I didn't know what to expect from Moulin Rouge, as I'd heard contradictory reports, none of which seemed very promising, given my expectations. Histoires de Parfums is one of those lines you wouldn't expect to be the underdog it is. The quality is good, the presentation is first class, and the price point, though on the high side, suggests a sense of exclusivity the fragrances tend to justify. And yet for a new release, Moulin Rouge has received relatively little comment; nor did the recent Tubereuse trio, all of which I love (though there is a very good piece on them over at Grain de Musc). The line itself is available in only a few places, neither of which is Luckyscent or Aedes de Venustas. All of the fragrances were reviewed better than favorably in Perfume: The Guide, so maybe backlash is part of the problem. I was shocked to see the line dismissed en masse on one of my favorite blogs recently; and even more shocked that some of the fragrances were regarded with the kind of disdain usually reserved for celebrity scents du jour.
I'll start by saying that, as a whole, Moulin Rouge isn't my thing. I think it's lovely, if not lush or plump enough to qualify as gorgeous. I wouldn't say it's delicate; nor is it effervescent. But it's a skin scent by my definition of the term. It doesn't project much, if at all. I mention these things right up front to make it clear that the deck is stacked against such a fragrance for this reviewer, and in fact when, before receiving it, I read a review which characterized Moulin Rouge as sheer, an alarm went off in my head. However, if I were presented with three other popular skin scents and Moulin Rouge, chances are I would choose the latter.
Often with Histoires, I don't really see much of a connection between the stated inspiration and the resulting perfume. 1740 is one of my all time favorite fragrances. It speaks to me like a hypnotist. Other than the sadistic power it holds over me, I'm not sure I'd call it an apt tribute to de Sade. Colette seems even more of a stretch. Mata Hari comes a little closer. Moulin Rouge is a near perfect evocation of its namesake in ways both literal and associative. Its real failure for me is that it paints what should be a colorful portrait in watercolors rather than oil.
You get a rush of that wonderful cosmetic smell up front and for the first ten minutes or so; a smell not so far removed from Lipstick Rose. Unlike Lipstick Rose, this quality in Moulin Rouge resonates more three dimensionally, creating a deeper, more detailed drama in the mind. The fragrance requires a degree of transparency to achieve this, so that you might see through it, though in the bargain it sacrifices the vivacity and even good natured garishness you'd expect from something inspired by one of the world's most infamous burlesque venues. In Moulin Rouge, the cosmetics mingle with the cool, medicinal tones of iris. Somehow, iris is made to perform a sleight of hand I've never known it to execute. Before I read "feathers" in the company's PR description, I pictured them, sensing that weird smell ostrich feathers can have, half animal, half glamor. The iris also adds just enough powder to evoke blush and eye shadow stirring in the air.
There's the slightest touch of vanilla. And the cosmetics wear down to reveal a barely perceptible fruit medley I've gotten from other Histoires scents. I appreciate the artistry and the subtlety behind Moulin Rouge. What I miss is a sense of the raucous activity and even some of the sweat and cigar smoke which would inevitably have been a big part of the place's experience. I wanted something more voluptuous and unpredictable. What I got suggests a picture postcard for tourists. Unfortunately, it's the kind you'd bring back to your mother.