Jean-Paul Guerlain 2010
[arsɛn lypɛ̃ dɑ~di]
Family: woody, leather
Notes: bergamot, pink pepper, cardamom, rosewood, violet leaf, frankincense, labdanum, leather, patchouli, sandalwood, guaiac wood, white musk
Dry leather balm
Period: The recapitulation years

Since Jean-Paul Guerlain has retired, he no longer creates perfumes for a living anymore, but he still used to visit the Guerlain factory once a week to conduct his own olfactory projects, a labour of love. Until an unfortunate remark made on French television in 2010 forced Jean-Paul Guerlain to give up any connection with the Guerlain company, loyal Guerlainophiles felt a bit like children at Christmas when something with his signature eventually was released for sale. French newspaper Le Figaro started the excitement back in 2007, reporting that Jean-Paul Guerlain had "been preparing a new perfume for men during the last months." Now that it's completed, he has been quoted as officially calling it "perhaps the last fragrance I will create." (Isn't it ironic? He, the self-proclaimed admirer and wooer of women, ended up beginning and finishing his career with something for the male audience.) Technically, it was not one, but two fragrances, a duo connected by the same name and idea but with different subtitles. How refreshing: in a time when perfume companies launch the same fragrances under new names, Guerlain does the opposite. Jean-Paul Guerlain hadn't made a men's scent since Coriolan and Chamade Pour Homme more than a decade ago, an aromatic woody and a violet chypre, respectively. It was these same two olfactory themes he revisited, maybe slightly disappointing for those expecting something as radical as what Habit Rouge had been in the sixties.

Modestly mentioning it as "a fragrance for myself," Jean-Paul Guerlain aimed at his habitual French bourgeois elegance in the new perfume duo and named it Arsène Lupin after one of France's literary heroes. He had for a long time been intrigued by this fictional character whom Maurice Leblanc in 1905 depicted as a "gentleman thief". Jean-Paul Guerlain wanted him to be a dandy and a rascal, and he made a scent for each persona, Dandy and Voyou, advertised together as "The Greatest Seducer". "This thief and seducer, loved by the masses, inspired me. I admired his gallantry à la Robin Hood, his both anarchistic and worldly-wise edge." Although the dandy image has evolved quite a bit since Jacques Guerlain's sweet and affable Mouchoir de Monsieur, Arsène Lupin Dandy had face value. Its main accord was cardamom-violet-labdanum, a cool camphoric balm scent with very high cheekbones, dry like a martini with only a dash of balsamic sweetness stirred in. This slightly powdery green chypre was no doubt influenced by Sous le Vent, a scent which Jean-Paul Guerlain continuously has reinterpreted in works like Vetiver, Eau de Guerlain, Derby, and Philtre d'Amour. It courted the same kind of "highbrow" style as Chamade Pour Homme (1999), but typical of the niche style in perfumery, Dandy was less extroverted and much more transparent and light — entirely in concordance with Jean-Paul Guerlain's dictum that "luxury is something pretty and discreet."

Arsène Lupin Dandy was discontinued in 2016. Read about Arsène Lupin Voyou

For the Arsène Lupin duo, Guerlain introduced a whole new bottle design, featuring wooden frames around a glass container. The style, which was eventually extended to the entire line of Parisiens, was very contemporary, save an Art Deco imprint of the fragrance's name. Like the L'Art & la Matière bottles, placed side by side, these bottles are meant to appear like books lined up in a library. Unusually informal by Guerlain standards, the black paint on Arsène Lupin Dandy looks as sleek as a tight leather glove, highly suitable for the dandy subject.

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