Guerlain is such a behemoth of a perfume house and has produced so many classic fragrances that it seems almost sacrilegious that my first official review of a Guerlain fragrance will be for an Aqua Allegoria. Nonetheless, sacrilegious is just the way the cookie crumbles on this blog (I'm mixing themes again), so please read on for my impressions of Figue-Iris. I really thought I'd like this one before I tested it, as fig usually a winning note for me and iris almost always rocks my world. Both have a nice, crisp quality to them, so I was envisioning a nice refreshing summer fragrance, and the combination of fig and iris is kind of unusual, so it sounded like something a bit different. Hmm. Well it was…different. The fig is very sappy—I don't get the impression of fruit at all, rather the green stuff oozing from the tree bark. The iris is quite, quite powdery. It's an odd combination, and it doesn't work for me. Instead of contrasting in an interesting way, the wetness of the fig seems to jar against the dry powder of the iris, and the two notes juxtaposed produce what to my nose smells a bit like a carrot gone off. But of course, your mileage may vary :-). The official notes are: Fig, Iris, Vanilla, Vetiver, Bergamot, Pink Grapefruit. You can buy it at Sephora
I bet if you polled a bunch of perfumistas asking for their favorite leather fragrance, a solid majority would say Guerlain Cuir Beluga. I would have to abstain from such a poll because leather notes almost invariably give me a headache. If I'm going to smell like leather, it's going to be from my leather jacket. So why am I testing Cuir Beluga today? Glutton for punishment, I guess. Also, it features heliotrope along with leather, and I do love me some heliotrope.
My first sniff of Cuir Beluga is dominated by a blast of sweet amber. Yuck. Second sniff, I detect a definite leather note along with the amber. Double yuck. But third sniff, thank goodness, the heliotrope kicks in with a vengeance. The amber fades pretty quickly, and most of this fragrance's life on my skin is dominated by the sweet, powdery, slightly plasticky vanilla, strangely lovable concoction that is heliotrope. But underlying it all is the dreaded leather. For some people, I'm sure the pairing is what makes this fragrance so interesting: it rather reminds me of leather and lace. But for me, it makes this unwearable.
Cuir Beluga is an exclusive member of the L'art et la Matiere collection and nigh impossible to get online. If you call the Guerlain boutique at Bergdorf's in NYC, I believe you can order it for about $200.
Sous Le Vent is a Guerlain classic. It was blended for Josephine Baker by Jacques Guerlain in the 1930s. It is remarkable how many of Guerlain classics are still for sale today, but this one manages to be at once old-fashioned and modern to my nose.
Sous Le Vent opens with a blast of citrus - to me it's lemon, though that is not supposed to be a note. Underlying the lemon is that tried and true powdery Guerlainade. As the citrus fades, the fragrance takes on an herbal twist with lavender and tarragon emerging. The herbs keep the fragrance decidedly unisex and prevent the powder from overwhelming the nose. Though I can't see myself wearing this one, I quite like it and admire it for the masterpiece that it is.
You can buy Sous Le Vent from Neimans or Bergdorf Goodman, but hold on to your wallet - it's $305 for 125 ml.
If you ask anyone who knows anything about fragrance for a list of "must-try" scents for any new perfumista, Guerlain's Shalimar will invariably appear near the top. It is, simply, a classic. And indeed, I mean that in every sense of the word, as it's been around since 1925. When you consider how much tastes have changed in perfumery through those decades, Shalimar's endurance is all the more remarkable. Alas, I cannot wear it. I've tried every iteration and flanker, to no avail. And really, I should like it - it features bergamot, vanilla, iris, oppoponax. All notes I enjoy, or at least hold no grudge against. But it isn't until I stumbled upon the latest Shalimar release Parfum Initial that I have finally found my Shalimar.
Parfum Initial feels rich and well-rounded. It is no shrinking violet of a fragrance and it's sillage is tenacious. The opening is robustly citrus, which quickly fades to to a resinous amber/tonka blend, accented by a touch of jasmine. It is ALMOST too much amber for me. I'm not an amber girl - I prefer it to take a backseat, generally. But this blend works, even though the amber is by no means shy. I have not decided whether this is full bottle worthy for me or not. I can't see myself reaching for this often enough to justify it, but at the same time, I do feel my collection is lacking a Shalimar and somehow a decant just wouldn't do.