Does Guerlain Wear Green?

frog20One of my best friends in high school had a peculiarity.  He detested the color green. Nothing of his could ever be green, not a contrasting thread in a herringbone tweed jacket, not a sock, not a stripe on a shirt, nothing.  Green, he said, was just an ugly color and it didn’t look good on anyone.

Sometimes I think that the grand old House of Guerlain is of much the same opinion.  There are very few green Guerlains.  Citrus Guerlains there are in large numbers, everything from Shalimar to Eau Imperiale, and there are lots of florals, Chamade to Samsara, and equally, a large number of murky Chypres, Mitsouko to Derby, but green is sparsely represented.

Emerald, however, is a favorite of mine and from the beginning, the Guerlains  set with winking green notes, few and far between as they are, have been personal favorites. Vetiver has been an absolute perennial in my wardrobe.  I started by wearing Vetiver Pour Elle – it turned out that I was just as much of a sucker for the nutmeg and tobacco notes in the original as the next Guerlain-o-phile.  I put it on a sachet with clothing packed away for winter, to discourage moths. I spray it in closets for the same effect. I put it in baths or spray it in natural bath salts.  When my Hub had the flu the other week, I even put it in the water I was swabbing him down with.  The process lowered his fever, but I figured so would the vetiver.

In short, I use Guerlain’s Vetiver the way some people use eau de cologne, and for many of the same reasons.

Then there is Chant d’Aromes.  It is, of course, really Ma Griffe.  Jean Paul Guerlain was playing catch up with Carven in the earliest years of his career, which meant first stealing a march on their formidably good Vetiver, and then it meant out-doing their Ma Griffe. The twists of that plot are for another post, but the effect of Chant d’Aromes, when he produced it, was surprising.  The claw sharpening, slightly feral qualities of Ma Griffe, became wonderfully domestic, and purred on the hearth rug under his treatment.

The Chypre became rounder and softer, but with a wonderful slightly abstract windy passage that owes some kind of debt to his previous uses of vetiver in his men’s fragrance, and possibly also to Sous le Vent, which shares that same open air note.  It’s still best expressed in the old parfum, but that is getting very hard to find these days. I wore Chant for years with nothing else to break up the monotony except old Eau de Hadrian in the summers.  Even though the nineties version was drier and more airy, I loved it.  The latest iteration sometimes confuses me, with its soapiness and its peach note.  Chant is altogether less green, and I had to move on.

Since then there have been only a few green Guerlains and they have mostly surfaced in the Aqua Allegoria lines.  Mentafolia was one, too harsh for me. Herba Fresca was another one that I found interesting but not compelling, though it was used again evidently in the flanker Un Air de Samsara, which is said to be both very green and very floral. There was the herbal Anisia Bella, but the most significant green perfume of recent years has been the under remarked Tokyo from their Parfums de Voyage series.

It * is one of the most delicate and refined formulas to come out of Guerlain in recent years.  I’m surprised by how very good it is. I wore it yesterday for some seven hours and in that time Tokyo was sequentially, cherry blossoms, green tea, then violets, cypress wood, and as a dying breath, the famous Guerlain vanilla.  Tokyo was always perfectly legible, always lovely.  It had a light sillage, and was not so faint you couldn’t detect the scent- the great fault of Asian aimed perfumes.  I’m surprised that more people don’t try this.  It is expensive at $US 215 for I believe 75 mls, but every niche firm seems to charge those prices these days and at least here the quality and the longevity of the fragrance justify the expense.

But it seems that the public, like my high school friend, are just not sure about green.  Maybe to them it is an ugly color that doesn’t wear well on anyone.

* Attributed to Jean Paul Guerlain on the M. Guerlain web site.

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14 thoughts on “Does Guerlain Wear Green?

  1. I love my greenies. And perhaps this is the reason that, while there are certain Guerlains I love, I’m not a house aficionado.

    Having said that, I must comment that vetiver does not read as “green” to me. At all. Also, I don’t like it much. My favorite vetiver? Chanel No. 19, in the vintage edt, which you probably know is not much of “a vetiver.”

    Chamade – which I wore yesterday with my spring green cardigan, by the way – seems green to me, but a sort of pale gentle green that shades slowly into golden yellow and from there into the creamy vanilla drydown.

    1. That’s a lovely description of Chamade which does indeed have a graceful ombre fade off into gold.

      Vetiver I didn’t get at first. Like you, I enjoyed No19 and sometimes wore it, but disliked Vetiver. It was wearing the girly version that changed my mind. There are Vetivers I can’t touch with a barge pole because they really go overboard with the note, but I do like the Guerlain.

      With your love of green floral perfumes, I can see how Guerlain might just be too heavy. I know you’re not a Mitsouko fan, and not much for conventional Shalimar either. Have you ever tried the Tokyo? It is quite green and light, though not very sweet. What does it smell like? Kind of like the Ineke Poet’s Jasmine only a better grade of tea and no jasmine. I can’t find out who did it, but it reminds me of some of Annick Menardo’s work which I wrote by mistake, and I cannot find out who did it, although over at M. Guerlain’s website it’s credited to…Jean Paul Guerlain. Okey Dokey.

  2. I love green, the colour that is. However, I have only a couple of go to green frags, and that’s all I need. Being an owl 😉 I love the house of Guerlain exactly for being fabuloriental, it can stay that way.
    On me Chamade is lovely green btw.

    1. I love green too, which is why my high school buddy’s disapprobation sticks with me no doubt.

      And if you are an owl then Guerlain is for you for sure. Pity poor souls like me who have to troll around for the lighter fragrances of the house.

      Chamade is a great favorite. Wish I could wear it, but the Hub always coughs, and basically doesn’t like it. Annoying being married to the one man who dislikes florals. More for you Chamade lovers to enjoy.

      1. No need to pity you I think. Actually, I find the whole cities series quite light- if not all green, did you try some of the others? And the different Muguet versions might be something, even if not exactly cheap or easy to come by.

        1. Yes I did try the cities series, thanks to my favorite Saks SA! I liked Shanghai, London and sort of Moscow, New York reminded me of Delice d’Hiver which was not my favorite Aqua Allegoria. Apart from Tokyo, I would probably take Shanghai myself. Which ones did you like? I understand the big sellers are London and Moscow!
          I’ve heard that the Muguets are quite an interesting line-up in Paris on May 1st outside the flagship store. I have never managed to smell any, but I would go and stand in line just to see who else did. I think I might meet half the PAs working for Russian Oligarchs that way!

          1. Haha, yes, you might indeed.
            I only have small dab vials of several of the cities, but think they rather need spraying, at least on my skin (?) to give them a proper verdict, so I haven’t given them too much attention. However I instantly liked London actually, although outside my usual territory fragrantly speaking. I found it great for summer wear. Yes, I can see what you mean with Winter Delice and NY, I didn’t see that before but kept looking for the spice market and mulled wine, which I didn’t get much of. I did test last years Muguet in the shop ( they do keep it for sale for as long as they still have bottles, so perhaps no need for queing anyway) it was a bit too squeeky green for my taste. If they ever do one with some nice Guerlinade in the dry down, I’d probably hunt it down:-)

          2. Squeaky green muguets? That doesn’t sound as charming as I’d have thought. People say it’s still not competition for vintage Diorissimo, and that’s probably true.
            London wasn’t bad among the cities series, and New York I just didn’t get, why is that New York-ish? Exhaust, eau de garbage, and-in spring- a faint whiff of grass from Central Park that’s what this ex- New Yorker smelled.

  3. I ADORE the colour green. Green perfumes…. not so much. Not at all, if they’re very light green, though oddly I do like the green muguet note. What would you consider Bandit to be? In my mind, it’s murky dark to olive green, due to the galbanum but, while I like fierce perfumes, that’s a little too fierce (and green) for me.

    I think, as an owl, I better stick to my fiery reds, golds and browns. 🙂 But the way you describe Tokyo makes it sound very interesting. I’m afraid I didn’t like Shanghai very much (too white and light), but then, I’m your Evil Scent Twin. 😉 🙂

    1. I think Bandit is such a dark green it is nearly black. One of those really dark green evergreen colors you see in cypress trees!You so right, the Bandit is indeed fierce.

      Tokyo is on the other hand civilized, in the way I imagine Kyoto to be civilized, never having had the privilege of visiting there. Normally I don’t care for tea scents but that one is really good, worth a try at least if you go past a well stocked Guerlain counter.
      Shanghai is pretty, but you’re probably also right in saying you’re my- maybe not so evil- scent twin. I’m guessing that opulent Moscow would suit you better, that one is all luxury, vanilla, musk, plum , jasmine and rubles, lots of rubles!

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  5. I am an owl. Green as color isn’t one of my favorite: for years I haven’t had a single item in my wardrobe in any shade of it. But in the recent years I found some things to like so now I do wear green but in proportion of 1/10 to almost any other color I wear (black, purple and brown of all shades being my favorites).
    I like some green perfumes but haven’t tried yet most of “green” Guerlein perfumes you’ve mentioned. But I’ll get there eventually.
    I liked Shanghai and London as well but they are too expensive for me for that type of a light perfume. I love (and own) Chamade but it’s not green for me/on me at all!

    1. And of course I went and forgot to mention one of the major Guerlain greens that you have gotten around to, Sous le Vent. I think you tried that and weren’t impressed. Next time I go to NYC, which is probably Sniffa, I’ll try it again, but remember SlV as less good than Coty’s Chypre, and less good than NO 19.
      Chamade may be their best sort of green perfume, but it is more gold than green really.

  6. I completely disagree. Guerlain has many ‘green’ fragrances:

    Chant d’Aromes
    Vetiver Pour Elle (though with obvious floral overtones)
    Eau de Guerlain (lemon green)
    Arsene Lupin Dandy
    Vol de Nuit (HUGE galbanum note)
    Sous le Vent (ditto)

    Incidentally, these are my favourite Guerlains (along with Mitsouko).

    There is green, then there is ‘grass’ green like in Bel Respiro – I dislike the latter kind of green, and on the fragrance wheel is on the opposite side relative to the aforementioned fragrances.

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