Guerlain Nahema

Released in 1979, Nahéma is like an ode to the rose. Nahéma is a rose explosion that calls up the vision of what a rose is supposed to be. Nahema

In Bottle: Lush rose in that familiar Guerlain smell. Beautifully dense and musky delicate roses. So sweet that for a moment I’m thinking I smell cherry or anise instead but it’s all rose from here.

Applied: Big and fantastic and familiar. The rose goes on strong, comes out of the gates yelling and makes itself known. This is what a rose is supposed to smell like. A little sweet, a little floral, clean and dewy. Tea rose is what I’m smelling, and tea rose to me has a lighter, sweeter fragrance often used as a subtle addition but in Nahéma is the primary focus. I get roses for hours and hours as Nahéma has some fantastic staying power. The dry down is a lovely sweet rose on woodsy base and that familiar Guerlain scent.

Extra: Apparently, Luca Turin in The Guide shares with us a little rumor. That Nahéma, the greatest rose fragrance in perfumery, was made without any rose oil.

Design: The image in this post is not the bottle design that I’m talking about in this section. The modern Nahéma bottle that I held and sprayed is a mostly flat, rather boring bottle design whose shape is reminiscent of Tommy Girl except lacking that third dimension. It’s dull, drab and uninteresting and I wish they hadn’t changed it from the old bottle. But the bottle certainly is functional at least.

Fragrance Family: Soliflore Oriental

Notes: Rose, peach, vanilla, woods.

Even if you hate roses I highly recommend giving this a sniff. If not so you can find the perfect perfume but to know what conceptual rose smells like. If the rumor is true, that Nahéma doesn’t contain any actual rose oil then the mind-boggling alone is worth a smell.

Reviewed in This Post: Nahéma, 2003, Eau de Parfum.

Guerlain Vol de Nuit

Much raved about by fragrance lovers, I had this on my list to smell and try for a very long time. When I did spot it at a counter as a tester, I wasted no time making a beeline for it. Excited as I spritzed it, stuck my nose it, slapped it on my skin and then stuck my nose in again, I was hoping for the shapely beauty of Mitsouko. Or the chilly distant wonder of L’Heure Bleue. What I got was a little disappointing. And I say that as I don my metal armor and prepare for the angry mob. Vol de Nuit

In Bottle: That lovely, iconic Guerlain base that defines all the classics shoots Vol de Nuit into heavy hitters category immediately. Though after the guerlainess makes its way through my nose, Vol de Nuit’s underlying personality seems a bit weak. A little big of bergamot. A little bit of spices. Not what I expected from a fragrance that was so well loved.

Applied: Lovely little opener with the guerlainess leading the way for bergamot to flare and dissolve, leaving a little trace of it behind for the rest of the fragrance. Vol de Nuit is a gentle waft of spices, woods, and florals. It’s green ivy and dense flowers on a bed of soft spices. It smells–kind of ordinary. I expected great things from this fragrance. Things so great that it couldn’t possibly have fulfilled. Perhaps I read so much hype that it’s gone to my head and I wanted laser beams and dinosaurs when all Vol de Nuit had to offer me was pleasant featurette. Vol de Nuit is lovely, for sure. It’s more complex than something made these days but I also expected it to be so much more than this. When the dry down approaches, Vol de Nuit turns into a dense, dark woodsy vanilla spice before fading completely. Very nice. Very much Guerlain. Vol de Nuit still blows most modern fragrances out of the water. But I guess I was just expecting more, especially if you slot it in with the other classics.

Extra: Vol de Nuit is a true Guerlain classic of the likes of Shalimar and Jicky. It was released in 1933 and composed by Jacques Guerlain.

Design: I love Vol de Nuit’s bottle. Colored glass with recessed patterns in the shape of a belt buckle. An interesting circle with the fragrance’s name. Reminds me of Art Deco and the days gone by when the women were like columns and the men wore fedoras.

Fragrance Family: Oriental

Notes: Hesperedic notes, narcissus., galbanum, oakmoss, woods, iris, vanilla, spices.

Since you’ve probably seen it listed a lot and likely wondered what it means, hesperedic notes are scents reminiscent of florals mixed with citrus peels such as orange, lemon and tangerine. Also you can bet your horses that oakmoss note is either synthetic or has been formulated out. If it hasn’t, I would be shocked and fully expecting it to be phased out soon.

Reviewed in This Post: Vol de Nuit, 2009, Eau de Toilette.

Guerlain Habit Rouge

Sometimes when people hear a woman admit she’s wearing a men’s fragrance they act surprised. Like it’s a scandal to wear a men’s fragrance. And don’t even start on how people react if you’re a man admitting you’re wearing a women’s fragrance. The truth is, perfumes aren’t constrained by gender. Though some perfumes can be construed as feminine or masculine. The final say on the matter always ends with the individual. If you like it–just wear it. Habit Rouge is one such fragrance where if you like it then just wear it. Habit Rouge

In Bottle: Musky citrus as the opener. After over a month of smelling safe modern fragrances, I was ready for this. Already I can detect the minor Guerlainess in the fragrance as the musk insists that I test this on.

Applied: Citrus opens with a brilliant brightness. I know the version of Habit Rouge I’m smelling is not the same well-loved one that came out in 1965 but it is still a complex and extremely likable fragrance. The best part comes after the citrus as Habit Rogue morphs into a strong but not overpowering sandalwood and floral. The cinnamon in this pops in and out of the picture and continues to do this even during the dry down. The vanilla peeks in on the dry down when Habit Rogue decides that it’s time to go. Along with the vanilla something dense and leathery ushers on in as the fragrance takes a turn for the smoky vanilla and leather darkness that signals its final curtain call. Try and find a scent like this in the recent releases from mainstream houses and you may find it difficult. Habit Rogue remains beautiful even through its reformulations.

Extra: Commonly marketed and considered a men’s fragrance, Habit Rouge, to me is actually more of a unisex scent. It has a slight sweetness to it though its dry down is masculine, its opener is unisex, its heart is feminine. If you wanted a full on masculine scent, look elsewhere. If you want a beautiful unisex fragrance that’s stood the test of time, Habit Rouge it up.

Design: The eau de toilette version, which is the one I tested is a very simple design. Glass rectangular bottle. Red label, metal and plastic cap. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top. I would have loved to see what the other versions were designed like but the EDT packaging was pleasant enough. No frills, no bells and whistles or gimmicks. I like it that way.

Fragrance Family: Oriental

Notes: Bergamot, lemon, rosewood, basil, pimento, sandal, carnation, patchouli, cedar, rose, cinnamon, vanilla, amber, moss, leather, benzoin, labdanum, olibanum .

I had been chasing this one for a while, knowing that’s lovely. It’s dry down reminds me a bit of Shalimar but is a bit grittier and animalistic. It’s the leather, I think.

Reviewed in This Post: Habit Rogue, 2009, Eau de Toilette.

Guerlain AA: Flora Nymphea

In and around the time Guerlain decided the status quo was not filling their coffers, they decided to output the Aqua Allegoria (abbreviated AA above) line of fragrances. These were simple, non-complex compositions of scents meant to draw in tentative consumers new to the Guerlain line and be evocative of nature. The philosophy behind Aqua Allegoria was to pump these things out and if a fragrance didn’t sell well, it would disappear. Flora Nymphea

In Bottle: Flora Nymphea is a light floral expression of a fragrance that reminds me quite a bit of my laundry detergent (Tide). It’s the light, inoffensive blend of generic florals that shouts clean and fresh! A pleasant deviation from Guerlains past.

Applied: Flora Nymphea is the embodiment of light, inoffensive floral. If you wanted a floral fragrance but you hate it when florals are heady then shack yourself up with some of this. It starts off with a bright citrus then mellows out into a sweet golden, floral scent with a slight green edge. The dry down is a soft, airy woodsy musk with a sheer layer of flowers.

Extra: Flora Nymphea is the newest member of the surviving Aqua Allegorias. Over the years, Guerlain’s made quite a few of these and only five are in rotation in 2010. The rest you will have to buy secondhand or from old stock because they have been cycled out of production. The surviving members are Pamplelune, Herba Fresca, Flora Nymphea, Mandarine Basilic, and Tiare Mimosa.

Design: I love the Aqua Allegoria line because they are bottled in Guerlain’s signature bee style. While it’s not exactly a close replica of vintage Guerlain bee bottles, the Aqua Allegorias do a very nice throw back to their roots. Glass with a metal honeycomb mesh over the top. The top of the metal cap has a bee embossed onto it. Lining these things up in a row is delightful because they are quite beautifully designed.

Fragrance Family: Floral

Notes: Syringa flower, orange blossom, beneficial honey.

Of all the Aqua Allegorias, Pamplelune holds a special place. I could do with or without Flora Nymphea as it is a pretty generic, inoffensive floral fragrance.

Reviewed in This Post: Flora Nymphea, 2010, Eau de Toilette.

Guerlain Samsara

Samsara is a lovely Guerlain from 1989. I often think it’s one of the last of the old Guerlain style before the fragrance house underwent their “modernification” and subsequent sale to LVMH. There’s a familiar Guerlainess to Samsara that’s been very toned down for the mass marketed recent fragrances. Samsara

In Bottle: Clear, dense, and woodsy. I can smell a hint of Guerlainess (if it wasn’t before, it is now a word) in this that reminds me of Mitsouko. Strange how so many things Guerlain makes either reminds me of Mitsouko or L’Heure Bleue. They were doing something right, I guess.

Applied: Initial scent reminds me of–and don’t laugh–pickled kumquat. Yes, salty, tart, citrusy pickled kumquat. Strange connection but there you have it. It was made and cannot be taken back now. Anyway, after my awkward experience with the opener, which honestly lasts a couple of seconds, Samsara turns into a smooth, spicy, sandalwood fragrance with a clove underneath. Samsara continues on its woodsy clovey journey picking up faint notes of jasmine here and there and discarding them just as quickly. The iris does make a brief and masked appearance lending the fragrance a sharpness too. The final dry down is a powdery, dry vanilla woodsy fragrance with the clove lingering until everything else is gone.

Extra: The one really great thing about Samsara is its projection. Put some of this on and you will project like crazy. Not quite as far as Shalimar but a pretty respectable distance for sure.

Design: I know some people hate the way this bottle looks. I think it’s okay. Not my favorite, but certainly not my least favorite. It’s got a nice deep redness to it that really reflects well on what kind of fragrance it holds. I like the shape too, easy to hold and easy to spray. flimsy plastic cap though. I really wish Guerlain wouldn’t use those so often these days.

Fragrance Family: Woodsy Oriental

Notes: Jasmine, ylang-ylang, jasmine, sandalwood, narcissus, tonka, iris, vanilla.

Apparently, once upon a time, Samsara used to include real Mysore Sandalwood. Sandalwood being a lovely smelling tree that’s been harvested so much that it’s now endangered. The sandalwood you encounter in perfumes? Most likely a synthetic from one of two very popular sandalwood synthetics.

Reviewed in This Post: Samsara, 2009, Eau de Parfum.

Pronouncing Fragrance House Names

If you’re like me and you lack any sort of French language skills, you’ll probably find yourself at one point struggling to figure out how to pronounce some of the fragrance house names. If you’re also like me, you’ll go through the majority of your young life saying it wrong and liberally confusing everyone you try to communicate with as you tell them the fragrance you’re wearing is by “Theory Muggler”.

Here’s a guide on how to pronounce some of the fragrance house names. Please understand that I am not a French speaker and how I pronounce these names is as close an interpretation as I can get to the actual pronunciations. If you have a better suggestion or have a correction, please let me know.

Annick Goutal: “An-neek Goo-Tahl”, (Aneek Gootahl).

Chanel: “Shan-elle”, (Shannel).

Givenchy: “Jee-Vohn-Shee”, (Jeevohnshee).

Guerlain: “Gyehr-Lan”, (Gyerlan).

Hermès: “Air-Mez”, (Air Mez).

Houbigant: “Oo-Bee-Gahn” (Oobeegan).

Jean Paul Gaultier: “Zohn Pall Go-Tee-Ahy”, (Zohn Pall Goteeay). “Zohn” (like zone with emphasis on the “oh”), Pall, Goteeay (like goate then “eh”).

Thierry Mugler: “Tea-arry Mew-Glehyr”, (Teearry Mewglehyr).

Yves Saint Laurent: “Eve San Lor-rohn”, (Eve San Lorron).

Got any corrections? Suggestions? Leave a comment.

For more (and in audio) pronunciations check out Frag Name of the Day.

Guerlain My Insolence

Seems the Insolence family is working up to its name, or something because everyone seems to have a polarized opinion of each of them. My Insolence is Insolence’s less confused daughter. She knows she’s typical, mass marketed, a little confused, and not one bit special. And she’s just okay with that. My Insolence

In Bottle: Fruity, sweet raspberry top note with a very typical jasmine wafting up from the regions of mid-stage fragrance world. My Insolence, unlike the original that it flanks is a clearly defined fruity floral fragrance that could pretty much smell like any other recent release out there. So you’re at least guaranteed that she smells nice.

Applied: Sweet and fruity raspberry with a nice almond note thrown in there to give the blend some more sweetness and a little bit of nuttiness. I do detect a little early entry of the patchouli in this giving My Insolence a nice sharp, clean quality. There’s the jasmine coming up after the opener to give this a nice white floral edge as the fragrance settles on a pleasant and warm raspberry, almond near-gourmand fragrance. The dry down is equally pleasant with a touch more complexity than one would expect with patchouli cleaning up the joint and giving it a slight bitterness as vanilla ushers out My Insolence on a creamy, mild note.

Extra: Nothing much I can really say for or against My Insolence except that it’s highly wearable, very inoffensive and kind of typical. Not at all what I expected of the house that made Jicky and Mitsouko. But then as Guerlain themselves admitted, they needed to appeal to the younger market and My Insolence is about as appealing as a modern fragrance needs to be. I just wonder if the target audience is wearing it.

Design: My Insolence is packaged in much the same way as Insolence was. In that hard to hold, interesting to look at flower and flower pot bottle. At least that flower and flower pot concept is what I got from this.

Fragrance Family: Fruity

Notes: Raspberry, almond blossom, jasmine, patchouli, vanilla, tonka bean.

I’m somewhat sad that Insolence itself hit it off badly with me but My Insolence is a nice enough contender with an almost gourmand reach with that vanilla and almond treatment. If you tried Insolence looking for a young Guerlain and didn’t like it, give My Insolence a chance.

Reviewed in This Post: My Insolence, 2009, Eau de Parfum.

Guerlain Insolence

Insolence is one of those modern Guerlains that was a hit or a miss. It seems to have more hits than misses than say–Champs-Elysees–but it has more interesting character to it taking it beyond the safe zone that Guerlain seems to have been skirting since its purchase by LVMH. Insolence

In Bottle: Yeah, definitely unique. The violet in this is a strange, uncertain floral that’s sweet for sure but lacks anything else to it. There’s something spicy in this too like anise or cinnamon along with the weird sugary, raisin scent in the back.

Applied: Sweet and bright with the red raspberry note coming up first and fading first leaving me with a dense, syrupy raisin-like fragrance with that persistent anise note that I wish I didn’t feel crazy for smelling.  Something in this reminds me of the classic Guerlains. I’m thinking it’s that anise or clove or whatever the heck that is which reminds me a bit of one of L’Huere Bleue’s many layers. But at the same time it’s clear Insolence is an updated fragrance meant for a young consumer as it’s trying to pull in a fresher audience. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if they really hit the mark as Insolence is not clearly defined as anything and at the end of the day, does smell like a bit of a fruity, floral, spicy and sweet mess to me. I’m sure a lot of women can love this fragrance but it is very polarized in terms of taste. You can either love it or hate it. Once Insolence does calm down, which takes quite a while, the fragrance is less sweet but it does retain some of that syrupy treatment all the way into the dry down where it gets darker, creamier, and more vanillic with a very nice red raspberry note to it. I had thought the raspberry had disappeared but it was just hiding behind the spicy flowers. As for whether I hate or love this? I could go either way but I feel like Insolence is a bit too loud and sweet and a little too clingy.

Extra: Word has it that this smells a bit like Apres L’Ondee, one of the Guerlains I have yet to try. I do get the familiarity of this to L’Huere Bleue so something in here is working that classic machine. I just think this is a bit removed from that era though.

Design: Insolence’s half-circle, flower and flower pot type design was by Serge Mansau a man famous for creating bottles for some of the most well known fashion and fragrance houses since the 60s. I gotta give the man credit for making this a nice looking bottle that’s interesting to look at. I just can’t get on board with how hard it is to hold this thing. It’s an awkward shape, making you have to hold it awkwardly, pinched between your fingers as you hope to avoid dropping it. Nice idea, interesting shape. I just can’t get on board with how hard it is to hold.

Fragrance Family: Spicy Sweet Oriental

Notes: Violet, raspberry, rose, orange blossom, raisins, balsam, iris, tonka bean.

You’re probably wondering what kind of fragrance family cop-out I’m doing with that spicy sweet thing. Well, it’s the only way I can really describe Insolence because, to my nose, it’s like a candy rolled in anise. It tries to be fruity, it tries to be gourmand, but it lands in the middle where it’s neither and the only place it even fits is in two vague categories.

Reviewed in This Post: Insolence, 2010, Eau de Parfum.

Guerlain Champs-Elysees 1996

Champs-Elysees 1996, not to be confused with the classic Parfum des Champs-Elysees from 1904, is one of Guerlain’s more controversial moderns. There are people who love it and people who loathe it. I can’t help but think that those who loathe it, hate it because they expected 1904’s Champs-Elysees to make a comeback and instead got something completely different. Champs-Elysees

In Bottle: Sharp, sweet mimosa. Faintly powdery with a white floral background. I don’t mean background as in base note. I mean background as in, imagine this fragrance is a stage. The actors are the sweet mimosa. The background is this thick, lush wall of white florals. That is Champs-Elysees, clean, sweet, sharp, powdery and utterly, unapologetically floral.

Applied: Mimosa is a major player but it’s battling it out for that lush curtain of florals. I get a bit more almond on application than off. Champs-Elysees reminds me of soap. It’s clean and bright and sweet like a lush bar of luxury soap and a bathtub filled with flowers floating on the surface. This is a white, light, delicate wall of florals fifty feet high. There is little change on dry down for me. The one thing I noticed was an increase in that powdery feel.

Extra: Word on the street has it that Champs-Elysees 1904’s notes may have looked something like this: Bergamot, violet, rose, iris, leather, oakmoss, benzoin, wood. And knowing Guerlain, it was probably laid over that iconic base. I can almost smell it in my mind but that is a pretty silly notion. The original was bottled in a beautiful turtle-like design. It’s really too bad the 1904 version and its re-issue is super rare and also super expensive (almost $14,000!). I want to have a sniff.

Design: Champs-Elysees 1996 is bottled in a pleasing, rather geometric bottle. What takes away from it most is the square wedge at the base of the bottle used to keep it standing. Otherwise, it is an interesting shape and would have been better had its physics allowed it to stand without that jerry-rigged bit at the bottom. Nevertheless, the bottle is easy to hold. The cap is plastic. The sprayer works just fine.

Fragrance Family: Fresh Floral

Notes: Mimosa, almond blossom, rose, buddleia, hibiscus, almond wood.

Poor Champs-Elysees 1996. I feel bad for it. It’s truly a very nice, modern, powdery white floral with sweet notes making it ultra-feminine. I wish more people liked it but I certainly understand the frustration. I do wonder if Champs-Elysees went by any other name it would catch less flack. It wouldn’t please those who currently dislike it but at least it wouldn’t disappoint in addition to being displeasing.

Reviewed in This Post: Champs-Elysees, 2009, Eau de Toilette.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue

Another Guerlain Classic, L’Heure Bleue was created in 1912 with a little story about the inspiration behind L’Heure Bleue. Even though the story came to be a while after the fragrance did.

L’Heure Bleue, being an old classic of the Guerlain classics family finds its niche in such greats as Shalimar, Jicky, and Mitsouko. It has that definitive Guerlain base to it that makes fragrance lovers–well, anyone who’s smelled more than one classic Guerlain–instantly know where it’s coming from and what levels of history they can expect. L'Heure Bleue

In Bottle: That Guerlain signature scent is present in pretty much every classic they’ve put out. Though the base is a bit masked in the newer creations, it is the base that sets the stage for the old perfumes. L’Heure Bleue is no different. I get the base immediately, followed by neroli’s powerful presence, and the spiciness of carnation.

Applied: The base is the first to fade to the background but it never goes away. Neroli is up front and center followed by the spiciness of carnation. It’s strange how a fragrance can make one feel warm or cold. L’Heure Bleue feels cold. It’s a reflection of its namesake, the twilight hour when the land is coated in blue. The name itself is a dead giveaway, L’Heure Bleue translated to “Blue Hour”. And like most classic fragrances, I often have a hard time deconstructing them because they’re blended to discourage deconstruction. I can only get the feeling and have this mental block telling me that’s silly to try to describe it beyond that. So what I can say of this experience is that this starts off as a chilly citrus. It maintains the chilliness as the citrus melts away into a very classic fragrance with dominant notes of neroli, carnation, and a vanilla base that’s barely detectable.

Extra: One thing I’ve noticed with most people’s reactions to L’Heure Bleue is the aversion to a particular note. L’Heure Bleue, more so than other classics, is referred to as an “old lady perfume”. There’s a correlation there, I think. In particular, the neroli note derived from the bitter orange tree. To me, it smells extremely similar to the more acceptable, bergamot. By the way, wondering how to pronounce this? Here you go:  L’Heure Bleue (Lehr Bloo).

Design: The bottle of L’Heure Bleue I own is nearly as small as Mitsouko but I do own more of this juice. I find it more wearable than Mitsouko, personally. Even though some people would try to tell me I smell like an old lady. The bottle really is very similar and quite frankly, there’s not a whole lot to say beyond that. Mitsouko is a slightly greener, cooler color whereas, L’Heure Bleue (funny enough) is a warmer color. I find the bottle design to be more fitting for Mitsouko but I still appreciate the elements of it.

Fragrance Family: Floral Oriental

Notes: Bergamot, neroli, clove, jasmine, carnation, cedar, musk, vanilla.

Slowly working my way up to Shalimar whose initial burst still puts me off and it is the initial burst in that one that does it. I’m sure she’s beautiful once she settles down. In the mean time, I’ve got L’Heure Bleue, a fun fragrance to say and a beautiful, grown-up classic.

Reviewed in This Post: L’Heure Bleue, 2007, Eau de Toilette.