Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria fragrances: notes, history & short reviews

It's easy to look down on the Aqua Allegoria line as an entry level for Guerlainophile wannabes. Compared with the house's megaliths, such as Mitsouko, Shalimar or Vetiver, these seem like fragrances with much less monumental heft and no aspirations for posterity. Yet this "allegorica" line hides a few gems that are more than a simple sent bon and some which manage to be memorable in themselves.
The Aqua Allegoria line began as an exercise in deduction in 1999: the baroque compositions of old were too complicated for a younger, budding Guerlainista who approached the brand from the point of reference of their mother's vanity and the fascination with their Terracotta makeup products. Guerlain was ripe for a change after influx of money from LVMH had poured into the old giant. Therefore a simpler, more joyful approach seemed like a good idea. Focus on streamlined formulae zooming onto the raw materials themselves in identical bottles was on the vanguard of a nascent approach to niche perfumery; only this time available at major department stores at affordable prices. If only things continued on that path for the perfume lover...but I digress.

Perfumers' Rift, Changes in Direction
Before perfumer Mathilde Laurent and Jean Paul had what seems like the fallout of the century (the two are never mentioned in the same breath and all innuendo that Mathilde had worked for the brand was meticulously averted for years), a bunch of the first Aqua Allegorias were composed by her. Incidentally these are the best ones, in scope of creativity, elegance of structure and flair for the individualistic streak. Some of the more modern ones, especially the solo-frutastic ones, seem like they're forgetting they're fragrances and veer too much into the flavours drawer positioning. Lately the compositions have reverted to rounder bouquets (ex.Bouquet No.1) or soliflores, such as the upcoming Jasminora and Rosa Blanca, that hark back to the original issues more than 10 years ago.

Several fragrances in the line are no more: official word wants the scents to have been limited edition all along, one new coming after the old one tires out. But it wasn't so clear cut in the beginning and the survivors (Pamplelune, Herba Fresca) indicate that it might have to do with actual perfume sales figures rather than with any concrete concept. Which is a pity, as a couple (Winter Delice, Flora Nerolia) have something of a cult following, but there you have it. Some can still be found on online discounters or Ebay.

Launches & Design
The original line-up comprised 5 scents in 1999, thereafter an addition or so each year, with a few exceptions, and then picking up at the steady rhythm of two per year, usually each spring with an eye to summer wearing. The original bottle design revisited a simplified bee motif: the honeycomb was embracing the top of the smooth glass bottle with the sprayer built into the cap. The original packaging used a romantic design of flowers or other materials (accordingly) on the outer box, rendered like a delicate watercolour. In 2010 the outer packaging of the whole line was revamped so as to be uniform; all white, the differentiation now only being the colour of the Napoleonic bee embossed and the vertical line crossing the Guerlain logo on the front's top. To my own eye, the older packaging is more successful, even if less coherent.


Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca (1999): A real herbal green scent. Focusing on mint, but not quite: the dew on the leaves, the fine herbs, its beautiful grassy ambience raise it one notch up from many herbal efforts from others. A survivor, it still circulates on Guerlain counters and is always in production.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lavande Velours (1999): Lavender is given the Guerlain treatment, but done lightly and softly: iris, tonka bean and sandalwood mollify the harsher, cleaner aspects of fresh lavender. Discontinued. Chamingly, it also circulated as scented linen powder sachets...

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune (1999): One of the beacon grapefruit renditions in the whole of perfumery. A wonderful creation that boosts the sulfurous fruit with bergamot, cassis, petitgrain, patchouli and vanilla. If you're among the lucky ones that don't turn this one into cat-pee on your skin (this is one fragrance that is testament to the diversification of effect according to skin Ph) you're set for all your summery needs. A proud survivor, it's still in production.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica (1999): Rose takes on a spicy mantle for a simple, but lovely interpretation of a classic theme. Miles away from classic Guerlain Nahéma of course. Disontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille (1999): The most Guerlain-like in the original bunch, it is a floriental with great tenacity and radience. Ylang Ylang is boosted by vanilla and fanned on soft notes of iris and jasmine. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Nerolia (2000): A memory of Sevillian orchards where bigaradiers and sweet orange trees sway their leaves and blossoms to the breeze. I find Flora Nerolia especially lovely, marrying as it does neroli, orange blossom and a hint of jasmine with a miniscule incense-woody facet in the bottom. (Lamentably) discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Gentiana (2001): Not groundbreaking, but if you enjoy the take of Angeliques sous la Pluie, you have good chances of liking Gentiana as well. Its mountaintop dry and cool air (due to wild gentiane) is a breath of freshness in a milieu where everyone is wearing something sweet and cloying. Discontinued. Was also available as scented massage oil.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice (2001): The only truly limited edition, as it circulated in the autumn of 20o1 with a clear destination to be a Christmas/wintery scent, smooth, deep, sumptuous and comforting. The voluptuous depth of pain d'épices and labdanum is given a fresh counterpoint in pine (pinus sylvestris). Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lilia Bella (2002): A classic lily of the valley "clean" floral, slightly dishevelled by the inclusion of a healthy dose of lilac. Springtime and youthful floral. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lemon Fresca (2003): The well-known diet drink called Fresca is synonymous with refreshment and energising. Guerlain took this idea, making it a tonic to spritz on, full of sour notes of lemon, lime and bergamot. A little wood underscores, while an anise touch (just a tad) adds an air de famille. But it doesn't venture far off the lemon start. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Foliflora (2003): A millefleurs effect that was little convincing. Consisting of bergamot, neroli, apricot, white freesia, gardenia, sweet pea, angelica, vanilla and sandalwood, it's nice without rippling the pond. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella (2004): Aniseed is a classic mainstay in Guerlain fragrances from Apres L'Ondee and L'Heure Bleue onwards and here it's given a smothering of volatile notes such as bergamot and basil which complement its melancholic spiciness, alongside sweeter jasmine, violet and the discreet backdrop of cedar. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mentafollia (2004): The simpler side-kick of Herba Fresca, focusing on bittersweet herbs. The latter is better, somehow, more complete. Predictably discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Orange Magnifica (2005): This is the first of the "fruities" Aqua Allegorias that really ruined it for the rest. A lovely Calabrian orange with a discreet almond background, progressing from the fruity to the lightly floral (neroli, clean jasmine). Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pivoine Magnifica (2005): A very clean, scrubbed floral that boosts the effect with hesperidia and the mainstays of iris-violet that Guerlain is famous for. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Grosellina (2006): Fruity-candy, cassis composition that accented the whole with fresh citrus notes on top. Nothing noteworthy really. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Tutti Kiwi (2006): An odd combination of kiwi and licorice, fanned on sandalwood and vanilla for sweetness. Probably my least favourite in the line. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Angélique Lilas (2007): Aqueous floral with notes of pink pepper, lilac, angelica and bitter orange. Luca Turin calls it a "footnote on Eau d'Issey years later". I believe he means unnecessary; it's not that horrendously bad. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic (2007): Two elements that contrast, orange-y sweet and spicy aromatic with ivy tones. Still available and in production according to official site.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Figue Iris (2008): Green fruity scent with fig leaves and fruits, very summery, dusted with a hint of iris so as to be reminded of the heritage. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Laurier Réglisse (2008): Another unusual combination, this time laurel and licorice. This gives a soft and green fragrance that has a unique taste buds appeal. Original. Discontinued.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Cherry Blossom (2009): A sakura perfume, simple and spring-like. Fresh and a little bit sentimental fruity floral. [Not to be confused with the stand-alone Cherry Blossom limited edition in the Louis XV flacon].

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Tiaré Mimosa (2009): A tropical note (tiaré) and one which is inspired by a tropical destination (mimosa is an Australia native). Spicy accents and citrus lift the sweeter base that includes vanilla, clean musk and vetiver. The popular "suntan lotion" theme. Still available.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Nymphea (2010): The anniversary edition to celebrate 10 years of Aqua Allegoria is a floral with youthful image. I wasn't particularly impressed. Available from a bunch of places, often on offer.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Bouquet No.1 (2010): This was a travel exclusive edition that didn't circulate widely. A peachy white floral (jasmine, delicate fruity notes), I thought Bouquet No.1 is an elegant play on the ubiquitous fruity floral theme.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Jasminora (2011): A lovely and true green jasmine soliflore, with a refreshing freesia note on top. Review of Jasminora here.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Bouquet No.2 (2011): A tropical take on fruity notes of litchi, fanned on rose and iris for tenacity and elegance. More info on Bouquet No.2 here.  

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Rosa Blanca (2011): More info on Rosa Blanca here.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia (2012): More info on Lys Soleia here

NB: Dicontinued does not mean introuvable; it means out of production. There is still old stock left, some of which I have linked on each of the fragrances.

Top pic via Le blog de la mechante. Other pics via parfum de pub.


  1. hotlanta linda14:19

    THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-) This is Direly needed direction that was missing!!

  2. I picked up Foliflora in a discount store years ago and this is the first time I think I've ever seen it mentioned.
    It's not something I wear very much at all but I found it's wonderful as a linen spray. I get more depth from it on fabric than on skin. And the bottle is cute as a button. Thank you for such great information on this line of fragrances.

  3. Fiordiligi15:00

    Hello dearest! You know my feelings about these "starter Guerlains" but nevertheless this is a very useful guide. Unsurprisingly, Ylang et Vanille was always my clear favourite and, so much so, this piece inspired me to track down another bottle....

    Bisous xxx

  4. Haha; "Starter Guerlains" like a training bra for perfumes. Which were composed by Miss Laurent if you can say? Thanks!

  5. dinazad16:43

    I loved Lavande Velours - such a naughty/nice lavender! And I had the sense to buy a backup bottle of Winter Delice, the ultimate winter/Christmas fragrance. I miss those (and Pamplelune, which seems to have disappeared hereabouts). The others not so much....

    "nonfula" as word verification? What's that, Dracula in denial?

  6. Thank you so much for this guide!
    It´s missing Lemon Fresca, though. It´s from 2003 according to fragrantica.com. :o)

  7. Anonymous22:43

    One thing the line picked up on is that when young people pick up a aldehyde-laden classic, they think of their mom, aunt or grandmom. It's that element, not just the price or the simplicity, that I think makes these accessible. And I *can* think of a few Guerlain exclusifs with less staying power...

    On a personal note, I can wear the AA Grapefruit! even though many niche perfumes fall apart on me, the latest causualty being Jeux de Peau, which quickly went from maple syrup to just sandlewood, then to gone in a few more hours. So what's that mean about my skin pH?

  8. I've always been a huge lilac nut and love a good lilac perfume. The lilas one intruiges me. I own a full bottle of Anisia Bella and dislike it. I think it is because I dislike smelling of licorice.

  9. Anonymous23:18

    I have AA Pamplelune, and love it. The shower gel is an incredible product too, and leaves a lot of scent on the skin.

    True story: My local perfumerie had Winter Delice on sale, a full tester, for $20. I wanted it, and should have bought it for myself. My dad was with me and he bought it-but not for me. For his new female friend. I just about went through the floor! And, I snagged a sample from the bottle before he left. It's a beautiful scent but it does not meld with my skin. Nonetheless, I wanted it.

    Thank you for the comprehensive guide to AA!

    Carole MacLEod

  10. Anonymous01:30

    Speaking of aldehydes, I see iris listed in the passage on Ylang & Vanille; is it a powdery scent, or is it transparent like the other AAs?

  11. Stella P10:55

    Thank you so much for the guide! I own Pamplelune - that on my skin is pure refreshment & joy, not at all cat pee, and Mandarine Basilic. It the MB I particualrly love the way the ivy is handled. (When I think og it, I also enjoy Eau de Lierre from Diptyque; should perhaps try more scents with ivy?)

  12. I only own a full bottle of Mandarine Basilic. It's my staple in summer.
    But I would like to try many of the discontinued perfumes, like Winter Délice.

    I'm looking forward to trying the new ones.

  13. I purchased three of the original AAs when they first came out - Pamplelune, Herba Fresca, and Ylang and Vanille. They were all so interesting and odd at the time. Haven't tried any others!

  14. I loved that peony one.

  15. Anonymous13:35

    And don't forget LEMON FRESCA, please...... Lemon and fig wood.

    Regards from Spain.


  16. The Aqua Allegorias (some of them, anyway) are perfect when you don't want anything complicated, but still want to smell really good. I bought Herba Fresca and Pampelune not long after they were introduced and still love them: they both feel really summery to me, and I can wear grapefruit scents without getting that garlic/cat-pee thing that some people complain about, so lucky me.

    I also have Winter Delice (which I got in a swap) and Anisia Bella (which I bought unsniffed from an online discounter--not usually a good idea but this time it was).

    I didn't like any of the others enough to buy them, and some of them were pretty awful--I didn't get Mentafollia at all, and the orange and lemon ones weren't anywhere near as good as they ought to have been.

  17. HL,

    you're most welcome.

    They had become quite entangled and they needed sorting out.

  18. M,

    thanks for saying so.
    Foliflora isn't very impressive but I guess it's mighty fine as a linen spray. I'd love to have room sprays and wardrobe sachets in most of the AA line of frags.

  19. D,

    honey, thank you for stopping by! How are things? Missed corresponding, will drop a line shortly.

    Ylang & Vanille is among the best. I don't blame you for choosing it. I kinda like the purposeful simplicity of a couple of the rest; they're not aiming to be statement frags, but they smell good. Not all, mind you!! ;-)

  20. Stelma,

    I believe the first seven, IIRC.

    Yeah, training bra for Guerlain mamaries. There you go!

  21. Z,

    hello there! How are you? Nice to see you.

    I remember LV as non medicinal and that's all I need to know about my lavenders, usually. So yes. As to Pamplelune, I was distressed to see after your comment a certain sparsity online. Hmmm....

  22. Eva,

    thanks! The image I had put in the middle had "mangled" it, but now I re-instituted it.
    I used fragrantica indeed to verify dates, while checking my own notes.

  23. Anon,

    salient point and you know, you might have hit bull's eye! Indeed these are not aldehydic at all, nor are they "heavy", which might be what appeals to younger customers without "specific" obsessions re: perfumes.

    Hmm, you must have skin particularly well suited to sulfurous and sour compounds. Do you wear hesperides well in general?
    (grapefruit is usually a synthetic in non-all-naturals frags, so this is a tentative question I'm posing)

  24. Eld,

    I would assume that anything anise might give you a displeasing jolt. Funnily, licorice isn't the first thing that pops into my head because where i come from we cook a lot with aniseed. So the association is with bread and other delicasies. Fun comparing notes, eh?

    The lilac isn't 100% true lilac (that's one hell of an ordeal to pull, usually). But it's not that horrendous either. I find it has a watery, sharp quality. Not really bad at all, like a somewhat sweeter, less bread-like En Passant but with the same cucumber note present (you almost inspire a full review).

  25. Carole,

    what goes under the radar indeed is that some of these had ancillary products. The shower sounds just the thing!! I enjoy the dry oil in Ylang & Vanille, myself. Perfect before bed or after depilation; satin-soft.

    Grrr...what a story! I am cringing inside from this missed opportunity, and at such a price too.

  26. Anon,

    I would describe it as "fluffy" more than "powdery". If you are familiar with loukhoum scents, this is the kind of "fluff" we're talking about (a sweet spun of dusting sugar and copra rather than dry face powder of yore). Substitute with a white floral instead of rose, of course. But that's the mood.

    Hope that helps!

  27. SP,

    hello! Hope your spring is coming galloping right about now. :-)

    MB I didn't pay too much attention to and now wonder if I should have. I like both notes and basil is becoming scarce nowadays...
    As to Pamplelune you're lucky, I can't manage it convincingly myself.

    If you like ivy, you should definitely also try the Poison Ivy from Demeter's library of scents. It's very realistic and a stands for a great atmospheric room spray!

  28. Isa,

    ah...another vote for MB. I now must get some back on my hands.

    WD was very Christmas-y in the best sense. Cooking smell almost, but not out of a box; like catching whiffs of a house that was in preparation for Xmas.

  29. Karin,

    I think you scored some of the very best ones!! Enjoy, they're good stuff, all of them.

  30. M,

    really...I had pegged you more of an Ylang & Vanille type. Goes to show you.


  31. Thank you Pilar,

    yes, I had managed to squish the LF with the insertion of the picture, but I have edited that problem out and it now shows plainly.
    Thank you for stopping by!

  32. C,

    you're a lucky guy, I turn Pamplelune into garlic (If I really want garlic I can down lots of tzatziki, there's no need to perfume myself, LOL!) That said, it still smells delicious out of the bottle and I am envious to all who wear it well. It would make a perfect summery cologne indeed.

    I agree with all your choices, the dislikes included. I don't know why they managed to mangle such a mainstay note as orange. Guerlain, especially.

  33. Asali22:20

    Thank you very much for this insight to the AA. I always wanted to try winter delice, but haven't come across it, yet. I realise I'm very late with my entry, but just wondered if you could help me with the Aroma Allegorias, I remember them being around. How do they fit in? When were they discountinued?

  34. I'm well stocked with Gentiana, which, along with Herba Fresca are the only ones that really appeal to me. Most of them are just meh to me, if not plainly icky, I can't stand liquorice, for example.

    In totally unrelated news, I got a bottle of Iris Gris. Now, that's a thing.

  35. Asali,

    there are some bottles floating around if you search. Taking into account the rather economical price to beging with and the bad rep of the AAs I think you might still grab one in a logical price.
    The Aroma Allegorias came out a little bit later and they were advertised as "aromatherapy" fragrance. Will do a post on them ;-)

  36. L,

    what would I do without your fleaby thrills?? Congrats!

    Gentiana is rather good; I like that it's cool (but in a non citrus, non marine way) which is unusual for most Guerlain frags and it's also not sweet. Anise/licorice alas is a (partial) Guerlain trademark so to speak. :/

  37. Asali23:21

    Thanks a lot.
    I shall be looking forward to the Aroma post.
    And enjoy the time off, sounds like a wonderful place :-)

  38. Anonymous19:43

    I had the good fortune of finding a bottle of Figue Iris on my Sephora's shelf -- you know, when they clean out the back, and there's some errant something that magically appears out of the realm of the discontinued. I wanted to report that this is if anything also a violet scent. The fig is big and weird (and I like it) but extremely short lived, and then it's violet and iris, and for a aldehydic-phobe like myself it's the good parts of No.5 seen thru an extremely gauzy filter. It lacks the bone-structure of a completely rendered fragrance, but as an undertone it is very very nice and it may present layering possibilities -- with other violets perhaps? Thanks for this thoughtful summary!


  39. Anonymous08:14

    I have and enjoy Mandarine Basilic, Pampelune and Flora Nerolia. I love the whole concept of this line and want to try some of the others.

  40. Anonymous19:28

    Foli Flora belongs with Lemon Fresca. It was NOT among the original five creations of 1999.
    Linda Primeau
    Guerlain Fragrance Specialist

  41. Ms.Primeau,

    thank you very much for your comment and clarification! I will edit the post accordingly so as not to mislead the reader.
    Again, we welcome your input and feedback if you notice anything else that needs clarification: Please email me at perfumeshrine@yahoo.com

  42. Anonymous18:37

    Thank you, Perfume Shrine, for making the amendment.

  43. Thank you so much,E.
    I only found the list now (researching for Mandarine Basilic) and I am as always smitten by your profound knowledge! :-D
    Greetings!! <3


  44. Hello.

    My brother picked up Bouquet de Mai from the airport a couple of weeks back. I had asked him to buy me the Lys Soleia, but it was not available. I checked and Bouquet de Mai is supposedly a 2012 release. Can you shed some light on this? Thanks.

  45. N,

    thanks for the wonderful compliment :-)

  46. LT,

    my understanding is that they're issuing two AAs each year lately: one travel exclusive (this year this must be Bouquet de Mai) and the other mainstream circuit (Lys Soleia this year). Consider having a LE on your hands then and that you will be able to smell Lys Soleia easily on counters soon!

    Hope this helps!

  47. Hi, i have guerlain allegoria flora nymphea and like this one. Still searching allegoria jasminora but hard to find in Indonesia.. T_T

  48. M&P,

    thanks for your comment.
    I recall Flora Nymphea as pleasant, nicely floral and pretty.

    Jasminora was a limited edition, so no wonder you can't find it easily.
    I think your best best is some online retailer/discounter (please consult my How to Buy Safely Online guidefor some reputable, tried&tested resources)
    There is also always Ebay, where many reputable sellers I bet will have Jasminora for sale.

    Hope that helps!


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