930s in Edward Steichen’s famous photos; Marrions-Nous seems like something they would wear with regal grace. In fact, I have to say, the perfume’s opening is a much more glamorous, cool, and aloof than I had expected from such a bubbly, bouncy name as “Let’s get married!”
At the end of the first hour, however, Marrions-Nous begins to change and to transition into a very different scent. The top notes start to overlap and to lose their individual shape, including the main trio of jasmine, rose, and aldehydes. In the base, the styrax wakens, sending out little shoots of tarry smoke. Its blackness seems to act as a catalyst on the skanky notes, energizing them and pushing them onto greater heights. To my surprise, Marrions-Nous is suddenly transforming from a haughty, aldehydic-floral aristocrat with only a thin ribbon of civet into something more like Mae West or a Folies Bergère showgirl strutting her stuff. There is now a profoundly skanky side which is emerging, similar to what one of my readers tends to call “ho-panties,” and it’s all due to civet and “Musk Tonkinese” accord. The skank takes over the show as the second hour progresses, smelling feline, urinous, and a little like a cat’s bottom — in other words, a very authentic civet aroma.
The other notes scream against the coming of the cats, and flee for the hills. The aldehydes are the first to vanish. The carnation, iris, and orange blossom follow, leaving only the jasmine and rose to put up a fight. The ylang-ylang hides behind their skirts, popping up on occasion to put up its fists, but it’s too puny to do anything. This is really the civet’s show, backed by what may be a secondary dose in the “Musk Tonkinese” accord and a generous dollop of smoky styrax. The latter has a certain tarry quality to it, as well as a faint nuance of something leathery. It all feels like a 180 degree departure from the prim and proper, Chanel aristo of the first hour. If Mae West were still around, she’d probably repeat her famous line: “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
Yet, Marrions-Nous isn’t a heavily raunchy, dirty fragrance. It’s a far cry from Masque‘s hyraceum-heavy Montecristo or Bogue‘s valkyrie hyraceum-civet chypre, Maai. Plus, Marrions-Nous really seems to have short-lived, distinct chapters, with transitional bridges between each one. The second hour may start as a dark civet-laden affair, infused with jasmine and rose then nestled in a musky, golden haze, but the perfume doesn’t stay that way. After a mere 30 minutes, the tonka trickles up from the base, adding the first touch of creaminess that slowly begins to take the edge off things. I think the ylang-ylang joins in to help indirectly from the sidelines, because there is a velvety floral undertone to the creaminess. By the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd, the trickle has turned into a wave that wipes away a good bit of the civet’s pissy, feline “meow,” though not much of the smoky styrax-musk combination. That remains, and keeps Marrion-Nous on the dark side.
To my surprise, though, the rest of the notes seem to have flattened. The rose is muted, while the jasmine is only a little more visible, but both of them feel blurry, wispy, and increasingly nebulous. It’s as though they are hovering just out of reach, creating a sense of something floral that isn’t really there in a solid, concrete way. At the same time, the aldehydes briefly poke their head up again, turning the tonka into a rather clean, cold sort of cream. For the most part, Marrions-Nous is now primarily civet, musk, and rather abstract florals that feel creamy and are drizzled with the faintest touch of aldehydes. The perfume also changes into a skin scent around the same time.
Marrions-Nous continues to shift by small degrees. About 3.25 hours in, the sandalwood wakes up in the base, adding a woody undertone to the creaminess. An hour later, the abstract floral blur vanishes almost entirely, while the civet and smoky styrax finally weaken. All you’re left with is gauzy tonka creaminess flecked with muskiness, a smoky resin, and civet, all atop a layer of creamy, indistinct woods. Marrions-Nous continues essentially unchanged until its very end when it finally dies as a wisp of cream and civet with a faint tinge of woodiness. All in all, the perfume lasted just a hair under 6.75 hours.
Marrions-Nous may have been outside my personal tastes, but I think it will appeal to anyone who wants a skankier, smokier and darker version of Chanel No. 5, especially in its current, overly clean formulation. The two fragrances are definitely not clones, but they share an aesthetic kinship and similar vibe. If you take a bit of vintage Chanel No. 5, toss in a dose of vintage Arpège and a teaspoon of vintage Bal à Versailles, you would get something in the ballpark of Marrions-Nous. I think the Oriza fragrance is sheerer and less full-bodied than some of those other popular classics, but the comparisons should give you a rough idea as to its general profile. For me personally, Heliotrope Blanc was my favorite out of the new trio of releases, the other one being Violettes du Czar.
I think Marrions-Nous will be a very popular fragrance amongst those who love sophisticated aldehydic florals with some skank. If you’re one of them, you should give it a sniff.
Disclosure: My sample was courtesy of Oriza L. Legrand. That did not influence this review, I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.