Date : 1889
Genre : Complex old-school fougère
Concentration : eau de toilette
It certainly is a truism that you can’t hear something until you are ready to hear it. And one could also say, you can’t enjoy something until you are ready to enjoy it.
It’s the same with perfume. There are so many perfumes that I have tested and tossed aside because I just couldn’t appreciate them at the time that I was wearing them. Such is the case with Jicky, Aimé Guerlain’s groundbreaking perfume that he took it to the 1889 Exposition Universelle because it had two synthetics, coumarin and vanillin. In the perfume world, it was extremely innovative.
I talk about Jicky in all my lectures and I’m sure I tested it when I first bought my bottle of eau de toilette maybe 10 years ago… but I didn’t know what all the fuss was about until very recently. In the lavender / vanilla genre, I always preferred the simple and streamlined Pour Un Homme de Caron (1934) which smelled so much more accessible, more literate… more, well, 20th century. The image I used for my review of Pour un Homme was of Rudolph Valentino… eternally young and beautiful (he died at the age of 31).
But old-school Guerlain is old-school Guerlain! Nothing is ever simple or straightforward, even a lavender / vanilla accord. Everything is such a production! Jicky is complex and layered and there are other accords in it, just below the surface. Only a nose would be able to suss them out but they make their presence felt to the wearer. According to Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends : French Feminine Fragrance, Jicky is built up of lavender, bergamot, rosemary and rosewood for the top notes; geranium, jasmine and rose for the heart and tonka bean, opopanax, vanilla and coumarin in the basenotes.
I don’t think of modernity when I smell Jicky. I’m getting something much more of its time… 19th century. I think of the Eiffel tower, also launched at the same Exposition Universelle.
Jicky would have been worn by Victorian men… with all their layered and confining undergarments, tight woolen suits and big tailored mustaches and beards. Also such a production! Wearing it this week reminded me of a book I read as a teen, Noah by J.F. Burke. The book jacket reads :
“… the story of Noah Greene, a fiery young revolutionary, and his tempestuous, uninhibited relationship with Milly, a beautiful dancer. Noah Greene’s incendiary life explodes across New York in an era of electric cars, gaslights, baroque bawdy houses, wild anarchists and brutal Irish cops. Yet Noah, with his pot smoking, his stormy and violent activities in leftist politics, and his enthusiastic sexual encounters, is as much a part of the present as the headlines of today’s underground press.”
Yep… you guessed it. The book was hot! And when wearing Jicky this past week, I can understand why it spoke to the Victorian man. Luckily, Guerlain still makes it.