Monday, March 10, 2008

Jan Moran Fabulous

I owe perfume guru and Harvard-educated CEO, Countess Jan Moran so much for all the contributions she's made to the perfume world and the joy she's brought to my life. Her books (like bibles to me), Fabulous Fragrances I and II are staples in my perfume reference book collection. The detailed breakdown of notes, precise and unbiased descriptions of each fragrance, and fun facts like which celebrity wore what, how Jan Moran with her expertise categorizes the olfactive families, are the reasons I consider her work to be tremendous. While I occasionally agree with the scent assessments made by men in the industry, by and large, I find my own nose aligned with Jan Moran's perceptions. Is it because I'm a woman, too, or do we just happen to smell in similar ways? I find her system makes sense, her descriptions to be dead-on in most cases, so when I'm looking for detailed info on a scent, I reach for her books first.

I've had the honor of corresponding with Countess Jan Moran very briefly once through her website at, and I can say she's a gracious, lovely, classy person who can make anyone feel good to correspond with her. Jan Moran is not only a fabulous lady, she has a fabulous perfume of her own. Aptly named Fabulous (1997), her perfume is a dazzling jewel of a find. I got my crystal parfum flacon from Amazon recently (I chose the blue gemstone cap), and I wish I'd bought it from her directly from the website while it was still up; I don't see it there anymore and I can only assume her personal perfume is no longer being offered to the public.

The scent description in her Fabulous Fragrances book says it was inspired by her grandmother's haute parfum (custom-made) from the 1930s, made exclusively for her in Grasse, the center of perfumery. Jan Moran states that her Fabulous was made by Michel Mane and Richard Panzarasa of V. Mane Fils and Mane, USA, one of the oldest family-owned French fragrance manufacturers in existence. I would say Fabulous is a modernized 1930s-style composition. What is a typical 1930s perfume? I'm thinking of Guerlain Vol de Nuit, Jean Patou Normandie, Worth Je Reviens, Evyan White Shoulders, Dana Tabu--that's just a small sampling but these to me are typically sweet and/or spicy, powdery, plush perfumes of the time period.

Fabulous is an ambery, decadent evening perfume, with mellow fruits (Italian bergamot, mandarin, raspberry), subtle spice, a full floral heart and just the right amount of woody-balsamic base notes as to not overwhelm the delicately balanced Floral Oriental composition. Call me crazy but it reminds me of Chanel Coco. I might also compare it to Jean Patou Chaldée but fruitier, more voluptuous (maybe a bit like Volupte by Oscar de la Renta or Van Cleef). To me, it's dramatic and opulent but soft, confident but warm and comforting, the type of scent the countess might wear to a ball. Maybe what gives Fabulous the 1930s feel is that it suggests drama of cinematic proportions, and I imagine post-Depression days, living vicariously through the Hollywood stars and the silver screen. In a world where there's so little, it surrenders to love and joyfully gives it all away.

With all its formal, red carpet appeal, Fabulous doesn't pretend to be a cutting edge perfume, a technological breakthrough or one that shocks to win originality points; it's a woman's perfume, designed by a woman who handpicked essential oils for their soothing, healing, spiritually elevating effects, to make the wearer feel good. I respect this aromatherapeutic approach to perfume development because it shows respect for natural ingredients, as well as for how we, the wearers feel. Gorgeous and well-tempered, it smells like how I see the countess herself: poised, professional and living a dreamy lifestyle. (And Fabulous to Coco--they are definitely related.)