I recently ordered and received some Guerlain samples from The Perfumed Court. I was particularly interested in trying some of the more exclusive fragrances, from the L'art et la Matiere range, for example. I ordered Bois de Armenie, Cuir Beluga and Spirituese Double Vanille (SDV). It was only later that I realised that SDV is not in that particular range, but fairly exclusive it still is, or to me anyway. I'm not sure if anyone from the UK is reading this, but is it just me, or are these sorts of fragrances really hard to find here? I mean, Guerlain is only a two-and-a-half hour train journey away, is it not? Again, these are probably carried at one or two of the large London stores, but I'm not personally aware if they are. Anyway, onto the fragrances. I'm not really sure what to say. When I recently ordered these and some of the Chanel Exclusifs, for some reason I thought the Guerlain ones would in all likelihood impress me, while I was prepared to be let down by the Chanels. In fact, it was the opposite way around and Chanel pleasantly surprised me while Guerlain left me feeling well, not let down exactly, but underwhelmed. It's not to say that these were not good, but they just did not do enough to hold my interest. My main issue was with longevity - I was dabbing, but even so, they were very subdued on my skin, SDV in particular being the guilty culprit. I ought to say that I don't judge the quality of a fragrance purely on longevity, but when you are paying these sorts of prices, one (or I in any event) would expect a bit more than a whisper. So below are my initial impressions. Like with all the perfumes I try, I will give them a second chance, because you never know what another day's wearing might bring.
SDV - this opened quite boozy and with loads of vanilla. Within a few minutes there was a nice vanillic, woody smell left on my skin, but decreasing in strength by the minute. Within an hour I was left with a faint vanilla accord, but I had to sniff really close to detect this. I wore SDV on a warm, muggy day, so perhaps this had something to do with it. To be fair, I don't think this is the sort of fragrance (at the risk of pigeonholing) that is suited to summer. I should really be wearing this on a cold, damp autumnal or winter day. Perhaps I didn't apply enough, I don't know. I do know that SDV has a lot of fans and conceptually, I can see why. It did smell good, for the hour that it lasted.
Cuir Beluga - I didn't keep any notes for this one, but it was very nice. It was a fairly subtle, leathery scent, quite sophisticated and not too powerhouse leather. What I enjoyed most though was a slightly salty, briny note that came through every now and then. Perhaps this was ambergris, but it blended surprisingly well with the leather.
Bois d'Armenie - this started with quite a sweet, boozy, vanillic hit and for a short while I wondered if I had been given another sample of SDV. However it quickly tapered off to a surprisingly dry, incense accord, with perhaps a hint of bergamot that created a slightly spicy interlude. The incense is very smooth, sophisticated and is not particularly gothic or church-like. There's a bit of amber in the background, slightly sweet, which might be labdanum and what I later realised is probably benzoin. At this stage I noted a similarity to Profumo's Mecca Balsam. It also becomes slightly dusty in feel, almost like the odor of books that have been stored for a while and have gathered dust, but not mouldering away. What I find really interesting about Bois d'Armenie is that far into the dry down it becomes much sweeter again, with vanilla at the fore and I even detect a slight boozy return. It's like it has done an about turn. The vanilla is very nice and reminds me a bit of SDV again and even slightly of Havanna Vanille by L'artisan. There is a faint lactonic milkiness at the very end.
I think of the three, Bois d'Armenie struck me as the most original and I particularly liked the way it ended up almost back where it started, after a journey of incense. SDV was disappointing and I will need to try it again to prevent it being sin-binned. Cuir Beluga is nice (what a bland word) but other than that brininess that I liked, it could to my nose be pretty much any smooth leather on the market. It's well done and I certainly like it but I probably expected a bit more.
I think what I find a slight letdown overall is that with such interesting possibilities, with strong and slightly mysterious ingredients, they all wear a little light and unobtrusively. I expected them to be a bit more assertive and it's probably no coincidence that the one I liked the most, Bois d'Armenie, did have the best longevity and sillage, but having said that, it was still relatively subdued.
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Image credit: 2.bp.blogspot.com