Since its founding in 2003, French niche fragrance brand Montale has established itself as one of the most popular and successful niche producers in the industry.
Fragrances like Roses Musk, Red Aoud, Chocolate Greedy, and Full Incense have been hailed as modern-day classics for years. Intense Café, released in 2013, is perhaps the most popular fragrance in the entire Montale lineup. But does it merit that reputation?
Montale Intense Café is a rich, warm, floral gourmand fragrance featuring notes of rose, coffee, vanilla, and musk. Offering world class performance, unique presentation, and decent value for money, Intense Café is a great option for lovers of gourmand rose fragrances.
Want to find out more? Let’s take a closer look at Montale Intense Café.
Top Notes: floral notes
Middle Notes: coffee, rose
Base Notes: vanilla, musk, amber
Generally speaking, I don’t favor Montale as much as I do other niche fragrance brands. To be sure, there are fragrances from their catalog, such as this one, Intense Café, which I quite like. However, others, such as Black Aoud, are incredibly strong, intense, and overwhelming oud-based creations.
While I like oud quite a lot, I am not the biggest fan of overly synthetic oud fragrances, which represent the majority of Montale’s catalog. Couple that with the bevy of artificial fixatives that Montale uses to give its fragrances such beastly performance and you’ve got fragrances on your hands that can easily give you a headache and fill up multiple rooms.
And though Intense Café is blessed (or cursed) with the, ahem, radiant Montale performance, it is nevertheless a wonderful, comforting scent.
First, let it be said that I love Intense Café. It’s one of my favorite rose fragrances. However, as with most Montale scents, it is very, very easy to overapply. If you spray two or three times MAX, you will have a lovely, and still quite strong olfactory experience. If you spray more than that…You had better bring an aspirin with you.
But how does Intense Café actually smell? Well, to put it simply, it is a sweet, vanillic, coffee-infused gourmand rose fragrance. And if you don’t know what a gourmand fragrance is – don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Though the name of the fragrance implies that this will be a coffee fragrance, it really isn’t. To be sure, there is coffee lurking in the mix which reveals itself the closer that you press your nose into your skin. However, if you’re looking for an all-out, balls-to-the-wall coffee scent, this ain’t it. If you want something like that, I would suggest Kerosene’s Follow, Akro’s Awake, and Sebastiane’s Espresso Royale.
Instead, this feels very much akin to a milky, creamy vanilla latte infused with perhaps too heavy a dose of rose syrup. Ya know, more like a Starbucks frappuccino than real coffee (yes, I am one of those people, and I’m not sorry).
The opening is a blast of very intense pink, jammy rose, accompanied by somewhat sharp white musk (a hallmark of Montale fragrances) and vanilla. But pretty soon, the sharpness of the opening calms down considerably.
The cocooning vanilla and amber, flecked with wafts of coffee, smooths out the edges here, creating a remarkably comfy, cozy, and delicious scent that is quite linear throughout. Once the somewhat harsh opening subsides, the fragrance doesn’t really change much throughout the rest of its very, very long life.
As time goes on, the rose recedes somewhat, and the vanilla and coffee come up just a little bit more, but effectively, what you smell after around ten minutes after application is what you get: comfy, cozy, vanilla, amber, rose, and coffee.
It’s a great, simple blend that will keep you smelling edible all day long.
If I were to describe Intense Café in a few words, they would be: comfy, cozy, delicious, rosy, creamy, and smooth.
As is the case with all Montale fragrances, Intense Café comes in a simple and pretty much unremarkable cardboard box. The box design and color varies depending on the fragrance in question, but for the most part, you’re going to be getting pretty much the same deal in each case: a box matching the color of the bottle, and some additional details, usually in gold or silver.
I don’t have a box on hand to show you, but really, they’re pretty much straightforward fragrance boxes that get the job done.
However, Montale does offer something that is unique to other fragrance brands: a drawstring pouch which you can store the bottle in if you don’t have the box on hand. These too vary depending on the fragrance, some being silver or gold or even pink. Mine are all black, since I just have the travel sprays, but still, it’s a nice touch. Each bag is decorated with golden Montale “M”s, the calling card of the brand, and has a nice little golden drawstring. The material of the bags is kind of like a mix between pleather and faux-velvet.
Overall, this is probably my favorite part of the Montale packaging.
The bottle, however, is another story.
Montale bottles are different from most fragrance bottles, which pretty much uniformly come packaged in glass. Montale bottles, on the other hand, are made out of aluminum, and are more akin to spray deodorant or body spray bottles.
Of course, I’m not saying that they look like bottles of AXE or anything like that. Nevertheless, the Montale bottles certainly take some getting used to, especially if you’re accustomed to the usual glass affair and have just dropped almost $200 on one.
However, there are definitely benefits to the aluminium presentation. For one, they are not nearly as weighty as other heavy glass bottle presentations. They honestly feel so light that you might wonder if you got cheated – it doesn’t even feel like there’s a full bottle of juice hiding in there. But don’t fret – it’s there, and it’s so powerful that it’ll probably take you two lifetimes to get through. You can easily move these bottles around and even take them with you in your gym bag or purse. They’re not going to weigh you down like a glass bottle would.
The bottles are also opaque, so you can’t see into them to gauge how much fragrance you have left or to show off some cool looking juice. On the other hand, though, the opacity means that less light is being let into the bottle, which is a net positive. After all, light is one of the enemies of perfume, along with air. An opaque bottle is much more likely to preserve your fragrance for years and years to come.
Love it or hate it, you can’t fault Montale for a lack of creativity when it comes to their bottle designs. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan, but I respect the brand for doing something different.
The bottle for Intense Café is pretty nice. In terms of color, it’s a dark, rich purple (older bottles were coffee brown, but that is no longer the case) with gold accents. The name of the fragrance is printed in a little box at the bottom of the bottle, and the name “Montale Paris” is printed in gold in the middle.
The atomizer is certainly different from other fragrances. Montale bottles don’t come with a cap, meaning that you’re more liable to accidentally spray the fragrance when moving it around. To prevent that, the bottles come with a little piece of metal that serves to “choke” the neck of the bottle (for lack of a better word) and keep the atomizer from spraying. It comes with a little Montale medallion attached to it too, which is a nice touch.
Overall, the presentation of Montale Intense Café is unique, though it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
The performance of Intense Café, in typical Montale style, is amazing.
The longevity of Intense Café is beastly.
Two to three sprays on skin and clothing give me ten to twelve hours of longevity, longer on fabric.
Intense Café is an absurdly long-lasting perfume, almost too long-lasting. Two to three sprays will easily last on skin all day or more, and for weeks on clothes. This is the kind of fragrance that lasts through showers and survives even rigorous scrubbing.
I have perfume-eating skin, but Intense Café gives me no problems on the longevity front whatsoever. If you want a long-lasting gourmand rose fragrance, this is the one that you’re after.
Projection & Sillage
Similarly, the projection and sillage of Intense Café are powerful and radiant.
Two to three sprays gives me all-day, though not overly intense projection and arm’s length sillage.
Intense Café is one of the few fragrances I own which simply does not stop projecting. Most fragrances taper off to skin scents after a while, but Intense Café legitimately doesn’t, not any time I have worn it. Even in hot weather! If you wear Intense Café, be prepared to smell it ALL. DAY. LONG. It penetrates masks. It leaves a trail. People can smell you easily and readily and they WILL make comments on the scent.
This is a potent brew. As I’ve cautioned you already, any more than two or three sprays with this is overdoing it. Even three sprays is pushing it. If you go beyond that boundary, my friend, I can only say to you: “Vaya con Dios“.
Value For Money
The value for money for Intense Café is pretty good, similarly positioned to other niche fragrances at retail.
A 3.4 oz (100ml) bottle of Montale’s Intense Café retails for $170 ($1.70/ml).
20ml travel sprays, such as the ones I have, can only be purchased in a kit of three for $120. However, that’s really a good deal if you take the performance into consideration. 20ml is probably going to last me for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, if you want a full presentation of Intense Café, it’ll set you back around $2/ml, taking tax into account.
Intense Café, along with a host of other Montale fragrances, can also regularly be found on discount websites like FragranceNet, FragranceX, and MaxAroma for a lot cheaper. I’ve seen Intense Café go on sale for as low as $99, once or twice even for $70, but given its popularity, it sells out pretty fast. If you shop around before buying a full retail bottle, you’re liable to find a great deal on this one, especially since it’s been around since 2013.
At the end of the day though, the real value for money will always be up for you to decide.
Who Would Like It
This is a very, very pleasant fragrance that has gotten me a number of compliments. Unlike Vetiver Patchouli, this is pretty much a crowd pleaser that I think almost anyone could like.
However, your love of Intense Café is definitely going to hinge upon your tolerance for rose. If you don’t like rose, STAY AWAY, because this is allllll about rose. Similarly, if you don’t like sweet, vanillic fragrances or have an aversion to musk, this is also not going to be for you.
Fans of jammy rose, like Lush’s Rose Jam, will likely find a lot to love here, though perhaps someone who favors darker, more serious roses like Portrait of a Lady won’t be as keen.
As far as gender goes, I think this fragrance is perfectly unisex, but the sad aversion most men have towards rose fragrances will probably make most people skew this towards the feminine end of the spectrum. And it’s definitely true that I would want to devour any woman wearing Intense Café with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
However, that doesn’t mean that confident men (like myself) who have an appreciation for roses couldn’t pull this one off with panache. After all, if your masculinity is so fragile as to fall apart if you smell like a flower, perhaps it’s time to reexamine how masculine you really are.
When To Wear It
In my opinion, due to the strength of the fragrance this is a cold weather only scent – fall, winter, and early spring. Wearing this during the summer would be like releasing sarin gas through the ventilation systems and could get you dragged before an international tribunal.
The cozy nature of the scent makes it seem perfectly apropos for the cold, dark seasons where all you want to do is pull on a warm sweater and curl up with a cup of coffee and a nice book.
As far as occasions go, you could conceivably wear this anywhere. Casual hangouts would be A-OK, as would be the office (so long as you go easy on the trigger). This would be a great option for a date night, and could even work for a semi-formal occasion, though I think that it would work better in more casual, “fun” scenarios.
Intense Café is very popular for a niche fragrance and has been around since 2013, so it’s spawned a host of imitators over the years.
One very similar fragrance would have to be Ristretto Intense Café, a flanker of the original that amps up the coffee note, after numerous complaints that Intense Café wasn’t really that much of a coffee fragrance. I haven’t smelled Ristretto myself, but I’ve heard it’s quite good.
Roses Musk and Sensual Instinct, also from Montale, both hint at Intense Café by being rosy/vanilla creations, but aren’t exactly the same.
Roses Vanille from Montale’s sister brand Mancera is also in a similar vein, though Roses Vanille omits the coffee note and is a bit sweeter.
Delox by the house of Tiziana Terenzi is also very similar to Intense Café and smells a bit more natural as well, though it is also more expensive.
Finally, Grape Pearls by the House of Oud is quite similar to Intense Café, though it adds a fruity element in the form of grapes and blueberries. It also comes in an absolutely amazing bottle that looks like a swirly dragon egg. It is, of course, a bit more expensive than Intense Café at retail.
There are numerous other dupes and fragrances in a similar ballpark to Intense Café that I won’t list here, but suffice it to say that there are tons of similar fragrances out there within striking range.
Pros & Cons
- Delicious, rosy gourmand and coffee fragrance.
- Powerhouse performance.
- Decent value for money.
- Not really a coffee fragrance, despite the name.
- Some might not find the presentation to their liking.
- Many alternatives, some of which you might be able to find for cheaper.
The Final Word
Overall, Montale Intense Café is a delightful gourmand fragrance based on rose, coffee, and vanilla that is creamy, smooth, cozy, and definitely delicious.
While it might not be the most aptly named fragrance in the world, there is definitely coffee in the mix here, especially if you’re looking for something more along the lines of a latte, instead of a more robust black coffee scent.
With incredibly strong performance, decent value for money, and unique (if nothing else) presentation, Intense Café is a more than worthy pick-up for lovers of rose and all things gourmand.
I give Montale Intense Café:
★★★★☆ 4 stars out of 5