Jicky Revisited

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I have documented my love for Jicky many times over the years on this blog (here and here) and I like to check back in with my current thoughts on it every now and then. There is something about January and the start of the new year in particular that makes me want to revisit it. So, here are my current thoughts on the Jicky extrait!

I’ve had my extrait bottle since 2011, which means it’s been quite a few years now. The juice is aging in a beautiful manner and is still mostly in tact. The main difference when I smell it now is that the citrus notes are beginning to fade, which is natural. I get a burst of lemon when I open the bottle, but it fades very quickly on the skin. The lavender, however, has become even more bold. I haven’t smelled a lavender quite like this before, even in other concentrations of Jicky. It’s a really full-bodied smell, combined with the spices of the extrait, it’s a rich lavender.

There is definitely civet to my nose in the extrait, although it is not like the huge civet of the EDP. There is no “dirty diaper” smell.  I believe the civet here is an animalic note as it would have smelled in the 1890s. It’s a skin sweat smell that mingles with your own body chemistry in a natural way, the way it would have done before indoor plumbing and daily showering became widespread. This civet wouldn’t knock your socks off unless you have never smelled an animalic note before. Rather, it’s smooth and blends effortlessly with my skin chemistry. It’s animalic with a little salt-like sweat note that I actually find really appealing. It goes well with the lavender, which remains the dominant note to my nose even through the heart notes.

Of course, the courmarin and vanilla come in for that Guerlainade base, which is lovely and always a comfort scent for me. The Jicky extrait wears very close to the skin and sometimes I really have to sniff to get the base notes. In this exceptionally cold winter weather we’re having right now, my skin is just devouring fragrance. Especially since the extrait has such a high concentration of oil, my skin is drinking it in. I don’t reach for my Jicky extrait as often in the summer, but it certainly wears longer in humid weather.

It sounds a bit silly, but the extrait has become meditative for me. Maybe it’s the development of the lavender note, but the extrait has taken on an introspective and almost intellectual vibe. It’s suited to bedtime wear and, indeed, I most often wear it as my scent to bed. I don’t wear it out and about in public very often these days. The truth is, my Jicky extrait has become like a companion, a familiar old friend to me. And I sometimes don’t want to share it with other people. Writing this down makes me realize that it should be shared because it’s such a beautiful composition. I will make an effort this year to wear it out and about more often. As Marie Kondo would say, Jicky sparks joy for me. And I want it to do the same for other people, too.

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The photo of my extrait bottle was taken by me. I believe Guerlain has slightly changed the packaging and label of the extrait since I purchased mine in 2011. And, of course, the EDPs are all packaged in the bee bottles now.

Vol de Nuit by Guerlain (vintage EDT)

Notes: orange, orange blossom, galbanum, Mandarin orange, bergamot, narcissus, lemon, aldehydes, iris, vanilla, violet, Indonesian carnation, jasmine, rose, spices, sandalwood, musk, orris root, and oakmoss.

Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit famously takes its name from the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry novel of the same name. In English, it’s Night Flight. The novel tells the story of pilots making the night flight from Buenos Aires to various destinations around the world to deliver mail. The Guerlain extrait bottle features an art deco airplane propeller motif and it’s my personal favorite design of the Guerlain extrait bottles. Vol de Nuit was released in 1933, and we have to keep in mind that flying was not common then. People and luggage weren’t packed onto industrial-sized aircrafts the way we are now. Back then, it was usually a solitary and dangerous voyage, a fact which Saint-Exupéry emphasizes in his novel.

I have a small decant of vintage Vol de Nuit EDT from The Perfumed Court. I don’t know what batch it’s from as I don’t have the full bottle or the batch code. The opening of my decant is green and bitter. It’s definitely galbanum and a hint of bergamot. I don’t get much of the orange citrus notes or the aldehydes. I’m guessing those top notes have faded a bit over the years. The bitter green opening quickly settles down and the composition forms a floral cloud on my skin. There’s still a bitter edge, but it’s significantly softened by jasmine and iris in particular.

For some reason, I get more lemon in the heart notes. About an hour into wear time, I get a lovely lemon mingled with jasmine. It gives me a bit of a Chanel vibe. The iris and that Guerlain violet make an appearance. The soft texture of the florals combined with the violet note makes me think of Guerlain’s iconic météorites powder. But this isn’t really a makeup/cosmetic scent. There’s so much going on, and there’s always that undercurrent of galbanum.

Though not listed in the note pyramid, I smell cocoa powder in the heart and moving into the base. The powdery iris is still there, bolstered by a creamy orris. But there is definitely a dry, cocoa powder note to me. There’s a spiced musk and a weighty, damp oak moss. This will sound strange, but the texture of the dry down, and the oak moss in particular, reminds me of damp cotton balls. You will be familiar with this if you’ve ever soaked a cotton ball to remove eye makeup or nail polish. It’s a weird texture. It’s dense and weighty but still soft.

It’s this texture that is missing from the current EDT formulation. I don’t currently own a bottle of Vol de Nuit but I always test it when I’m near a counter at Saks or Bergdorfs. I still love the scent, but the composition is more sheer. It’s a shame, and I just hope that LVMH doesn’t get the idea to tell Guerlain to completely phase out Vol de Nuit. I think it’s an important piece in Guerlain’s heritage. Vol de Nuit is actually one of my favorite classic Guerlains along with Jicky and Mitsouko. It is my perfume dream to own the Vol de Nuit parfum extrait in the art deco bottle one day.

I’ve seen many comments (on fragrantica and elsewhere) labeling Vol de Nuit as “cold” or “aloof.” I’ve seen similar things written about No. 19 so it may be the galbanum note that people react to. I find this strange because Vol de Nuit is very emotional to me. It’s nostalgic with an undercurrent of sadness. Think of Saint-Exupéry’s novel, which was Jacques Guerlain’s original inspiration for this composition. Of course this fragrance is a challenge, just as the night flight mail delivery was a challenge. Vol de Nuit is not an easy scent to wear or appreciate. It gives off an air of seriousness and of sadness. It is not seductive in a typical way. But, for me, it’s one of the most rewarding scents. You simply need to let Vol de Nuit settle into the skin and pay attention as it tells its own story.

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I ordered my sample/decant from The Perfumed Court.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

The photo is my (almost empty!) sample pictured with a painting called: “The Old City Market, Warsaw, at Night” by Jozef Pankiewicz from 1892. I found this painting while leafing through my Taschen book on Impressionism. The nighttime atmosphere reminded me of the nostalgia of Vol de Nuit.

Jicky: purchasing my priciest perfume

 

This post is a little bit of a follow-up to my previous one, which contained a mini-rant about the skyrocketing price points on the niche fragrance market, in particular. The difficult thing about it is: perfumery is an art. It truly is. But the fragrance industry is a business. Art and business are always tough to reconcile when questions of value and worth arise. It’s all good fun smelling beautiful creations from the likes of Kilian and Amouage. It’s not always so fun when it comes time to make a purchase.

I thought I would share my own experience with purchasing the most expensive fragrance I own: Jicky in the parfum extrait. I first encountered Jicky when I was in New York with my grandparents. I was lucky, we were staying at the Waldorf, where there’s a Guerlain boutique in the lobby. I first tested the Jicky EdT and fell in love with the stark, shimmering lavender note. I didn’t yet know the history behind Jicky or that there was a parfum extrait. I just knew that I was magnetically drawn what I was smelling, and that I needed to keep smelling it.

Over the course of the next few months I did a lot of reading up on Jicky. I read every review I could find online. I learned about the extrait, the bottle design, the (likely invented) story of Aimé Guerlain and his first love. My reading also taught me a lot about the history of Guerlain in general. It was exhilarating in a way, learning so much about the history of perfumery. It made me hungry to try more from Guerlain. It also made me desperately want to *purchase* more from Guerlain, which I’m sure makes the business execs happy to hear.

Fast forward several more months. I had now been accepted to grad school. I should’ve been saving my money. Instead, I took a weekend trip to New York and made a beeline straight for the beauty department at Bergdorf’s. I walked right over to the Guerlain counter (which is strangely sort of hidden away in a corner) and announced to the sales associate that I wanted to purchase Jicky.

I had a wavering moment of panic, as the sales associate produced the luxe gold box that houses the parfum extrait. Surely I should ask for the canister EdT bottle? Well, yes, I should have done that! But I was swayed by the decadence of it all. Instead I reached for my wallet and paid $300 plus tax for my prize, my treasure, my very own bottle of Jicky.

Immediately upon leaving Bergdorf’s, my phone rang with a call from my bank wanting to know if I had just made a $300 purchase in New York City myself, or if my card had been stolen.

What did I learn from this experience? Notify my bank ahead of time when I’m traveling. Don’t spend $300 on a fragrance when you should be planning for grad school. Also, that it’s simply not necessary to own every single perfume, even when you feel that magnetic pull of “I want this.”

I still own my bottle of Jicky and I absolutely love it, and probably fawn over it more than is normal. I still wear it. I will always wear Jicky in some form. Jicky is a piece of art, and a piece of Guerlain history. I’m really lucky to own it. But is any fragrance worth over $300? The Guerlain parfums are $350, and I feel like they could (and will) go even higher with that price point. All I can say is, I hope that I’m a little wiser with age now. And I hope that I can balance that sense of wisdom and responsibility with my passion for perfume.

What’s in a Name? Gender & Jicky

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Jicky from Guerlain is my all-time favorite fragrance, but I’ve written surprisingly little about it on here. I want that to change so, from time-to-time, I’ll be doing write-ups about various aspects of Jicky.

 

It starts with the name.

“Jicky? What the hell does that mean?” At least that’s what I asked myself the first time I encountered Jicky in person at a Guerlain boutique.

The myth of the Jicky name only adds to the confusion. Created by Aimé Guerlain, the story that seems most likely is that Jicky was the nickname of his nephew, Jacques Guerlain. As stories go, that one isn’t overly exciting, and Guerlain itself seems to enjoy confusing the issue by perpetuating the legend of a love story. As the legend goes, Jicky was the nickname of an English girl with whom Aimé fell in love while studying abroad in England. They couldn’t marry each other because the families didn’t approve, so Aimé returned to France and created a fragrance in her memory.

Whether or not the myth of Jicky is true, it certainly makes for a fabulous story. The one thing that both stories have in common is that, whether referring to a man or to a woman, Jicky is a nickname. It’s intimate, almost a term of endearment. It’s fitting for Jicky the fragrance, considering the deep civet note, it’s definitely an intimate scent.

I first tried the Eau de Toilette version of Jicky. The cool shimmering lavender, that hallmark of the fougère genre, is the star of the show here for me. This makes the EdT very accessible for the men’s fragrance market. Jicky also exists as an EdP (which Guerlain now offers in the bee bottle) and as a parfum extract. These higher concentrations are warmer with higher doses of that smooth, rich coumarin. I love and own the extract. However, the EdT is what first made me fall for Jicky.

For what it’s worth, Guerlain lists Jicky under women’s fragrances on their website, but it’s accompanied by a marketing note declaring it to be “the first unisex fragrance in perfumery.” The thing about Jicky is that it defies categorization. It is neither strictly a men’s nor a women’s fragrance. It’s both, and it probably was the first fragrance to appeal to both. But, to me, unisex almost sounds like another type of classification, and Jicky is beyond that.

Because what I find really striking about Jicky is that it’s a self-possessed fragrance. I always get the feeling that it doesn’t conform to you, your skin chemistry has to adjust to it. When you wear Jicky, you are Jicky. That’s its magic. You are the myth.

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Further reading: Monsieur Guerlain’s definitive write-up on Jicky.

The image is from Fragrantica

Terracotta Le Parfum by Guerlain

guerlain terracotta le parfumNotes: bergamot, coconut, tiare flower, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang-ylang, musk, and vanilla.

Last spring I was slow on the uptake and missed the chance to snag a bottle of Terracotta Le Parfum. The release was such a wild success for Guerlain that it sold out in the US, and I was unable to track down a bottle. This year I made sure to order my bottle from Nordstrom as soon as it became available. But, does this coveted fragrance live up to the hype?

Terracotta Le Parfum opens with the lush white floral tiare flower, enhanced by a touch of fruitiness from coconut and bergamot to keep this opening light and fresh. It gives off the scent of sunscreen without the tacky, sticky feeling some sunscreen formulas have. I find the sunscreen effect here appealing, it’s pleasantly beachy without being too much.

As Terracotta Le Parfum develops, it becomes more lush as the white florals really bloom. Jasmine and ylang-ylang are buttery and rich, while the orange blossom gives a hint of soapiness that lends the whole thing a luxury spa vibe. It all feels very expensive and very French. The slightly spicy vanilla of the dry down gives the impression of warmth without being a heavier winter-time vanilla. It’s more like sand being warmed in the sun.

The nice thing is that, for a Guerlain release, Terracotta Le Parfum isn’t outrageously expensive. It’s $76 for a hefty 100 ml bottle that will definitely last all summer and then some. However, the price reflects the complexity of the fragrance. This is not a masterpiece of perfumery like Mitsouko or Jicky. It’s not on the level of thoughtful compositions like in L’Art et la Matière line. So, in that sense, it’s not worth the hype for a Guerlain release.

But I feel like it’s important to manage expectations with this one. My bottle of Terracotta Le Parfum was a blind buy, which is always risky. Luckily, I’m really happy with my bottle, and I knew not to expect the next Shalimar out of it. Terracotta Le Parfum is a lovely and effortlessly wearable summer perfume. Thierry Wasser accomplishes what he set out to do with this release, which was to translate the essence of the Terracotta beauty line into a fragrance. Guerlain advertises this as “the allure of the sun in a bottle” and that’s really true to what this fragrance is.

Terracotta Le Parfum is a limited edition release. It may sell out again this year, so my advice is to act quickly if you’re interested. Full bottles are available from Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom. As stated above, I ordered mine from Nordstrom.

Info on notes and the image are both from Fragrantica.

Dessert Flirt; Guerlain’s Gourmand Coquin

gourmand coquinNotes: black pepper, rose, smoky tea, rum, chocolate.

I first encountered Gourmand Coquin in person at the Guerlain counter at Saks. Still reeling from a blast of Flowerbomb earlier, I asked the Guerlain rep to recommend me anything as long as it wasn’t overtly floral, and that’s when she handed me a test strip of Gourmand Coquin. When I passed it to my sister for her opinion, she laughed and declared simply: “It’s dessert!”

Dessert is certainly the main talking point of this delicious confection of a fragrance. Gourmand Coquin will be too sweet for some people. However, Guerlain lists black pepper as a top note here, and for good reason. I detect, not necessarily a spiciness, but a stinging quality to this opening (it reads more gingery than peppery to me, but that’s only my perception). This dessert has a bite to it, and it means business.

My initial thought was that this is a linear composition. After the drama of the stinging opening, it settles into a dark chocolate laced with vanilla liqueur that is very enticing, but didn’t seem to evolve on my skin. After more sampling and testing while out and about, I think I was a little short-sighted. Gourmand Coquin has fantastic staying power. I’ve worn it during the day, at night, out to dinner (where, by the way, the foodie smell did not compete in a negative way with the food), and it has lasted enough so that I still detect it faintly on my sheets the next morning.

But I have to revise my opinion that it doesn’t develop or evolve. I’ve found that sometimes, I’ll smell my wrist and get deep, dark chocolate. Other times, it’s iced gingerbread. Then it’s crème brulée. It’s sensual, sometimes deeply sexy, and other times simply delightfully smooth. The coquin of the name is apt, as this fragrance flirts relentlessly with your skin chemistry, and your perceptions and desires. It’s haunting, conjuring phantom ideas in the most real way.

The artistry of Gourmand Coquin is that it gives the impression of sweetness and richness, but in perfectly controlled proportion. In wearing this, you don’t smell like a literal slice of chocolate cake. Rather, it gives the impression of sitting in a bakery, sipping un café au lait, while that chocolate cake and all the other delicious treats you can imagine are cooling from the oven. It is amazing that such a carefully controlled composition can produce something that evokes such imagination.

I know that Guerlain’s Elixir Charnel line, with its youthful cotton candy pink and purple juices, has been met with extremely mixed reviews. And the steep price of this line can be difficult to justify, especially if you’d prefer to add more classic Guerlains to your collection instead. But, Gourmand Coquin is uniquely intoxicating and imaginative. It is the ultimate gourmand for me at the moment. If you find it works for you, there is nothing else quite like it.

Gourmand Coquin is part of the exclusive Les Elixirs Charnels collection. It is available at select Guerlain counters, and online from Saks. I obtained my sample from The Posh Peasant.
The image is from fragrantica, while info on fragrance notes is from Guerlain’s official site.

Hello!

Hello, all!

It’s true, I’m adding yet another perfume blog to the mix here. You might be thinking Do we really need one more person writing about perfume? All I can say is, taste in perfume is about as subjective as it gets, due in large part to that maddening, finicky, mercurial, wonderful thing called skin chemistry. Thanks to skin chemistry perfume rarely smells the same on different people, and I know the same perfume smells differently on me on depending on what I’m doing or where I am. So, with this in mind, I’m hoping to offer a new perspective and a new voice to the perfume discussion.

Instead of doing a full review of anything just yet, I thought I’d start off by naming a few of my favorite scents to give an idea of my tastes. In general, I shy away from heavy florals and I gravitate towards spice.

  •  Diptyque; Eau Duelle My go-to daytime fragrance. I can’t get enough of the peppery topnote or the boozy, frankincense-laced drydown. For an EDT, I get exceptional wear time out of this (about 10 hours) which makes it great for long days at the office.
  • Caron; Poivre My dressy going-out scent. Seriously, give me any type of pepper in my fragrance and I’m happy, but Caron’s version is my current favorite. I said I usually don’t go for florals, but I live for the way the pepper and clove blend with the carnation in this elegant fragrance.
  • Serge Lutens; Five O’Clock au Gingembre My seasonal favorite. I think of this as christmas in a bottle, and wear it all throughout December. I find that nothing is more comforting than the smell of baking gingerbread but, being a Serge Lutens, this fragrance is also as chic as ever.
  • Guerlain; Jicky My all-time favorite. Jicky is sometimes temperamental and difficult to love. It’s definitely not right for every occasion, but thankfully there are those rare and treasured moments when nothing except Jicky will do.

I’m currently attempting to come to grips with Miller Harris’s L’Air de Rien, so expect a write-up of that coming soon!

I appreciate your patience as I work on getting everything set up around here. Thanks for reading!

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