Family: floral, chypre
Notes: neroli, lily of the valley, peony, freesia, jasmine, lilac, Bulgarian rose, patchouli, white musk
Dewy youth elixir
Period: The recapitulation years
"Luxury is something pretty and discreet," Jean-Paul Guerlain said, and his protégé Thierry Wasser seems to have been listening. While the brand's older floral perfumes smelled either nostalgic (Après l'Ondée), glamorous (L'Heure Bleue), chic (Liu), introverted (Chant d'Arômes), heartbreaking (Chamade), voluptuous (Nahéma), or hard (Jardins de Bagatelle), Wasser's first big feminine perfume for Guerlain introduced an aim of being all happy and romantic. In perfumery, floral romance is per definition a cliché which the advertisement for Idylle didn't try to elude, stating that the scent "encapsulates the idea of an idyll, a joyous, lighthearted romance." Both name and advertisement must presuppose Guerlain's general rule of spelling things out loud and clear and then bask in the beauty of the result, because if Idylle was a cliché, then it was a very good one: the sweet story of the birds and the bees, the aching longing for youth. Its bouquet of fresh flowers and Bulgarian rose felt like entering a florist shop, delightful and, yes, pretty.
Idylle's rose, fruity, colourful and wet, left a trace of Nahéma but only in miniature, seen through the retro-feminine sobriety of Ode, a now long gone Jacques and Jean-Paul collaboration which also featured rose, jasmine and musk. And then a surprise: the final act smelled so dry, somewhere between verdigris and cashmere, that you couldn't believe it all began with moist flowers. This stemmed from patchouli mixed with the drydown of white musk, removing any surplus sweetness, and was what Guerlain termed the "chypre sensuality" of Idylle. The rose-patchouli accord wasn't by itself an innovation, and the fragrance has been treated as unoriginal by many a fragrance blogger. But, Idylle's beauty was in its texture, a dewy, nectarous and effervescent touch that kept it engaging and hard to resist, even for unsentimental souls. It somehow made sense when Guerlain described it as a "floral mist", visualized by golden raindrops. Thierry Wasser later revealed that Idylle was designed especially for the Russian and Scandinavian markets which prefer fresh floral scents to orientals.
Young French designer Ora-Ito was behind the bottle, bronze-coloured and formed like "a tear of joy", with fluid lines as romantic as Art Nouveau ever was, and widely acclaimed for its shapeliness. The pointed cap bore the obvious sign of a renewal, like spring flowers poking their heads out above the soil. In 2017, Guerlain replaces the Idylle bottle with the standard bee atomizer.
EdP, EdT, Parfum
The EdP was the first Idylle format to be issued, prominent on the drizzle-cashmere-verdigris effect. The EdT pushed up the fresh-flower aspect (neroli, freesia) while minimizing the musk, and it added ylang-ylang as a different kind of warmth to adjust for the relative dryness of this version. Cheerful, spring-like, peppery, and a little powdery. "More extroverted, more uplifting, and fresher, as if stripped of its finery," Guerlain put it. By contrast, the Parfum version was all about finery, the fresh flowers significantly toned down to only include freesia, and heart and base put into focus. It intensified the Bulgarian rose by adding rose absolute, and the fruity facet was topped with raspberry and litchi. A whole new reworking of the base included the balsamic, sensual facets of ambrette. The Parfum version of Idylle was discontinued in 2016.
A limited version appeared in 2011, called "Duet" since it highlighted the two signature ingredients, rose and patchouli, with the rose playing a denser and distincter role throughout. A mossy note replaced the white musk for a darker, firmer timbre. The result was an almost classic red rose perfume, made for the evening. It was reissued in 2014 under the name Duet Rose-Patchouli, to distinguish it from another Duet version from 2012, which focused on the opposite aspect of Idylle, the bright and luminous one: lilac and jasmine. The more widely available flanker Eau Sublime rendered the rose scent lighter and sweeter using rose water, which is the liquid left over from distilling rose oil. Rose water has a distinctly soapy scent, often used to flavour food and sweets in India and the Middle East. Eau Sublime added peach for a luscious, fruity sparkle.
We love: the Parfum
Give in to the prettiness
Guerlain can make even a dewy-eyed floral enjoyable for men
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