Guerlain has launched a quartet of new EdP fragrances called The Four Seasons, not to be confused with the brand's 2008 box set of the same name. The fragrances are housed in 500 ml Baccarat quadrilobe bottles, exquisitely decorated by haute couture designer Janaïna Milheiro with coloured feathers and pearls to evoke each of the four seasons. The price is haute couture too: 16,000 € per bottle.

As Luca Turin once pointed out, fragrance brands should refrain from releasing more than one perfume at a time, because customers tend to judge a fragrance collection as a whole, not the individual fragrances within the collection. Hence, one inferior fragrance can ruin the whole launch.

Moreover, our judgment of a product will always depend on its monetary cost. At 16,000 € per bottle we expect nothing short of olfactory bliss. We know very well that the actual formula cost in all cases is very low, but when fragrance brands use Baccarat crystal bottles and haute couture decorators to up the price, our expectations soar equally sky-high. Yet, paradoxically, when prices exceed a certain level of grotesqueness, and the number of copies is equally limited, we begin to wonder if the perfumes were really created to be opened and smelled, or only to be displayed somewhere in the Arabic Emirates. For that matter, Guerlain could have filled the bottles with coloured water, and no one would be the wiser, that is, if it weren’t for the fact that Maison Guerlain has testers to try.

I have smelled the new Four Seasons collection, and in this short review I try to ignore the fact that its price could buy you a very nice BMW that would surely rock your social status more than a set of embellished perfume bottles.

The set consists of two floral and two woody fragrances. First of all, they're all very light, performing like EdT despite being sold as EdP. Of course we would have expected Guerlain to give us rich, dense, long-lasting Parfums, but maybe perfumery can’t do much better under current EU laws. Thierry Wasser has taught us that lowering the overall concentration is one way of making a scent comply with IFRA restrictions.

Le Printemps is labeled as a musky green floral. Despite its obvious charm, this kind of floral, mixing hyacinth, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang and white musk, is today seen as derivative. Bear in mind, though, that Jacques Guerlain made many of this classification, just vastly more animalic than is feasible today.

L’Été is categorized as a solar floral. What makes it particularly enjoyable is that it smells like a remake of Mathilde Laurent’s lamented Voile d’Été from the Terracotta line (1999), only with sunny peach instead of the cool pear note.

L’Automne is described as a fresh woody fragrance. Discerning fragrance lovers will observe its use of ambergris, oakmoss and orris, classic materials that offer a grey-brown, "vintage" and, yes, autumnal, atmosphere. The ashy-salty note of ambergris is perceived right away, combined with a fruity orange and airy fresh-floral start. The scent eventually gets very woody with cedarwood, vetiver and patchouli. It retains a remarkable wet sensation of wood sap through the drydown, but unfortunately there's a burnt, malty sourness to the whole thing, despite the presence of a sweet caramel note.

L’Hiver, a green, woody musk, is my personal favorite of the four. It is not your typical warm gourmand winter scent, but instead a unique, freezing cold take on rose. By itself, rose essence has a cool citrus facet, which L’Hiver turns almost frosty with prickling, green-fresh notes of pine, cardamom, coriander, and angelica. To some extent, the fiercely fresh, aldehydic top note reminds me of Habit Rouge, which may explain why I fell for it. The green, rosy freshness lasts throughout the drydown, which is a soft balsamic, pale chypre type that smells as if Idylle had been stripped of all its cheerfulness, and it actually matches the white winter theme quite well.

All in all, these fragrances are not among the most astonishing creations we’ve smelled from Guerlain, but if the marketing team would condescend to provide a reasonably priced set of simple sprays, I’m sure all Guerlain lovers would rush to buy it.
(October 2016)

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