Drugstore Divas Week – 2016
This week I’m revisiting popular perfumes available at US drugstores. The sort of perfumes that many of us know but many of us perfume lovers completely ignore.
For a person that talks about perfume on a daily basis, there’s only a few that have had a real impact on me. This is not me being a snob. I’m saying that there are very few perfumes that have impacted my life and influenced how I think about perfume. Myrugia Maja is one of the few perfumes for me that fits into this category.
Like many people, I associate Maja with a matriarch. Her dressing room had floral print “lacquer” boxes and sifter bottles adorned with a flamenco dancer. Her bathroom had bars of the soap – some in use and some wrapped in dramatic red and black paper. Most importantly, she smelled like generous splashes of Maja, a spicy oriental perfume that managed to stand out in a sea of 80’s perfumes because it was “light”. By this time, Maja was a drugstore perfume (or maybe it always has been?). My grandmother definitely had more glamorous perfumes garnishing her vanity. But, splashes of Maja was her “around the house” fragrance. If anything, Maja was her functional fragrance, the smell of cleanliness.
Maja opens with citrus and spices. It’s bright, warm and the sort of opening that makes perfume smell like “perfume” to me. This is followed by a soapiness, an almost “barbershop” vibe of carnation and vetiver. The heart is a sheer rose with a green bitterness and a bit of stale ashtray. Maja morphs into something like “aftershave” because it’s a darker patchouli and aromatic lavender. Overall, Maja is how many of us would define a “spicy oriental” perfume. It’s warm spices, dried rose petals and an earthy patchouli.
I’m not here to mourn the reformulation of Maja. In my opinion, times change. I don’t expect Maja to be the same. I mean, it’s almost impossible to get new furniture made from real wood these days (unless you pay for it!). Why would I expect to get a perfume from the drugstore today that smells like it did in 1940? It’s true that Maja is not the same. But, what else can you go buy for $12 that smells like this? In comparison to most new designer launches, Maja surpasses them. Yes, it’s not as good, but we can say that about many perfumes, even perfumes that are much more expensive.
Because of my grandmother’s use of the perfume, I’ve had a more functional association with Maja. A “special” perfume did not come from the sort of place that also sells diapers. This is basically my Jergen’s or Nivea. I feel like I’m one of the few people in this world that likes the modern formulation. It’s sheer, almost like a body spray and layers wonderfully over the brand’s auxiliary products. This is my “shower fresh” fragrance. This is literally what I bathe in. And then I step out of the shower and spray on generous amounts of the EDT. It’s what I’m going to smell like in the summer or when I’m lounging around the house. What I’m getting at is that I think current Maja smells great and in the way that I use it, I’m happy that it isn’t a heavy-hitter like the vintage.
Notes listed include nutmeg, carnation, patchouli, cloves, vetiver, rose, geranium, citrus and lavender. Originally launched in 1921¹.
Give Maja a try if you like spicy oriental or vintage perfumes. Or if you like perfumes like Laura Biagiotti Venezia Uomo, Divine L’Inspiratrice, YSL Opium EDT (modern), Estee Lauder Youth Dew, Clinique Aromatics Elixir and/or The Body Shop Smoky Poppy. In comparison to modern perfumes, Maja smells more masculine. It’s interesting how a lot of old “feminines” now smell more traditionally masculine than current masculine fragrances. Gender is a drag, ya’ll.
It wears like an EDT, so projection and longevity are below average, especially if you are comparing it to older formulas. Layering the products really does help if you want it to linger around longer.
Speaking of the bath and body products. They are all excellent and I recommend them more than I do the perfume. The current shower gel is closer to vintage Maja. The lotion and bar soaps smell amazing. The powder is worth having around just for the vintage boudoir looking packaging. I’m going to tell you that I do use the powder in the boring plastic shaker as a rug refresher. I was serious when I told you I love this fragrance.
The EDT retails for about $15 at most drugstores (even more availability if you live in a Spanish speaking neighborhood). It’s also available at discounters like Perfume.com because some places it’s difficult to find (looking at you, Seattle).
Victoria’s Final EauPINION – Spicy rose and patchouli. You will always find Maja at my house. Even the reformulated bottles and Hecho en México soaps and shower gels that Maja fans complain about. Look, you can use this or you can use something from Victoria’s Secret that really *doesn’t* resemble vintage perfumes in the slightest. I’m gonna live in the present and savor a readily available product that retails for under $12. For the money and the availability, you won’t hear me complaining. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t accept a bottle of the vintage…
¹I’m reviewing a bottle from 2008, from a reformulation era.
Also, fun little piece of knowledge, Spanish-based perfumer, Ramón Monegal got his start with the family business, Myrugia in the 1970’s.
Want more reviews? Try…
Makeup Alley – Member reviews
The Non-Blonde – Review of vintage
Grain de Musc – History of the brand.
*Product purchased by me. Maja pictures are mine. Vintage “Maja is Woman” ad from The Non-Blonde. Post contains an affiliate link. Thanks!