Fifty-five years ago, the young Jean-Paul Guerlain was proudly proclaimed to be the perfectionist his predecessors were, "preferring to spend seven years, make 450 experiments and consult five Guerlain noses in the making of Chant d'Arômes." Fast-forward to 2017, and Guerlain is proud to present 12-15 fragrance releases per year. Le Frenchy, a new addition to the Parisien line, is the brand’s twelfth fragrance this year, two of which were reissues.

The Parisien line is a masculine offshoot of the Parisiennes, reserved for reissues of discontinued fragrances or limited editions. However, apart from flankers of Habit Rouge, L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, and Guerlain Homme, there aren’t many discontinued men’s scents in Guerlain’s back catalogue to reissue, and it was the arrival of the brand-new Arsène Lupin duo in 2010 that prompted Guerlain to form an exclusive masculine line, which included Derby, Chamade Pour Homme, and L’Âme d’un Héros (formerly Coriolan). Arsène Lupin Dandy and L’Âme d’un Héros were taken out of production last year, leaving just three fragrances in the Parisien collection.

According to Guerlain, Le Frenchy is neither an old nor an entirely new fragrance, but an EdP reworking of Jacques Guerlain’s Eau de Verveine, which was a citrusy, herbal cologne with verbena and sage. The news of this release has elicited several comments on fragrance forums, saying that Guerlain’s timing is strangely off, issuing fresh scents for the winter season, and that the name sounds childish and inelegant. It’s true that the word Frenchy is derogatory slang for people or things that are typically French in character. On the other hand, using derogatory slang about oneself sometimes has a disarming, humorous effect that charms us. We can question whether there’s anything particularly "French" about a fresh fragrance, although all of the historic French perfume houses, including Guerlain, started out as producers of fresh-smelling colognes. Maybe Guerlain just wanted a masculine counterpart to French Kiss in the Elixirs Charnels line.

How does a perfumer turn a traditional cologne, naturally lacking any tenacious base notes, into an EdP? Thierry Wasser seems to have chosen to simply add vetiver, marrying so well with citrusy and aromatic materials, that clear, mild, and almost drinkable vetiver note that we also find in Guerlain Homme L’Eau Boisée. In fact, Le Frenchy comes across as a citrus version of L’Eau Boisée. After an initial blast of crisp lemony notes, we sense the lavender and the sage, a culinary herb in the mint family, with its distinctive camphoric-green, earthy and soft laurel-like aroma. Coupled with ambergris and vetiver, it gives the drydown a grey grassy, salty, and slightly animalic atmosphere.

In terms of projection and longevity, the value-for-money ratio isn’t very much better than that of a traditional cologne. Le Frenchy is understatedly handsome, but somewhat unfulfilling. To utilize this kind of fragrance, I would choose L’Eau Boisée or Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Vetiver instead. Still, it’s actually refreshing to experience a new men’s scent that doesn’t contain any of the brash woody aroma chemicals, and we appreciate the fact that Thierry Wasser once more has dug into the vast catalogue of his predecessors, giving us the opportunity to get a glimpse into what Guerlain smelled like in the old days.

The packaging of Les Parisiens features wooden frames around an oblong glass container. Using wood in bottle design is part of Guerlain’s strategy of demonstrating an eco-friendly image, although felling trees to make frivolous perfume bottles is not exactly eco-friendly. For Le Frenchy, the French Tricolour, to which the name alludes, is represented in the packaging, with a red frame, a bluish juice, and white and blue writing.
(September 2017)

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