Back in the days when the market for perfumes was significantly smaller than it is today, perfumers created only one version of a fragrance, namely the concentrated Parfum. Often a less expensive EdT was made available too, which was simply the diluted Parfum. When men’s scents started to appear in the 1950s, they were usually fresh scents offered in a light EdC concentration.

The business of perfumery has expanded dramatically since the 1980s. To deal with the fierce competition, perfumers have invented a wealth of formats and variants of their fragrances to catch consumers’ restless attention. In 1981, Guerlain introduced the Eau de Parfum format with Nahéma. An EdP was the fragrance writ large, a tweaked version that combined the depth of the Parfum with the radiance of the EdT. Today, it’s common that Parfum, EdP and EdT are created each with their individual formula and list of notes, in order to achieve an either more sensual or more fresh effect. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that any version of a scent is basically a flanker.

Enter L’Homme Idéal, Guerlain’s latest men’s scent, which has just spawned an EdP following the previous EdT and Cologne (actually an EdT) versions. Other than the name and the almond note, this trio don't have much else in common, not even the olfactive family. The EdT had the almond crunchy and praline-like, served like an Amaretto Sour in a contemporary “boisé sec” setting, while the Cologne’s version of almond was bitter and green, and toned down within a completely different Campari and grapefruit accord.

When the EdT launched, many Guerlain aficionados immediately began to wish for a more rounded and “Guerlinade-like” interpretation of the almond note. The new EdP may be the answer to their prayers, although anyone who was hoping for an “intense” version might be disappointed. While the gorgeous crunchiness of the signature almond-leather-bergamot accord is still there in the top, the rest of the fragrance takes a whole new direction. The EdP has not just diminished most of the EdT’s fresh and dry elements, but it has literally removed the neroli, rosemary, green apple and vetiver. Instead we find a sweeter and gentler mandarin top note. This change solves the problem of the original fragrance being too “metallic” and harsh in some people’s opinion; already five minutes into the EdP, it is smooth and velvety like an Amaretto liqueur.

Due to the lack of freshness, the overall impression is sweet, but what may come as a surprise is that the EdP is not one bit more gourmand or praline-like than the EdT. Guerlain’s masculines don’t seem to follow the feminine trend of becoming more and more sugary. The downside of the change is that it eliminates the vibrancy and contrast that made the EdT so addictive, leaving the almond a cozy, but linear blend of balsamic and spicy notes: cinnamon, cardamom, aromatic resins, rum, tonka bean, and not least vanilla. Jacques Guerlain would rarely use balsamic ingredients as anything but a background accord, but Morocco-based Serge Lutens has made them fashionable to wear in and by themselves.

Despite the presence of cedarwood, ashy like a cigar box, with this interpretation, it’s so restrained that L’Homme Idéal is no longer a “boisé sec” type fragrance, but rather a woody oriental, though by no means a competitor to Guerlain’s classic masculine oriental, Habit Rouge. It smells very much like a vanilla version of the Middle East inspired Ambre Éternel from earlier this year, and hence addresses itself more to young “niche” fashionistas than to lovers of classic Guerlain boldness. If L’Homme Idéal EdT was black leather, then the EdP is suede, a suave evening fragrance with all the rough edges brushed into balsamic soft focus. In fact, it’s so soft that some will likely miss the power of the EdT. L’Homme Idéal EdP is by no means “extreme” the way L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme Extrême was.

On the other hand, what will probably make it a real winner among Guerlain lovers is the wonderfully natural feel of vanilla that pervades the scent, like plump vanilla pods soaked in alcohol, as well as an inclusion of Bulgarian rose, sandalwood, and a distinct oud note that will please Arab customers. It all makes for an elegant aura, coupled with a raspberry note that accentuates the fruity and deep syrup facets of rose, vanilla and oud. Raspberry is one of Guerlain’s most frequent fruity notes (think Insolence, La Petite Robe Noire, French Kiss, Santal Royal, Ne m’Oubliez Pas), because it can add a delectable jammy sensation to most floral, woody and gourmand compositions. It’s the first time that we find it in a masculine Guerlain, though. Here, it’s moderated to only appear in the drydown, but it suffices to make us want to have another sip of this Amaretto liqueur.

Officially presented as a joint creation between Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk, with this launch Guerlain deviates from its usual policy of only mentioning Thierry Wasser as the creator. Delphine Jelk was the author of the original La Petite Robe Noire (2009), and has worked as Wasser’s co-perfumer since then.

For the EdP version, the handsome black and white design of the original bottle has been morphed into a taupe and orange scheme that may fit the fragrance but doesn’t look quite as attractive.
(April 2016)

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