Even the great perfume houses have their versions of unicorns. When it comes to Guerlain that rarest of rarities is 1926’s Djedi. Everything about Djedi is an outlier to the rest of Guerlain. Even so it is one of Jacques Guerlain’s greatest perfumes because it breaks most of the “rules” perfumes from Guerlain follow.
I think all artists want to try and move out of their comfort zone and test their vision. In what is purely conjecture on my part during the mid-1920’s many of the perfume houses were releasing leather fragrances, Chanel Cuir de Russie would be the standard bearer. I wonder if M. Guerlain also wanted his brand to also have its own leather. Up until that point in time Guerlain had not done a leather-based fragrance. M. Guerlain chose to construct Djedi on a vetiver core over which the animalic elements would be attached. For whatever the creative reasons Djedi is one of the driest leather chypres I have ever tried. It is that dryness which sets it apart. You can almost envision a perfume order which asks M. Guerlain to make me a dry leather straight, no Guerlinade. Which is precisely what he does.
Djedi opens on an aldehyde and muguet opening. The first time I smelled Djedi the sample had lost all of the aldehydes. In more recent tests I have been fortunate to try more well-preserved samples and the aldehydes suffuse the muguet with their sparkly brilliance. Even with these really good versions I can only imagine what a fresh bottle of Djedi must have smelled like with the aldehydes full of life. What I can smell tells me M. Guerlain wanted a ray of light on top before going very dark. I have mentioned how dry Djedi is and it starts right with the muguet which sometimes can have a bit of a dewy quality, not here. Any hint of watery has been excised. It gives the early going almost the feel of a sprig of muguet left in a desiccation jar to be dried. Next up was a huge application of civet which feels like an untamed thing stalking through my consciousness. This is what makes real civet so prized as it imparts a decadent filth to Djedi. Vetiver comes in and this is the driest vetiver you will encounter. The civet is given some counterbalancing floralcy courtesy of jamine, orris, and rose. They are shoved into a corner by the vetiver and civet and they peek though at odd moments like they are trying to make a hasty getaway. The leather accord in the base was made up of oakmoss, musk, and amber. Unlike most of the leathers of the day M. Guerlain eschewed using birch tar and his leather accord reaches an arid austerity because of it. For the great majority of the time Djedi is firmly placed in leather territory.
Djedi has 14-16 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
Djedi was only produced in the 1920’s and except for a 1,000 bottle limited edition released on its 70th anniversary in 1996 that is all there is. Finding a bottle is complicated by the beautiful Art Deco bottle designed by Baccarat’s Georges Chevalier. The complication is for those who care only about the bottle and not the liquid inside this is also one of their unicorns. One of my most tragic stories is of being locked in a bidding war with someone who coveted the bottle and I was too slow to contact the winner and found out she had poured the contents down the drain. It is all of this which makes it so difficult to find a bottle.
If you ever have a chance to wear a drop or two do not pass it by you will find a perfume from Guerlain which feels very unlike the rest of the collection.
Disclosure: this review was based on multiple samples of Djedi I have acquired over the years from kind fellow perfume lovers.