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.



Caron : Pour Un Homme


Created by : Ernest Daltroff

Date : 1934

Genre : Vanilla lavender

Concentration : eau de toilette

It was my mother who introduced me to vanilla when she brought me to the Woolworth’s store in our strip mall and treated me to a vanilla milk shake back in the early 60s.  It’s been my favourite shake ever since.  And, it was my brother who introduced me to lavender.  One spring day he hopped into my car and the fresh, sharp scent of lavender waved through the car and it was heaven!  My love affair with lavender went on for years until I purchased a small bottle of the essential oil and wore that… for a short while.  A few outings made it clear to me that essential oils are not perfume.  They don’t evolve.  They just provide their one note that plays forever.  For me, perfume must move.

When I first tried Pour Un Homme, it smelled and felt wonderful.  Its perfect duet of  lavender and vanilla notes with a quiet powdery subtext pulled me in.  At first, the sharp, invigorating lavender took centre stage but by the end of the evening, it was replaced by the vanilla with the lavender still present… but considerably toned down.  Pour Un Homme may not be on my list of top ten… but it is still a very beautiful piece of work.

As a masculine, Pour Un Homme is almost in a class by itself.  It is generally classified as a floral, lavender being a flower, but don’t let that fool you.  It’s not really what I would call a floral.  In fact, it’s only a few molecules away from being a fougère… simply add coumarin and civet and you’re bumping into the archetypal fougère Jicky by Guerlain.

I suspect that Pour Un Homme’s audience is quite narrow.  Few women I know would wear it.  And because of its barbershop lavender and powdery facet, Pour Un Homme has an old-fashioned feel that most guys are not going to like.  In short, this fragrance has got the word “dandy” written all over it (you know… pressed shirts, monogrammed cigarette cases, tailored tweeds) and that’s going to be hard to pull off for the average guy… including me.

In order to change this image, Caron has hired a new face to promote their legacy fragrance…  6’3″, 260 lbs. rugby player Sébastien Chabal, also known as the “Caveman” by British newspapers.  I have my doubts that he would wear something that is so Oscar Wilde but I’m not about to tell him… not to his face anyway.

Top image : Dandified sex symbol Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926)

Bottom image : Pour Un Homme’s latest face Sébastien Chabal

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