Friday, April 20, 2012

Fragrance Friday: Guerlain Jicky and L'Heure Bleue

There are untold numbers of reviews and articles on Guerlain's classic perfumes, and I really don't have enough to add on the topic to warrant giving each their own post, so I've decided to cover a few of them at a time. I don't yet have all of the Guerlains that I would like to try, but I have several of the classic must-haves, 2 of which are the focus of this post. Before ordering my samples from The Perfumed Court, I had never actually smelled the classic Guerlains, only the newer ones available at department stores (like L'Instant de Guerlain and Insolence, and even those were years ago), but after reading so much about them I knew they had to be featured in my initial forays into the field.

Guerlain as a perfume house has been around since 1828, with the position of head perfumer handed down through the generations until 1994, when the company was sold to Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MHLV), the luxury conglomerate (and though Jean-Paul Guerlain remained head perfumer until 2002, they brought in other perfumers to compete). Check out other perfume blogs for the general consensus on this (hint: 'fume heads were not, and still are not, pleased with the direction the company has since taken). The classic perfumes have been reformulated, some many, many times, both to make them more profitable and to eliminate ingredients that the perfume self-regulating agency deemed allergens or carcinogenic (nitro musks, for example, are no longer included in perfumes). Most perfume connoisseurs find the older editions superior to the reformulations, but some perfumes have had more successful updates than others (Mitsouko is considered a pretty faithful reformulation, whereas Balmain Vent Vert's new version is quite loathed). I am reviewing, and will probably always review, the new versions, unless the vintages are available from TPC/Surrender to Chance for a comparable price. There's also the matter of different strengths smelling different; the parfum/extrait versions are apparently all superior to the edt/edp versions, but they are also much more expensive, so I will stick with the cheaper, less potent eau de parfum (or eau de toilette, depending on which is the standard).

And now, without further ado, I give you the Guerlains, part 1!

Jicky, image via Fragrantica

Jicky was created in 1889 by Aimé Guerlain in honor of a girl he loved from afar, whom he called Jicky (or so the legend goes). It was one of the first perfumes to combine synthetic and natural ingredients, and has the title of the world's longest continually-in-production perfume. For a full history and context, as well as comparisons between the reformulated and vintage versions, check out Now Smell This, Bois de Jasmin, The Non-Blonde, Pere de Pierre, and Guerlain. Jicky is mildly sweet, thanks to the vanilla, but also herby, due to the lavender and rosemary/thyme/other herbs (in Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin dubs it 'lavender vanilla', though far from merely that), with happy citrus notes all anchored by a musk/amber/woody base. The herbs and citrus keep it from veering into dessert territory, the musk gives it depth, and the lavender and vanilla make it immensely appealing and comforting. The notes, from Fragrantica, are rosemary, mandarin, bergamot, lemon; lavender, tonka bean, orris root, basil, jasmine; spices, leather, benzoin, amber, sandalwood, vanilla, and rosewood. It smells classic, but not outdated (unlike L'Heure Bleue, reviewed below), and for me is a great scent for Sundays, which is usually a quiet day at home doing work with the occasional ray of sunshine falling over my stack of problem sets. Jicky isn't distracting, but it provides a comfortingly cheerful lift. It was initially intended for men, but has been worn by women since the start, and I think it is still a very workably unisex scent. It is a classic, and anyone who has any interest in fragrance needs to smell it. If you have the money and/or access, try the extrait de parfum, since it is apparently the best formulation.

L'Heure Bleue, image via Fragrantica

L'Heure Bleue was created in 1912 by Jacques Guerlain. It's classed as an oriental floral by Fragrantica, but to me, L'Heure Bleue smells like expensive baby powder. Sorry, but I just don't like it. My mother's reaction was a violent recoil and revolted face, and I don't find it that bad, but it smells medicinal (camphoraceous) and powdery, neither of which are things I like in my perfume. Yes, it's a classic, and yes, I'm glad to have a sample in my collection, but it is not a scent I will be buying a full bottle of (or even a larger sample). It has good sillage and a little goes a long way, so if you find it to your liking, it'll last you a long time. Luca Turin's review in Perfumes: The Guide sounds like a completely different fragrance (he deems it 'dessert air' and says it smells like "that Torino delicacy, the Gianduja...a fragrance that teeters on the edge of edible for hours without missing a step", which sounds great, but is not at all like the L'Heure Bleue I experienced), so perhaps the extrait de parfum and/or vintage versions are understandably classics (unlike what I have, which is just kind of baffling). The notes, from Fragrantica, are lemon, bergamot, neroli, coriander, anise; jasmine, orchid, carnation, cloves, heliotrope, ylang-ylang; vanilla, musk, sandalwood, iris, benzoin, vetiver. For other reviews from people more equipped to pass judgment than me, see Bois de Jasmin, Perfume-Smellin' Things, Now Smell This, and The Non-Blonde, among others.

Both Jicky and L'Heure Bleue are available from department stores (Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf, Nordstrom) and online perfume stores (often for much less), as well as online decanters (I got my samples from The Perfumed Court, but Surrender to Chance [owned by two previous co-owners of TPC] has since been created and has cheaper shipping, but both are good choices).

Have you tried Jicky or L'Heure Bleue? What did you think? What are your favorite Guerlains?
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