Maybe once in a decade, Guerlain releases a new gent's cologne which is to become the basis of their revenues. After its successful introduction, flankers usually follow over the years, extending the range of the original style to further directions of smell. Unlike the freedom one may find in niche perfumery, a fragrance like L'homme Idéal must be spot on. Missing the spirit of time or the audience's taste would be a disaster.
With this in mind, I admire the courage to go for a sweetish oriental as a follow up of the warm and woody Guerlain Homme. Like its predecessor, L'homme Idéal is all about base notes. But as it is the case with many excellent Guerlain perfumes, you fail if you try to describe the fragrance along the published scent notes. All I can say is that a typical Guerlain tonka gets transferred by dark and warm, maybe also slightly herbal notes into a very unique sweetish accord. Denominations like almond accord or Amaretto can roughly describe its style but should not be taken too literally.
L'homme Idéal does not create a fragrance sensation that points to an outer experience. No dark forests, green meadows, salty sea air or the like will appear in the imagination. Instead, L'homme Idéal points back to the personality and, of course, the body of the wearer itself. With modest warmth it is aiming to enhance physical presence and attraction. I being that way, L'homme Idéal is exactly in line with its predecessor. Perfumes like these are stylish in a way that a perfectly fitting suit can be regarded as stylish: slightly underlining the appearance of the wearer without giving too much statement of its own.
A whole group of mainstream perfumes nowadays try to achieve this effect by dimming down the strength of the fragrance to be more an aura rather then a scent. I appreciate this approach but with L'homme Idéal, this kind of smell reduction was not necessary. In a way, L'homme Idéal is both expressive and understated. Incorporating such contradicting aspects into one perfume is brilliant.
I perceive L'homme Idéal as an incredibly young fragrance. Expressive, sweetish orientals are generally the taste of teenage boys. At a certain age, one can eat a whole bag of candies without the slightest hint of nausea. In full awareness of this context, the industry has launched numerous very affordable sweetish, strong colognes aimed at the young audience. Just mention this to school teachers, and see how they will roll their eyes!
With its sweetness, L'homme Idéal docks onto fragrance and taste experiences we may remember from teenage years. But the whole topic is dealt with on another, much more mature and refined level. L'homme Idéal can be a kind of accelerator that provides access to the world of adult perfumery for the young. A young man used to affordable orientals may want to buy L'homme Idéal along with his first suit, and wear both at the wedding of his mate.
I think it is worth considering if a perfume that is to attract the young in return also emanates juvenile attraction in the perception of the old.
Be that as it may - men who long outgrew teenage smelling and eating habits can still use L'homme Idéal and regard themselves as age-properly dressed. Maybe it is time to leave the vetivers, the chypres and all the other beautiful oldster frags behind...
I very much like Thierry Wasser's and Guerlain's approach. Although driven by commercial interests, he is doing the same as we try to do with our perfume reviews: arousing interest in perfume beginners for high quality perfumes.
They can if they want to!
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