Since 1999, the Guerlain catalogue has annually retained five Aqua Allegorias, but this year it has been increased to ten. The brand has reissued four former fragrances from the line while adding a new release called Passiflora. It’s named after Passiflora edulis, a vine species of passion flower that is cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet-tart, seedy fruit, commonly known as passion fruit.

Guerlain has also changed the description of the line, saying that bergamot is the common denominator and single most dominant note in all of these fragrances. This is actually not just marketing mumbo jumbo, but quite reflective of reality.

I must admit I don't favour reviewing Aqua Allegorias, as these scents interest me just about as much as collecting stamps: the endless remixes of the same four notes (citrus, orange blossom, fruit, white musk) annoy me the same way muzak in elevators does. That said, Passiflora stands out as being the first aquatic Aqua Allegoria, with the weird accord of watermelon and seawater that we know from 1990's perfumery. Some perfume aficionados distinguish between aquatic fragrances (watermelon and breezy notes) and marine fragrances (salty seawater notes). Guerlain, on the other hand, does not make this distinction, as both L’Homme Idéal Sport and Passiflora are advertised as aquatic scents, although Sport leans towards watermelon, while in Passiflora, the salty, almost ashy umami note of seaweed is very pronounced. Mixed with an initial blast of juicy passion fruit and grapefruit, it almost feels like having a glass of freshly-squeezed juice in front of your beach bungalow in Thailand.

With the exception of Mathilde Laurent’s wonderful Pamplelune, grapefruit is seldom a good idea in perfumery, especially not when combined with the soapy feel of orange blossom like it is here, because it tends to smell like dishwashing liquid. Luckily, Passiflora also includes a touch of the exotic, banana-like creaminess of ylang-ylang to round off the composition.
(February 2018)

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