Thursday 17 November 2016

GUERLAIN'S TOP FIVE by Stephan Matthews and Monsieur Guerlain

It's difficult to imagine having to choose your top five Guerlain fragrances, but that's exactly what Monsieur Guerlain and I were asked to do. We were set the challenge of deciding our favourites from those that are still in production, and hopefully it will inspire you to add one, or possibly two, onto your Christmas list. Fragrances mean different things to different people and, whilst our choices have some similarities, there are some interesting differences. Monsieur Guerlain's five are firmly rooted in the company's classic period, but one of my choices will definitely cause a few raised eyebrows. So, get a stiff drink and let's begin the Guerlain Boys' Top Five.

In fifth place Monsieur Guerlain went for Jicky whilst I opted for Insolence. Sacrilege I hear you cry, but I have my reasons. When Insolence launched in 2006 it was the first Guerlain release that I was involved with. You couldn't escape any beauty hall without being sprayed by the “overdosed, high-voltage” pink explosion, and once smelled it could never be forgotten. Created by Maurice Roucel, it was designed for the woman who “never needs to apologise”. Brash, maybe. Unrefined, perhaps. Addictive, definitely. A huge dose of violet, iris, sandalwood, and even an Elnett undertone makes this very special.

Fourth place was a definite agreement with both of us choosing L'Heure Bleue, and on this perfume Monsieur Guerlain was adamant. He said, "L’Heure Bleue is by all means the most delicious and evocative Guerlain fragrance created between 1828 and today, and anyone who knows it by heart can’t get why people nowadays prefer caramel gourmands to Jacques Guerlain’s floral oriental masterpiece. A single dab from the bottle will fill the room with L’Heure Bleue’s Parisian nighttime magic of sensual orange blossom, clove, face powder, and musky marzipan."

The third position is interesting because Monsieur Guerlain opted for the Jean Paul classic Nahéma whilst I plumped for his equally spectacular Vétiver. I’ve never written about this one before so it’s good to correct that omission here. Vétiver was originally launched in 1959 as a cologne but the EDT that we all love came much later in 1988. This Jean-Paul Guerlain fragrance is solely responsible for the misconception that the vetiver ingredient is citrusy rather than earthy; such was the following of this perfume. The combination of vetiver, citrus, tobacco and the famous nutmeg make an intoxicatingly exciting fragrance that for me is the ultimate masculine scent.

Number two on our list again saw Nahéma, this time from me, but my partner in crime went for Jean-Paul Guerlain's Habit Rouge. As Monsieur Guerlain explains, "his golden years were the 1960s, and rumour has it that most subsequent Guerlain fragrances were outsourced to Firmenich noses. However, if Habit Rouge were the only fragrance Jean-Paul Guerlain ever did, we would still admire him. I’d wager that it probably is the most dressed-up and recognizable of men’s scents, mixing a vintage blend of sweet balsams, leather, and musk with a fiercely fresh top note of citrusy rose."

The top spot is shared by two Jacques Guerlain classics that need no introduction. My favourite fragrance is Après l'Ondée whilst Monsieur Guerlain has gone for the perennial Mitsouko. Après l'Ondée has changed so much over its one hundred and ten years but somehow always managed to hold onto an army of admirers. Now only existing as an EDT, it went from an earthy floral to a fresh blue hue. The combination of violet, heliotrope, iris and sandalwood is breathtaking. If you’re not familiar with this then hunt it down because once smelled it will never be forgotten, and it is the perfect Powdery Floral fragrance.

Monsieur Guerlain says of Mitsouko, his top choice, "being in love with the old Guerlain classics is a bit of a heartbreak, because many of their original ingredients are now either banned or out of production. Mitsouko recently lost a leathery note, because Guerlain had to remove one ingredient that the supplier had changed, but Mitsouko is still in the top of the Guerlain league. It’s amazing that a fragrance whose main body is made up of bergamot can smell so haunting; a long-lasting, completely abstract blend of waxy jasmine, old oak barrels, and Viennese pastries.”

Choosing our top five from the current catalogue was great fun because it brought back so many memories for us both. There are thousands of perfumes that you could chose for your Christmas list, but every tree needs at least one Guerlain under it.

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