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Bombay Duck London

Guerlain Idylle (Eau de Toilette)

Proper, gorgeous, glamorous, grown-up, full-bodied fragrances are what Guerlain is celebrated for – and mostly, that’s what they deliver. Creations which are born, not of marketing-speak or focus groups, but because a genius perfumer, playing at his organ of essential oils and distillations, has come up with something perfect – and decided OK, it’s time to bottle it.

Of course, even in Guerlain’s case there have been a few exceptions.  I actually went off and cried at the launch of Champs Elysées (at Paris’s L’Orangerie) when the late Philippe Guerlain stood on stage, shortly after the fragrance house’s acquisition by LVMH, and spoke completely uncharacteristically of ‘market share’ and the need to attract ‘a younger audience’.  My only consolation was how much more it must have hurt this scion of the Guerlain dynasty even than it did a Guerlainophile like me. (In fact, there were two consolations:  the invited diners got a private view of Monet’s unbelievably exquisite water lily mural in L’Orangerie’s basement, a room which positively vibrates with emotion, and which everyone should see – and feel – in their lifetime.  I went downstairs from what, at the time, felt like the funeral for the Guerlain I’d known and loved, and had a quiet Monet moment.  Complete with hankie.)

Obvious ‘marketing’ is not what I want from my Guerlain.  I want richesse. I want splendour.  I want the sacred art of perfumery in its highest form (which Guerlain for centuries was synonymous with), not nods to a bottom line, or ‘mood boards’.  And with Idylle Eau de Toilette – a sparkling variation on the Idylle theme from the Guerlain’s super-talented in-house nose Thierry Wasser, I’ve got it:  a fragrance in the finest Guerlain tradition, with a splash of Guerlinade (Guerlain’s unique, closely-guarded secret accord) as an extravagant flourish at its heart, as distinctive as a signature with a quill pen, or a hot dark red wax seal with the initial ‘G’ pressed so distinctively into its surface. Apparently, Thierry reworked the Guerlinade for this, which sounds like sacrilege – but it certainly smells totally true to the original, to me, perhaps just turbo-charged a little.  Frankly, if the Guerlinade was a precious diamond engagement ring, well, in this it’s a diamond engagement ring given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton.

This eau de toilette is a triumphant floral – and unlike most eaux, which are just watered-down versions of the original, it’s a whole new you-shall-go-to-the-ball game:  a floralissimo, packed with fabulous roses, with dewy peony and jasmine, that over-the-top exotic white flower ylang-ylang, plus plenty of muguet.  If you love Diorissimo, you could happily have an affair on the side with Idylle, enjoying great waves of lily-of-the-valley-a-go-go, after a minute or two.  Actually, there’s precious little foreplay with this:  the knockout blooms are right there, from the first spritzing.  But it also has that so-sophisticated quality of a chypre running through it like a tinkling rill, with a cool green side to balance the outrageous opulence of the florals.  NB  The astonishingly beautiful floral displays that Guerlain organised for this fragrance launch conjured up the fragrance so perfectly, The Scent Critic has departed from my usual bottle shot to feature one of them here – beside the very, very clever and very, very charming (and very blessed to have landed at Guerlain) Mr. Wasser himself.

What I would say is that on my (albeit currently rather salt-dried) skin, the eau doesn’t have tremendous staying power – three hours or so, at best, though with the flowers lingering through to the last.   But to be honest, that relatively brief lifespan just gives a delicious excuse to drench myself in Idylle again.  And each time, I find myself just revelling in the Guerlain-iness of it.  Part of a wonderful rebirth, as this legendary fragrance house is entrusted into the hands of Thierry Wasser, Jean-Paul Guerlain’s anointed successor.

I, for one, can’t wait to get my nostrils quivering over whatever Thierry comes up with next – but meanwhile I will enjoy an idyll with Idylle.  Actually, this exquisite eau de toilette just makes me want to throw a party in its honour, with stiff white engraved invitations, exquisite canapés, a harpist,  the French windows thrown open to a view over Paris – cue The Scent Critic, wafting in from stage left to join the gathering, enveloped in a positive nebula of Idylle and clad in haute couture.  Well, maybe that’s taking things a little far, but I think you get the picture:  I Heart Idylle Eau de Toilette.  Beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup.

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