The volume of the output from the house of GUERLAIN is staggering. Last year they launched 15 fragrances and for 2017 they have launched 11 so far, which includes their blockbuster new signature fragrance Mon Guerlain. It’s easy to see why they are launching so many scents – not only do they wish to expand and make more of a name for themselves, but GUERLAIN have also amassed quite the collection of collections, each of which cries out for regular new addition. Where would we be without a new Aqua Allegoria or L’Art et Matiere fragrance each year? And what would La Petite Robe Noire do if she didn’t have a new dress for the season? Whilst not every single one of these fragrances can be a GUERLAIN masterpiece, some do strike gold, which brings me nicely on to today’s subject – something new created by GUERLAIN perfumer Delphine Jelk under the creative direction of GUERLAIN chief nose, Thierry Wasser.
For their latest fragrance, Lui, GUERLAIN are taking cues from the past. The name and bottle may look familiar to you and that’s because they pay homage to a GUERLAIN classic (1929’s Liù) with the feminine name and iconic tea caddy bottle of the original subverted into something more modern. Lui is billed as a fragrance that is “not entirely feminine, nor truly masculine”. GUERLAIN call it “the perfume for a new gender order” and describes this new unisex scent as having an “ambiguous fragrance trail” that is “based on benzoin”. Let’s be real, the idea of unisex perfumery is nothing knew, nor is it particularly unusual in this day and age, especially since the rise of niche has really blown the doors open on the idea that a perfume can be worn by whomever fancies it. But heck, it may not be a new idea but I’m always here to embrace the lack of gendering in a perfume. So let’s put Lui to the sniff test.
Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to ignore Mon Guerlain and unless you’ve been hiding under a (rather fragrant) rock for the last month or so, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll have not seen or sniffed it. This is a Guerlain launch unlike no other – it is literally everywhere and the brand has gone balls to the wall (for want of a better phrase) in terms of promotion. Not only have they chosen Oscar-winning actress, director and human rights campaigner Angelina Jolie as the Mon Guerlain muse (an excellent choice IMHO), they’ve also worked with director Terrence Malick on the accompanying film. Not to mention the huge push in terms of press that the launch has had, which overshadows any other offering from Guerlain in the past. It really is a huge launch.
This post isn’t going to be a review of Mon Guerlain. I’ve already put together my thoughts on the scent, in isolation from its concepts and history for my Escentual column, and you can read those thoughts here. I stand by the fact that I really like how it smells. To me, Mon Guerlain is a novel take on lavender, one that amps up the material’s natural burned sugar notes and folds it into delicious butter candy and musk. It really is lovely, commercial yes, but undeniably lovely and made with top notch materials too. It’s also very Guerlain as well, especially seeing as the house is well know for being the utter dons at making gourmand treats for the nose. Mon Guerlain is no exception and it smells great.
So if this post isn’t a review, what is it? Well, Mon Guerlain is such a huge launch and such a game changer for Guerlain, I wanted to explore the commercial context in which it has arrived and what it may mean for Guerlain going forward. From a house that brought us Jicky, Shalimar, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit and Chamade (I really could go on and on, and on) with little fanfare, Mon Guerlain says that Guerlain has finally arrived to play with the big guns like Chanel and Dior. And guess what? They mean business.
Today is the day! Guerlain’s hotly anticipated new feminine fragrance launches and it’s a a big one! Mon Guerlain is the brand’s first feminine pillar since La Petite Robe Noire in 2012 and Guerlain are pulling out all of the stops, placing their new scent in a sprayable version of their famous quadrille bottle for the very first time. Oh and they’ve recruited none other than Hollywood actress, director and UN special-envoy Angelina Jolie (who is donating her fee to charity, I should add) as the face of their brand new fragrance: Mon Guerlain.
When I think of neroli I don’t necessarily think of the colour black, in fact, my mind wanders to shades of white, orange, gold and yellow – hues that are as far from ‘noir’ as they possibly can be. But it is the ingredient neroli and the idea of ‘outrenoir’ or beyond black (a concept created by artist Pierre Soulages) that serves as inspiration for the very latest addition to Guerlain’s L’Art et la Matiére (‘The Art and the Material’) collection: Néroli Outrenoir – neroli beyond black.
“I wanted all of its facets to be expressed: zesty, orangey neroli essence; woody, aromatic petitgrain essence; and orange blossom absolute.”
– Thierry Wasser
Created by Guerlain’s in-house Perfumer, Thierry Wasser, Néroli Outrenoir is described by Guerlain as being a fragrance that “draws on the contrast between the luminescence of neroli and the obscurity of much darker and more mysterious notes”. Coming from a collection that boasts bold compositions such as Spiritueuse Double Vanille (the booziest, biggest and baddest vanilla around) and Rose Barbare (the rose chypre to end all rose chypres), to name just two, it’s fair to say that Néroli Outrenoir has stiff composition, but it has many a trick and a surprise up its pretty little sleeves to allow it to earn its place in the collection.
Before we take a dive into the petitgrain pools of Néroli Outrenoir, it’s important to take a few moments to discuss packaging because the entire L’Art et la Matiére collection has been beautifully repackaged. The fragrances now come in a beautiful leatherette box shaded in a deep purple, but most importantly the bulb atomisers which have always been known to aid evaporation have been niftily remade (again in a beautiful purple shade) with an on-and-off mechanism to prevent fragrance-loss. The packaging is sublime, but how does the scent match-up? All shall be revealed…
“Shalimar” – just the utterance of its name sends shivers down my spine. Whenever I feel tired of overwhelmed with the onslaught of perfumery today, I often spritz on a touch of Shalimar to recalibrate. It refreshes my nose and reminds me of what ‘great’ smells like. But what makes Shalimar so wonderful? What makes it more than a classic – a legend? Well, for my Escentual column this week I’ve written about The Legend of Shalimar to coincide with the launch of the Shalimar Holiday Makeup Collection, which is currently Exclusive to Escentual for two weeks. To read my column click here, but also don’t forget to check out Emma’s piece on the swatches from the collection and Ceryn’s on the collection’s look.