Mary Greenwell Plum - modern classic?

Mary Greenwell Plum. The name is whispered reverently in perfume circles. Mary. Greenwell. Plum. I feel a lot of pressure when reviewing a scent like this. The whispers... the laughing and pointing if I screw it up. Perfumistas are a vicious, hateful group*.

*This is a very blatant lie.
The perfume community is one of the most
lovely groups I've ever had the privilege to be a part of!

The Mary Greenwell website claims Plum is "A story of femininity and joy."

It goes on...

A classic chypre with a memorable modern twist. Plum begins the story of femininity and joy, a fragrance of uncomplicated chic and sensual warmth. Top notes of English plum, blackcurrant, peach, bergamot and lemon blend with heart notes of gardenia, tuberose absolute, orange flower absolute, rose absolute and jasmine absolute with a base of precious woods, sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, amber and white musk complete the intoxicating scent that is Plum by Mary Greenwell.

To top it all off, I'm sure you saw those words that make the shriveled, evil little hearts of certain perfume fans race, beady eyes darting every which way:

A classic Chypre. 

Big words, big fans, big expectations.

My thoughts
Disclaimer: I can count myself in that crew of oakmoss and chypre-lovers. And I'm talking about the heavy-on-the-oakmoss vintage chypres, not the modern kind with patchouli and a cast of supporting mossy characters. I like those, too, but to me "chypre" means the vintage kind.

Plum is not like those, but still a very good perfume.

It opens with strong fruit salad, heavy on the lemon and blackcurrant. I can't find any plum, but that's of no real issue to me. It's a voluptuous, unabashedly feminine in a very sweet and tart way. I kind of like that view of women: sweet but tart.

I begin to pick up the woods just as the florals make their entrance. There's something sweet there that supports them, like a cedar table under a very full vase of flowers. First you notice the orange blossom, then the higher-pitched gardenia. Jasmine and some well-behaved tuberose join in after awhile. And this stage is long-winded...

Luckily for me, the floral stage -long as it is- is also a little quieter than that fruity opening. I feel fairly... obvious, I guess, in the opening minutes of Plum. The heart of the perfume isn't exactly shy and retiring, but certainly more circumspect than the opening. On another happy note, the florals do not boss or bully; it's actually sweetly feminine and very pretty.

What I don't get, other than that breath of woods, is chypre. I can't pick up much oakmoss  or even much patchouli. A soft amber muskiness ends the scent on my skin. It's a great ending, but not exactly capital-C Chypre stuff.

So, this modern chypre with the cult following --- what do I really think in the end? You know what? I like it. But I do not love it. At least, not enough to go through all of the hoops required to obtain a bottle. Apparently this one is hard to get out of England, and frankly even though I have a friend in London I just resent that kind of exclusivity and won't deal with it. Which tells you how much I didn't fall in love with Plum, I guess, or I'd toss my flimsy morals to the curb. I am a perfumista after all...

Are you a fan of Plum? How do you feel about modern chypres? The vintage ones? 


  1. I think the definition of what is considered a chypre these days is very loose indeed, and I'm with you, I kinda don't get how fragrance houses can toss that word out there but not really mean it. I've not tried anything from Mary Greenwell, so I can't comment on these scents, but from what I've read here, I'm not going to be going out of my way to try them. For a classic chypre, I'll stick to DSH Pandora when I'm not huffing vintage.

  2. Doesn't seem fair to misuse a word like that, does it? It's a bait-and-switch. ;)

    Pandora is so amazingly gorgeous, and it proves to me that there can be such a thing as "modern chypres" with that demon oakmoss, too! I'm also newly addicted to Jolie Madame. Sigh...

  3. I am not a chypre fan (of the classic sort), and didn't have any expectations about how Plum might smell when I tried it. I completely agree with your assessment that Plum is "a voluptuous, unabashedly feminine in a very sweet and tart way" - there are definitely contrasting facets in this. I like and admire it, but rarely reach for it.

    Didn't stop me snapping up 100ml on Ebay and setting myself up as Ye Self-Styled Plum Enabler on MUA and beyond. I now have less than 5ml left for reference, and to be truthful have derived as much satisfaction from distributing this scent as from sniffing it.

  4. Vanessa, I read your review and felt like we were in agreement here. I love that you enjoyed doling out this precious (to others) scent! Perfume folk are not as evil as I portrayed. ;)

  5. Late to the party, sorry...
    I feel similarly towards Plum, it is nice, but a bit too cheery for me and I was waiting and waiting for the great oakmoss to arrive, but it stood me up.
    Also a beneficiary of Vanessa's generosity, I'm very happy to have a little bit of Plum, but won't go out of my way to get more either.

  6. There is a *small* amount of moss in Plum. I can certainly understand the disappointment of vintage-chypre lovers with it.

    I'm not one of those. Pandora is very, very well done and reminded me of vintage Miss Dior parfum - smoooooooooth, cool, green - but it has not caught my heart the way Plum did and still does. (Bought my bottle on UK eBay, after waiting and waaaaaaiting for it to hit US distributors. I understand that the Mary Greenwell site will now ship to the US, but the costs are riDICulous to do so.)

  7. Yes! I think it is a bit too cheery. Leave it to the lady Olfactoria to put my thoughts to word better than I can!

    Mals, I am so glad you enjoy it. I do too, but I think it's too Pollyanna for me. I like a scent with a darker side. :)


  8. Tried Pandora again today, and it's nice-but-not-love for the first couple of hours - after which it goes all Youth Dew. Which I HATE. Words cannot even describe how much I HATE YD.

    Gah. So there you go, gimme them cheery girly thangs, and you can keep the dark ones. :)

  9. This one is on my long time "to try" list but for whatever reason not only it can't be shipped from House of Fraiser that carries that line (and has more reasonable shipping rates than brand's site) but TPC also doesn't have it (I check from time to time). But I'm sure we'll find each other one way or the other.

    ~ Undina ~

  10. I need to re-sniff Plum - first time I did, I was ga-ga for it. Although not THAT ga-ga because as Undina suggests, it's impossible to find here in the US

  11. I've had Plum at The Crushed Violet for months now...I absolutely love it and would be happy to send anyone who previously commented a sample on the house. Just email me through The Crushed Violet's website. :-)


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