Guerlain is one of those decaying Great Houses of Perfume. More interested in churning out product while living off their past. Every arrival of a new insipid sample makes me sad. Yet in every year they remind me why I own so many of their classics. Last year it was the amazing Embruns D’Ylang. This year it is Guerlain Iris Torrefie.
Iris Torrefie is part of the L’Art et La Matiere collection. The same group which Embrun D’Ylang is also included. It seems like this is the last place where a creative thought can be expressed at Guerlain. Even though they are working within the current trend of floral gourmands this one has a larger presence than its competitors. Perfumer Delphine Jelk is given the reins.
It is an interesting choice because 2007’s Iris Ganache is one of the best iris and chocolate gourmands out there. Mme Jelk moves from the chocolatier to the sidewalk café as she chooses to use coffee as the gourmand in Iris Torrefie. It is a compelling combination.
Mme Jelk places both core ingredients in place at the start. She also allows iris to display more of its dual nature of powder and root. The coffee is that bitter oily bean prior to roasting. That provides a marvelous counterweight to the two-faced iris. Squeezing between the two keynotes is green cardamom and ambrette seeds. They add an herbal tint and a soft botanical musk, respectively. They are important connective tissue to hold the main protagonists together. I am not sure how I would have wanted this to finish in my vision. In Mme Jelk’s mind it was time for the Guerlinade to come forth. I adore this in so many other Guerlains but in this case it feels like an intruder. I adore the first hours of this when the iris and coffee are percolating together. Once the Guerlinade appears it strips some of the vitality. It is not a terrible choice it just seemed to me like this deserved a more dynamic base accord.
Iris Torrefie has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Iris Torrefie is 2020’s proof there is still a heartbeat at the moribund brand Guerlain has become. I feel a bit uncharitable complaining about the signature accord of the brand not being enough. I also think I might come around to think that it works better than this first impression. Iris Torrefie is worth the price of admission for the iris and coffee on top, it is magical.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
When a new technology comes along it generally means something is replaced. Throughout the 1970’s as photocopy machines became more prevalent the use of carbon paper to make copies of correspondence declined. The only remnant of it today is the abbreviation on your e-mail “cc” which stands for “carbon copy”. It used to be what was handed to a typist with the list of recipients to receive cc’s. They would place these sheets of carbon paper between sheets of paper underneath the original they were typing on. The purple color of the paper would be transferred on the copies underneath with each keystroke. While the copies were like the original the process gave the type a different color while also adding a slight blurriness to the overall documents. It resulted in a copy but not an exact copy of the original. Perfumery is full of carbon copy perfumes but it is usually between two different brands. It turns out Guerlain is reaching back to make a carbon copy of a previous fragrance with Guerlain Lui.
Even the advertising campaign feels like a relic of the past as they claim in their promotional materials, “inspired by a generation breaking free from gender norms”. Which generation are they talking about Baby Boomers? Gen X? Millennials? This reads like Maison Guerlain has been interred in a time warp bubble. Which might explain how perfumers Delphine Jelk and Thierry Wasser have turned Lui into a carbon copy of 2006’s Guerlain L’Art et La Matiere Bois D’Armenie by perfumer Annick Menardo. Lui is a near slavish reproduction which provides an opaquer experience than Bois D’Armenie but it is at its heart a reproduction.
Lui opens with the same papier d’armenie inspired benzoin accord found in Bois D’Armenie. In the original there are bold keystrokes of florals and spice throughout. Lui has a bit of floral from carnation a bit of spice from clove but it mostly has a cloud of benzoin made smoky through a leather accord and a touch sweeter with vanilla.
Lui has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
The bottom line is I like Lui but it feels like a carbon copy of Bois D’Armenie which begs the question do I need both? For me the answer is no because I can get a similar effect to Lui by spraying once with Bois D’Armenie. It is the best release Guerlain has released since Terracotta Le Parfum three years ago but it is accomplished by cribbing from their own past. If Bois D’Armenie didn’t exist I’d be raving about this but it does; Lui is a carbon copy of it which carries its own message about the creativity within Guerlain these days.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.
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.