Spiritueuse Double Vanille / Guerlain

4 Jan

Imagine Vito Corleone in the opening scene of The Godfather where he is confronted by Amerigo Bonasera about a particular murder-for-hire of two young men. This scene takes place inside a dark and smoky room with just enough light to showcase the tension that exists between Vito and the undertaker, if that room had a smell it would be Spritueuse Double Vanille.

SDV is the upper crust of the perfume world and its price/exclusivity pretty much sums up how rare this gem is.  Spiritueuse was designed by Jean Paul Guerlain himself in 2007 with the intentions of it being a limited edition scent only available at the higher end boutiques in Paris. Double Vanille is an elegant and boozy fragrance reminiscent of dark liquor and tobacco.

This starts out thick and decadent with heavy notes of rum and benzoin, there is a dark boozy undertone that stays throughout the initial stage and into the dry down. The opening is reminiscent of expensive liquor and pipe tobacco, the chocolate stage follows abruptly with a hint of smoke and cedar. Its middle stage is where I fell in love, once the alcohol and smoke have subsided you are left with the scent of sweet luxurious vanilla on a bed of dark chocolate. SDV is beautifully balanced between sweet and smokiness, plus it’s probably liable to get you a little buzzed too.

Spiritueuse has amazing endurance and sillage, I would wear this all day and could still smell it lingering on my skin the next morning. The bottle really ought to come with a warning label or at least a seal of potency; its opening is heavy with the scent of booze, enough to sweep me off my feet at times.

Overall a decadent and expensive perfume that is unavailable anywhere but France, there are alternatives such as Eau Des Missions Cologne by Le Couvent des Minimes; although that one is a bit sweet and not as earthy or wholesome. Spiritueuse is worth a try in my opinion, its cult following makes it almost mythical.

Longevity: 9/10  Sillage: 9/10

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Samsara / Guerlain

10 Dec

This perfume is wonderfully composed but ultimately disappointing; on the one hand I love that Samsara smells exactly like the inside of those Buddhist temples—or “wats”–in Thailand, yet I find the powdery notes to be extremely heady and cloying over time. I don’t quite dislike this scent, but I don’t love it either.

Samsara has a beautiful opening; it’s a serenade of sandalwood and ylang-ylang with soft phases of vanilla, tonka bean, and jasmine to underline this pretty little symphony.  I fell in love with how exotic and intoxicating those first few seconds were, unfortunately the experience was short-lived. That charming scent immediately transitions into a powdery peachy cloud of iris, musk, and a dusty rose that became extremely tedious over time. There is just too much sandalwood without something—like incense—to balance it out; the main floral is ylang-ylang and it feels too chalky, too dry, and too linear.

The only positive that kept Samsara from becoming overly repetitive was the slight presence of rose that peeks out from underneath the many layers of heavy powder. How I wish Samsara had a tiny bit of sweetness that isn’t an elderly rose! Perhaps I am just not a fan of that dreary ylang-ylang flower; I feel its presence is too oppressive and domineering like a heavy musty blanket.

Regardless of its shortcomings this is still a very nice fragrance; Samsara is distinctly Guerlain and I enjoy all their creations. However, despite all the glowing reviews this experience just doesn’t feel memorable to me.

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Insolence Eau de Parfum / Guerlain

6 Dec

This is unmistakably a Guerlain creation as it possesses the same body and wholesomeness of L’Heure Bleue, whereas Bleue is tempered and full of integrity, Insolence is expressive and vibrant in personality. Although I can only resort to an opinion of indifference regarding the former, I actually “like” the latter despite my disinterest for such flamboyant fragrances. Nonetheless it is a rather unique twist on a powdery floral.

Insolence opens up as a very loud Skittles grape candy on my skin, mixed with that powdery DNA that is L’Heure Bleue. It’s ultimately a very beautiful violet once subsided to a manageable level; the appearance of Iris is pleasantly familiar, once again I am flooded with memories of Bleue. Except it isn’t her at all but the younger and perkier sibling outfitting a sweet purple dress and a basket of fresh berries; she is colorful in her mannerisms, yet is of noble appearance that never submits to cheap and lurid things.

The dry down is an aromatic tonka bean and sandalwood, with slight nuances to cedar wood.

Insolence smells…purple, perhaps a rude purple at first but eventually it mellows out into a delicate dreamy kind of purple; like a pastel garden on a Victorian summer purple. I can imagine pretty lace accents and wild violets blossoming into the world, rigorously demanding its presence to be acknowledged by those around.

It is of common opinion that this perfume is trashy or “dated”; it is neither of those for me. The violet notes are dreamy and elegant, perhaps a bit too syrupy at first, but never dull. Sillage and longevity are quite heavy.

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Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau / Guerlain

4 Nov

A part of me regrets the day that I first laid eyes on Initial L’Eau; I was going through some difficult circumstances and was eagerly anticipating the experience of something new and exciting. To top it off I was enduring the final throes of a virus infection, so my mind wasn’t completely prepared for some of the more fastidious notes in this composition.

This is a beautiful fragrance, I predicted it to smell exactly like how the bottle appears, and it does! This feels very vintage, feminine, and sensual in a pure and wholesome way. My only complaint is that the citrus notes are a bit overpowering; the initial spray was a blast of bergamot, iris and tonka bean. Then the vanilla and neroli pulls through and becomes the primary structure in which the grapefruit and orange notes build upon. Overall it’s a harmonious blend of fruits and florals, with just a tad of bitterness to capture your attention. Unlike other reviewers, I find the sillage to be pretty strong.

At first I thought the merging of powder and citrus to be such a strange combination but it works well together in L’Eau; you will feel as though you’ve been wrapped within pink clouds and bright sunlight. The dry down is very clean and optimistic; vanilla soothes much of the starkness and gives this fragrance a very delicate, feminine personality.

I see now that I haven’t fully realized my appreciation for Initial L’Eau, due to my having attached this fragrance with some bad memories. Unfortunately that is part of the journey with all fragrances; I’m hoping that I can one day revisit this unique perfume with perhaps a better frame of mind.

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L’Heure Bleue / Guerlain

3 Nov

I really tried to love L’heure Bleue, but somehow I can’t. There is something very animalic about this fragrance that reminds me of “skin” and play-doh; I love powdery scents but this one feels multifarious in nature.

Let’s start with expectations; everyone hails L’heure Bleue (or “the bluish hour”) to be a dualistic perfume, vital and important for its era. A hallmark to its kind, words such as sadness, loneliness, weariness and even hopefulness were used to describe this Guerlain creation.

I am a huge fan of this house and all of their innovations, but this is the only one which I’ve never understood, perhaps the issue is me; perhaps my nose isn’t refined enough…or that maybe I’ve lacked imagination. Either way, Bleue failed to extricate the feelings of despair and tragedy that I anticipated (for that I convey my desires to Mitsouko, the sibling to L’Heure Bleue).

Bleue smells like a romantic night, it’s intimate and slightly vulnerable, like a whispered secret between two lovers.  The scent is mysteriously carnal and smells of desire; I get the slight impression of seeing myself buried within a woman’s warm powdered bosom.

There are lots of irises in the opening, along with a musky carnation. Vanilla is very apparent throughout its life, but no doubt it is in accordance with the heliotrope that creates this very unpleasant doughy fragrance that makes me sick to my stomach. I’m not sure why but the Benzoin and cloves add on a very medicinal texture that also makes this rather unpleasant. I sense very little rose and citrus, ylang-ylang and tonka bean become a little more apparent in the dry down.

Even though I cannot truly appreciate the extent of its brilliance, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate its innovation. This is a high class fragrance, though wrought with unpleasantness (to me), I can easily see why this became such a masterpiece. Longevity is pretty good, though this quickly becomes a skin scent after an hour. Either way this is not a safe blind buy; but considering that Bleue is slowly disappearing off the market, it might be worth it to purchase anyway.


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Mitsouko / Guerlain

27 Sep

“And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” -Nietzsche

One word that sums up this fragrance: Misery.

I’ve gotten so many recommendations to try out Mitsouko: the tragic love story between the wife of Japanese Admiral Togo, and a British officer. The story takes place in 1905, during the war between Russia and Japan. Both men went to war, and Mitsouko, hiding her feelings with dignity, waits for the outcome of the battle to discover which of the two men will come back to her and be her companion.

Crafted in 1919 by Jacques Guerlain (the same creator of my favorite oriental Shalimar), this perfume is symbolic of the beginning of the end. It’s a mysterious fragrance, that carries with it a secretive love affair…it truly is its origin in a bottle!

If ever there was loneliness in a perfume I believe this would be a close call, Mitsouko is deeply enigmatic and private. There is nothing hopeful or happy here…just melancholy and sadness.

My first experience with Mitsouko is much like my experience with Shalimar, sprays on super strong and reeking of heavy oakmoss and jasmine…I was horrified. I immediately wanted to take a shower…it smelled a little like urine? Anyway, my good friend tells me it dries down into something different…and she was right. As the heavy top notes give away, you are exposed to its heart…which is much softer and more feminine (though still heavy in a figurative way).  Like I said…this scent reeks of tragedy, I highly doubt I would wear this again unless maybe I am in Paris on a cloudy day and feeling especially lonely lol.

But there is a reason why Mitsouko has outlasted the test of time; I suppose every woman needs to experience this complex fragrance at least once in her life. Who would have thought that one man could so perfectly encapsulate the essence of misery in a bottle?

Top Notes

Citruses/ Jasmine/ Bergamot/ Rose

Middle Notes

Lilac/ Peach/ Ylang-Ylang

Base Notes

Spices/ Amber/ Cinnamon/ Oakmoss/ Vetiver

Shalimar / Guerlain

27 Sep

Four centuries ago, in India, Emperor Shah Jahan fell hopelessly in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal. He had the enchanting Gardens of Shalimar built for her and dedicated the Taj Mahal to her as well, one of the seven new wonders of the world. This incredible tale sparked the imagination of Jacques Guerlain, who created Shalimar, the first oriental fragrance in history, in 1925.

I remember my first encounter with this legendary perfume at Barney’s. I was with my husband at the time, saw this gorgeous bottle sitting so grandly on its crystal counter top, and knew there was no turning back.

My first impression was…omg this is a huge mistake. I smelled like a vintage coat that’s been saturated over the years with cigarette smoke and old incense. Top notes of orange, leather, and tobacco were so overwhelmingly sharp that it made me want to gag.

So I went home a little bummed out, thinking that I might have missed out on such an iconic scent. However something amazing happened in the car, Shalimar transformed itself into a beautiful vanilla-incense dry-down unlike anything I have ever smelled before.

The only image that comes to mind is sparkling blue sands under a layer of night with glimmering stars and crescent moon. It’s super intense, smoldering and exotic…the vanilla mixed with a rummy leather is sooo enchanting and mysterious. I felt like an Arabic princess in her marble palace; surrounded by bouquets of  incense and iris. It was a moment that I kept coming back to months later until I finally purchased a bottle of my own.

A Love story for the ages.

Top Notes
Citruses, Mandarin Orange, Cedar, Bergamot, Lemon
Middle Notes
iris, Patchouli, Jasmine, Vetiver, Rose
Base Notes
Leather, Sandalwood, Musk, Civet, Vanilla, Incense, Tonka Bean