The main criticism upon announcing the news on the Arabian inspired triptych by Guerlain, affectionately termed "Les Deserts d'Orient", has been that should this exclusive-laced foray into Middle Eastern market tastes prove successful, it would herald a stop to French companies offering "French-smelling" perfumes. Having the privilege of savoring the new fragrances at leisure, thanks to the generosity of my Middle East readers, I'm in the happy position to let you know this is not the case and wouldn't be, if Guerlain continues in the direction they've taken with Encens Mythique d'Orient especially. The perfume is redolent of the splendor and richness of the east, yes, but it firmly holds on the patrimonies of the west as well, translating as a very decadent, European-geared animalic oriental with mossy proclivities.
It comes as a sort of an exquisite shock to see that whereas Guerlain new head perfumer Thierry Wasser had been taxed with selling Guerlain short in the first couple of releases under his name -which were baptism by fire for him- he has proven now that he's capable of both refinement and modernization without eschewing tradition (as in the solar floral Lys Soleia) as well as in offering the baroque treatment with the taste for exquisite balance and quality for which Guerlain perfumes had become famous the world over. Much like Shalimar, Mitsouko or Vol de Nuit before it, Encens Mythique d'Orient is inspired by exoticism but it retains at heart a core of tradition which distinguishes it from upstarts to the throne (Montale etc.) Wasser has found a balance between what the Arabs will find somewhat familiar, yet tinged with the desirable Franco-laced "western cachet" and what the Westerners, flocking to the flagship boutique on Champs Elysees for precious juice, will find inspired by the 1001 Nights.
Even though Encens Mythique d'Orient is allegedly inspired by frankincense, there is little of the ecclesiastical citrus-laced, terpenic smoke we have come to associate with high mass or niche fragrances aimed at aficionados of this pious, somber ambience. Rather ambergris is the real protagonist, in what smells like a real tincture of the rare greyish matter, with all its nutty, buttery, smoky and salty intimate nuances intact, blooming on the skin like a hundred kisses from the soft lips of a handsome sheik. The mood is animalic, sexy, decadent and very "there" without becoming skanky or vulgar, though I expect hyper-sensitive to intimate acts of pleasure individuals upon smelling it will be clutching their pudenda self-consciously pronto.
Guerlain gives what incense is there the Guerlain treatment (with a nod to Lutens as well) and weaves richness and depth in their typical patisserie way, full of billows of raw materials which fuse East and West into an amalgam, a tapestry with a million themes. The opening of Encens Mythique is reminiscent of retro shaving foam, part retro fern-like and mossy, part musky sweet, with a very decadent, rich feel to it that stems from an oriental Damask rose. The rosiness is allied to saffron, a classical combination that exalts the bittersweet facets of the spice into a warm embrace. But it is the coalescence of ambergris and muskiness which "makes" the perfume a true Guerlain and at the same time a reverie into the Middle East.
The sillage and lasting power are great; you certainly get your buck's worth in investing in this fragrance. I'm smitten!
The Guerlain perfume bottles of Les Deserts d'Orient are adorned with Arab-cript calligraphy down one side, the French names down the other side. They are the tall, architectural style of the collection L'Art et la Matière with the antique gold overlay on the sides holding 75ml of perfume. The concentration of the fragrances is Eau de Parfum for tenacity. Prices are set for 190euros/AED990 per bottle. The perfume was aimed to be available exclusively in the UAE and the Guerlain flagship store. Also via the connections of Wim in Parfumerie Place Vendome in Brussels, and in the UK in Harrods for 160GBP.
Painting by Norman Lindsay, Languor or the Pink Drape (1934)