Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cologne du 68 by Guerlain: fragrance review, history and comparison

Once upon a time there was a deep blue, carriage lantern with a clear stopper holding the purple creature of the night, la belle de nuit aux violets that is Guet Apens. She made her debut via the magic of nose Mathilde Laurent 10 years ago (1999) when Guerlain had its first inflow of funds from LVMH's initial investment. But the spell would be broken at midnight: this carriage was a pumpkin and limited editions are called limited for a reason; fairy godmothers can do no exceptions, no matter how talented! Was the sobriquet non sonours enough to English-speaking ears? Was there a rival fairy-godfather? No one outside Guerlain knows for sure in this fairy tale. Still, the fairy dust was too addictive and the recipe too delicious to be left at that. One belle was put to bed for an eternal slumber, another came out with a slight retouche by Jean Paul Guerlain three years later: she was simply named No.68(limited edition). The numerological Moerae were unstinting to her: 68 would be her charms and virtues, almost as many as the Napoleonic bees which adorned her herculean (250ml) physique. The resinous, powdery, vanillic juice at her core bore ties of consanguinity with both Guet Apens and Terracotta. But she too had to leave her slippers behind for fair princes to pick up in desperate hopes; she's no longer made in that guise.

Years passed in Guerlaindom and suitors came and went empty-handed, until someone realised that the address of their flagship store on the Champs Elysées in Paris is too good to pass up (after all every self-respecting maison has their address emblazoned on something) and Guerlain Cologne du 68 was born, seemingly Athena-like from Zeus' head, but in fact through the artistry of Sophie Labbé in 2006. What better of a constant reminder of the abode and shrine character of that emblematic boutique in the market?

First the new unisex Cologne du 68 came in the brave, Titanic size of 500ml. The age of the Titans was inaugurated by Les Exclusifs de Chanel and progressed from them. Size did matter! Later, masterminds at the Guerlain and LVMH headquarters realised that more customers could be lured in, if a more modest size was introduced and who wants to feel antagonized anyway? Enter the 100ml/3.4oz size which now circulates. And how does this new sprite smell? Completely different than her other, previous, stupendous incarnations; yet prodigiously good! Guerlain sang its siren song: "Fresh spices of cardamom and coriander blended with citrus fruits are warmed with hot spices of pepper and ginger for an everlasting scent [...] a sumptuous composition with 68 of the finest raw materials gathered from all over the world. Both fresh and spicy, it will win hearts with its ultra-modern facets, long wearing scent and beautiful, tall minimalist bottle."

Guerlain Cologne du 68 is ~if not fairy-tale like~ a feat of masterful work: It utilizes a sophisticated composition interplaying rich scents that conspire to give the full spectrum of aroma with no more general descriptor possible than the ambiance of a warm citrus shimmering under the spell of spices. A masterful combination of floral, spicy oriental, aromatic, herbal green and even clean elements with a powdery iris-vanillic-tonka finish that anchors it firmly in the Guerlain tradition; yet thoroughly modern, eminently wearable, fit for every occasion. The drydown is warm, rather sweet and lasting with blonde woods and slightly powdery notes that put it in flou.

The tall cylindrical bottle is appropriately unisex, well-made with the wooden cap recalling the one on Terre d'Hermès. The purpotedly 68 ingredients show up on the label, apothecary-style.

Notes for Guerlain Cologne du 68: bergamot, green mandarin, lemon, clementine, orange peel, blood orange, sweet lime, grapefruit, basil, fennel, star anise, lavender, bay leaf, cypress, elemi, thyme, myrthe, bigarade, mandarin, petit grain, lemon petit grain, pear, violet greens, lierre, gentiane, seve, blackcurrant, freesia, lily of the valley, hazel leaf, cyclamen, cardamom, coriander, black pepper, pink berry, nutmeg, ginger, jasmine, frangipane, magnolia blossom, orange blossom, peony, rose, carnation, ylang-ylang, lychee, fig, blackberry, immortelle, lentisque (mastic), opoponax, amber, benzoin, vanilla, cistus, heliotrope, iris, tonka bean, sage, musk, patchouli, agarwood, cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, vegetable musk, praline, myrrhe and lichen.

Available for $100 for 3.4 oz/100ml at Neiman Marcus and at Guerlain boutiques the world over.

Cinderella illustrationg by Gustave Doré, from the 19th century, via logoi.com .Pic of bottle by Kittyfishstyle/mua


  1. Anonymous14:20

    Oh what fun that was to read! Thanks E! As you know I am a big fan of Attrape Coeur and have a small decant of Guet Apens which is even more gorgeous I have to admit. So the original no 68 sounds so beautiful, sigh. Anyway, I have sniffed this new version and did like it. It requires further testing as I think it would suit the coming seasons. donanicola

  2. Oh Guerlain I think you maybe the only fragrance house with such an insane history with its fragrances. Still this one sounds quite gorgeous.

  3. N,

    I am saving Guet Apens-Attrape Coeur for an upcoming post.
    Yes, the new version is very good. I was surprised I liked it that much. You know what< I hadn't thought of it seasonally, but now that you're telling me, it could be my new warm weather "craze" (although I find it wears well in any season; I broke it out yesterday evening when it was chilly and it was as good as an ivory pullover)

  4. J,

    nah....there are many crazy stories. But it's confusing to the collector (nah, nah, I am tempted to say that's on purpose) and the consumer to have so much selection with so much interlapping of scent or name.

  5. Anonymous17:05

    Hi Elena!

    Thanks for the clarification. I was confused yesterday over at POL with having two Guerlain fragrances with the number 68 in the name.

    I have smelled the Cologne du 68 and I like it. For a cologne, it was considerably long lasting on my skin. It's a good everyday kind of scent or rather like a perfume sorbet.

    And the value is good at $100.00 for 3.4 fl. oz.

    ~~Dawn :)

  6. Dawn, honey, thank you!

    Yes, well, isn't it very confusing to begin with? It's no wonder people are mixed up. If you read reviews on Basenotes for instance it's clear that they're referring to the new one on the entry for No.68 (I presume because there is no entry for the new Cologne du 68 ~an oversight perhaps)

    "Perfume sorbet" sums it up perfectly! I loved the (comparatively with others in same ballpark) good-value-for-money idea as well. ;-)

  7. Oh that Guerlain! A dear perfume friend sent me a generous decant of this, and I must say that I like it a lot, although I mostly get the citrus and the powder.

    And at 68 "ingredients," it seems that Guerlain through in everything but the kitchen sink!


  8. Cologne du 68 was much better than I expected, simple pleasure rules.

  9. R,

    wasn't it good? Citrus and powder is not a bad description!
    Yes, the 68 ingredients is rather long, although several classic fragrances had formulae several pages long too.

    Have a great day, sweetie! :-)

  10. L,

    who can argue with simple pleasure?


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