*FIFTY SHADES OF GUERLAIN
(1889, Aimè Guerlain)
-golden forest brown-
Modern (c. 2012) extrait review
I have reviewed hundreds of fragrances and own in excess of a thousand; yet, no other scent has confounded me as much while managing to enrapture me so completely. Please bear with me as I attempt to translate something so utterly iconic and sublime as Jicky using only the written word...
I felt as if I was looking down the wrong end of the proverbial microscope, attempting to review and experience such a legendary and revered perfume as Jicky having only a decanted sample of the most recent extract version (read: "post-IFRA's most stringent guidelines and more than a decade after the LVMH takeover") with which to plumb the depths of Aimè Guerlain's late 19th century masterpiece. Yes, I know, that word gets bandied about a bit; yet if any scent ever deserved that appellation-it's Jicky, even this almost holographic representation is no less amazing and still has its Guerlain glimmer!
To put this perfume in an historical perspective, it was released right in the middle of the Belle Èpoque era (1871-1914) in Europe, corresponding to the Gilded Age in the US. The Eiffel Tower was unveiled (many scorned it calling it gauche and unsightly). Van Gogh painted "Starry Night". The Moulin Rouge was open for business and Gustav Mahler premiered his first symphony. Baudelaire, Gaugin, Matisse, Bernard, Toulouse-Lautrec and a very young Picasso frequented Paris nightlife and salons. Pierre-François had passed away twenty-five years earlier leaving the Guerlain legacy to his two sons: Aimè becoming a second generation Master Perfumer and Gabriel *father of Jacques* running and expanding the business. The Age of the Machine was dawning and as exciting as that was, folks were a little skeptical of anything "un-natural".
Guerlain was a pioneer and Jicky broke many a mold. It is touted as the first "emotive" perfume (not single note or place specific). This fragrance was not the first to use synthetics (Houbigant used coumarin in Fougère Royale 6 years earlier) but Aimè was the first perfumer daring enough to combine more than one synthetic (coumarin, ethyl-vanillin and linalool) into a blend of natural essences; thus its title of first "modern" perfume. Allegedly, it is also the first fragrance to be called "perfume", as opposed to eau de cologne I would imagine(?). He crafted Fleurs d'Italie (1884), Skine (1885) and Rococo (1887) beforehand and Excellence (1890), Belle-France (1892) and his dual swan songs of Capricime alongside his generational ode to cologne Eau de Cologne du Coq in 1894 afterwards; however Jicky is, in my humble opinion, his magnum opus.
Without intending to (or perhaps he DID) M. Guerlain conceived and created a very androgynous unisex perfume. Supposedly, this was released for women, but was later adopted by men, ultimately being favored by both genders. One myth states prostitutes wore it because it left a very masculine trace and trail (not the more feminine scents usually worn by courtesans) lingering on their (presumably married) clients.
Then, just as now, many people fear what they do not understand...and Jicky remains perplexing on many levels. It was not initially received well (many said it "smelled like feet!" in 1889) and I am sure the *still* visionary fusion of a classic fougère structure being adorned with sophisticated flowers dusted with a subtle mélange of oriental notes then drenched by an overdose of civet musk left many inquisitive sniffers with wrinkled noses; no doubt shaking their heads and reaching for their snuff tins.
Many call this perfume "schizophrenic". I disagree wholeheartedly. There must be a "schism" (break) for that to be true and Jicky is anything but fractured or confused. The reaction of modern people has been a bit insane; as I have gotten the STRANGEST range of comments while wearing Jicky for the last few days (trying to wrap both my nose and brain around it). Everything from "you smell awe-some!" to (Sherapop's aforementioned) "spice cake" accord to my partner's declaration that one of the most majestic fragrances ever created reeked of "offal...with burnt hair on top"! Moral of the story: TRY BEFORE YOU BUY...because Jicky doesn't come cheap! *see links below*
An immediate vaporous warmth surrounded me as a lemon-dominated blend of citruses add lift to gradually unfurling herbal accords and the aroma of savory spices. Its true fougère nature is apparent as velvet lavender opens in the heart giving this a classic appeal with rustic undertones. The inviting charm of the opening draws you, like a bouncing and bright will-o-the-wisp, guiding you into a half-lit forest dense with fertile soil, cool greens and heady blooms wafting through humid air tinged with muskiness. A beguiling creature appears from the underbrush, each and every movement graceful while gliding between the trunks. It continues prancing and laughing with a blend of innocent joy and mature wisdom though each and every gesture belies an intimate sensuality and deep connection to the Earth.
This being radiates a masculine strength and rural ruggedness; yet, its obvious gentleness and feminine grace enchants, even as it confounds. Aimè Guerlain used varying degrees of green (orris, linalool and vetiver) to blend seemingly incongruous notes ultimately bridging the gap between "his" (fougère) and "hers" (floriental) with perfumed tendrils who pull the scent together as it expands and evolves.
An exotic balminess remains languorously for hours on skin. Coumarin's sweet breath lingers over vanilla glazed and spice-impregnated wood. Jicky purrs quietly as it caresses you one last time, emitting a (for want of a better term) "fresh funk" that haunts the memory with its beauty, almost as much as its oddness, before fading away into the wee hours a cold frosty night.
Projection on modern Jicky extrait varies greatly, depending on whether it's dabbed or sprayed, and on where it's applied. The longevity (especially on clothing, detectable even days later) is superlative. Sillage is soft, yet it can reappear-stretching and baring its claws a bit-when skin warms. It wore best for me on a drizzly and chill autumn day. Jicky is the perfect scent for such occasions as it has a definite ambience and moody complexity.
Silage: moderate then soft
Longevity: above average
*TIMELESS AND ETERNAL*
Jicky is like the groovy great grandmother perfume surrounded now by her various fresh, oriental and fruity floral progeny. She is still amazing, warm and full of life. Unfortunately, she is not what she once was. Though very much alive she tires quickly and doesn't do quite as much as she used to do. Her very matronly aura commands respect though she is anything but formal, quick to hug with a joke and a smile. Always comfortable with herself and who and what she was, perhaps it is best we choose to remember her how she was in her heyday, full of sass and a total knockout while still being grateful we have her around today. She's still that lady (and always will be) who remembers (though she may claim that she doesn't) sylvan moonlight soirées and dancing barefoot in clothes that smelled of earth, love, smoke and flowers wandering home at dawn; now smiling and humming as she taps her nimble feet and gazes with ancient eyes at a full golden midsummer moon.
Love her or hate her, then or now, Jicky deserves the title of Legend