Tag Archives: Guerlain

Guerlain Shalimar: Sorry I’m Late



I know, I know! I’ve been doing a perfume blog for three years and never reviewed Shalimar. How can this be allowed? I was getting nervous of the blog police doing a dawn raid on me from crimes against fragblogging, so I thought I’d give it a proper test drive today to avoid arrest.

The reason I haven’t reviewed Shalimar is because I used to think it smelled like Castrol GTX.  It was petrolly on me and I didn’t like it. However, Shalimar is a good example of how taste can change.  I don’t know if this is an age thing now I’m nearer fifty than forty ( gulp), or if it just comes with wider appreciation. When I started the blog I wore Chanel Cristalle more often than anything. The more perfume I try, the more Oomph I seek and I find myself eschewing the light hesperides I loved, at least until hot weather comes ( remember that? Hot weather? No?) Now I wear Chanel Coco it seemed a logical transition to Shalimar after that.

shalimar ad

I tried Guerlain Shalimar EDP today in my local House of Fraser. Immediately there was spice, incense and woods. It was rich and smoky and I went into the posh ladies loos sniffing my wrist like an addict. Once all that settled ( but didn’t leave) I had another sniff. There isn’t a lot of room for the flowers to shine: there is only a mere hint of rose and sober iris. The smokiness was starting to emerge along with the warm vanilla (minus the all too common sugariness. Phew!). By the time I got home this was a smoky, woody vanilla, wrapped in frankincense and sandalwood and I was smitten.  Oddly enough, I didn’t get any animalic civet, but that’s just me.  I find knicker notes in perfume where there are no knickers to be had and can’t spot civet even if they’re mating noisily under my nose.

Eight hours later and I totally get it. Shalimar has found a new fan for life. It almost seems like a cliché to say this is a classic that will never date, but cliché or not, Shalimar has held its own since its inception in 1925 and I need a bottle of my own as a matter of urgency. My only question is why? Why did I wait so long?


Guerlain Shalimar is widely available. You can buy it from House of Fraser, Boots and allbeauty.com to name but a few. It’s next on my hit list.


Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca: A Meadow in a Bottle  


Despite the grass in my garden currently being sodden and the earth being on the boggy side, and despite the fact that we are bracing ourselves for torrential rain later (again), I haven’t given up on my Pollyanna fantasy of wearing fresh summer scents whilst wafting around in the sunshine.


Trusty Guerlain has created a brilliantly green and grassy scent in Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca.  I must admit I didn’t used to like it due to the inclusion (which is by no mean heavy) of Green Tea.  I didn’t used to like Green Tea at all as a note, finding it metallic and cold.  However, since trying Green Tea flankers from Elizabeth Arden, and exploring the note further, I have come round to the fact that since it is best friends with my favourite Bergamot, I ought to get to know it better.

MARCH2011 375

Indeed Herba Fresca challenges my preconceptions on a couple of levels.  A few years ago I would have rejected not just the Green Tea, but the Mint too.  Today, having been around the block a bit in terms of fragrance, I fully embrace Herba Fresca and want to have this beautiful gilded bottle on my dressing table.

The mint reminds me a little of  LUSH Smell of Weather Turning ( see my earlier review):  a pleasing combo of mint, hay and tarmac that frankly, I am a bit addicted to.  In Herba Fresca, created by none other than Jean Paul Guerlain, the combination of Green Tea, damp green grass and  Mint makes this so refreshing that they should find another name for refreshing: Revitalizing? Invigorating? Reviving?.  I wouldn’t say astringent: it’s not as harsh as that.  It has Lemon but is so much more than a citrus. It’s more botanical, yet carries the memory of dewy grass on your skin for as long it lasts.

green lake

I couldn’t really find the Cyclamen or the Pear, but I was very happy to sniff and sniff at this pastoral beauty as the rain drizzles on the windows. Longevity is about four hours, possibly five, which is about the going rate for an Eau de Toilette.  The price is under £40 but you get a generous 75ml bottle for that.  I wouldn’t turn one down at any time of the year.


Guerlain La Petite Robe Noir Couture EDP by Thierry Wasser


 If Guerlain Chamade is cool irony, then La Petite Robe Noire Couture is slapstick.

I guess I just can’t get on board with the fact that this is a Guerlain.  With over a hundred years of heritage scent and of being the last word in Classics, it just surprises me that there are suddenly raspberries everywhere on the sober polished glass of the Guerlain counter.

La Petite Robe Noire Couture is a close relative of La Petitie Robe Noire EDT, though not so much the EDP which smells like vinyl on me.  I have reviewed both elsewhere on my blog- just use the search box.  My site hates it when I link to myself- it rejects  narcissism.

photo by wiki
photo by wiki

Hmm. Where do I start?  I shall start with the startling Raspberries, which I mistook for Cherries at first. I know there is a current thirst for all things sweet and berry like but I never thought Guerlain would be either affected or infected by the curse.  The opening is like a less good version of Dior’s Hypnotic Poison.  There are almonds somewhere, although not listed in the notes, and also there is jam. I am alarmed.

Breathe easy friends; it was just a loud opening number by a drunk.  The second and third acts are a little more respectable. The Rose seems to race the Raspberries to the finish, but comes second: the dratted Raspberry won’t quit.  However, luckily, the Patchouli, Vetiver and alleged Oakmoss calm everything down and make this rather pleasant. I say alleged, because it’s as if this scent was shown a picture of some Oakmoss and told to guess the rest.  It’s not there, but maybe it is. Nope, it’s gone.

In a nutshell, this is a raspberry version of La Petite Robe Noire EDT. It’s pleasant and if you bought me a bottle I would probably use it without putting it straight onto eBay. If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, then it’s because I am.

41sS2A-1meL._SY450_ If I had a Guerlain gift voucher, I can comfortably think of seven Guerlains that I would buy before I considered this.  It’s almost impossible to believe that this is from the same house as Vol de Nuit and Chamade. I can’t really blame Guerlain for meeting the desires of modern consumers, and in meeting that requirement, they have done it well, especially in the expensive smelling base notes. It’s just that when I reach for Guerlain I want aged classics, dry as dust and rich as Croesus. I realise the market has different tastes these days, but sometimes, when it comes to scent, I want to be a stick in the mud.  Incidentally, if you like this, try Miss Dior Cherie. It’s not a million miles away.


Guerlain Shalimar Eau Legere: A Shalimar I Can Truly Love


Sadly the legendary Guerlain Shalimar disagrees with me.  This makes me feel like an outcast in the fragrant firmament. Unfortunately Shalimar smells like petrol or engine oil on me and there’s nothing I can do about it. However, I have discovered that Shalimar Eau Legere is a different story and I may well clear a space on the dressing table for my upcoming birthday, wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. The way I see it, that’s four occasions and therefore four new bottles of something lovely. Poor long suffering Mr IScent.


Shalimar Eau Legere opens with a  delightful citrus burst onto my skin that has a background of warm dust, like the powdery film from an ancient undiscovered dressing table. The Lemons are especially dominant, which is fine by me.  The middle phase is all about Vanilla, which would normally make me wary.  So overused is Vanilla in perfume that my son, whilst cooking yesterday, commented that the Vanilla extract smelled like perfume.  It used to be the other way around.

The Vanilla in Shalimar Eau Legere seems to have had its sweetness taken out and the richness kept in.  The Lemon provides the sweetness in a pleasant tart sort of way.  In fact, just briefly this smelled like Boucheron Trouble, which in turn smells like Lemon Meringue, but almost as soon as I thought that, the deep dark Amber moved in and wiped out the evidence.  What I ended up with was a deep rich, resonant scent that smells like Amber, dried fruit and Vetiver, but outlined with Citrus all the way through.. I love it, I love it, I love it. And not a whiff of Castrol GTX. 

Curiously, I can’t find this on the Guerlain website and I don’t know why as it is a 2003 launch that is still widely available and I have seen no word of it being discontinued.


EDIT- Yep, the high price and lack of availability tell me that it is discontinued.  To eBay!  and don’t spare the   horses!



Guerlain Chamade: When Retro Glamour Is Required


Guerlain Chamade is like a trip back into the early seventies.  I don’t mean the flares and the joss sticks but a time when ladies wore suits and court shoes just to go to town. Created in 1969, this green spiky aldehyde is a beautiful tribute to all that is ladylike and harks back to a time when everyone said “Good Morning” and “How do you do?”

Opening with the green and musky notes of the dominant Galbanum, as if to say “Don’t mess with me”, it then beds down and shows its feminine side with Lilac and Hyacinth showing a flash of finely turned ankle.

The aldehydes provide a clean, soapy background against which the prickly notes of Vetiver, Balsam and medicinal Benzoin shine through boldly as the longlasting basenotes make their presence felt.

Chamade was named after the drumbeat of retreat during Napoleonic times and is meant to represent the beating of a heart in love.  Even the bottle looks like a teardrop.  It is out of step with today’s brash modernity, but this to me, is all the more reason to wear it. I feel sure that the existence of Chamade went on to influence many 70s drugstore classics: all those greeny, raspy chypres that smell so classic now but were everywhere way back when.

It’s a grown up perfume that I would love to smell on more people today.  It reminds me of an elegant women with a green, tweed suit, a brooch, and a smart leather handbag, off to town to run errands on a pleasant day when the sun didn’t go down without asking permission first.


You can buy Chamade from Amazon UK, although the EDP is harder to find than the EDT.


Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune: Right Through To The Bitter End


A small patch of blue sky was spotted for at least twenty the minutes the other day. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m calling it Spring. I am making excuses to get my Spring and Summer Scents out, if not my cooler clothes. In the world of fragrance, you’d be hard pushed to find anything more refreshing than a sharp citrus note on a hot day. And if we’re talking citrus, we have to talk about Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune.

This is a slippery customer, old Pamplelune. Wearing it on two previous occasions, it has gone sour and bad on me, like a hard shrivelled Clementine that I removed from my fruit bowl recently. Looking at reviews all over the Internet, it would seem I am not alone.  Today, I can report that Pamplelune is behaving itself, and I have not yet reached the sour rotten note, nor the famous “cat pee” so often mentioned by disappointed wearers.


When this is first applied, it is pretty much agreed that the Grapefruit top note is sharp, refreshing and unbeatable in the Citrus Category. It’s the aftermath that creates problems. Like a beauty Queen with a sleazy past, positive first impressions are soon pricked like a bubble.

Today, Pamplelune is better than it was last time I tried it for a day. Maybe this is because my skin is warmer, or maybe because the more perfumes that take me out of my comfort zone, the more my tastes are changing.  In any case, when the delightful and sparkling Grapefruit notes softened down and drifted away today, the drydown was better than I remembered.  It’s green rather than bitter, with Petitgrain and Cassia Leaf providing a fresh spicy accord,  and I detected a bit of unsweetened Vanilla smoothing out the edges. The Grapefruit is still there but instead of being juicy and tart, it’s more like a palate soothing sorbet now.


This is hit and miss, depending on your skin, the weather and what your personal perfume tastes are. There seem to be an equal number of brickbats and bouquets for Pamplelune. I have a foot in both camps. I have had the sour rind smell before now on two occasions, yet today I have a unique and grown up citrus fragrance that has made itself at home.

Pamplelune was created in 1999, and like many fourteen year olds, it’s difficult and capricious. I implore you, no matter how much you like Citrus and Grapefruit, do not buy this blind, unless it’s a very small bottle.  You can love it from afar, but until you meet, you won’t know if there’s chemistry.


L’Instant de Guerlain: Nice to Meet You, Iris


 From yesterday’s High Street fluff back to majestic Guerlain, and L’Instant de Guerlain to be precise.  I have on loan the Parfum itself, in its tiny glass bottle (see photo) and enormous box.  By the time I opened the box, removed the inner sleeve,  and removed the 7.5ml bottle from its little case, it seemed like a tiny Queen on a huge throne  Using the glass stopper as a dabber, I wore this on my throat and forearms (putting a scent on my wrists means it gets washed off many times over the day).

I was amazed to see that L’Instant de Guerlain does not contain violets. My very first thought was violets and then iris. In fact, after a few moments I decided this was a little like smelling Apres L’Ondee through several layers of musk daubed white chiffon.  It’s warmed up with a little honey and some magnolia. It’s classy and timeless: you could wear this as a teen and as a 90 year old Grand Dame. There is powder too, but it’s a mere velvety muffler, rather than an old lady’s make up case. It’s a muted Iris/Violet with the light musk softening any sharpness or earthiness

Now I feel that at this point I should pause for thought on the matter of iris. I love iris the flower, and my much beloved late grandmother was called Iris, so I have always associated it with love and beauty. However, in the world of fragrance, I have not got on with it at all. I have been encouraged to persevere, despite the fact that Malle’s Iris Poudre utterly repels me and even suffocates me. I recently tried Maitre Parfumeur et GantierFleur D’Iris and didn’t like that either. I also tried Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile and didn’t much care for that either (although it did defrost me somewhat with it’s prettiness).

Recently my friend and co blogger Lisa Wordbird, whose writing you will now be familiar with, gave me a curious experiment which cured me of Iris phobia. Spraying Guerlain Apres L’Ondee on one arm and Frederic Malle L’Eau D’Hiver on the other, I do believe I finally saw the light. Sniffing one then in the other in rotation brought out the best in both of them and made L’Eau D’Hiver (one of my earliest reviews), much more floral and prettier than it was when I first encountered it. So as my esteemed fellow blogger The Perfumed Dandy told me recently “Never give up on a note”.  Sometimes I guess you just have to look at it from a different angle.

So could I accuse L’Instant de Guerlain with its honeyed, musky Iris notes to have converted me into an Iris fan? I almost think I can.

Disclaimer: I still can’t bloody stand Iris Poudre though!

Sephora! Sephora! Sephora!


Firstly, an enormous thank you to my expert guest blogger Lisa Wordbird. She teaches me so much and on my return I thoroughly enjoyed reading her blogs written during my absence. Equally, I was educated by the debate and comments her interesting articles stimulated. To everyone I learn from, and especially my dear, invaluable Wordbird friend, I am grateful.

On my recent trip to France, I had two ambitions: one was obviously to enjoy myself and watch my children make memories in the chilly Spring sun (thanks for having us Mum!), and two, was of course, to raid Sephora and Marionnaud with the last vestiges of my carefully hoarded birthday money, saved for this very purpose.  It’s been six years since I last walked into a Sephora and two things struck me. Firstly- Why on earth don’t we do this in the UK?  Those rafts of fragrance testers! Row upon row of gleaming, tempting bottles, with the kind of variety we are starved of in Blightly. Sephora is pure Heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in fragrance and it equals over-excitable joy to a hard core sniffer.

My second observation was the prices. My dears, I fainted out cold at the shock. They had to bring me round with a nasty blast of Ambre Sultan, for lack of smelling salts. I’ll give you an example: In my local Superdrug, you can buy a 30ml bottle of Cacharel Amor Amor for £14.99. In Sephora it was E37.50 for 30ml. Even with the current rate of the Euro against the pound, that works out at £31.81. Serge Lutens fragrances worked out very slightly cheaper at E84, or £71.26 for a 50ml bottle.  Clarins Eau Dynamisante is £40.63 at Sephora (or E47.90), but just £24.65 (with free postage) on Cheap Smells.

I made a small purchase of a purse spray in the Sephora own brand range “Lagoon” and hoped that even a parsimonious purchase would reap me rewards in the samples stakes. With a smile and my best French, the lovely Paula either admired my linguistic efforts, or took pity on me. In any case, a few minutes after disappearing, she returned with two Serge Lutens samples (in cute little boxes) and a sachet of Dahlia Noir. Since my esteemed colleague Lisa Wordbird has already kindly reviewed Dahlia Noir L’Eau, I deem the two to be too similar to merit two separate reviews, so I will simply say it’s very similar to Dahlia Noir L’Eau, but has more resonance.

The Serge Lutens samples were La Fille de Berlin and Clair de Musc, more of which anon. I also visited the Parfumerie chain Marionnaud and was whacked over the head with a tester spray of Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsiuer. Surely this is Jicky by another name? I demanded of my non plussed husband, who was smelling of dreamy Habit Rouge by the time we left the shop, thanks to me. Mr IScent is so patient with me. No samples from Marionnaud since there was a distinct priciness in the air. Perfume obsessives must keep an eye on purse strings from time to time or temptation would lead us into being the best smelling homeless people in the world. A 50ml bottle of Cacharel LouLou was an eye watering E101 or £85, compared to £38.50 in Boots for an equivalent bottle, or even cheaper if you buy two 30ml bottles at £14.99 each in The Fragrance Shop.

Where French Parfumeries get it oh so right, is in the sheer variety, not only of brands, but of testers, widely available and on the shelf, ready to browse and be squirted. Increasingly in the UK, I am finding that testers need to requested over the counter and then of course, you get trapped in the sales spiel and are unable to complete your  desired session of mindless capricious browsing. Sephora is a huge brand, owned by LMHV, and can be found on most typical French high streets. However, they have a full range of Serge Lutens and Guerlains, Givenchys, Hermes, Chanels, Diors, and all manner of lesser known brands, as well as the usual growing army of celebuscents.  Equally sensible is the vast array of male fragrances too.  Maintaining my husband’s interest in his side of the store induced me to stay longer, (and the end of that story would be to spend more).

I would love for Sephora to open its chains in the UK. Boots would be its biggest competitor, although they spread their nets wide and thin these days. Sephora is pure indulgence, selling nothing but beauty products and fragrance. If prices were more competitive, Sephora could revolutionise the smell of the UK High Street and maybe, just maybe, rid us of the fruity floral fog that we must live in until the trend for identikit scents passes us by.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue: the magic spell of the blue hour


Hello, I’m Wordbird, and while IScent takes a well-deserved trip to the perfumeries of France, I shall try to fill her shoes. I hope I won’t bore you!

I know IScent said all kinds of nice things about me, but in fact, she has been a ‘perfumista’ longer than I have. I always liked perfume, but I wasn’t fascinated by it. Until, that is, I went on holiday to France seven years ago, taking with me a book called The Emperor of Scent, which I’d picked up in the SciFi section for holiday reading. It turned out to be real science, not fiction: the story of a talented biophysicist called Luca Turin who was researching how we smell things. It was a fascinating read, but what really inspired my imagination was Luca Turin’s comments on perfumes and the perfume industry.

Turin claims Mitsouko is the perfume he would take with him if he was being sent off on an inter-galactic space mission. He describes it as lovingly as if it was his favourite child. I had to smell it. Being in France meant that I could spend hours in a handy branch of Marionaud, smelling many of the amazing things he described in glowing terms usually reserved for works of art. At a shopping mall in a provincial French town I was able to try things I would have struggled to find at home in Wales, including the entire Guerlain range of classics – Jicky,  Shalimar, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Apres L’Ondee, Vol de Nuit, Chamade, Jardins de Bagatelle, Nahema, Parure, Mahora, Champs-Elysees, L’Instant, Insolence… I came out of the shop reeling and reeking.

Some of those perfumes repulsed me – traditional, oakmoss-laden chypres were definitely not to my taste and I did not like massive florals or 80s stinkers – others confused me, some left me cold, a couple were interesting but difficult and one or two were pretty.

But one made me come back again and again to sniff the bottle and then the inside of my wrist where I had sprayed it: L’Heure Bleue. It was strange and just a little magical, wonderful and very grown-up. It did confuse me, I couldn’t say ‘this smells of x y and z’, as Luca Turin did in his reviews and when I read the notes listed, I could smell no particular iris, violet, heliotrope or carnation. Instead, I had an impression of melancholy, face powder and a ladylike, delightful deliciousness, an edibleness like a rich almond pastry with a creamy vanilla custard filling. It hypnotised me and fascinated me and I was hooked.

If you haven’t yet got around to trying L’Heure Bleue I strongly recommend you do. Persuade the sales assistant at the Guerlain counter to pull out the beautiful little bottle with the heart-shaped stopper from under the counter and try it, I beg you. Failing that, somehow get your paws on a sample of this rare gem. It is pensive, complex and gently intelligent, utterly unlike the modern watery vanilla/ thin floral/fruitichouili things that are being pushed at consumers nowadays. This remarkable perfume celebrated its one hundredth birthday last year, and like so many delightful Centegenarians, it still has powerful charm and character, which is no bad thing.