Every one of the great perfume brands is going to react in their own way to the current generational shift in perfume consumer. One of the greatest houses of fragrance, Guerlain, seemed to be sitting back to observe which way the wind was blowing. With the release of Mon Guerlain it seems they have laid down their first marker.
The release of Mon Guerlain is being surrounded with all the surrounding accoutrements a future tentpole Guerlain would need. Perfumers Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk were said to be inspired by actress-philanthropist Angelina Jolie when designing the perfume. Ms. Jolie is the face of the new advertising campaign and there is a video directed by famed motion picture director Terrence Malick. Guerlain must feel like they have a hit on their hands. The resulting perfume is another of these opaque floral gourmands which is what most of the big brands have decided Millennials crave in fragrance.
The perfume itself is so deceptively simple it is a departure from almost everything Guerlain has stood for. Powdery iris opens things up lilting softly above it all. The heart is a combination of actual jasmine with a very slight hint of indoles coating the expansive bubble of the jasmine synthetic Paradisone. This all combines with a vanilla note made more toasty by the addition of coumarin. The hay-like nature of coumarin also adds a different facet of sweet to this accord. The foundation is a very transparent sandalwood over a selection of white musks.
Mon Guerlain has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
First thing I noticed while wearing Mon Guerlain is there is no trademark Guerlinade to be found. As a longtime fan, I kept waiting it to appear like a phantom accord. Only to find its absence punctuated with the cocktail of laundry musks. Time will tell the truth of this next statement but I wonder if the powers at Guerlain believe that venerable base has now become passé for this new generation. Is Mon Guerlain the first signal of a real change? The other grand maisons of perfume have made this transition without excising their brand DNA. Mon Guerlain might be the first example of it happening.
This change has made it seem like Mon Guerlain, like the generation it is meant to appeal to, is ready to put the past in the rear-view mirror. In my mind’s eye, I see it shouldering bottles of Shalimar, Mitsouko, and Jicky aside as it says, “Move Over! Coming Through!” Within the genre, and consumer, it is trying to be part of Mon Guerlain is as good as any of them. As part of the modern history of Guerlain is where it fails to stand up. Depending on which of the last two sentences means more to you will color how you feel about Mon Guerlain.
Disclosure: This review based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
While I think there are some amazing perfumes being produced, the brands I categorize as the Grand Maisons are not where I currently find them. These brands have entered an era of safety first. In most of the cases there are perfumers who I admire seemingly working while wrapped up in cotton. I can only conjecture that the extremely large enterprises that back these brands must prize profits over artistry. The latest example of this is Guerlain Ambre Eternel.
Amber Eternel is the second release within the Les Absolus D’Orient collection following up last year’s Santal Royal. When I reviewed that I considered it akin to “perfume by numbers”. Ambre Eternel seems less cynically constructed. Except there are moments where I was hoping for more. Wishing perfumer Thierry Wasser would get off the straight and narrow, leaving convention behind. I think that time has not arrived early in 2016.
Ambre Eternel is a nice piece of two versions of the title note. The familiar ambergris in the top accord with the warmer slightly spicy amber accord in the base. The ingredients used are nice. The effect is nice. Overall the perfume is nice. I’ve used nice five times in this paragraph but that’s what playing it safe gets you.
If there was anything I was hopeful for it was when I saw in the note list the top accord consisted of ambergris, cinnamon, and coriander. I was hoping for M. Wasser to maybe use the heat of cinnamon on top of the salty aspect of ambergris tinted green with coriander. Within seconds of putting this on I am instead greeted with a nice ambergris only slightly altered by the presence of faint tendrils of cinnamon and coriander. If everything had been pitched at something approaching equality of presence this could have been really great, instead of nice. The “perfume by numbers” approach is back with a crushingly pedestrian fruity floral heart; orange blossom and plum the most recognizable. The more traditional amber base note found in Orientals thankfully sweeps that away. But again M. Wasser uses very tame applications of a leather accord and woods. I really would have liked more leather. It still would have been safe but not quit so mannered; and nice.
Ambre Eternel has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ambre Eternel is like that friend of a much more interesting friend. You see where they are connected but this person is just not as interesting. In the end Ambre Eternel is just nice. I leave it up to you whether you think that is good enough.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from Guerlain.
Last week in one of the perfume groups I participate in one of the members listed the twenty releases from Guerlain in 2014. When I looked at it as a group it was startling to see the message those twenty releases sent. It showed that, at least for 2014, Guerlain and perfumer Thierry Wasser seemed to be interested in trying to cater to a much younger clientele. There were La Petite Robe Noire flankers. A Shalimar stripped of most of its challenging facets. L’Homme Ideal failed on almost every level. Teracotta Le Parfum was the lone bright point and a fantastic new addition. As the year wound down there were two last releases I had hope for. The latest addition to the Elixir Charnel series called French Kiss and Santal Royal. Both of these were examples of that which surrounded them this year and hewed to this less challenging aesthetic Guerlain seems to be courting.
French Kiss has been summed up in a simple surface one-liner as a niche version of La Petite Robe Noire. If it was, in fact, this I would have welcomed that. La Petite Robe Noire is a beautifully done mass-market perfume which Guerlain does well. I’m not sure it is deserving of the number of flankers it has been saddled with since its release five years ago. Then again neither does Shalimar. French Kiss is a little more daring than La Petite Robe Noire as I think M. Wasser understood he could add a little more. As a result the cherry becomes raspberry and it is paired with a super sweet lychee. This makes the opening moments very sweet. It will probably be a bit too much for some. The heart is a wonderful pairing of rose and violet which seem to imperiously sweep away that saccharine beginning. Iris broadens the floral heart and this is where French Kiss is at its most appealing. The finish is trademark Guerlinade. If French Kiss came from a different perfume company I would cut it a lot more slack but as a it comes from Guerlain it is disappointing for not pushing the envelope a little more. French Kiss has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Santal Royal is just something that misses the mark by a mile. The press release says Santal Royal will be a deep dark oriental of sandalwood and oud. It is supposed to be “shrouded in mystery”. Instead it is all too obvious in construction and pedestrian. It opens on a whisper of jasmine and neroli which strengthens into a solid note of rose paired with cinnamon. It leads to a very common leather accord which is matched up with the sandalwood and the oud. This felt so much like “perfume by numbers” as there is absolutely nothing here which is special. It is not terrible but it is just so lacking in any imagination that it is surprising. The other thing about this is it lasts much less that I expected on my skin only getting about 8 hours out of my morning application with modest sillage.
I don’t think we will be looking back at 2014 as a watershed year for Guerlain as the last two releases were as uninspiring as the previous seventeen except for Terracotta Le Parfum.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples I purchased.
When it comes to the great houses of perfume Guerlain never fears alienating their core audience. I would say that the opposite is truer in that Guerlain has been the most active in trying to snare the younger perfume wearer. Because of this penchant for luring in younger perfumistas it can sometime clash with those of us who have loved Guerlain for years. I sit somewhere in the middle of this. As long as the great older Guerlains are still around in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser can put out as many figurative olfactory honey pots as he would like to capture his desired demographic.
The most difficult part of this equation is M. Wasser want to use Shalimar as the gateway to the Guerlain kingdom. M. Wasser has taken to heart the criticism by the young that Shalimar smells too “old lady”. This isn’t a new idea as perfumer Mathilde Laurent was responsible for three “light” versions of Shalimar a little over ten years ago. M. Wasser would also try to go the lighter route as well. The last two years saw two variations around adding vanilla to Shalimar and Ode a la Vanille in 2010 and Ode a la Vanille Sur la Route du Mexique in 2013 went with making it sweeter. It looks like that experiment has also not produced the desired result. This year for the latest flanker to Shalimar M. Wasser has returned to making Shalimar lighter. The new releases is called Shalimar Souffle de Parfum.
As the name portends this is meant to be an airy version of Shalimar meant to be served up quickly without having it linger. The way M. Wasser chooses to achieve this is to largely neuter the base notes leaving behind only the vanilla.
The opening of Souffle de Parfum is the traditional bergamot and lemon with a bit of mandarin added for additional sweetness. Jasmine is present in the soufflé but instead of rose M. Wasser goes with the much lighter orange blossom. This is where the soufflé begins to fall down for me. The combination of rose de mai and jasmine is what creates the essential beauty of Shalimar. With the Souffle de Parfum M. Wasser doesn’t want even the hint of heft to appear thus the choice of orange blossom. The same applies to the base as out goes the orris and opopanax leaving only the vanilla matched with white musk and patchouli.
Shalimar Souffle de Parfum has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not sure there is ever going to be a light version of Shalimar which does justice to the name, certainly Souffle de Parfum is not that fragrance. In his attempt to make Shalimar lighter and more accessible M. Wasser succeeds; as taken on its own merits Souffle de Parfum is a perfectly easy to wear floral. It is no way related to Shalimar and has none of the character and depth of that. I am not sure this would even bring new consumers over to the brand because it doesn’t feel like it is part of the rest of the flacons which share the name Guerlain. For me this Souffle de Parfum has fallen flat but perhaps there are others who will delight in a fluffy simulation of a perfume called Shalimar.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Guerlain.