Family: aromatic, woody
Notes: sweet lime, bergamot, mint, rum, geranium, green tea, rhubarb leaf, vetiver, cedarwood, patchouli, sugar cane
Period: The recapitulation years
Guerlain Homme collection
After 180 years of almost exclusive celebration of powdery plush and pomp, or sexual ambivalence at best, Guerlain felt it was time to do an all-man "Homme". Just four years from L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, it reflects how fragrance is nowadays as much part of men's grooming as it is of women's: most mainstream designers launch at least one men's scent each year. In comparison, there were twenty years between Habit Rouge and Derby, divided only by the unisex Eau de Guerlain. "In 2007, when we analyzed our masculine fragrances portfolio, it was obvious that freshness was missing from the lineup. And today it is a very important element for men. A large category of men don't feel comfortable with 'round' or sensual fragrances like our older ones," announced Guerlain's Sylvaine Delacourte. On a trip to Cuba, she had a Mojito, the famous highball that mixes lime and spearmint with white rum, sugar cane juice and club soda, and immediately she got the idea for a new Guerlain.
The prospect of exchanging legendary artistry with a calculated concept, delegated to the old company's first non-family house perfumer Thierry Wasser, had the fan base sceptical. But Thierry Wasser kept his promise of making a perfume that is pleasing to the sense of smell and vision. Inspired by the Mojito flavour he didn't put fresh notes in the top only, but built all three drydown layers around a commonality of freshness. First, an aromatic-alcoholic-fresh layer, a very lifelike, almost drinkable imitation of the invigorating Mojito harmony (sweet lime, mint, rum notes). Second, a floral-bitter-fresh layer, an unusual scent of menthol-cool geranium, astringent green tea, rhubarb (the rhubarb, smelling at once tart, tannic and profoundly leafy, was, by all accounts, Jean-Paul Guerlain's idea). And third, a dry-warm-fresh layer of cedarwood, patchouli, sugar cane and vetiver (the latter as "a nod to Jean-Paul Guerlain and his first-ever perfume, Vetiver," Thierry Wasser explained). The result was pure understated elegance. It conveyed a wonderful greenness which Thierry Wasser himself boldly described as "inimitable", a fluid sensation of vegetation and humid rainforest, fizzy and a bit metallic as if carbonated. "Green is my tic," Thierry Wasser said. "I put it everywhere."
Bottle. The bottle's combination of bright metal and glass fits the fragrance perfectly and is almost a tribute to the eye-catching Art Deco bottle of Vol de Nuit, though here heavily modernized by Italian car designer Pininfarina who was hired to invent the bottle. (Maybe Guerlain had read perfume critic Luca Turin's earlier notion that if perfume houses were coachbuilders, then Guerlain would be a graceful Pininfarina.) Turn the bottle on its back, and the top silver part will look like the hood of a car with the transparent lid as the windscreen, while straight up it suggests a male torso. The EdP variant has a smoked glass body garbed with a dark anthracite lacquer front. Inside the bottle's box there's a zebra pattern which repeats Vol de Nuit's flirting with African safaris. From 2013, the bottle was all made of glass without the metal front. In 2016, the Guerlain Homme bottle is replaced by the classic "Habit Rouge" bottle, featuring a faux wood cap that matches the exclusive Parisien line.
EdT, EdP. The two concentrations are like modulations of the same formula, with different weight on citrus, leaves and wood, respectively. The Eau de Parfum version, also labeled "Intense", has, yes, much intenser wood notes, which brings out a wonderful peppery, ashy, slow-burning tension of vetiver, cedarwood and patchouli through the drydown — that tweedy, umami-like feel of roots and salty seashores which, as promised, is an evident nod to Jean-Paul Guerlain's Vetiver, only with a more angular shape than we're used to from Guerlain. The rum note is intenser than in the EdT, too. Its only drawback is a minor suppression of the dewy Mojito accord that made the original so delightful up top. The EdT version was discontinued in 2015.
Variations. Freshness can be even fresher. Subtitled "L'Eau", this simpler version, easier, happier, more vibrant, was made of just the appetizing Mojito accord, sweet lime, mint and rum plus a new, bitterness-stripped grapefruit note. The drier L'Eau Boisée ("woody") adds to that a large dose of vetiver grass, clear, mild and almost drinkable, for a very durable men's scent, explicitly green yet warm down below. Originally featuring a handsome wooden cap to go with the name, later batches of L'Eau Boisée had the standard clear plastic cap.
We love: the EdP
One spritz on top of Mitsouko works wonders
A savoury coolness to be worn with a cool suit, tweed jacket or linen clothes
Some images courtesy of guerlain.com
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