The Allegoricals

“Their heads are green
and their hands are blue
and they went to sea in a sieve.”

The Aqua Allegoria series really was among the best launches that the venerable firm of Guerlain ever had.  The releases addressed a demographic issue with the older, grander, perfumes,  which were on average too complicated, too heavy, too rich, for the  young buyer.  How were these young consumers, lacking an insistent Guerlain wearing Maman, to learn which of the great classics they could wear?  The answer was that they should meet the Guerlain  great-grandchildren lounging on the corner (or at Sephora), bumming cigarettes and moaning that their “weekend était épouvantable.”

The first five of the Aqua Allegorias also marked a change in Guerlain’s usual practice of perfecting an already existing idea.  They were innovative. The first five  from 1999, were quite fascinating, and everyone knows at least one or another of them: Pamplelune, Rosa Magnifica, Lavande Velours, Herba Fresca, and Ylang et Vanille.  Although they were attributed to Jean Paul Guerlain, there was a lot of speculation that the composer of these scents was his protégée Mathilde Laurent.  Two of them, Herba Fresca and Pamplelune are still in production.

It was a smart move because, of course, there are Guerlain collectors out there, and just as someone else’s life is not complete without a full set of the California Raisin action figures, from Post cereal boxes circa 1990, so other people cannot stand to see another Guerlain tiptoe past them, un-bought.

Also, it put Guerlains within reach financially of people who might have been- otherwise- too poor or too young to have aspired to them, but most of all, it was smart because it got the young consumer accustomed to that sterling Guerlain quality, without the attendant Guerlain complexity. Here, at last, were democratic Guerlains.  Guerlains that everyone could understand.

At any rate, that was probably the original idea.  Time passed, stuff happened, and now the Allegorias are a very hit or miss bunch.  Myself, I tend to ignore them. The formulas have ceased to smell innovative to me, and the number of naturals in them has steadily diminished. Dommage.

Back in the day (around 1999), you got an interesting mix of naturals and synthetics.  Pamplelune was a strange grapefruit cassis little thing, and a lot of fun.  If it didn’t turn to sulfur on you, Pamplelune was great.

Ylang et Vanille smelled like Terracotta Voile d’Ete, there was more ylang ylang in it than the Terracotta carnation, but it was close, and had a kind of heavenly face cream smell.

Lavande Velours came near to being my favorite of the lot.  It was a study in purple, being principally a lavender violet bouquet with a pretty iris dry down.  You smelled the stuff they had been putting in Jicky since forever as well as the purple half of the Attrappe Coeur formula.

Rosa Magnifica I owned, and it was a strange perfume, because it gave the impression of being a rose soliflore.  Actually, Rosa was a floral aldehyde, which explains why I couldn’t figure out the soft fuzzy opening of the fragrance. (Pretty pathetic, I know.) It segued into lilies of the valley, and in that sense was about 2/3 of Bellodgia, minus the Caron carnations. It was terrifically pretty and ladylike though.

Herba Fresca, the other enduring hit from the first bunch, was a tribute to the green glories of tea, clover and mint.  Principally I got mint from it and whatever must have been the clover.  A front lawn at dawn after being mowed, was my mental image, and it has done well with buyers ever since its introduction.

After those first few releases the series had its up and its downs. In the next post,  the Allegories of the Oughties, the highs the lows, and the number of Allegorias which sank and those that swam out of the limited edition sieves in which Guerlain launched them.

Be Sociable, Share!

9 thoughts on “The Allegoricals

    1. Bet you would like Rosa Magnifica, although wait a sec…do you like rose or not? Can’t remember, but anyhow, it is floral aldehyde, and more refined, than your average rose. I liked it better than Sa Majeste la Rose, and Tea Rose, more than some of the Rosines. It is a little green too, courtesy Lily of the valley.

        1. Had Sa Majeste and sold it, because of the too strong green apple note in there, still think you might like Rosa Mag. Eet eez discontinued – but of course! This eez Guerlain, and just because the public like somzing eez no reason to keep on making eet!

          1. I was just over on Facebook having a conversation with some other fumeheads on our favorite Guerlains – and with that huuuuge catalog of fragrances, I can still only come up with seven I really like. Okay, I did like Terracotta Voile d’Ete too, but I continued to be annoyed by the way it went on like this FABBO burst of carnationy-ylangy-nilla and then went all (whisper whisper). Grr. So I sold it. Buh-BYE.

            And I do really like that Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique, not least because it is a big ol’ dumb buncha flowers that made my husband trail me all over the house. But is it worth $300 a bottle? No, it is not.

            I only have a decant of Apres l’Ondee, and I was thinking about buying a bottle when I heard that it had had the heliotrope refo’ed out of it.

            I like Vega very very much. I might like it a bit better than No. 5, even, but since I have The Stunning Vintage Bottle of 1950s No. 5 Extrait (1 oz, less than a ml gone, $36 SHIPPED), I can’t justify buying Vega at $325.

            I have two minis of Pamplelune. I would own more, but Moschino Funny! pretty much does everything Pamplelune does, but with tea too, and at about the same cost for 100ml that a Pamplelune mini costs.

            Attrape-Coeur is gone. So is my decant. Sigh.

            Chamade is still good in any concentration I’ve ever tried, any age.

            Shalimar Light is gone, too. You know why I love that one so much? It is nearly a dead ringer for vinty Emeraude, except with more lemon and vanilla. I have three bottles of SL, and when it is gone I will weep and mourn. And then I will go buy more 1970s Emeraude parfum de toilette.

            BAsically, what I think I am saying here (with a bit of vitriol) is that Guerlain thinks they’re All That – but they’re not. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

          2. The favorite Guerlains! Now there’s a topic for you. Doesn’t everyone shoot up their hands and go, “Ooh, Ooh! Mitsouko!”
            Gotta love the masculines, though. In fact, I make no distinctions here, and wear Mouchoir de Monsieur which is just Jicky with poor personal hygiene. My thinking is oddly similar to yours. Shalimar Light (and there are bottles out there, by the by) is close to Emeraude, and so is Mouchoir de Monsieur, which is kind of like SL but a soap-dodging version, so to speak. I wear both. If I want to smell more orangey, I go with Habit Rouge. If I want woods, I wear Vetiver. (What!? Elle MacPherson did the same!)

            Of the newer ones, well, lemmesee now, hm. Bois d’Armenie, that was nice, Oriental Brulant is uncomplicated fun with vanilla and amber, but what amber! What vanilla! I digress though, and Derby is really very like Parure. I like Liu myself, and I liked the LE Guerlinade, a lilac scent, very charming. Also in the Guerlain does Guerlain genre, Plus Que Jamais. Or as the company SA said, when I mispronounced the name of my Guerlain, “Non Madame C’Est PLUSSS Que Jamais! Parfum suberb!” Well, pardonez moi all to Heck! We had reached the outer perimeter of my French.

  1. Haven’t found an AA that works on me yet, but then I haven’t really sought them out either. Pamplelune was a definite no, as well as the widely praised new Lys Soleia – that darn floral phenomenon again. Now, if they released something spicy, or woodsy, I’d be all over that! The bee bottles are so pretty.

    1. Yep, you could try Herba Fresca, but there’s also the Anisia Bella (licoricy) or there’s Gentiana (alpine flowers and woods).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *