Thursday, 11 March 2021

TOBACCO FRANKINCENSE & CARDAMOM by Matt Meleg

When we think about the process of creating a perfume it often ends up becoming a romanticised image of a pair of hands holding a mound of jasmine petals, or a perfumer surrounded by a bank of meticulously laid out essential oils. What we don’t usually consider is that the intimate process of creating a perfume can actually also be a means of dealing with personal trauma and managing mental health. One perfumer that has spoken openly about his past and present struggles, and how they feed into his creativity, is Matt Meleg - and this shines radiantly through in his exceptional Tobacco Frankincense & Cardamom fragrance.

Matt Meleg first came to the attention of niche perfume fans through the online Basenotes and Facebook groups that help self-taught perfumers perfect their craft. He was an unknown, pretty disruptive element that always seemed to think faster than he typed, and so was often misunderstood. Back then he was an anonymous voice looking for guidance and knowledge, but nobody could have known just how important the process of perfumery was to him. It had literally become his support, his leveller, and allowed him to be part of a community without the need for physical interaction.

Matt suffers from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was brought on by a very violent incident in his youth. It meant that from the age of seventeen to twenty five he rarely left his own house, and when he did venture out he told me “it was only with the help of alcohol or pills.” His father already suffered from mental illness and so he had been brought up in a household that saw it as a stigma, and there was no option of asking for help in the small town where he lived. It would be another fifteen years, aged forty, before he finally learned how to cope thanks to a combination of medication and creativity.

“PTSD robs you of control, and your logical self is overridden with emotion and paranoia. The medication I take allows me to relax, my obsessive thoughts are less ‘loud,’ and the world feels like a slightly safer place. The meds let me say to myself ‘maybe I'm not the most horrible person in the world.’” With a recent study finding that 54% of PTSD suffers are likely to resort to suicide, Matt Meleg’s message is clear, “Mental illness is no different from physical illness, and I hope that speaking out will help to end the guilt, the misunderstanding, and the judgmental views that some people hold.”

So, how does creating a perfume actually help Matt? He told me that the process of studying ingredients, evaluating samples, and even bottling the finished fragrance really focuses his mind. Having to put words to those various aromas has helped him to also find the words “to define my frustrations, to define my intentions, to define just exactly who I really am.” The support of the online fragrance community also gave him the confidence to release his collection of perfumes and, whilst there's a definite vintage styling running through them, the star for me has to be the more contemporary Tobacco Frankincense & Cardamom.

Described as “a perfume to celebrate cardamom”, it begins with the star ingredient but is almost immediately joined by peppered cedarwood and a stunning amber accord. This then feels as if it opens to reveal a rose and jasmine pairing, with a touch of warming nutmeg and perhaps a sensual cumin, before the Virginian tobacco comes into play. This gives a delicious note of dark chocolate and cherries to the scent, and it is irresistible. As the fragrance mellows there’s a creaminess that comes through, almost a Guerlain lipstick quality, and this perfectly balances the saffron infused frankincense. Tobacco Frankincense & Cardamom almost feels like Sarah Baker meets Guerlain’s Elixirs Charnels and is, in a word, brilliant!

Tobacco Frankincense & Cardamom is available from Matt Meleg’s website at www.meleg.org priced at £120 for 50ml or as part of a sample set of ten fragrances priced at £57. You can also click on the image below to read my interview with Matt Meleg from September 2020. [Samples provided by Matt Meleg]

* Matt Meleg fragrances are currently formulated to comply with Canada's allergen restrictions rather than EU allergen restrictions.

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