Monday, February 3, 2020

The Unisex Beauty of Guerlain's Jicky (Photo Collection, Short Review & Perfume Musings)

Jicky by Guerlain is a gender bender perfume to end all gender benders; changing sex and direction mid-stream in its illustrious career like an adolescent fulfilling a transgender urge.
The issue of what differentiates female from male idiosyncrasies in general is complicated enough, so it's only natural that one of the most popular questions in perfume for and general discussion is how the opposite sex perceives and decodes the fragrances meant for the other sex.
In perfume terms the composition of different formulas for the two sexes, roughly floral and oriental for the ladies, with a sprinkling of chypre and fruity, reserving woody and citrus for the gentlemen, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the dawn of modern perfumery in the end of the 19th century. Up till then, there was pretty much lots of leeway for men to delve in floral waters of the Victorian era or even the rich civet and musk laden compositions of 18th century decadence.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Why the name Jicky? "From his student days, perfumer Aimé Guerlain kept the enamoured memory of a young woman named Jicky to whom he paid a beautiful homage with one of his most wonderful olfactory creations. By pure coincidence, the diminutive of his nephew Jacques was also Jicky. Jicky initiated the creation of "abstract perfumery" as opposed to "figurative perfumery". With its interplay of unique facets, it was the first in the perfume world to have such a trail and tenacity. This forerunner of new modern olfactory creations is the founding father of the legendary Shalimar."

Or so the story goes...because it is but a story, a fabricated myth that shows how fragrance tales were used to be told in the olden days...

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Nowadays, lavender , as in a classic like Jicky, is almost code-name for men's cologne, the backbone of a typical fougère fragrance for men, especially since archetypes such as this originally-aimed-at-women-then-usurped-by-men of good taste cemented this notion. The tension of the citrus top note with the animal character of the base is what makes the "jam"; lots of musk and lots of civet too in the older formula, evident in extrait de perfume formula and the not so distant kinship of Mouchoir de Monsieur fragrance, also by Guerlain.

Evaluating a masculine or unisex fragrance is always harder for me than evaluating a fragrance that is divested of its loaded semiotics of gender, or which appeals to my own femininity heads on. At least I can asses femininity first hand and dismiss the hyperbolic claims of modern advertising with a wave of a well-manicured hand. 

In perfume terms the composition of different formulas for the two sexes, roughly floral and oriental for the ladies, with a sprinkling of chypre and fruity, reserving woody and citrus for the gentlemen, is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the dawn of modern perfumery in the end of the 19th century. Up till then, there was pretty much lots of leeway for men to delve in floral waters of the Victorian era or even the rich civet and musk laden compositions of 18th century decadence.

It's therefore somewhat fitting the zeitgeist, with the discussion about gendered IDs flaming up again, that Guerlain revisited their roots tentatively when launching Mon Guerlain in 2017 with their merging of lavender (more prominently than in the Yves Saint Laurent fragrance Libre) with their trademark orientalized vanilla. From it, a spawn of feminine fragrances with lavender came forth like mushrooms after the rain.

photo by Elena Vosnaki

Jicky by Guerlain remains a monument, a beacon of taste in a tasteless world. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

Will of the Wisp Chills: Fragrances to Give the Goosebumps

Although warm fragrances wear comfortably on the natural heat of the skin and provide an instant "aaah" moment, like wrapping oneself with a cashmere shawl, there are times when a cool, starlight fragrance manages to pique the interest, like the unexpected touch on an arm that gives you goosebumps. There are some cool perfumes to enjoy in the wintertime and there are some to savor in the warmth of summer when the icy effect can become welcome or eerie depending on your latitude and humidity levels. If you have a favorite, don't forget to add it in the comments!

photo by Whitney Ott via

Here is a selection of the latest cooling fragrances that I believe will speak to those who want to go against the grain and spook the hell out of themselves in wintertime.

I had written on Liturgie des Heures (Jovoy) the following letter to Santa in 2018. And he actually listened!
"And just because my little gothic heart rejoices in the gloom of the winter solstice and the ghoulish tales that surround it, do offer me a slice of the chill in this creepy, cold and lemony incense that rises smoky from the sarcophagi of the dead. There's some odd solace in knowing silence surrounds the air where the dead lie in eternity. And may it be a long time before we actually meet them."

There's also Eau Mage by Diptyque. Back in 2011 when Diptyque was actually celebrating their anniversary they issued their Parisian exclusive series in which a suitably Christmas-named Eau Mage (homage, you see, but also "the eau of the Magi"...) was the standout for my little self; fan girl that I am of abstract woody and sombre musky concoctions that make people wonder what is that smell they're smelling. The brand luckily for all of us re-issued the fragrance as Eau Mage yet again in their regular line-up. 

I can't forget the first time I tested Carat  by Cartier. I felt transported into a vast, fantastical tundra that would have wild, cool flowers growing amid the snow — which I fully realize doesn't happen — and with big husky dogs carrying sledges in the silent blue light of the north. A tinkling of wind chimes can be heard in the distance, or is it the dogs' neck bells chiming? Whatever it is, the cool splendor of Carat can be enjoyed in any season and mood; in fact, it's like a ray of sharp light which mellows slowly upon spraying on the skin.

An odd duck, Uralt Lavendel (Lohse) impresses me with how relatively strong and medicinal it comes across to me. I do have a low threshold for medicinal odor perception and anything mildly camphorous does give me a subtle alert. The green floral component in the top note reminds me of herbal bitters, a scent which I love, full of the piquant aroma of central European liqueurs and eaux de vie, such as Becherovka and Šljivovica. It smells fresh – an old-fashioned kind of fresh; bracing, really – with that kind of cool feeling that juniper berries impart. Compared with a contemporary take on lavender aimed mainly at women, such as Chanel's Jersey and Boy from their Les Exclusifs range, one can see how decades of musk use in fragrance has spoiled us into mistaking the scent of "clean" for something else entirely. If we venture as far as Guerlain's own Mon Guerlain, and in direct juxtaposition with their above-mentioned Jicky, one can certainly see how over a century of fragrance production has seismically shifted the notion of lavender in general. Perhaps Uralt Lavendel is a good reminder, a small snippet of how things used to be...

Ormonde Jayne PRIVÉ is a lush iris fragrance which recapitulates everything lovely about the Ormonde Jayne brand; the green shoots, the steamed rice, the cedar echo of the Iso E Super in many of their bases, an abstract modernity and at the same time a luscious, starched, luxurious orris note you can lose your heart into...The drydown, woody-ambery with a quite unisex flair, affirms my initial impression that we have a very lasting, refined silk skin scent that melds with the wearer. It's a polished cabochon gem rather than a faceted stone, its many different facets reflect the light in such a way that it smooths the impression into a ray of a beautiful serene sundown when it's cool.

Jean-Louis Scherrer (the original green liquid) by Jean-Louis Scherrer. A precious sight in its elegant, tall hexagonal bottle that opens up to verdant glory of liquid emeralds, it's a green scent with the rush of sparkling aldehydes. It then becomes intensely mossy and floral, recalling a bygone era of structured shapes and strict social rules. The violet note is mostly reminiscent of an iris fragrance, slightly metallic and otherworldly; but the brooding synergy with the other ingredients brings out a luminescent aura that is tantamount to wearing an expensive necklace of pre-Colombian emeralds set in antique gold.

The contrast of sandpaper-like fresh roughness against the nose with the intense, waxy petals spiciness is the pinnacle of masterful execution of a lily scent. The astringent and almost aqueous, saline opening of Lys Méditerranée in the Frédéric Malle Editions des Parfums line is highly surprising for those who have been accustomed to florist type lilies; crystaline and stark in their cellophane, premature mummies in dolled up sarcophagi, looking at you sternly and haughtily, like stuffed owls out of Psycho. But wild lilies in the basin of the Mediterranean sea are routinely sprayed by the salty azure which lolls and ebbs; they sigh. As sniffers of this gem would too...

Do you find yourself reaching for cool scents when it's cold? Why/why not and which? I'd love to read your experiences in the comments below the post. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Pretty Is as Pretty Does...More Perfume Bottles From My Collection

photo by Elena Vosnaki

The bottle of Shalimar Parfum Initial is a jewel, and thus should be accompanied by jewels. The choice of pearls is not random at all, as the sheen of the vanilla powdery ambience of the scented liquid is gloriously feminine with that touch of elegance we dedicate to those beautiful globules. You can find a fragrance review of Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial here. 

Flankers/derivative versions of Shalimar by Guerlain (with linked reviews & comparison with original):
Limited editions of Shalimar (without change in the perfume formula itself):

photo by Elena Vosnaki

The classic of classics and a scent redolent of women's emancipation, the eminable Tabac Blond (incidentally not a tobacco scent). You can find the fragrance review for Caron Tabac Blond here. The bottle is testament to the fact that I have exceedingly enjoyed the eau de perfume version, which is as good as possible. 
There are a lot of Caron fragrance reviews and news on PerfumeShrine: on the linked text. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Year in Retrospect and New Trends for 2020

Happy New Year to everyone! Hope you had a lovely celebration!

2019 was a good year for perfume and hopefully 2020 will be as well. There were worthy releases in the mainstream, amid the hundreds of meaningless flankers of course, as every year as of late, some bold moves, a few brand exclusives that refined themselves enough to enter the scene with confidence and generally good cheer prevailed. There were a few sell-outs, such as the impending one from LÓreal, but that is, alas, the reality of the market.

Without further ado, my personal picks from the thousands of new releases (not that there was time to sample everything of course, but I'm persevering) were as follows.

Designer/Luxe Houses:

 Un Jardin sur la Lagune by Hermès was inspired by a secret garden in Venice, Italy, and its abstract glossy petals from another dimension (a citrusy, waxy magnolia sprinkled with algae-smelling dew) carries the interpretation of the place in one's mind's eye as you let it unfold on your skin. Beautifully sweeping, yet oddly comfortable, like a hug which greets you with joyful playfulness, which can be enjoyed by both men and women and is perceived by others without invading their personal space.

Gucci was already showing signs of resurrection from indifference with their daring Guilty Absolute launches last year, but their 2019 Bloom Ambrosia di Fiori and Memoire d'Une Odeur confirm that positive course. The former is full of the splendor of a full-blown ripe gardenia and the latter a most refined, botanical take on the clean whisper of a scent of woods and chamomile that can be so popular for discreet company.


Two releases which were surprising were Tom Ford's Metallique, an aldehydic elegant marvel which is incongruous with the brash image of the provocateur brand, and Libre by YSL, a fresh and not-too-sweet feminine lavender which is not condescending to the women buying it. Bottega Veneta Illusione for Men and Terre d'Hermes Intense Vetiver are both fresh, but not predictably so; they bring a refined touch to the craze around them of butch aromatic fougères. Finally, Nomade Eau de Toilette is an excellent freshening up of the standard – and already superb – eau de parfum formula, reinforcing the slightly peppery zing of freesia and refreshing the middle section.




Everyone who loves Lutens creations must at least sample La Couche du Diable, a return to the brand's splendid past, with a deeply saturated chiaroscuro of a spicy balsamic scent. Zoologist brought us Zoologist Bee, a wonderfully wearable intimate scent of animalic nuance.

Dusita overwhelms with the beauty of Splendiris, a starchy and metallic cool iris and violet, which projects like a laser beam straight to its target – our heart. Two major brands issued fragrances without deviating too far from their given genres, leather and clean musk respectively, and managed to give them texture and ambiance that makes you come back to them again and again: Cuir Intense comes from Guerlain boutique exclusives and 1957 comes from Chanel Les Exclusifs.


Last but not least, the newest Hedonist Absolute Iris expounds on the delicate synergy between starchiness and cocoa powder which sometimes makes an appearance in perfume blends (L'Erbolario's Iris is one of them). But Viktoria Minya buttresses this fluffy and dry chord with a very discernible leathery touch, not particularly bitter, thanks to the elements that adorn its base notes, making it an iris that does not project like cosmetics but rather as the talc put on before donning a leather piece that gets worn on the flesh directly. It's a cool scent, compared to the other two Absolutes, but compelling all the same, beckoning and promising, while denying at the same time. An enigma!

Predictions for 2020:

A key trend is the release of increasingly "powerful" perfume companions in the most popular and well-known designer fragrances. We have seen it with various intense versions, as well as various parfum (extrait de parfum, the most concentrated version) in male releases. Logically this is justified by the more diluted condensation of regular releases, but this is not exactly the case, as it is often not more intense or longer-lasting fragrance creations, but fragrances that look quite different but with variations without putting them in the end of the volume register. So my advice is to try everything and evaluate them for what they are, rather than what they are programmatically claiming.

I think we will see a lot of perfumes borrowing retro elements from older creations, especially in men. After all, releases like Sauvage (Dior) or Aventus (Creed) did, along with the dosage of ambroxan at its borders, and became over-populated because they were relatively different in the ocean of the increasing sweetness of male aromas that interfere with boundaries. and why not?)


Lavender for women (my article on that, HERE) will continue to be our focus, we will see even more roses and almonds (in the form of pure almond, dandelion and tonka), as well as more refined varieties of sandalwood or variety, or of synthetic origin with sophistication in the bouquet that it had not had before. The newest molecules in the musks and white florals categories will also feature prominently in modern compositions. 

Let's usher in the new year in style!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

And so this is Christmas...

Another holiday season upon us, the good and the bad, the merry and the sad ones, and we can rejoice, yes, everyone.
So a merry, merry Christmas (and Hanukah and all the other faiths too)!
It's been great having you here, egging me on to continue to write.

Catch the next post soon, where I assess the year in scent. In the meantime, careful with the eggnog and the honey-dribbling biscuits, and drive safe!
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