Sandflowers was part of the first batch of Montale samples I ever bought. At the time oud was my main focus and I chose Sandflowers because of its strange, contradicting name. Flowers in the sand is not a very common sight, but I have come across those eerie sand lilies that defy reason, the way they pop up delicate and narcotic from dry sand. Lying on the beach next to these flowers is a perplexing experience: they dominate with their smell but at the same time they look so fragile as they tend to move their ribbon-like petals frantically even with the slightest breeze, like a castaway in distress. Their smell is sweet and thick, something that fits the Montale vocabulary. What a surprise it proved to be though!
Sandflowers opens with the smell of alcohol. I rarely use this type of description because I believe that you are supposed to smell a bit of alcohol in every opening, so even when I do smell it I do not notice it or remark about it. But with Sandflowers one cannot help but notice. What I realised is that I smell the alcohol because there are absolutely no top notes in this perfume. Those high-pitched notes that get the wearer’s attention are simply excised and left out. Once the alcohol dries out what I get is probably pure calone. Squeaky clean, chemical and boundless. What surprises me is how strange calone smells served up straight, without the usual citrusy or green companions. Calone smells as good in Sandflowers as it smells in Aramis New West, where it is used with fir to convey the breeze of fresh mountain air, at least to my nose. What comes next is a whiff of that strange washed linen accord that I associate with Secretions Magnifiques and, in a much more wearable rendition, in Bas de soie. Don’t be alarmed, Sandflowers is very wearable, but I am impressed at how the perfumer behind this, Pierre Montale or whoever he is, managed to make it wearable without the use of floral notes. At this stage lies the beauty of Sandflowers because all these rather chemical smells come together to produce something rare and difficult: the smell of human skin right after a swim in the blue sea, dried by the sun rays and unadorned by any other smell. Most beach perfumes, as Sandflowers clearly is, cannot resist the use of coconut or fruits to simulate the beach experience, as if the suntan lotion is an inextricable part of it. Montale managed to refrain from his and the result is just pure, sea-washed and sun-dried skin. The effect is so stunning that I synaesthetically feel the warmth of the sun and the cool sea breeze at the same time. All this chemical illusion is joined by the most true to life thyme oil smell, an ingredient that imbues a certain saltiness to a composition. And on a good day I can also smell some hay in the deep dry down. The impression I get is a mixture of chemical smells and natural ingredients that works perfectly to recreate the most human and delicate of all smells, the smell of skin. As an afterthought, the name seems to refer to to those sand crystals found in the desert and look like petrified roses. If these roses had a smell it would be the smell of Montale Sandflowers.
Sandflowers manages to capture the smell of a day by the Aegean sea. Sea, sand and sun. One cannot help but also slip “sex” somewhere between these words too. The amazing human smell of this avant-garde composition always manages to transport me to a careless, summer day, where freedom fills the heart and time stops. The smell of one’s skin blends seamlessly with the smell of the skin of the loved one and there is a promise of timeless eternity. All these fillings are delivered in a beautiful, simple and bare way in this Montale composition that has fallen so far away from the Montale tree that remains a hidden gem and overlooked oddity. Its lasting power is at a par with all other Montale perfumes but it remains a personal scent (although I do remember my sample from years ago smelling much stronger than my current bottle) and becomes one with the stories of our holidays. In a strange way, Sandflowers presents itself as a white canvas upon which the wearer projects the smells they associate with summer. Others smell cucumber, melon, spices, notes completely undetectable to my nose, but I am sure that this is what a day at the beach smells like to them.
Notes from Parfumo: Algae, Aquatic notes, Sea water, Spices, Juniper berry, Oakmoss, Sandalwood
Notes from my nose: sea breeze, bare skin, sand, thyme, hay