Individuel (Montblanc)

If you've read the famous book Perfumes: The Guide, and found its contents somewhat awkward and hard to comprehend, don't worry. It's not you. Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin are enthusiasts but not experts, and they often get basic descriptions of fragrances egregiously wrong. Case in point: Individuel. About it, Sanchez writes:
Individuel, Citrus Green: "A laundry soap formula, apparently for individuals who can't yet afford the Mont Blanc pens."
If you were familiar with Individuel before reading her snippy one-liner, you've come to the immediate conclusion that for being a self-proclaimed fragrance expert, this perfume is her undoing, as there is absolutely nothing citrusy-green about Individuel. It's also about as far from a trite laundry soap scent as anything can get - Pierre Bourdon is the nose behind its dynamic formula. Sanchez angled in for a play on words with Individuel/individuals, but got carried away and didn't do her homework. Had she known Bourdon was behind it, she would have alerted Turin and had him review it instead. It's a masculine fragrance, after all, and Turin is a Bourdon fan. It is therefore evident that Tania Sanchez did not actually smell Individuel, got it confused with god knows whatever else she spritzed on a piece of paper that day, and confused readers with her review. This, by the way, is the conclusion you're likely to reach if you've sniffed Individuel after reading. 

Often compared to Original Santal and Joop! Homme, Individuel is closer to the former than the latter, but still extremely different to my nose. While Original Santal boasts superior ingredients and a striking balance between cinnamon, juniper, and lavender, Individuel shares only the cinnamon note, which smells like the exact same synthetic aroma chemical in a much lighter dose. There's also a prominent lavender note, but unlike in OS, Individuel's is metallic, grey, a little hollow. It creates a contrast, but lacks balance, and for a good ten minutes after application, Individuel smells somewhat conflicted. Fortunately there are other elements to save the day - a chocolate-like berry note lurks in there, accompanied by a woodier spice accord of cardomom and juniper. Sandalwood, vanilla, and amber comprise the drydown, which arrives rather quickly for an oriental.

Is Original Santal a higher-fidelity clone? It bears some remote similarities, but I feel as though OS focuses more on the interplay between cinnamon and lavender, while Individuel attempts to reconcile the same cinnamon with a different lavender and a bushel of other notes. It's more complex, not as well calibrated, but nonetheless a really good fragrance, and something any Original Santal fan will want to smell, if only to find the same cinnamon note in a designer offering. Pierre Bourdon likes to create simple aura scents using complicated formulas and pyramids, and he does it successfully in Kouros, Cool Water, and Individuel. I like the first two more than the third, but Mont Blanc's EDT holds its own and is worthy of Bourdon, and of anyone who wears modern orientals.