Sunday, December 19, 2010

We Three Kings: Frederic Malle - Bigarade Concentreé

Gold I bring to Crown Him again
Born a king on Bethlehem's plain,
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
Welcome to We Three Kings week. This week, I and nine other bloggers (see list below) will each be reviewing three perfumes, to represent the three gifts of the magi: gold, frankincense and myrrh. The first up for me is gold, the gift that symbolized kingship on earth.

Gold is the colour of Christmas for me. Gold decorations are on my tree, gold paper and bows wrap my gifts, and golden candlelight fills the apartment in the evenings.  When I was a child, my sister and I would always receive a golden navel orange in the toe of our stockings. The smell of orange peel brings back memories for me of Christmas mornings.

Nothing captures the glorious, bright golden smell of orange peel better than Frederic Malle's Bigarade Concentrée. Based on a bitter orange essence developed specially for Jean-Claude Ellena, Bigarade Concentrée reminds me most of the smell of clementines. Every year I like to get a little wooden box of these Moroccan delicacies in December and the opening of Bigarade Concentrée smells exactly like peeling one of these little jewels.

As it warms up on the skin the intense bitter orange of Bigarade Concentrée becomes more sheer and floral with just a touch of rose, like a rose, orange and gold sunrise. Then another type of gold becomes noticeable, a beautiful sweet, golden hay note. Hay is like liquid summer sunshine; it's sweet and grassy and works really well with the orange and rose. A light dry cedar provides a base that compliments but never overpowers the other notes.

Bigarade Concentrée was a pleasant surprise for me. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with a bitter orange perfume, especially in winter, when I usually drift towards spices, incenses or warm ambers. Orange seems to me like it would be a summer scent. But after trying Bigarade Concentrée on a window-sniffing lunch break, I knew by the end of the day that I had to own a full bottle. From a deceptively simple list of notes, Jean-Claude Ellena created a golden treasure that I will wear year round.

House: Frederic Malle
Nose: Jean-Claude Ellena
Notes: bitter orange, rose, hay, cedar

Photo: Paul.Carroll
Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch

Please visit all these other blogs during We Three Kings week:


  1. Orange, rose, and hay...I'm in gold heaven.
    I would like to find a bottle of Bigarade Concentrée in the toe of my Christmas stocking!

    I'm starting to understand the appeal of citrus in the winter. The smell of clementines is very "Christmassy" to me. Orange is such a happy scent, reminding those of us with cold winters that warm longer days will return.

    I'm so happy you proposed the idea for this project. I'm really looking forward to all the reviews and stories.

  2. Beautiful review! I like this one too, which surprised me because citrus is just growing on me.
    I'm with Joanne. I'm finally starting to get the "citrus in winter" thing. That is when citrus in season in the Northern hemisphere, citrus is a common holiday gift, and it's when I need an uplifting perfume!

  3. Great review of a Malle I havn't tried but sounds rich and warm. I think it will go on my 2011 list.

  4. This is one of my all-time favorite perfumes! Thank you for your review! To liken it with gold is a very apt description. I mostly wear it in summer, but you inspired me to try it in the cold for once, maybe I am in for a surprise :)

  5. Hello everyone, thanks for the comments! I'm wearing BC again today and it really brightens up a cold gray winter day. Citrus in the winter is great. So what's next? I start wearing Ambre Sultan in the summer? Oh why not, Katie Puckrik recommends it.

  6. What a great group project! I already look forward to reading other selections. Myrrh is one of my favorite notes, and frankincense is fascinating. In UAE, we used to chew it like gum. It is actually quite pleasant!
    Bigarade Concentrée is such an original selection for gold, and you are right, its bitter orange notes have this rich, gilded effect. Plus, on the whole it is so bright, so luminous!

  7. Hi V: Chewing frankincense sounds so exotic! I'd love to try that one day.

  8. Gorgeous review! I've always imagined that for our ancestors, the luxury of a single orange at Yuletide must have been the source of intense anticipation for the other 364 days. And from your description of Bigarade Concentrée, I also imagine that the interval between sniffing it and deciding beyond doubt that it MUST be yours must have been exquisite torture-- it probably FELT like 364 days condensed into a matter of hours! :)

  9. Your evocation of Bigarade Concentrée is so sensuous it is almost edible! Love the way you weave the themes of gold and oranges and hay in your review - I am sure many of us can relate to the magic of Christmas symbolised by the clementine at the bottom of the stocking...They are indeed "little jewels".

  10. Thanks Vanessa! You know, now that I think of it, I should have done something with "hay" and "away in a manger." Lost opportunity there.

  11. I've been on an Orange Quest for about a year now, trying to find the right balance between juice and bitter peel, in a winter fragrance. (The longing for oranges in winter always made sense to me - is this a matter of a midwestern upbringing?) I tried this one early on; I'll be trying it again based on your review.

  12. i'm going to have to re try this! good choice- I am still undecided about the new Malle which is unusual for me- have you tried Portrait of a Lady yet and what did you think?

  13. Hi Martha: So it was you! I was thinking as I wrote this post "I remember someone was on a big HG orange quest this year, but I can't recall who." You should definitely try it again, although I think it's more peel than juice.

    Hello Rose: I haven't tried Portrait of a Lady yet. The only store in Toronto that carries Malle told me they weren't expected it until after Christmas :( I'm not a big patchouli fan but I have my fingers crossed.

  14. I sniffed BC in Barney's when I was in NYC , and what a surprise !! I found it to have a slight milky element that I loved . The golden hay note was marvelous too . I need a decant of this for sure !!


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