Intense Café is one of my most loved, but not necessarily most worn fragrances over the last decade. It’s a fantastic gourmand oriental. This one was really hyped up in the media when house owner and perfumer Pierre Montale released it 2013, so I’d be surprised if you’re a perfume lover who’s not at least heard of it. I waited a few years before finally getting this one in second-hand condition.
Just a quick note about the bottle to start – Montale gets a lot of hate for this packaging. Style-wise, to each their own, and personally, I feel somewhat indifferent about the design. This ornamental branded tab on the end that keeps you from being able to spray is a slight bit annoying, but the main negative with it is that you cannot easily discern how much you have left. On the other hand, the container being aluminum means it protects the contents from light, it’s ultra-light, hard to break, and therefore great for travel, as long as the ninja clip doesn’t get squished off by some rattling around of items in your bag and set of a set of sprays all over your suitcase’s innards. This particular scent being insanely strong means such an event would be disastrous.
Yes, Intense café is powerful, and I like it that way. It means you don’t need to spray as much, hence good value for money. Although I’m certain some men might disagree, I find it rather unisex. It’s also very warm and delicious, and highly seductive – a gourmand lover’s delight, through and through.
While there is a coffee note in here, don’t expect to be whacked over the head with it or feel like you’re sitting in a Starbucks. You may have to have to work hard to sniff it out. And it’s no espresso, either; it’s more of an Americano with lots of milk. At its core, this is a vanillic rose perfume dosed in musk and a splash of amber.
- floral notes, rose, coffee
- vanilla, white musk, amber
It’s sweet and simple, but divine – cozy and sexy, heady, and expansive. I get jammy fruit and patchoulie out of this, too, though they’re not listed. Sadly, I can’t pull this off in the workplace, especially here in Japan, where even at dusk, I have to watch it a bit by being a tad too bold in public – “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” and all that. I can and do wear it out at night, but not if there is a lack of fresh air around me, and definitely not in warm weather. This is not a terribly polite fragrance. It’s boldly beautiful and brash and all-consuming. When I wear this out, I want to give people around me the option to breathe. This is more a scent I wear to entertain in close quarters, even if I am alone in said close quarters.
The vanilla note in this fragrance is not the most natural, and while it might also be too sweet for some people, I personally do not find it sickly or cloying. Intense Café has some candied spices that are sprinkled over an exquisite, creamy, lactonic rose. But come to think of it, the rose isn’t exactly natural-smelling, either. It’s a rose clone. Not your girl next door natural beauty, but more of a dolled-up sirin from the other side of the tracks. More interesting. Sniff hard and you’ll pick up the distant coffee grinds. I can just imagine myself sitting in front of a Parisian café, enjoying a high-calorie treat with my mocha latte as I watch fashionable people proudly parade their colorful individuality in front of me for my enjoyment. Many finely dressed and impeccably groomed Arab men stroll by, leaving me in a faint cloud of smooth oud that floats over my coffee and cake, or whatever sweet treat I have on my plate. I don’t think there is any oud in Intense Café, but there is indeed a Middle Eastern vibe.
I now only have a couple of fragrances from Montale and another two from Montale’s sister company, Mancera. I do like both brands, mostly because they each have a huge library of high-performing fragrances – meaning scents with decent longevity, projection, and sillage. Both of these French companies seem to have a Middle Eastern influence in a lot of their fragrances, so they are not houses you’ll want to explore if you’re looking for something more delicate.
Generally speaking, though – who would have guessed that roses dipped in a latte would work so well? This fragrance is indeed a crowd-pleaser for most. The likeability factor is high if you’re worried about putting people off. Just be careful not to over-spray.
Spurred on no doubt by the popularity of Intense café, Montale came out with an encore fragrance in 2019 called Ristretto Intense Café, which apparently has a stronger coffee note paired with added caramel and woods, yet drier than its predecessor. I would love to try that one. Have any of you? If you have and feel it’s better than this, do let me know below.
If Montale’s prices are a put-off, Zara can come to the rescue with its Rose Gourmand. It’s not the same, not as good, and doesn’t last as long, by hey – for the price you can blast through it guilt-free as I have been doing and get a very similar sugar-coated, velvety rose experience. You could use this one to layer with the other, making the more expensive one last longer I suppose.
When I first sniffed this fragrance, I knew it had to have been meant as a dupe for Intense Café – It’s at least 85% similar. I’m being conservative. If budget is important to you, this one is around 35 USD as opposed to pushing 200 – but I live in Japan and think in Japanese yen, so don’t trust me on prices – I’m guessing.
Anyway, that is my take on Intense café. I love it so much, but sorry, Montale, I think when I next run out, I might have to pivot full-time to Zara. I mean, I can get 3.5 bottles of Rose Gourmand for the price of 1 intense Intense Café, you know?