lundi 3 novembre 2008

Felanilla, louche vanilla (Parfumerie Générale)

Mr. Guillaume and I have never really been on speaking terms. I ordered minis of his first series three years ago, didn’t pay enough attention to them (through no fault of his), couldn’t keep up with the pace of his releases (over 30 in, what, six years?), got exasperated by his hard-to-navigate website (the presentation part has been fixed, the online shop is still a little frustrating with its numbered, unidentified “collections privées”) and even more by his “invitation only” fragrances (I’d appreciate at least having descriptions on the site). In my grumpier moments, I even doubt (surely unfairly) that the handsome youth depicted on the site as Pierre Guillaume is in fact Pierre Guillaume; the sheer output sometimes make me suspect (again unfairly, I’m sure) that there is more than one perfumer at work here, though several fragrances share a common style.

Fortunately, Octavian has generously allowed me to decant from his Parfumerie Générale minis so that I could have an idea of what’s going on, perfume-wise, in the heart of France – the Guillaume labs are in the lovely volcanic region of the Auvergne, more renowned for its mineral water than for its fragrance industry.

I thought I might as well start with the latest, Felanilla, for no other reason than that the name oddly suggests lewd oral ministrations performed in Ancient Rome, somehow involving felines (throw those Christians to the lions!) under the reign of Caligula.

The effect, upon first spray, is that of a crème brûlée eaten with a silver spoon out of a silver thimble. The overpoweringly metallic note is provided by orris and a liberal dose of saffron; the result is the least foody vanilla imaginable. The silver spoon effect, so intense it’s almost detectable on the tongue, gradually recedes after a few hours into a warm, animalic base: amber, smoky vanilla, hay-tobacco. Octavian compares it to Coty’s Émeraude in liquid nitrogen; I’ve been thinking more along the lines of Guerlain’s Guet-Apens/Attrape-Coeur (down to the banana-like note) given a scarily close shave (that saffron-metal note almost hints to blood). Either that or it’s the lion’s claw spearing that vanilla pod. Fascinating.

The latest update: This evening I spoke with a fellow writer about Pierre Guillaume. As it turns out, I was paranoid and grumpy. The handsome young man whose picture is up on the Parfumerie Générale website is indeed Pierre Guillaume, and he is the perfumer, and if he ever reads this, I flatly apologize!

Image: Erotic fresco in Pompei, from Wikimedia commons

14 commentaires:

  1. How can there be so many from this line (and early on I was better about trying them all) that I found interesting and liked without ever falling in love enough to get a decant? But you make this one sound very enticing...

  2. March, I know! Same here. Because of their sheer quantity, they always kind of gang up on you, you can't focus on the one long enough to get the craving... Also, the quantity means that some good ideas aren't always followed through, so there's something a little wanting in the balance.
    Still, Felanilla (hear me roar -- ouch!) *is* a good idea of a scent, and a very good quality vanilla.

  3. D., Now that you and O have written something conclusive about this, I must get a sample. Interest is piqued! Now, what were these Roman practices?!

  4. C., may I refer you to Petronius instead? Or just ask any lion...

  5. I have been enthralled by his scents for a couple years. Ordering from his French site two years ago was trying and I was almost fluent in that language by the time my order reached me here in the states. I have numerous favorites from Tuberose Couture, Rose Brulee, Coze, Cadjmere and Un Crime Exotique. (apologize for any mispellings) But it is his scent Musc Maori that has drawn me in and will never let me go. It trully is an amazing fragrance. I am a gourmand scent lover so the white chocolate- coffee- vanilla- musk theme has got me wrapped around this guys little finger. It is built upon a white and black theme, my favorite color combination BTW, and you can smell that. The luscious white chocolate being folded, gently into a dark coffee syrup with a sexy musk hovering at the top, just gorgeous. And my husband goes ga-ga for this, always a plus! Now, if he would just make matching body products, I would be in heaven. And I would be happy to come and personally;-) help him with this!! He *IS* gorgeous! I love his whole line and can't wait to smell this new feline vanilla!

  6. Wow, Kayliana, that is one glowing endorsement! And your French spelling is fine...
    I've just dug out Musc Maori from the samples drawer and will be testing it more fully tomorrow. Musc and chocolate is actually an interesting combination: some musc synthetics seem to give off a faint chocolate scent.

  7. You are so right--it's hard to sift through all the PG offerings. And the website is a pain in the rear, too.

    Have you tried Corps et Ames? That's one I love.

  8. Angela, I'm starting to think all the best ones are in the private collection... How frustrating is that? Which kind of answers your question: no, I haven't.

  9. @Chris: Ovid's Amores and Petronius's Satyrica are both highly recommended reading for shattering the modern perceptions of how daring we are ;-)

    The name reads like a Menippean satire and who else but you should point it out? :D
    OK, let me brainstorm for his next one a minute: Cunnilangues de Chat to accompany our ice-cream? Might I also suggest a phenylacetic acid note in there?
    :-) (wait, wait, they might actually go ahead and do it!)

    Seriously, Corps et Ames, Musc Maori, Crime Exotique, Eau de Circe and Coze are all wonderful in their own way; I secured a large decant of the latter two due to their unique nature (a nice non-cloying non-teen fruity? a sweet liquer-steeped leather?). Haven't tried Felanilla yet, but will.

    As to one person doing all those scents (love that your mind is working in sideways ways these days ~as it should), surely he utilizes assistants, as they all do anyway ;-) The credit can and will be shouldered by Guillame's slender and appealing shoulders just fine.

  10. Helg, this is definitely a very interesting perfume house. I guess I've waited a bit too long to catch up with it (familiar perfumista complaint: so many perfumes, so little skin)...
    Cat pee, to this cat owner's nose, smells much more distinctly of ammonia though. Cat themselves, well, that's another delicious, salty musky story -- when healthy, they never give off that ammonia whiff!

  11. Yeah, I know it's more ammoniac. I have had the bad fortune of having to work with someone who had a litter box in their bath reeking of the stuff: clothes pegs on the nose couldn't save me while it lasted.

    But I was trying to do a word play, somewhat clumsily I see: if Fellanila was implying the masculine equivalent of the Petronius acts, then the next one should focus on the feminine equivalent, starting with cunni.... (and having a whiff of human pee) and ending with a culinary touch to make it a perfume for today's crowd: since langues de chat are a popular accompaniment evocative to other mind got sidetracked. :-)
    (yeah yeah I know! Will go have a nap now)

  12. dear, E: I thought Cunnilangues de chat was, well, quite a cunning play on words. (Worthy, therefore, of a cunning linguist, indeed).

    This *is* a rather interesting line. I have a sample of Eau de Circe that I should test... Unfortunately, Psychotrope and Ether de Lilas did not work for me.

  13. Helg, only shows you how literal-minded I am about cats (Felis Domesticus, that is)... I hadn't thought about the other, sweetly rude meaning for "minou"!

  14. Jarvis, I need to study these better too, but clearly when my brain is working a little better!