If we lamented the course of Chanel the other day, today is Guerlain's par for the course. Although I am a fervent fan of the house and have worn almost everything ever produced with pleasure and reflective appreciation over the years, I can't warm too much towards the latest Cologne du Parfumeur, especially after the very good and very "Guerlain-feeling" Tonka Impériale which had produced a coup de foudre.
Cologne du Parfumeur comes as the latest installment in the Eaux de Cologne line of classic eaux by Guerlain and the delineating of a continuing tradition is at the heart of the launch's philosophy with a refurbishing of the bee bottles to bear the names of the perfumers who composed each of them: Following in the footsteps of L’Eau de Cologne du Coq (1894), L’Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853) and L’Eau de Fleurs de Cedrat (1920), in 2010, Thierry Wasser presents ‘Cologne du Parfumeur’, issued in May 2010, a creation that Thierry admits having originally thought of for himself.
The key note is Calabrian orange blossom intertwined with other citrus fruit. Yet this fairly classic accord also has a ‘modern twist’ thanks to green, musky and sweet facets. The designer acknowledges that it can be worn alone or layered with your usual scent (and I can totally see the latter). The practice of hereby chronicling the heritage of the house by naming each successive perfumer on the eaux bottles themselves also indicates that the more cynical amidst the perfumeland ~who have been bemoaning the LVMH takeover as the cultural ruin of Guerlain for long~ are being heard. Possibly (but not conclusively) this is also a move to assuage the negativity of the Guerlain detractors being vocal on the Net.
The fragrance however removes itself from any traditional Eau de Cologne mould, injecting an opaline green rather than distinctly herbal/aromatic touch (a hint of rosemary instead of the fuller pungent lavender and bouquet de Provence) atop a very "clean" (not tart!) orange blossom (see Yves Rocher or Prada Infusion des Fleurs d'Oranger) and a pale woody musk at the base which produced a "white" effect. But whereas the dry feel of "vegetal" musks worked superbly (and daringly) in Hermes's Eau de Gentiane Blanche, evoking white washed rocks under a hot sky and staying bitterish and insolent, Guerlain's Cologne du Parfumeur feels pale and wane in comparison, too tame & behaved for a vegetal musk, whereas too subdued and sanitized for a Mediterranean cologne; and believe me, I grew up with the latter. Like the perfumer's country of origin, this is Switzerland among perfumes: Always neutral, never engaging in exalted passions, and sometimes reminding me of the very unfair ~yet perfectly witty~ criticism of Orson Welles: "In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
But of course Thierry isn't to blame solely. Decisions are very rarely only taken in the lab! The cologne is perfectly unisex, undoubtedly pleasant, reminiscent of several familiar themes, but it doesn't really cut through the "white" gauzy net of eaux that flood the market currently, which is its major disadvantage.
Cologne du Parfumeur has average tenacity (not at all bad for a cologne) and subtle sillage, but ultimately it reinforces the idea of Guerlain's "Diorisation" after the take-over by LVMH, a plight which is not ultimately desirable by neither core fans of the brand, nor new audiences who can find catchier names and catchier marketing featured in glossies from other brands.
It is available from May 2010 on those Guerlain counters which carry the Eaux line in a redesigned bee bottle bearing a label with the perfumer's name on it.
Please note the moniker "Les Exclusifs" under the Guerlain name and funnily enough...the French definitive article before the name Cologne (i.e. La Cologne).
Notes for Guerlain Cologne du Parfumeur:
Citrus, Amalfi lemon, African orange blossom, rosemary, mint, lavender, musk.
I was honoured to be sent a generous preview decant from a very dear friend and in appreciation of their kind offer I am extending one sample to a lucky reader. State your interest in the comments! Draw will remain open till Wednesday 8th June midnight.
Read another view by Octavian. Illustration via getnouveau.com