Guerlain : Jicky


Eiffel Tower – also launched in 1889

Created by : Aimé Guerlain

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.



In 2016, can we agree not to use the word “passion”?


Has anyone noticed that unless one has a passion these days, it’s like there is something wrong with you.  It’s as if one MUST have a passion.  I blame the media for this… the talk shows, the celebrity interviews and Facebook. In my books, not having a passion is just fine.

When I give my perfume lectures, often someone will walk up to me at the end of my talk, extend their hand and say, “You’re so lucky… you have found your passion!” Actually, my interest in perfume has evolved in the past 10 years.   It started as an obsession, I’ll give you that.  But it quickly became an intellectual pursuit.  I’m reminded of something Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de musc said in an interview and I’m paraphrasing, “writing perfume reviews looks hard, so let’s do this”.  I felt the same way and I still find them difficult but rewarding when I feel that I have done them well.

In many respects, passion is over-rated.  If everyone ran off and followed their passion, life as we know would cease to exist.  Our world is based on people doing, for the most part, monotonous, repetitive jobs to the best of their abilities.  If all the factory workers around the world decided to become artists or actors or poets, good luck trying to manufacture an iPad!

I don’t think perfume was ever a passion.  I’m enthusiastic about it in that I’m always enthusiastic and optimistic about the future.  I find it difficult to look back and think to myself that my best years are behind me.  I can’t live like that.  I’m still hoping to fall in love.  I’m still hoping to meet that sexual bomb that makes all past lovers look like amateurs.  I’m still hoping to write my memoirs.  I’m still hoping to live a hermit’s life in a log cabin in the woods with central heating, 4 cats, high-speed Internet, a large-screen tv with a massive collection of vintage films, and great restaurants nearby that deliver!  And… I’m still hoping to discover perfumes that are so beautifully put together and with such great-quality materials that they make me want to wear them over and over again as I live my wonderful, perfect life.

I guess I’m moving through what I refer to as the transition week.  Christmas DOES always make me look back with a certain longing but as the week progresses, I get over my nostalgic funk and I start to look forward with hope and optimism.

Happy New Year everyone!


A statue of Janus, the God of beginnings and transitions.

Elizabeth Taylor : White Diamonds

White diamonds

Created by : Carlos Benaïm

Date : 1991

Genre : Glamorous white floral

Concentration : eau de toilette

Diana Vreeland once said, “I loathe nostalgia.  I don’t believe in anything before penicillin!”.  I know exactly how she feels.  As I get older, thinking of the good ol’ days seems so pointless!  As with life’s regrets, better to leave the past where it belongs… in the past.  As Ingrid Bergman said, “Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”

But I think even the least romantic of us can be pulled back into nostalgia every now and then… usually when we least suspect it.  And so when I saw the photo of Elizabeth Taylor on the cover of the White Diamonds’ gift set… something pulled at my heartstrings. It brought me back to younger days and late-night movies and talk shows. You know with all the talk of Cate and Angelina and Beyoncé channelling old Hollywood glamour… they never really get close to the original goddesses of the time… and Elizabeth Taylor was certainly at the top of that list or darn near it.

The creator of White Diamonds is Carlos Benaïm who also created Ralph Lauren Polo, Calvin Klein Eternity for Men and Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia.   No doubt about it, Carlos knows his stuff!  So when in 1991 he set out to capture old Hollywood glamour with White Diamonds, he hit the bull’s-eye!  White Diamonds is a creamy-rich, elegant white floral with a woody base that could easily be marketed by a prestigious French house at twice the price.  This fragrance is beautifully constructed… no jagged edges, not a shrill note to be heard.

According to Fragrantica, White Diamond’s composition is as follows :

The top notes are aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, orange and lily. The heart unites the classical trio, violet, rose and jasmine, accompanied by ylang-ylang, Egyptian tuberose and narcissus. The base is composed of oak moss, patchouli, musk, sandalwood and amber.

As you can see all the usual suspects are there but you’d be hard-pressed to pick out any individual note… at least I was, particularly in the heart.  The overall effect is symphonic.

The only problem I see with White Diamonds is one of perception.  Because it’s a celebrity perfume, one automatically assumes that it will be badly made and leave you with a chemical stink bomb after all the lovely notes have evaporated.  Not so.  This one is gorgeous from beginning to end.  Don’t let the blingy packaging and discount price fool you.  For added sillage, I’ve been putting a drop of the parfum on my wrist preceded by Chanel’s ultra-expensivo Crème pour le Corps from their Les Exclusifs collection. Together, they’re sublime. If you had told me the combination was the latest Lauder fragrance, I would believe you.  Serge Lutens?  No, because White Diamonds is better than any Lutens floral.  Guerlain?  Probably not because the genre is off. Tom Ford?  Yes. Chanel?  I don’t know.

If you see this package at the store, buy it and enjoy.

%d bloggers like this: