vendredi 19 juin 2009

Guerlain Voyages Olfactifs: Paris-Moscou, Paris-New York, Paris-Tokyo

Is the olfactory travel memoir becoming an overworked trope in perfumery? L’Artisan and Hermès are already working the genre; “We-travelled-to-the-remotest-islands-to-bring-back-the-rarest-essences” is a standard of press releases; Bond N°9 has cornered the neighborhoods-of-a-metropolis market. Armchair-travel fragrances are a way of breaking with the perfume = woman (or man) equation, I suppose. And Guerlain certainly knows how to hook up these olfactory urban snapshots with the skin they’re intended for: these definitely aren’t glorified room sprays.

I’ve never been to Moscow, so I can’t tell the way chic Muscovites actually smell, but to me, Paris-Moscou is basically what Carrie Bradshaw would waft if she had married the Baryshnikov character and were sitting in a bar somewhere near Red Square sipping a Cosmopolitan, wearing Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely. This fragrance, authored by Randa Hammami, is a new installment of Guerlain’s new girly red berries and musk style: in this case, redcurrants, woody musk and a pretty, undefined anisic floral, sitting in the trademark Guerlain tonka bean and vanilla base. But the texture is notably lighter than the chewy Little Black Dress, and much less sweet than the Carnal Elixirs. Quite pretty and probably considerably less complicated than your average Russian beauty.

Paris-New York takes a page from Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Winter Delices – unsurprisingly, since this is also a Jean-Paul Guerlain fragrance. The scent is meant to conjure New York before Christmas: its pink bay and cardamom sprinkled on cedar give it the most overtly masculine vibe of the trio. Oh, and stop the presses! There’s vanilla. Again, the scent has a light, quietly shimmering, ethereal texture: a sprinkle of snowflakes rather than a full-on Guerlain…

Paris-Tokyo opens with candied lemon and ginger swirling in a green tea so realistic you literally feel the raspy tannin on your tongue, tiny jasmine buds unfurling lazily in the cup … The scent is sweet, but like the nectar of flowers rather like than cotton-candy. Who knew the great Annick Menardo could compose in such a quiet and delicate mode? But despite its minor-key style, Paris-Tokyo leaves a clear olfactory imprint on memory, possible because of its tactile effect.

Easily my favorite of the three: with its tart-sweet harmonies and cool-hot ginger, this would make a wonderfully refreshing heat-wave fragrance…

P.S. Word on the street has it that Thierry Wasser’s first great feminine launch, Idylle, is an innocuously pretty young floral… More soon.

Image: Second Life still, captured by vidaltripsa on Filckr

16 commentaires:

  1. Coucou, D. Thanks for reviewing these. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from these, and so it's nice to hear that there are interesting elements to be found, particularly in that Paris-Tokyo one. I guess I won't have a chance to try them unless I make it to Bergdorf's any time soon.

  2. Jarvis, I think you'll survive until then... They're not the indispensable kind, but the Tokyo is definitely worth trying out.

  3. Guerlain under Delacourte have been in a creative slump for a while now. Did you know? Caron already launched this concept in...1905 with their London-Paris! Ha! Ha!
    Opium, Mitsouko, El these are true Voyages Olfactifs. Are these delacourtean scents really worth $300 a bottle?

  4. Si j'avais, when a concept is as old as that, you can't really say that new iterations are late in the game, but rather, that this is a genre in perfumery.

  5. D, just being sarcastic here, you know I'm the mean girl and the fuck off small talk of the perfume community right?
    On the more serious note, I fell all those pricey new launches and exclusive lines one after another (that goes for Lutens as well) are all one time money-makers because Guerlain don't have solid best-sellers like Chanel No.5 and Coco Mademoiselle.

  6. Si j'avais... Yup! It certainly wouldn't be the same without you! ;-)
    But you're right, it's all one-offs to offset the fact that there aren't anymore solid best-sellers -- they'd be drowned in all the new releases anyway!

  7. You make the Paris-New York sound surprisingly attractive ("New York before Christmas . . . pink bay and cardamom sprinkled on cedar"), yet you don't seem particularly charmed overall.

    Is it a shade too predictable?

  8. Nathan, that may be it. It reminded me a lot of Winter Délices, which was already reprised in that four seasons coffret last year. Let's say the three are very nice and delicate, I'll wear my decants, but they don't make me swoon.

  9. Thanks for the review. As for Idylle I am perhaps not surprised by the "innocuously pretty young floral" word on the street--then again I suppose I'll have to wait. By all means I'm sure you'll give us the lowdown when available.

  10. Albert, I'm waiting to sniff for myself... pretty young floral might be lovely, we can't be wearing oud and leather every day. And I don't see how Guerlain could risk coming up with something challenging at this point -- though I kind of liked the brashness of Insolence. It wasn't for me but it was fun.

  11. Hi D!

    I had used Carrie Bradshaw as a reference when talking about the Elixirs Charnels a while back and I can see that kind of upbeat "all things to all (hip) women" attitude is surfacing once again on this side of double-digited Champs Elysees... Let's just say you "killed with faint praise"? :-)

    At any rate, to add to SJAAM's comment, Madeline Vionnet had a series of perfumes with city names (metropoleis of fashion in that case) very early on too! And the voyage collection trend is trickiling down nicely, since Oriflame just released a duo with resort names too. Fromage frais!! ;-)

  12. Helg, I guess the metaphor, by now, is as fresh as the idea behind the fragrance... These are very nice, just not super-exciting.

  13. S. Delacourte has at least an advantage: she is open to critics. She is much more an Artistic Director (a line between marketing and technical aspect of a perfume). She must be respected for this role, home perfumer is another job and she is not the home perfumer (JP Guerlain, then M. Roucel and now Th Wasser). And now open to other nose.

    Early in the 50's, Guerlain use to have some "country dedicated products", like a poor Vetiver tincture for Mexican market, special Mitsouko for Japan, etc...

    True "Voyages Olfactifs" were represented, as discussed with "Carmencanada" on Octavian's blog or by private mails, by a triptych in 1933:

    - Sous le Vent
    - Vol de Nuit
    - Loin de Tout

    They are TRUE "Voyages Olfactifs", but ... "Sous le vent" is a niche perfume, "Vol de Nuit" a very low-sale perfume and "Loin de Tout" is gone. But all of them have an historical or formulation interest/value. Two of them at least have children, with Guerlain or others.

    The problem is to know if the NEW "Voyages Olfactifs" will be in the future a reference or not (not in term of sales, of pure reference"

    The price is a problem when a product has not the quality expected. I have not enough test behind me to predict it.

  14. Lenkinap,
    Thank you for reuniting the 1933 "voyages trio" -- the names, put together, are deeply evocative and I hope you will tell us some more one day about the formula of "Loin de Tout", the missing link. I would also love to know which perfumes you consider to be the progeny of the two Guerlains.

    I'm not sure this new Voyages Olfactifs will stand the test of time in the same way as, at least, Vol de Nuit (I cannot consider the revived Sous le Vent has having really survived since it was only brought back as a re-edition). And I'm not sure we can tell the heritage of a fragrance before at least a decade...

  15. Well, it's difficult to answer with actual formulas. The real SLV is a leather-chypre. Yes, I know, not the actual formula, but the old extract IS a leather.

    Some scents in the past use to have this formula, very difficult to formulate with the right scent at the right place (too much leather or too much chypre), very dry. But it's was the first of this family, after you have many others ...

    VDN, with daffodil/galbanum notes has many brothers or sisters.

    "Loin de Tout" is only "Loin de Tout"

  16. Lenkinap, I know the leather chypre family very well indeed but the Sous le Vent I smelled in extract does not really evoke the ones I know, except, perhaps a bit Diorling? I do smell traces of Vol de Nuit in Miss Dior, though. I wore it yesterday (VdN) in the extrait and the galbanum glimmered in the heat... I wish that phase would last even longer.