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.