Period: The Belle Époque years
Thierry Wasser and his assistant perfumer Frédéric Sacone have re-created an extensive list of historic Guerlain perfumes, using the exact same ingredients as when they saw the light for the first time.
There's an aura of pride about Jicky, the first of the "modern" perfumes, and the oldest perfume in continuous production. Created in 1889, Jicky is Guerlain's grand old dame — or is it gentleman? — yet it never ceases to impress with its amazing balance of freshness, sweetness, coolness and warmth, at once rugged and tender. The framework of Jicky is often described as a mixture of bergamot, lavender, vanilla, coumarin and civet, but of course there's more to it than that. Unfortunately, today's version has a reputation of being a timid and fleeting shadow of its former self, so who wouldn't like to experience what Jicky originally smelled like?
Frédéric Sacone explains that upon researching Aimé Guerlain's handwritten formula for Jicky, he discovered that it lists the famous Eau de Cologne Impériale as one of the ingredients. French perfumers have a word for this kind of formula-in-formula: "formule à tiroir" — because it is based on one or more formulas that you already have in your drawer ("tiroir" in French). Hence, Aimé Guerlain's idea was to use his father's invigoratingly citrusy and aromatic cologne as a top note inside a new and completely novel perfume composition with spicy-floral, ambery and animal notes. Thierry Wasser tells us that the link between Eau de Cologne Impériale and Jicky is an example of the continuity that plays such an important role in Guerlain's creativity, and that it's the same sort of continuity that years later led to the creation of Shalimar. That Jacques Guerlain made Shalimar by pouring ethylvanillin into a bottle of Jicky is a well-known story. However, Thierry Wasser confesses that he's not an advocate of the Jicky-plus-ethylvanillin theory, because in reality it was probably not that simple. Still, he says Jicky teaches us a lot about what inspired Jacques Guerlain: herbs, bergamot, jasmine, rose, spices, animal notes and a gourmand base — in short, the Guerlinade.
The re-created 1889 version of Jicky doesn't strike us as completely different from what we know, but it has something we long for in modern Jicky: a remarkable richness and depth. From smelling vintage Shalimar we now know that the use of raw bergamot oil has a lot to say in this matter. Raw bergamot oil smells deep, rounded and fruity, but isn't used anymore because it can be skin-damaging when exposed to sunlight. Up top in vintage Jicky, we really get the archetypical masculine sensation of bergamot and herbs (the scent diagram reveals that in addition to geranium and lavender, there is mint and absinthe), a powerful, citrus-soapy-peppery freshness which is rendered almost tobacco-like by what comes after: orris, coumarin and vanillin. Also, says Thierry Wasser, the tincture of natural civet makes a great impact, as it does in vintage Shalimar, with its strong, melting and sensual character. The transition between citrus, aromatics, sweet amber and civet is smooth and extremely satisfying in vintage Jicky, and the drydown is long-lasting enough to give us the pleasure of soft vanillic balsam throughout the day. Interestingly, the cinnamon note is surprisingly present and distinct in vintage Jicky. Among all the perfumes included in the vintage sample set, one of the most lamentable losses is certainly Jicky's original formula.
Frédéric Sacone emphasizes that although all perfume samples in the set contain natural animal ingredients, Guerlain has not procured new animal products in order to make them, but utilized only the existing stock that Guerlain has retained over the years. Read more about Jicky ▶
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