Sorry – I lied. Not intentionally. I guess it’s a time-based lie, which is interesting, in a no-new-taxes sort of way. A change of plans. But still a lie. Whatever. The failings of a finite universe.
I was going to opine about some science dealing with “shape versus vibration”, and all that nonsense. And I will – eventually. That stuff is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as GUERLAIN. Yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about. (Fun link here, amigos.)
Having just returned from my first trip to Paris, I have worn almost exclusively two fragrances, and of those, primarily one: Guerlain L’Homme Idéal EDT. The other would be the cologne version, which I wore all over Paris, because of the heat.
Up until now, I’ve never had a Guerlain that I could truly call my signature scent. I’ve had Chanels and Diors that I wore week after week, and could not put down, but never a Guerlain. Terre d’Hermès was certainly one of my first signature scents. It will stay with me forever. But for some reason, Guerlain never really did it.
L’Instant Pour Homme EDT got me into Guerlain, and the Extreme version showed me that the concentrations of EDP and beyond, is where Guerlain really does its magic. These two are so easy for a guy to love. However, it’s the women’s EDT that really stole the show for me. I love it when my wife wears that one, and I’ve been known to borrow it on occasion, too, although it really doesn’t suit me. The whole franchise is worthwhile, to be honest. That would include the “68” fragrances, as well. And yet – I can only love them occasionally. So many times I sniff the bottle – smile – and put it back.
Guerlain Homme EDT taught me how to exercise some restraint, to experience the beauty of a finicky fragrance. Just a touch, and it gives magical sillage. Too much, and I might as well be cleaning a lawnmower. While I rarely wear it, rumors of its discontinuation trouble me, because it’s a very original composition in its mainsteam genre, and I’d hate to see it go into vintage limbo. In contrast, Guerlain Homme EDP Intense is an easy wear. That one is a joy – everything that I’m sure the EDT was supposed to be. But every day? Impossible.
Beyond that, only Vetiver Pour Elle ever came close to something I could wear day in and day out. Maybe for a week, but never more.
There were other Guerlain loves, to be sure. Shanghai – amazing. Derby – classic beauty. Shalimar – made me wish to be reincarnated as a woman, although not in this lifetime, thank you. And all the others. I even got to experience the elusive Djedi – a scent memory that will last a lifetime.
No. None of them ever hit me like Bleu de Chanel. That was a case where the scent owned me, and vice-versa was merely a formality. I was beginning to think that such a thing might be impossible for Guerlain. Thus, I did not expect to find a new signature scent on my first trip to Paris. I only wanted to score some things that were hard to find in the United States.
I don’t mean any disrespect to Guerlain by saying that. Far from it. In fact, on my pilgrimage to the historic store on Champs-Elysées, I actually walked the last mile-and-a-half on foot. Yes. Dust on my shoes, I entered The Mothership in fragrant reverence, for what I feared might be the only time in my life.
There was no way I was walking out without SOMETHING. But still – I know better than to buy something I don’t at least respect, and preferably something I love deeply. I’ve learned not to throw my money at things I don’t really, really want to wear at least once in a while.
The first whiff of L’Homme Idéal, in an alcove just up the welcoming stairs at 68 Champs-Elysées, was both expected and unexpected. I knew I was going to like it. By the time you get 5 or 10 years into fragrance, you can smell something off the written page. I knew this would be up my alley. But it was also far, far better than I expected. I expected to like this fragrance. I did not expect to be craving it night and day for the next month, with no end in sight.
I did not say “I’ll take it.” after the first whiff. I smelled the Cologne, too, and said “I’ll take one of each.”
Oh, Thierry, you drug dealer!
I’ll try not to repeat all the things others have said. I’ll stick to what seem like more personal revelations.
The Cologne. Let’s dispense with that, first.
It’s good, and it’s reminiscent of the parent fragrance, but that’s it. And let me state most categorically that it’s much stronger than a normal cologne – more like a robust EDT. I was wearing 3 sprays in Paris and getting all-day fragrance, and it was actually getting a bit too loud for an hour or two after putting it on. I was lowering the window on the train so as not to gas out the non-Latin tourists. It’s not Fahrenheit, by any means, but it is almost certainly stronger than Dior Homme Sport.
The Cologne is interesting. It has the zingy grapefruit opening of the discontinued guaiac gem, Tokyo by Kenzo, but the roughshod guaiac base of that one has been replaced by a familiar but subtle and rather nicely done woody aromachemical base, much more typical of the latest-generation designer sport fragrances. The latter would make this – to borrow Francisco’s term – a gentle form of the norlimbanol bomb – perhaps more like a norlimbanol flash-bang. But no matter what, it’s just not as impressive as the regular fragrance. There’s a bit of the central almond accord, but not nearly enough for my taste.
So let’s talk about the star fragrance itself..
Everybody says “amaretto”. Well – whatever. Perhaps it actually IS a bit like amaretto, but I think that sells the remarkable primary accord short – and by a long shot. I’ve drunk every form of cheap amaretto truck-stop cappuccino ever made, and I’ve tasted every amaretto concoction I could get my hands on. Never in my life did I want to buy a box of amaretto creamers and take them home with me from France.
I would describe L’Homme Idéal as what pipe tobacco smells like in heaven. Take away the smoke, but leave some essential part thereof. Take away the tobacco, but leave a hint that it was once in the mix. There is a plummy, cherry, almond-reminiscent accord, which is tempered in a very skillful and natural way with just a trace of the smoky and dark leafy effects of tobacco in a pipe. Add in a touch of Angel candy and an even lighter touch of demure pepper, and the whole thing smells like a “Guerlain does Spicebomb, only better” moment. It’s like Spicebomb in a white tux. Er – maybe a black tux. Whatever. It’s nice. And classy. But infinitely wearable, too. And that brings me right back to why I cannot put this stuff down.
Morning – evening – night. The opening of this fragrance is awesome. Longevity is fine, too, and the middle and the base serve up a very nice version of the opening for a good 10-18 hours. But at the end of that time, I simply crave that opening, dialed up somewhere between 7 and 11, yet again.
There is a lot of homage going on. I get bits of L’Instant – all of them, to be honest. And yet it exceeds L’Instant, because it is more subtle – less fully gourmand – more modern and ethereal.
There is some Arsène Lupin Voyou going on, too, although again – I have to say that this does better. There is a translucent, smoky, impressionist chypre aspect to Voyou that matches up with another great fragrance, Serge Lutens’ Un Bois Sepia. I see that here as well, only – again – more subtle and compelling. These other two fragrances are frequently accused of being “mainstream”, and no doubt, such accusations will be made against L’Homme Idéal. Whatever. It’s good. If that’s mainstream, then give me more.
Is this coming to America? I certainly hope so, although I must confess that I’m enjoying apparent exclusivity in my neck of the woods. I had heard – deep in the fragrance rumorsphere – that the hold-up had something to do with the FDA not approving some ingredient. Scandalous if true. But in any case, I think it can be gotten though Beauty Encounter now, and I just got a sample from state-side Guerlain, so there appears to be a crack in The Wall.
Good. As they say, the spice must flow. The Houses of the Empire will work out how that happens.