Thierry Wasser 2014
[lə bɔlʃɔj blæk swɔn]
Family: fresh, floral, woody
Notes: sandalwood, milky note, lemon, bergamot, mandarin, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, violet, cedarwood, white musk, vanilla
Milky sandalwood
Period: The recapitulation years

It was in 2011 that Tchaikovsky's beautiful ballet, Swan Lake, as well as the ballerina aesthetic in general, achieved mainstream fame with the film Black Swan. The same year, Guerlain issued the perfume Le Bolshoï, a limited edition sold exclusively in Moscow, to commemorate the reopening of the Bolshoi theatre after extensive renovation. The scent was a reissue of Les Secrets de Sophie, a beautiful jasmine composition from 2009. In 2012, a second Bolshoï edition was launched, this time subtitled "Saison 2012 La Traviata" and available in Paris as well. The scent remained the same.

In 2014, Guerlain presented Le Bolshoï Black Swan, again limited to Moscow. For this edition, a new fragrance was composed, at once woody, milky, fresh, and sparkling. Its key note was sandalwood, which marked the scent from the top notes through to the base. By itself, sandalwood essential oil smells incredibly rich, warm and creamy, and in some floral compositions it can feel almost overpowering, as some might claim it does in Samsara. One could argue that the Guerlain catalogue already counts one sandalwood fragrance that is "fresh and sparkling", namely Jicky, however, Jicky used sandalwood merely in a supportive role, and it was not very floral either.

In Black Swan, Guerlain managed to pair sandalwood and floral notes and still have it smell light and fresh. Some chroniclers argue that this ability is a long-established Guerlain speciality. The fragrance started out with a quick burst of citrus mixed with the warmth of sandalwood and a tingling, airy sweetness of jasmine and lily of the valley. While the presence of sandalwood was strong right from the start, there was a clarity and subtle freshness to it, tempered by the drier profile of cedarwood, and quieted by a surprising chai-like note that felt as if jasmine tea were mixed with warm milk, honey, a few spices, and a drop of vanilla. This, the blend of jasmine chai and wood together with the lily of the valley, was probably the main charm of Black Swan, and what gave it a special flavour of Guerlain. It persisted for quite a while, throughout the perfume really. Along the way we had rose, peppery and not the least bit fruity, as well as a violet note that was at once powdery and leafy-green. Le Bolshoï Black Swan was one of the rare instances when we got a woody fragrance that is entirely feminine, but in that old-fashioned way that is not too feminine, pretty yet anything but girly.

The name Black Swan was also used for part of the colour palette of Guerlain's Un Soir à l'Opéra makeup collection.

All Le Bolshoï editions have appeared in the same bottle, namely the 60 ml prestige atomizer, with only the decoration changing.

  We love: that Guerlain finally created a new fragrance for this line

  Feminine woody

  A collector's thing

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