Guerlain-o-fille?

Ever see those polls on perfume blogs that go, “Guerlain or Chanel? And no fair not picking”? I pick Chanel ever. dang. time.  (And yes, the Secret Redneck in me is cackling away at the idea of using “Chanel” and “dang” in the same sentence, not to mention throwing the colloquial Appalachian “ever” instead of “every” in there as well.)  And do you wonder why the word “Guerlainophile” exists, while nobody ever says “Chanelophile?” There’s even a perfume aficionado who has been known to refer to herself as a “Guerlie Girl.”

maison guerlain
Some people refer to this shop as the Mothership. I am going to make the point that said people might, in fact, actually be aliens…

But not me.

I was reading Blacknall Allen’s recent post on how few green Guerlain fragrances there are, and she suggested that I might not be a Guerlie-girl for that simple reason, that Guerlain does very few greens.

And I am quite sure that the fact that the offerings of House Guerlain are largely weighted toward the sensual oriental does play pretty heavily into my preference for the elegance of Chanel – well, that and the childhood history of a No. 5-wearing mother. But I was thinking about how many Guerlains I love, and they’re pretty thin on the ground, especially compared to the vaaaaast catalog of fragrances, including limited editions, ever released by this old and prolific house.

So what Guerlains do I love? I checked with Fragrantica’s list of Guerlains, currently numbering 204, to make sure I didn’t leave out one inadvertently.

Shalimar Light – which I love because it’s basically vintage Emeraude with a twist of lemon, even more so than Shalimar (which everybody knows is so similar to Emeraude in structure that it’s suspected Francois Coty sold the formula to Jacques Guerlain). I have this one stockpiled, but if I run out I will just go buy every bottle of vintage Emeraude parfum de toilette I can find on eBay.

Vega – which I love because it’s basically Chanel No. 5 with a Guerlinade base. I have a treasured decant. If it were reasonably priced I’d probably own a bottle.

Metallica (or the tweaked-and-renamed Metalys, I suppose, but I only have a decant of the original Metallica) – which I really only just like a lot, because it is basically carnations, ylang, and vanilla, and we alllll know what a complete Carnation ‘Ho I am.

Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune – which I do like, a lot.  It’s basically cat-pee blackcurrant bud, grapefruit, and a mixed floral bouquet so pink that it makes me smile.  It’s like rosy pink lemonade.  I have three minis, but when they’re gone I will just go back to my similar-but-inexpensive Moschino Funny!, which is built on a like structure except with tea.

Chamade of course. The lone green floral Guerlain makes, in my opinion. Sure, they make various vetivers and citruses and chypres, but only Chamade is galbanummy, a surefire green that shades into the most gorgeous creamy gold. It is lovely. I have a bottle of vintage EdT and a decant of parfum de toilette, as well as a micromini of parfum; all are wonderful.

Apres l’Ondee – Degas and Monet and Debussy in a bottle; the most perfect example of perfumery impressionism there is, all fuzzy around the edges and shot full of shimmer.  It is not something I want to wear very often, but it is stunning and beautiful and there are times when nothing else will do.  Nobody else has ever made anything like it, and in my opinion it is unparalleled for dreaminess. I have a decant.

Attrape-Coeur (Guet-Apens) – which I only like very much.  It is basically the gorgeous classic Ambre 18 base overlaid with as much YSL Paris plus extra violet and lashings of liqueur as it can support. I killed a 5ml decant, and because it’s discontinued and crazy-spendy when found, I won’t be getting any more.

Idylle eau de toilette – which again, I only like very much. It is basically “Guerlain does Coco Mademoiselle,” except easier to wear and it doesn’t get screechy (whereas the edp is completely unwearable for me due to the double shot of patchouli).  I’m a little embarrassed to say that I like it, but I’ve been using up my decant.

Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique – okay, this one I really like, without any good reason, except that it smells like a nice-girl department-store fragrance, except done right. The CEO once commented to me, “I like that because it smells like your skin, only better.” It is, simply, pretty. Not unusual, waaaaaay overpriced, but very very pretty. My two tiny samples are gone gone gone. (sob)

I sort of like Jardins de Bagatelle and Samsara and L’Heure Bleue and Cruel Gardenia, but my affection for them doesn’t go any farther than a polite social sort of “Hi, nice to see you.” I love the first half of Terracotta Voile d’Ete, which is a sort of girly-wirly Old Spice blown up to silver screen proportions, but then it collapses right down to the skin and you can’t smell it any farther away than two inches, and I do NOT know what the point of that development is. It makes me cranky.

That’s only four True Loves, five Really-Likes, and five Indifferents, which I have to say is really poor coverage of my sweet spots, Guerlain.

And some of those Guerlain classics? Shalimar, Jicky, Mitsouko, Sous le Vent? I don’t like them.  I absolutely despise Insolence.

So: are you a Guerlainophile, a Guerlie Girl?  A fille who loves her Guerlain parfums? Do tell.

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34 thoughts on “Guerlain-o-fille?”

  1. I would say that with me, Guerlain plays a very extreme game of hit-or-miss. When it misses (most of the Aqua Allegorias, Idylle, and — don’t hit me! — Attrape-Coeur) I jeer and heckle the pitcher. And then Guerlain winds up and hits me with a fastball of beauty (L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Chamade, Jicky, Samsara, Derby, Arsene Lupin, Habit Rouge, Oriental Brulant) and I end up flat on my back with the stuffing knocked out of me, totally humbled and grateful.

    (I would love to call myself a quotidian Cotydian, but that only applies up to a certain point in Coty history, after which a flood of corn syrup wiped everything out. But I know I’m a committed Lutensian.)

    1. You obviously have a better relationship with the classic Guerlains than I do! I really feel that the only Guerlains that are irreplaceable for me – even as much as I do love Shali Lite – are Chamade and Apres l’Ondee. Nothin’ else like ’em. The rest? Ehhh.

      And I am TOTALLY SWIPING your “Cotydian.” Totally. Those older Cotys just sock me in the solar plexus. (Lutens, not-so-much, except for La Myrrhe, which is also irreplaceable.)

  2. None of the above? I am more of a Gueurlainaphobe! Really don’t care for the Guerlainade. Smells like cookies to me. all that anise and vanilla, I guess. And Chanel smells like chemicals….the aldies, no doubt. I am a Caron-ista from wayyy back!

    That being said, I love Chamade and have a FB No 19. I also have a FB of Mitsy (modern edt) Nahema is pretty, but not a must have for me. I also like Coco.

    But I am a Caron-ista from wayyy back!

    1. Okay, that’s a perfectly legitimate choice. (Not a Caronista myself, though I do love Parfum Sacre, and Aimez-Moi is nice. But then those are both newer things, with nary a smidge of Mousse de Saxe involved. Oh, and older Bellodgia is lovely, and so is Poivre. I dunno, though, there’s nothing about them that seizes my heart.)

      Greenies! Chamade and No. 19, staples for me. Hate Coco. Mitsy hates ME. (Sadly, I cannot smell Nahema. I KNOOOOW, isn’t that weird?)

  3. oh, oh, oooh.
    I would define myself as die hard Guerlain fan.
    Of course I have not smelled each and every Guerlain, and I LOVE only a few, but the intensity of this love is quite unique (in the sense that I don’t feel the same connection and emotions if I think of other perfume houses I love/wear as much).
    Actually, I don’t wear my Guerlains more than other favorite perfumes, but whenever I do wear them, it’s like falling under a spell. No other perfume house manages this. They really make my days feel magic; I feel special and confident, and smiled at and hugged. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But nothing can make me bear the most depressing news like Shalimar, or make me feel stunning for a night at the opera like a classic Guerlain (Chamade or Jicky), regardless of my dress or fatigue. Nothing makes a winter walk shimmering like Mitsouko, or sings Christmas carols like Attrape Coeur, who also makes a rainy spring day come to life.

    My LOVES:
    Shalimar, Shalimar ode a la vanille, Mitsouko, Sous le vent.
    loves:
    Attrape coeur, vol de nuit, l’heure bleue, Jicky, mouchoir de monsieur.
    big, big likes:
    Chamade, Liu (to which I would apply your definition of Vega), jardins de bagatelle.

    1. You have many compatriots, Miss Z!

      You know, the one house that performs the “under a spell” magic for me is Coty – the older ones, only, but yes, I do know what you mean. The fragrances feel right, they lift your emotions and make you feel loved and special and unique.

      Liu I did not like at all, strangely – too much jasmine for me, perhaps? I see the resemblance to Vega, but where Vega sparkles, Liu lies flat on me. Sigh.

      1. Ops, what a mess!

        I have a feeling I would be falling hard for Cpoty, based on what I was able to smell at the Osmothèque!
        Honestly I prefer n°5 over Liu, but n°5 (parfum) is in a league of it’s own for me! I can barely smell Vega, maybe I am seriously anosmic to something in it!

        Sorry!

        1. (Hey, looked like a sort-of double comment here so I removed the first one.)

          Those old Cotys are so darn good. L’Origan, L’Aimant, Rose Jacqueminot (though that one I only had a mini of the 1986 rerelease)… Muse and Emeraude and Chypre… sigh.

          Vega isn’t faint on me, but I don’t think it tests well from a dabber vial – it needs the aeration of a spray, in my opinion, to bloom. Some things just seem to do that, don’t you find?

  4. I have mixed feelings about Guerlain. My only true love is vintage Mitsouko. I like very much vintage Vol de Nuit, too. The modern ones are good but not great. Shalimar is horrible on me. I have more success and love for Chanel. Overall I think Chanel has done a more faithful job reformulating their scents under the new EU restrictions and ingredient scarcities. That said, I want to find enough money to buy every last one of the Exclusifs I love (at last count that was 9 bottles) before they are reformulated again with the up coming EU restrictions on oak moss and other supposed allergens. And I’d love a vintage bottle of Cristalle, too!

    1. I just have such an easier time with Chanels in general! Even if they’re not me (Cristalle, for example, has a dreadful ashtray note on my skin). Exceptions Coco Mlle, Allure and original Chance (the flankers, oddly, are better than the first one on me). Oh, and Coco. I truly hate Coco. THe much-maligned Coco Noir is less offensive for me personally. The Les Exclusifs tend to be good on me, if I leave Coromandel and No. 22 out of the mix. Still haven’t smelled Beige, though 1932 was just delightful and I loved it.

        1. Another I haven’t tried! But I recall reviews mentioning cigarettes and leather for Miss Balmain, so you’re probably not off the mark.

          One other fragrance I got a lot of ashtray out of was Maison Martin Margiela Untitled. Of course I tried it because it’s galbanum-heavy, but it had the air of a room spray rather than a perfume meant for a person, in my opinion. Though there are those who disagree.

  5. Your stealth redneck cracks me up. I imagine sounding much the same, most of the time 😀 For all my love of books, music and art, my background culture creeps into my speech and writing at times. I like both; it’s made me who I am. Unabashedly eccentric.

    As for Guerlain, outside Chamade extrait and Vetiver, I don’t have a lot of use for the house. . .oh, I do like Myrrhe et Delires, but that’s an outlier. The rest of the blogged loves, and the Guerlinade base are not for me. I finally *got* Mitsuoko, but she has to be in vintage, parfum form. Then, she is lovely, fierce and fuzzy all at once. I’m not sure the hunt was worth it, but it was an interesting experiment in vintages, concentrations and iterations. There are too many lovely modern things for me to pursue. (Now, if you have a bottle of Parure, let’s talk!)

    I can’t commit to one house. I do like Chanel, but the house has a touch of stiffness, an asperity that I don’t always want to project. I wear those scents when I want to feel more ladylike. They are aspirational fragrances for me. I think my one house would be Frederick Malle, as each scent is so different, and I’d have a huge range moods and creators/noses behind the scents for my wardrobe. Be well!

    1. HA! STealth Rednecks Unite!!

      I did finally “get” Mitsy, in early 1990s parfum, but even though we came to an understanding, we are never going to be BFFs. Oh well.

      Malles are wonderful, aren’t they? I still haven’t tried all of them, and didn’t love all the ones I tried, but they are just so good across the board. And so distinctive, in general.

  6. Two houses I can never quite get away from 1) Guerlain and 2) Caron. The thing about them is that practically everyone gets snagged by something from those houses. They always find a way to get you.
    Coty is the only house-old Coty you understand-that is perfectly irresistible. You just can’t help yourself, you wear the stuff. Even if you tell yourself you don’t like it, there you are wearing it. How the heck did that happen? The Cotys really are magical, and I love Meg’s quotidian Cotydian. And yeah, fesses up, I’m wearing Guerlain, Philtre d’Amour, heaven help me.

    1. Okay, I do have one Caron. I *like* Poivre and Aimez-Moi and vintage Bellodgia, but I only love Parfum Sacre.

      I am SUCH A TOTAL COMPLETE WACKED-OUT EMO SUCKER for old Cotys. Seriously. They make me cry.

  7. Heya,
    I put my hand up as a Guerlain person! Even been to the mothership, though it’s under reconstruction ATM. That does not though negate my love and adoration for CHANEL too. In both camps I am more of a mainstream lover than a special buy only in stand alone stores one ofs.
    Portia x

    1. Another Guerlainophile raises a hand! I knew you people were out there, all over the place out there. I sometimes feel a bit left out because I’m not one of you.

      But… ah well. I have my Chanels. And, really, more to the point, my vintage Cotys.

      I haven’t yet shared my TOTAL SQUEE score of vintage Chypre parfum, but about a month ago I bought a bottle of it. It is pristine. It is so gorgeous. You know how sometimes there is a magic, magic moment with a fragrance – you put your wrist up to your nose, take a whiff and immediately burst into tears? Like that. Unbelievably beautiful.

  8. I think you put your finger on it with Guerlain and its sensual orientals. I feel the same, and that is why I lean towards Chanel too. I wear L’Heure Bleue (only in the winter on wet days), Chamade and AA Flora Nymphea. And that’s really about it for Guerlain with me.

    And I prefer Chanel’s minimalist aesthetic, whereas Guerlain always seems bound in the Belle Epoque, and I get sick of that.

    In the end, I’m not much of brand follower. I like some Guerlains, some Chanels, some Hermeses, some Diors … and of course some from the many niche lines as well. I never feel let down or angry when a great house brings out a cynical dud or a poor reformulation; I just take my money elsewhere.

    1. Yes, Guerlain and its lushly overdone thingamaroonies are usually not my style. Chanel’s ladylike bent is more “me.” (That AA Flora Nymphea? creamy soap on me. Really pretty on my mom.)

      It’s rare for there to be a house that I like a large percentage of the offerings, or am devoted to as a general rule. I tend to do very well with Chanel, but I’m not up in arms over a crappy release either. I *AM*, as I made the point elsewhere in comments, an enormous fan of older Cotys. Hermes? ehh. Dior? same. Lutens? ditto (yes, apparently I AM a Philistine). Cotys created before the 1980s? I’m pretty much going to love them.

      1. And you can back up your love of vintage Cotys with those wonderful print ads Coty used to do. I’ve always thought of them as some of the very best – so elegant. Caron comes a close second. Guerlain’s ads have never impressed me somehow, especially those weird ‘ Are you her type?’ ads (type meaning blonde, brunette etc.) They creep me out.

        1. Yeah, those “are you her type” ads are eerie. I think it’s because the women’s eyes are so blank. Ooky. I agree completely about Coty and Caron print ads; they are indeed elegant. Some months ago, I purchased some old magazine ad pages for perfume – and the ones I chose? Muse de Coty, Emeraude, and Poivre! I have plans to frame them and hang them in my writing nook.

  9. I really can’t be bothered to care about most Guerlains. I haven’t found one to love. I like Shalimar Light quite a lot. Would wear it if I had it. Other than that… Not sure. I really do like that Encens Mythique d’Orient. I’d REALLY like to have that. But it’s super-spendy. I need to try more Guerlains. I expected to fall hard for Nahema and didn’t.

    Chanel is a better bet for me overall, I think. Own a few Chanels: Allure (don’t hate!! I like it!), No. 22, Cristalle EDP… like No. 5 quite a lot too.

    1. I do love Shalimar Light and will be sad when my third (second backup!) bottle is gone. But I imagine I will get along quite well with some vintage Emeraude. They’re not the SAME, but they fill the same niche imo. I can’t even smell Nahema, so I don’t know what I’m missing with it. Haven’t tried the Encens Mythique, but it does sound like something I would enjoy, who knows…

      I don’t like Allure, but I think Chance is worse. If I were Chanel, I’d be embarrassed by the thing, but the astounding fact is that it sells! My view is that Chance is worse than Allure, and way worse than Coco Noir, which everybody was hating on for being anemic, and that even the Chance flankers are better than the original. I don’t like Cristalle in edt, and it just now occurs to me that I haven’t tried it in the apparently more-floral edp, which I might get on better with. It’s that ashtray note that just kills me in the edt.

  10. Until a year ago I thought Guerlein wasn’t for me at all: I didn’t realize then how many perfumes that house had in their line-up so after testing and not liking six or seven of the most known and available I told myself: Chanel it is.

    A year later – and we’re on a much better terms with Guerlain though if to use a ration of not even all of their perfumes but all the perfumes that I’ve tried to those that I like, I’m still far-far away from being a “Guerlie Girl.”

    1. That is a part of any Guerlain-vs-Chanel discussion, isn’t it? The huuuuuuuuge Guerlain catalog. And yet, you look at that huuuuuge Guerlain catalog, and there are very few straight-up florals in it, which seems to make a big impact on my choice. I don’t feel that they’re not for me at all, because of the handful of things they make that I do love, but their batting average is below the Dreaded Mendoza Line, so to speak.

      Sorry. Baseball season has started, The CEO is parked in front of the TV every time the Red Sox are on, and baseball cliches are flooding my brain. I mean that with that enormous catalog, you’d think that I’d have an easier time finding Guerlain scents to love, and four True Loves out of 200 or so is a horrible percentage of Mals-pleasing.

  11. Another Guerlain person here, although I’m not rabid or anything.

    Interesting observations about the accepted character of Guerlain stacked up against some examples. Although perhaps not many “greens” in the bunch, I do think there is much to appeal to green lovers in some of the Guerlain frags. But perhaps not if one doesn’t like citrus?

    1. Well, to me citrus is NOT green. NOT. It’s citrus, instead. 🙂 And yes, they do citrus beautifully, but I’m not much of a citrus person (my love for Pamplelune notwithstanding).

  12. Shalimar is an essential for me, and the lemon must really matter because I find Emeraude to be absolutely cloying. Mostly, tho I am finding that I am at heart beholden not to a house so much as a category—old-school aldehyde with civet on the side, to wit: Miss Dior, Caron Infini, Weil Antilope, all vintage. Oddly enough Chanel N° 5 is a meh pour moi.

    But I want to get to galbanum here. Amongst the Guerlains, there’s Vol de Nuit. However, if you are a galbanum gal—I certainly am—you must, must secure some Weil de Weil. bittergracenotes calls it “the smell of a swamp in Paradise”, it’s green goes to hyacinth and narcissus, goes to leather and just a little civet. Since you love Chamade, I believe you’ll love Weil de Weil.

    1. Ah, and I could do without Shalimar entirely. It’s not that I actively dislike it (I once tried some 80s pdt that was really lovely), it’s just not me. Now, Shalimar LIGHT/Eau Legere… that I love. It’s missing the drrrty growl that Shalimar has. (SPeaking of Emeraude, though – are you familiar with the older stuff? What you can buy now is a real travesty. Yuck.)

      Vol de Nuit I have not tried, I admit, since I have the impression that it’s a balsamy oriental with a galbanum top, and I Do Not Do Well with balsamy orientals. The idea scares me. Weil de Weil? Hmm. Off to scour ebay for a mini, perhaps…

  13. I LOVE Guerlain, with a passion. Vintage Shalimar is my holy grail, but I also had a love affair with L’Heure Bleue parfum til my husband spilled my entire bottle all over the carpet in my boudoir and I haven’t been able to replace that vintage flacon. Samsara is also in my like list.

    I also share a love for old Coty’s, especially Emeraude, L’Origan and L’Aimant. Also the 1986 release of Les Muses is gorgeous.

    In the Chanel category, I love Cuir de Russie, Gardenia, Chanel No. 5, Coco, and some of the Les Exclusifs like Sycomore, Bois des Isles and Coromandel.

    In Caron I like vintage Nuit de Noel, Bellodgia, Parfum Sacre and Narcisse Noir.

    1. People who love Guerlain really love Guerlain, don’t they?

      I like Les Muses, at least until the drydown, when it goes a bit Youth Dew for my taste (I really dislike that balsamy kind of thing). Have you smelled Muse?

  14. Happy to see Cleopatra’s Boudoir mention Caron, as I consider Chanel, Guerlain, and Caron to be the “Big Three” of perfume houses. Thanks to a kind perfume friend, I’ve been sampling Caron, and ended up purchasing 1/2 oz of Acaciosa extrait from Phyto Universe in NYC. Caron and I get along very well. Most Carons have great tenacity on me, and I like them from top to bottom. The Caron base is always agreeable to me.

    1. Ahhh, yes, Caron. Caron might be the least successful of the Classic Houses on me (unlike you, I don’t get on with the Mousse de Saxe), and I always forget about it. I like Poivre, and I do love Parfum Sacre. Aimez-Moi I like too, but found I wasn’t wearing it. Caron somehow doesn’t get mentioned in the frequent Chanel-vs-Guerlain war.

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