Monday, October 27, 2008

Insolence Eau de Parfum by Guerlain: fragrance review and comparison

If the description "Godzilla floral" doesn't scare the horses, perhaps the addendum "Guerlain decided this thing should not even try to be classy and has embraced it as the most deliciously vulgar perfume on the market today" could. But before making hasty assumptions that the above words of Luca Turin are meant derogatorily (they're not), wait for it: Insolence in Eau de Parfum, much like the previous Eau de Toilette incarnation, is seriously good and reminiscent of the Guerlain lineage in all its violets glory. Even if it's wearing a lilac dress illuminated in neon, it doesn't brush shoulders with the highlighter pens of Gaultier's latest, Ma Dame. Which is a good thing.

Guerlain would want us to think it's "created for an eccentric and chic woman, who thrives for perfection". Insolence Eau de Parfum is certainly eccentric if eccentricity can be defined in etymological terms: έκκεντρος from which it derives means "out of center" in Greek. Insolence Eau de Parfum therefore arrives as a skewed, even more intense, intoxicating brew in a purple-coloured twin of the Serge Mansau dishes-in-the-kitchen-sink bottle for the Eau de Toilette, itself no shy violet! Maurice Roucel has been working on violets intently lately, masterminding the earthy intrigue of the unisex Dans tes Bras for Frédéric Malle, full of salicylates and Cashmeran to give diffusion and emollience to what would have been the harsh nail-polish remover and hairspray accord that he first used in the Eau de Toilette version of Insolence.
Violets, often married with roses, as in the embulient romantic Paris by Yves Saint Laurent, have provided the intriguing conspirator in perfumes of variable constituents and antithetical moods over the years: the feminine playfulness in tutus in Malle's Lipstick Rose and Drôle de Rose for L'artisan Parfumeur, the magical realism element in Alice in Wonderland by Konstantin Mihov's Parfums d'Imperfiction, or the astrigent leather and tweeds of Balmain's Jolie Madame. And in the case of the Guerlain house violets have been a sine qua non: from the brief inclusion in the cassie and heliotropin wonder Après L'Ondée to the delectable pastilles resting on amber in Guet Apens/Attrape Coeur and Vol de Nuit Évasion all the way to their makeup product Météorites; in turn lending its star-struck name to a violet-infused potion of limited edition that mimics that softly powdery feel of their pastel-coloured spheres of delight. When Insolence Eau de Toilette first came on the market a few years ago it had elements of the above and L'Heure Bleue (or Farnésiana?) as well, making me pronounce it the first step in the right direction for the Guerlain mainstream line in a long time.

For Insolence Eau de Parfum the composition is resting atop the familiar sweet violets with subtle iris accents and enough of the red fruits tartness of the previous Eau de Toilette to which Roucel allegedly added tuberose, orange blossoms and peppery greens. You would be hard pressed to seperate them however and there is a gourmand quality which according to Albert might hark all the way back to Angel. The initial impression is even sweeter and more powdery on top rather than at the base compared with the Eau de Toilette, linear and without the initial flou and Aqua-Net note of the latter, which I admit I was not opposed myself. Constrasted, the two come off as sisters, but with the younger being more sensual and exhibitionist, the older a little more neurotically appealing and with the powdery progression reversed. Both are fronted by Hillary Swank in the print ads.

Summarising the Eau de Parfum is more approachable if you're into big, loud, sweet florals, quite close to Météorites indeed, with a liquorice flavour woven into the body of the fragrance resulting in a sci-fi rococo. Exceptionally long lasting too, wittily compared to the half life of uranium, therefore judicious use with the spray is highly recommended.
Although it was another fragrance that has been tagged as "a violet hit by a meteorite" recently, Insolence Eau de Parfum gives me the impression it has been circling eccentric orbits around a black-hole-sun since forever.

The sizes and prices for Insolence Eau de Parfum start from 52 Euro for 30 ml, 75 Euro (50 ml) to 105 Euro (100 ml). Available in the US as well by the end of the year.

Guerlain Insolence editions include: Insolence EDT, Insolence EDP, My Insolence.

Pic of Insolence Eau de Parfum advertisement via Fragrantica


  1. I actually quite like "Insolence" - I've heard it described as having a hairspray topnote but it sort of reminds me why I quite like the smell of hairspray! "My Insolence" does nothing for me at all - it doesn't have the unapologetically forceful heft of the original. And I do love the fact that finally someone is making a violet perfume that doesn't smell like that awful fake pixie-festooned rubbish you get in gift shoppes in Devon...

  2. Sounds like a "must try." I always thought Insolence got a bit of a bad rap when it first appeared, though it is not quite my cup of tea. The EDP sounds as if it corrects some of the things I disliked in the EDT. "Sweeter and more powdery on top" can only be a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

  3. L,

    great point and I couldn't have said it better (I remember an aromatic essence of "English Violets" with terror, it was so chemical-smelling in such a retro packaging it was a betrayal of everything I thought was pure...)
    I quite like Insolence too and I also like hairspray! (Elnett Satin is my default choice). My Insolence is not my thing either...

    I am wondering if your choice is the EDT over the EDP or vice versa.

  4. Anonymous15:03

    Hi E!

    I was given a sample of the Insolence EdP while at the Institut Guerlain in Montreal a little over a week ago.

    I was reluctant to try it because I did NOT like the edt at all.

    But, couldn't resist not spritzing just a little spritz of this EdP and Voila! I love it. It's much richer and brighter than the edt and I am hoping it reaches the US before the end of the year. :))

    Needless to say, I was happy to see this entry on your blog this a.m.

    Waving at you from Sunny So. Cal.,

  5. M,

    I think Insolence got a terrible rep when it first arrived for all the wrong reasons: the packaging, the colour, the face to front it, the style of the commercials/ads...everything but the smell.
    Then someone mentioned hairspray and it stuck. It does have a very "hazy" and tingling opening in the EDT (like tiny droplets of dry ice sticking to your nose) which is missing in the EDP, more of a straight sweet floral writ large. It's definitely a must-try even if someone is opposed to it: hard to beat the conviction it introduces itself with! ;-)

  6. D,

    thank you honey for stopping by (and I am overdue with the mail on the glorious DELIGHTS I owe you!! Will elaborate in two ticks, promise).

    Yes, I am certain that the EDP is more your thing: it's more sensual and you're a sensual person for sure! It has an almost edible quality about it, something that is not so apparent in the EDT.
    Glad you enjoyed the entry today :-))

  7. I admit I had no luck with the edt, but I am excited to try the edp ( I will forever be searching for a Guerlain to call my own).

  8. J,

    I have three words for you: Spirituelle Double Vanille! ;-)
    I suspect you'd might also like Cuir Beluga (which is a very soft perfume, not really leathery, I had reviewed it here) and Cruel Gardenia (not really gardenia, more like a Narciso progeny with great sillage).

  9. I couldn't really get on with the EDT despite wanting to and really like violet notes.

    I found the EDP much more appealing and in fact very more ish. I was quite surprised about this as I normally either like things or don't, I might prefer x formulation but I have never disliked an EDT and really liked an EDP before.

    I much prefer the print campaign and bottle for the EDP too!

  10. E.,

    Tag! You're It. Lucy from Indie Perfumes tagged me, and now I'm tagging you, one of my favorite blogs.

    So, here’s the protocol:

    1. Link to the person who tagged you.
    2. Post the rules on your blog.
    3. Write six random things about yourself.
    4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
    5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
    6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

    Six random things about me:

    1. I am a lover of organ music (Bach, Widor, Franck, Dupré and Messiaen, especially).
    2. I speak French and German, in addition to my native English.
    3. I, too, am a compulsive reader. I like subways for that reason. For some reason, I can never read in cabs or town cars.
    4. A couple of times a year, I fetishize the ritual of consuming of a very good dry-aged steak with an excellent bottle of wine. Otherwise, I keep a near-abstemious monastic regime.
    5. I have never eaten an ortolan and consider myself the poorer for it.
    6. I am planning a trek along the Silk Road in 2010, provided my country re-educates itself in the art of diplomacy just a wee, teensy bit.

    Now for some favorite blogs:

    Grain de Musc
    The Moment
    Fragrance Bouquet
    Perfume Shrine
    The Sartorialist

    Enjoy being It!

  11. Anonymous22:04

    Hi E,

    I love love love your blog! Haven't tried Insolence yet though, as violets tend to scare me. They go very sweet/synthetic on my skin. But maybe with the next samples order...

    I can't wait to see what you come up with re the old and rare Guerlains!

    Best -- p aka Olfacta

  12. I think I have a samp of Insolence up in the "?" stash -- "?" as in, keep it? swap it? gift it? -- I hadn't even tried it, because a (young) woman I work with expressed her displeasure with this one, and I thought "uh-oh," since I like so many of the 'older' Guerlains.

    But now I'm up for a to see if I've got it!

  13. "Godzilla Floral" ... lol! I always take everything Luca Turin says with a grain of salt... thanks for this review- it's nice to hear a second opinion!

  14. I was not impressed with Insolence (what a stupid name too) when it came out and I bet this will be another Godzilla of a flop for them!
    Shall be at the dock when it hits our shores Helg to sniff.

  15. Rose,

    thank you for the comparison and personal story recounted. Yes, it's rare that one likes one concentration so much when they despise another. But there are quite a few fragrances which do that schizo thing (Chanels are notorious for that), so it's always wise to sample all concentrations and hey, you found a winner :-)

    Thank you for pointing out what I was so absent-minded not to do myself (*slaps forehead*): the print ad is so much better this time. I think a little of the natural charm of ms.Swank surfaces through (instead of the Las Vegas stripper thing they had before, LOL!)

  16. Dear C,

    ohhh, I am very flattered: someone had tagged me a while ago and in turn I tagged some more (very low profile ones so they would come out of the dark) and now you do it in such a complimentary way (and another lovely person did that to me too, just two days ago), so I will reciprocate definitely with something new/inventive!

    On to your self-facts (such fun!):

    I highly recommend you taste some ortolan listening to Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques, then! No need to cover your face with a silk scarf either ;-) Aren't those easy to get there? [They're really easy to prepare too, just roast them gently with a little olive oil, garlic and Armagnac].
    I admit I am not familiar with C.M.Widor's opus so I won't even dare to go there :-) I trust your recommendations on what to seek to listen to would be fab though, so I welcome them.
    German...*sigh* I started learning only to discover I had too little time to focus on a non-Romanesque language (my other skills are all in that family of languages and it really helps learning one from that pool of genes, you know? LOL!)

    Thank you once again for sharing and will be doing my best :-)

  17. Aww, dear P, you're so sweet. I think Insolence is a brave move in many ways: the EDT is very unusual for a modern "young"-oriented fragrance (which is always something to pique my interest) and the EDP is different than the EDT but so loud, so confident, so assertive in its violet glory you can't help but admire it. It's certainly sweet though, so try both concentrations when you can.

  18. S,

    I suggest you go try it and let me know how you found the experience. Bear in mind the new EDP is quite different though, especially in the beginning: compared side by side they reveal their differences more prominently.

    And in case you missed it: you're the vetiver sample trio winner! :-)
    I have a little prize to send you, then.

  19. DC,

    LOL, well, don't we all? Second opinions are always useful I find. But he was complimentary, nonetheless, despite those epithets.

    I quite liked it and I was prepared to hate it. In fact I own the EDT and don't know if I should invest in a little bottle of EDP as well. Dilemmas, dilemmas... :-)

  20. M,

    yeah, the name leaves a lot to be desired, doesn't it? I think everything BUT the smell was a stretch for Guerlain with this one. They seem to have corrected some of the problems in the EDP (the darker bottle, the different hue of the juice, the more charming ad prints, the more clad ms.Swank...).
    Do sniff and report back! A Guerlain lady like you should be an invaluable litmus-test!

  21. I traveled to England and Europe a few years ago and while I was at Harrod's in London I was offered a sample of Insolence. I walked away after applying the sample and instantly got this wonderful almost euphoric feeling as the scent blossomed around me. I then traveled to Paris where I went to the Guerlain boutique On the Champs and purchased a large bottle. Since my return I have had men come up to me while I was in line or shopping and asking me about my perfum. A few of them even called their wives right then and there and told them about this perfum. Women have approached me and asked me the same question about this scent. It is next to magical! Thank you Guerlain. I have purchased three more perfums since my return home.

  22. I can see that Chantal, thank you for recounting your experience. It's curiously appealing for something that is rather retro in a way, no?

  23. I ran screaming from Insolence edp. The horror, the horror... wearing it was like standing in a parking lot looking frantically for my car, surrounded by identical vehicles, all with alarms blaring. There was a rough, raspy note that scraped the back of my throat, and the whole thing shrieked so incessantly that I had to wash before fifteen minutes had passed. (Out of more than 200 test samples over the last 7 months, I've only come across three scrubbers. This was one.)

  24. LOL, sorry about that Mals!!
    I can see how this might be the hurricane to end all hurricanes, even though I liked it. (but surely it's STRONG!!!!!)
    LOVE your simile, though. Excellent!

  25. Anonymous03:16

    I know this post was quite a while ago, but how does Insolence EDP compare to La Petite Robe Noire? I get that obviously LPRN has more of a blend of candied/pastry notes, the rose included, and that Insolence is really BIG, however I’m reading similarities between the lines since both are tenacious violets and I see you referenced licorice and edibleness. Any advice would really help a girl out! I like LPRN quite a bit and I like Maurice Roucel.

    Also, I dislike overly-powdery fragrances. And I hate the fruity base in Angel. So how would I do with Insolence EDP? Thank you for your patience with my presumptuous questions! And thank you for your wonderful reviews.

  26. Anon,

    thanks for asking, interesting question in hindsight! And thank you for the lovely compliment too. :-)

    I think you'd like INsolence EDP quite a lot. It's not powdery, it's not very fruity. The berries are well contained and there's no caramel a la Angel to make them intense (It's intense but in a different way I mean). LPRN isn't wildly different, but it's sweeter and somehow more pastry-candied, which makes teeth hurt sometimes, LOL. I vastly prefer the Insolence myself.


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