Family: gourmand, fougère
Notes: milky note, almond, lavender, bergamot, mandarin, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, toffee accord, patchouli, sandalwood, white musk, orris, vanilla, tonka bean
Lavender and caramel
Period: The recapitulation years
If we believed that the caramel and cotton candy wave in perfumery, set in motion by Thierry Mugler's Angel (1992), was calming down, we need to think again. In 2015, Guerlain has launched two exclusive, peach-coloured juices, each made of some of the sweetest materials that fragrance chemistry can offer. The first was the bridal fragrance, named Le Plus Beau Jour de Ma Vie ("the most beautiful day of my life"), with orange blossom and sugared almonds. Then came a blend of lavender, sugared almonds and toffee, bearing no other name than "Mon Exclusif". Guerlain encourages customers to have the bottle, a clear spray version of the elegant Coque d’Or bottle, engraved with a name of their own choice.
The scent is described as an oriental fougère, with lavender, mandarin, bergamot, sugared almond, sunny floral notes, toffee, sandalwood, orris and white musk. In the description, Guerlain highlights three ingredients: the lavender that smells fresh and slightly fruity, the sandalwood which comes from Southeast Asia and has a particularly soft and long-lasting fragrance, and the toffee accord that "surprises the taste buds" with coumarin, vanilla and a note of salted butter.
The Guerlain catalogue touts 1889's fougère Jicky as the world’s first "true perfume", characterized by depth, abstraction and tenacity. Its genius was to combine lavender and other Provençal herbs from Eau de Cologne Impériale with novel aroma chemicals whose odour was sweet and long-lasting, like coumarin and vanillin. Since then, lavender has mainly been used is men’s scents, although it was a frequent top note in Jacques Guerlain’s works. There also was a lovely lavender fragrance in the original Aqua Allegoria collection, Lavande Velours (which Jean-Paul Guerlain reportedly made for his dog). Maybe Guerlain thought it was time to revive the lavender note and do a fougère that would appeal to today’s women. Much has happened in fragrance chemistry since vanillin and coumarin were discovered. Now, perfumery can make you smell like caramel, praline, chocolate, licorice, fruit, and other sweet, edible things.
Mon Exclusif is easily Guerlain's most gourmand fragrance to date (or maybe the second-most after Gourmand Coquin), making Spiritueuse Double Vanille and Tonka Impériale appear dry in comparison. Guerlain has had a sweet thing going on at least since Jicky, but always paired with a certain darkness. When Thierry Wasser explained the formula of La Petite Robe Noire, he was proud to announce that its sweetness derives from an aroma chemical that has a very dark, licorice-like facet, a so-called maple lactone, while the ethyl maltol known from Angel is all caramel and cotton candy. Now, we're beginning to speculate that Guerlain couldn't help eyeing what’s topping the feminine bestseller lists, thinking that caramel isn't such a bad thing after all (yes, we’re looking at you, La Vie Est Belle).
The best part of Mon Exclusif is definitely the start, a beautiful lavender note mixed with the addictive amaretto accord from L’Homme Idéal. If there’s a link to Jicky in Mon Exclusif it’s here, crunchy almond contrasted with the freshness of lavender and the suaveness of tonka bean. If only this part would last longer. After that it gets sweeter and sweeter: buttery, high-calorie toffee combined with sandalwood. It’s really remarkable how Guerlain was able to track down a molecule that smells like toffee, but it literally does. The sandalwood is of the milky, non-burning sort that we found in the Russian exclusive Black Swan. We also detect the classic floral bouquet of Guerlain, jasmine, rose and ylang-ylang. The rose adds a touch of freshness, while the ylang-ylang pulls back into creamy sweetness. Mon Exclusif is not a floral fragrance, though, but remains a woody gourmand.
Despite Mon Exclusif’s girly caramel and La Vie Est Belle colour scheme, the stately soul of Guerlain is not completely absent. Perhaps the assembly of lavender, coumarin, vanilla and sandalwood represents enough of the Jicky DNA to make us melt. The revival of the historic bow tie bottle surely helps to catch a Guerlain fan's attention too. The drydown is less ambery than we might expect from a gourmand formula. The toffee accord fades away after a couple of hours, leaving space for the pleasant scent of sandalwood which is rendered cottony and slightly ashy by patchouli, orris and white musk. Lovers of classic Guerlain will maybe find the exit a bit too nondescript, just woody notes mixed with white icing sugar.
Some might say that we’ve had our fair share of caramel and almond from Guerlain in recent years, but Mon Exclusif proves that there’s always room for more. Given what’s hitting the fragrance market these days, this “gourmand Jicky” fragrance might be a success, if only customers will know how to ask for a nameless perfume.
Bottle. For Mon Exclusif, Guerlain has transformed the historic bow tie bottle, first made for Coque d'Or (1937), into an atomizer bottle. Whereas the bow tie bottle was originally made in cobalt blue crystal and then gilded, the Mon Exclusif bottle features clear glass with silver trimmed edges.
We love: the reuse of historic themes for completely new ideas
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iris lavande caramel