Invasion Barbare (Parfums MDCI)

The Bottle Is More Impressive Than Its Contents.

By all rights, I should love Invasion Barbare - it's a fresh fougère with a lovely array of spicy/woody notes, blended on a subtly-dosed base of Ambroxan and white musk. Cardamom, lavender, thyme, violet leaf, ginger, cedar, amber, all ingredients high quality, note separation very good. What's not to adore here?

I don't adore this perfume. I would preface that statement with "for some reason," except I know the reason: it does not have an "It Factor." What is an "It Factor," you ask? There are no exact words in the English language that I could cobble together to describe "It." That's why it's an "It." Like any movie star who lights up the big screen and sends hearts aflutter, sometimes perfumes have an indescribable beauty and charm that cements them in memory and makes their fans want to return, time and time again. Kouros has "It." Cool Water has "It." Fahrenheit has "It." Eau Sauvage has "It." Green Irish Tweed has "It."

Invasion Barbare, sadly, does not have "It."

That's not to suggest I don't like Stéphanie Bakouche's 2006 composition for the team-driven firm Parfums MDCI, because I do like it quite a bit. Whenever I dab this on my wrists I'm greeted by a velvety-sweet aroma, tinged in spice, and the scent gets softer, warmer, and more inviting as the day goes on. Yet there's no charismatic nature, no innate charm to any of it. It simply smells like a very competent perfumer assembled an array of expensive synthetics (aside from the cardamom, nothing in IB smells natural) in a concentration that happens to showcase cardamom, lavender, and thyme fairly well for a couple hours. That's not a knock, because its harmony is very well calibrated, and the fragrance exhibits a finer balance not often encountered in contemporary niche. But it's not something I'll be writing much about ever again.

With most of the fragrances on my "It" list, I sniff, close my eyes, and go "Ahhh." With Invasion Barbare, I catch the occasional whiff and think, "I could be wearing something better." I understand this is a hit with the niche snobs, but as far as I'm concerned, all I can say is sorry, Stéph. Better luck next time.


  1. I understand your frustration with the fragrance lacking that 'something' that makes it worth having. I've never seen/heard of it before, so thanks for bringing it up - it's got a beautiful flacon.

    1. It seems to be a common problem with niche fragrances. The other one that severely underwhelmed me was Etat Libre d'Orange's Jes Suis un Homme. Three or four upscale aroma chemicals with nowhere to go. And it didn't even have the pretty bottle this one does.


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