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Bombay Duck London

Guerlain L'Abeille

So:  this is the £12,000 fragrance that The Scent Critic has been hinting at.  What you’re looking at pictured here, however, is actually a big bee and a tiny bottle (no more than two inches high) – because even The Scent Critic’s persuasive powers couldn’t get Guerlain to part with one of the exclusive Baccarat flacons containing L’Abeille, their most expensive fragrance incarnation in history.

However, The Scent Critic will be ekeing out her teensy trial size for as long as possible, because this splendid fragrance is – appropriately enough, for a scent created around honey – just utterly scrumptious.  It’s got all the usual Guerlain trademarks:  rich, intense, armfuls of flowers, excellent staying-power and an impressive sillage.  It is also like the overture to spring:  airy, almost breezy at first, with a hint of mown grass:  that joyful head-rush when you first get the Flymo out of the shed.  Very appropriate for this moment, when glimpses of blue sky are more frequently, the birds are waking up earlier, and you can almost see the narcissi growing.

While it may start airily, however, after just a few minutes L’Abeille de Guerlain magically becomes as sophisicated as a black tie gala at L’Opéra.  As a couture show (front row, next to Anna Wintour).  As an opulent Louix XIV gilded overmantel, groaning with engraved invitations.

And yet, and yet, what sets this deliciously apart is that throughout, there remains something totally fete champêtre about L’Abeille:  it’s also summer sunshine, champagne picnics laid out on rugs in a meadow – yes, to a humming soundtrack of bees who are lazily feasting on wildflower pollen, getting drunk on nectar.  L’Abeille truly is liberally drizzled throughout with honeyed warmth and sweetness:  a true honey scent, not waxy – just like opening a jar of acacia honey, and breathing in.

There is jasmine.  And mimosa, that carefree South of France note.  Lilac, with its powderiness, and a whisper of iris.  And lots of neroli, the fragrance ingredient du jour, which is somehow the ‘greenest’ of all the white flowers, in The Scent Critic’s opinion.  A squeeze of juicy peach, too – not the so-last-season cliché we’ve seen so much of lately, but with the delicate touch you can enjoy in its Guerlain stablemate Mitsouko, along with vanilla (ditto).  This isn’t a negative, but there’s a soapiness, too – like the most expensive, luxurious bar of soap you’ve ever been given, which you’re keeping for ‘best’ among your Sabbia Rosa silk lingerie. (Though not in the least derivative, I’m also reminded, oh-so-slightly, of Hermès’s 24 Faubourg, which is as sophisticated and refined as a scent gets, frankly.)  Base notes?  I’m not really getting them.  Just honey.  Enduring, heavenly honey.  And more honey…  Though unlike honey itself, it is never sickly.

L’Abeille de Guerlain is yet another Guerlain creation by Thierry Wasser (I worship that man more with every new fragrance that emerges from his imagination), and it is as perfectly balanced as a tightroper.  (You know:  the one who strung his line between the Twin Towers.)  It’s dazzling, and divine, and – well, flawless.

What makes this limited edition so very special isn’t just the scent:  it’s the bottle (see below for Guerlain’s official photo).  Just 46 numbered bottles have been produced worldwide, each crafted from Baccarat crystal-winged, diamond-faceted bottle which cradles the amber liquid in its ‘bee’ body.  (In the UK, Harrods has the exclusive.)  It’s a nod, of course, to the bee’s role in Guerlain’s heritage:  the Napoleonic symbol which has been used to decorate bottles since the emperor proclaimed the fragrance house official perfumer to the Imperial court.  Gold bees decorate the fabulous bottles that can be refilled from the ‘Imperial Fountain’ at La Maison Guerlain, on the Champs-Elysée.  And bees have been enlisted, too, for Guerlain’s most recent skincare launches – also (slightly confusingly) called ‘Abeille Royale’, which features royal jelly.

The sheikh’s wives and princesses who get their hands on this very precious £12,000 bee are privileged indeed:  it really is the bee’s knees.  Personally, I may weep a little when I reach the last drop on my Borrower-sized bottle, and that is no exaggeration.  (With such a tiny spray, I have my hankie at the ready:  it ain’t going to take long.)

Because L’Abeille is nectar of the gods – or rather, of the goddesses – indeed.

PS  At time of writing, The Scent Critic is slightly perturbed to see that a honey ad is appearing on this blog.  Entirely coincidental.  Or maybe just eerie.



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