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…
GUERLAIN’S La Petite Robe Noire has quickly become a part of the fabric of the brand, taking its place next to the likes of icons such as Shalimar,Mitsouko and Samsara, and deservedly so. With LPRN, GUERLAIN took the fruity floral genre and showed everybody else just how it should be done, specifically with fizz, flair and a shedload of fun. The fragrance has been a huge hit, and whilst marketing may have played a big part in this, one cannot deny that La Petite Robe Noire is; a) an excellent fragrance (that fizzy cherry juxtaposed against that smoky black tea is just gorgeous); and b) a GUERLAIN fragrance through and through.
So with success come flankers and GUERLAIN have served us a number of delectable noire treats since LPRN’s launch in 2012 (well it’s mainstream launch, that is, the scent was a boutique exclusive launched in 2009 that was subsequently remixed for the wider market). The latest of which is La Petite Robe Noire Intense, a fragrance that evokes the idea of a breeze billowing though the pleats of a dress as it is transported around the world. That’s right, Miss La Petite Robe Noire is globetrotting and she has packed a brand new dress for her journey. But what does this particular garment smell like? Well, the answer is simple: it smells like fun!
There is an ever-growing trend within perfumery for intense sweetness. I’m not talking about your everyday gourmands, because those have been around forever, I’m referring to scents that offer up pure, unrefined sugar by the ton, not say, the likes of MUGLER’s Angelwhich inspired the gourmand trend, but ultimately was an essay in tension between sugar and patchouli. In the mainstream, it all started in 2004 with Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb, a nuclear candy floss scent that contains as much ethyl maltol as is possible to shoehorn into a bottle, presenting sugar toasted at the edges without any dark contrasts to temper it. Ever since, fragrance houses have been stumbling over themselves to see who can make the sweetest, most obnoxious fragrance, well that was until Lancôme came along with La Vie est Belle – officially the world’s most tooth-achingly sweet, toasted candy floss scent. It’s also an international best seller – go figure.
Now, I mention all of this not to moan, but instead to say that despite this ever popular trend, a house is yet to make a deliciously sweet overdose of a scent that doesn’t cause olfactory diabetes with one sniff. Well, that is until GUERLAIN threw their hat into the ring with Mon Exclusif, which turns out to be a decadent little treat that knows exactly when to say ‘no more for me, thank you’. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that GUERLAIN have been the brand to hit the nail on the head here, they are, after all half-perfumer and half-perume-patissiere, churning out some of the world’s most delicious morsels in fragrant form. So it’s no surprise then, that Mon Exclusif is a delightful bon bon that has depth and contrast to its sugar overload.
GUERLAIN launched Mon Exclusif in 2015. Created by Thierry Wasser, GUERLAIN’s in-house perfumer, the novel aspect of the fragrance is that it technically comes with no name, allowing the wearer to select their own title by placing the sticky silver letters on the bottle, which itself is a reinterpretation of the house’s famous Coque d’Or bow flacon. “Because your relationship with your fragrance is very intimate” GUERLAIN says, “it’s up to you to name this partner by your side”. So Mon Exclusif can be whatever one wants it to be: Jack, Tyler or Pierre. The choices are infinite and for many reasons, which I’m sure you’ll be able to guess, I decided to call mine ‘CANDY’.
An army of amorous brides chase a practically terrified Jon Kortajarena through city streets in the advert for Guerlain’s latest fragrance, L’Homme Idéal Cologne, and who can blame them? After all, Kortajarena isn’t exactly harsh on the eyes now, is he? But these ladies (who are all Guerlain employees, FYI, and include a few Guerlain gents in the mix too because marriage equality is real, people) aren’t really chasing the handsome model, they are after the ideal husband and, more importantly, his fragrance.
With last year’s L’Homme Idéal, Guerlain presented their idea of the ideal man – a cheeky yet suave woody gourmand that boasted more than a small nod to the house’s extremely successful La Petite Robe Noire. This time around, and for L’Homme Ideal’s first flanker, that naughty little scamp of a man has grown up a bit, gone on a diet and switched out his black tux for white linen. The result is a lighter version of the original that still maintains the almond signature that is integral to ‘L’Homme Idéal’. Click here to check out my review over at Escentual.
I’ve always been a big fan of Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire. When it originally launched as a boutique exclusive way back in 2009, I remember saying that the esteemed French house was missing a trick by not releasing the scent as a mainstream launch. It’s such a fun, fruity and frivolous scent, with oodles of depth and character, that it was almost a shame for it not to have a wider audience. Guerlain obviously felt the same, and in 2012 they remixed the juice slightly (giving it a bit more fizz) and unleashed La Petite Robe Noire all over the globe. It has been a huge success.
Of course, with huge success comes flankering, and lots of it. Since 2012, we’ve seen the launch of Eau de Toilette, Extrait and Couture versions of Guerlain’s famous garment, and all have been pretty good (especially the Extrait and Couture). This summer, Guerlain are extending their wardrobe of fragrant black dresses even further with La Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraîche (subtitled as ‘Ma Robe Pétales’), a much fresher and greener take on the cherry-rose signature of the original. Click here to read my review of this latest flanker in my Escentual column this week.
“The sickness of making flankers every five minutes is very upsetting, but if I don’t want to get kicked out for not doing my job, I have to do it”
– Thierry Wasser ¹
Thierry Wasser, in-house perfumer at Guerlain, recently likened the penchant brands have for creating numerous flankers to a “sickness” and when looking at the numerous incarnatons of the house’s flagship fragrance, Shalimar, it’s easy to see why. In the last five years we’ve seen seven, that’s right, seven new Shalimar flankers ranging from the sublime Parfum Initial and Ode à la Vanille to the less interesting Parfum Initial L’Eau, and on occasions the brand has stretched the Shalimar association pretty thin.
With their latest flanker, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, the link has become so emaciated it may have finally snapped. Sniffing the flanker, it’s pretty difficult to pick out exactly how the two fragrances are alike. Shalimar is a grand dame of the oriental world, showcasing bubbling bergamot, smoky-sweet vanilla powder and tons of heavy resins. Souffle de Parfum on the other hand is, well, the complete opposite of that. It may not be worthy of the Shalimar name, but does that mean that it’s a bad fragrance?
Guerlain describe Souffle de Parfum as a “gently perfumed caress” ² and a “breath of extreme sensuality” ², with the ‘Souffle’ here referring to the French word for breath, as opposed to anything culinary-related. It has been designed to celebrate the lighter facets of Shalimar, specifically focus on the shining citrus that famously graces the Oriental Queen’s top notes, and the plush vanilla that sits at her core. In that respect, Souffle de Parfum succeeds, merging these two themes together to create something that may, or may not be Shalimar, depending on how one looks at it.
For my Escentual column this week, I have had the pleasure of reviewing the latest fragrance from Guerlain – the new masculine offering ‘L’Homme Idéal‘. The fragrance is accompanied by the tagline; “The ideal man is a myth. His fragrance, a reality” and is already dividing opinion amongst the perfume loving community – some love it and others see it as a commercial and unimpressive offering from the house. To read my in-depth thoughts you can click here to head on over to Escentual and peruse my review, but I will say now that I’m definitely in the ‘yes’ camp when it comes to L’Homme Idéal.
Created by Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s in-house perfumer, L’Homme Idéal strikes me as a more commercial offering for the house, yes, but it’s also excellently crafted, as one would expect, and grounded within the rich gourmand heritage that is oh so very ‘Guerlain’. Is it the ideal masculine fragrance? Well as I say in my review, the answer is entirely subjective, and whilst it isn’t as distinct as Habit Rouge or even Homme, Wasser’s first masculine for the brand, it is a robust masculine with a cheeky feminine twist. What’s not to like?
As I’ve reviewed the fragrance over at Escentual (who are going a bit L’Homme Idéal mad for a fragrant takeover), I thought I’d do something a little bit different here and share with you four things I enjoy about the fragrance. So gents (and ladies, because there are no gender barriers here), stick the kettle on, grab a slice of cake (always mandatory), sit back and enjoy my little fragrant guide to the very latest offering from the most important fragrance house in the world.