Period: The searching years
Aqua Allegoria collection
The Aqua Allegoria collection was introduced in 1999 and instantly gained success as "simpler forms of Guerlain". The idea was to present fragrances with short, straightforward formulas, built around one or two perfume notes, but with the appeal and quality of Guerlain intact. The "Allegoria" title — an allegory — literally suggested that this was basic representations of something bigger. The collection was particularly dear to its initial architect Jean-Paul Guerlain because it, taken as a whole, imitated "a walk in the garden", covering broadly the Guerlain scent universe from sprightly to sensual: here rose (Rosa Magnifica), here lavender (Lavande Velours), there exotic smells (Ylang & Vanille), there fresh grass and herbs (Herba Fresca), and finally citrus fruit (Pamplelune). "To reflect your ever changing moods," as said the advertising which was formed like a reference book of botanical nomenclature.
"In creating the five Aqua Allegoria eaux de toilette, my wish was to convey my passion for the natural raw materials and gardens that are part of my life," Jean-Paul Guerlain wrote in the packaging's pamphlet. Mathilde Laurent collaborated in the creation of the first five and since then, twenty-nine more Aqua Allegoria scents have been issued, with usually two new ones launching each spring. It's plausible that the collection wasn't planned as annual offerings at the outset, but the concept was such a hit that it only seemed natural to let it grow. However, the selection is continuously modified to hold only the most popular scents. Guerlain has usually launched two new Aqua Allegoria scents each year, but since 2010 one of the pair is reserved for travel retail.
Notes: bergamot, rose, hyacinth, violet, orris, tonka bean, vanilla, sandalwood
The rose was always Jean-Paul Guerlain's favourite flower, and he proved once more that "it possesses around a thousand different fragrances." Rosa Magnifica was far removed from Nahéma's oriental rose, stripped of any of its dark-red, fruity and spicy properties. Instead, it presented the rose as romantic and tender, supported by hyacinth and powdery violet.
Notes: lavender, orris, violet, tonka bean, sandalwood
It probably isn't possible to do a lavender more beautiful than Jicky, but the Aqua Allegoria rendition of this herbal flower was as attractive as the plant itself. A simplistic and lifelike portrait of aromatic lavender, straight out of Provence, yet not as soapy or sharp as it can be in nature. As the name implied, it got treated with Guerlain's famous velvet texture, orris, tonka bean and sandalwood. Lavande Velours had the staying power and complexity of a complete Guerlain. Very appropriately, it also circulated as scented linen sachets.
Ylang & Vanille
Family: floral, oriental
Notes: petitgrain, ylang ylang, orange blossom, jasmine, vanilla, incense
Just say the name and you know you're in Guerlain territory, sensual and powdery. Both vanilla and ylang-ylang are emblematic Guerlain ingredients, and here they almost stood alone, joined only by jasmine and a fresh top note. Jean-Paul Guerlain explained that the fragrance was inspired by his many travels to the island of Mayotte, a big supplier of ylang-ylang, vanilla and frangipani. He wanted a fragrance that could capture his memories of this island's exotic and sensual odours, all the while being marked by simplicity. In Ylang & Vanille, the creamy sweetness of ylang-ylang was contrasted by petitgrain and a vanilla that smelled surprisingly restrained, a little smoky, and endlessly soft.
Family: aromatic, green
Notes: green grass, clover leaf, lemon, green tea, spearmint, cyclamen, lily of the valley, benzoin
People often forget that Guerlain has a long tradition for green freshness alongside its plush perfumes, with Jean-Paul Guerlain's Vetiver as the acme of the genre. Herba Fresca had no vetiver but the most exhilarating garden grass and clover, warmed and enlivened by a hint of lemonade, and a prickling breeze of spearmint as the core ingredient — an accord Jean-Paul Guerlain had already worked out for Un Air de Samsara. As perfume expert Luca Turin notes, Herba Fresca could have risked tasting like toothpaste. But it didn't, it smelled like a proper perfume, cool like rain, mainly due to Jean-Paul Guerlain's fine sense of flower arrangements. Here he used lily of the valley and cyclamen to dye the mint with a happy pastel colour. Finally, tea leaves and benzoin added calmness and an aromatic, tobacco-like sweetness. Herba Fresca made you smile: smelling it, you felt like a carefree kid playing barefoot in tall, dewy grass.
Notes: grapefruit, bergamot, neroli, petitgrain, blackcurrant bud, patchouli, vanilla
Of the long list of Aqua Allegoria scents born since the line's introduction in 1999, only two have stayed around from the beginning: Herba Fresca and Pamplelune. The former due to its unique pastoral greenness, the latter because it incarnated the nimble scent of pink grapefruit so cleverly that it has been referred to as "the best grapefruit fragrance ever". It is unquestionably the most innovative and uncompromising of the Aqua Allegoria collection. The name itself was strange — grapefruit in French is "pamplemousse". So why "lune" ("moon")? Perhaps a suggestion of the bright satellite? Or some reference to the Spanish city Pampelune? No explanation was given. The scent started off as the truest, liveliest grapefruit. The astringent and utterly unsweetened first impression seemed quite unfriendly to some, but the scent slowly mellowed down with a dash of vanilla and patchouli and a crisp, slightly fruity blackcurrant bud note. For a pure citrus fragrance, Pamplelune was remarkably long-lasting and perhaps one of Guerlain's most luminous and uplifting ones.
Other Aqua Allegoria scents. Flora Nerolia (2000), Gentiana, Winter Delice (2001), Lilia Bella (2002), Lemon Fresca, Foliflora (2003), Anisia Bella, Mentafollia (2004), Orange Magnifica, Pivoine Magnifica (2005), Tutti Kiwi, Grosellina (2006), Angélique-Lilas, Mandarine Basilic (2007), Laurier-Réglisse, Figue-Iris (2008), Cherry Blossom, Tiaré Mimosa (2009), Flora Nymphea, Bouquet No.1 (2010), Jasminora, Rosa Blanca, Bouquet No.2 (2011), Lys Soleia, Bouquet de Mai (2012), Nerolia Bianca, Flora Rosa (2013), Limon Verde (2014), Teazzurra (2015), Pera Granita, Rosa Pop (2016), Bergamote Calabria (2017), Rosa Fizz (2017).
Bottle. For the Aqua Allegoria line, Robert Granai managed to transform the classic bee bottle into a new design that is both simple and exquisite, with a gilded honeycomb wrapped around the bottle shoulders and the Guerlain bee symbol engraved into the top of the cap. The design has stayed the same since then, although the spray mechanism, label and box have been changed several times.
We love: the charm of especially the first editions
Very accessible luxury
For the botanist in you
Some images courtesy of guerlain.com
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