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Guerlain Idylle Duet

Nobly (in every sense of the word), Catherine Middleton wore a British perfumer’s creation for her wedding – White Gardenia Petals by the ubertalented Michael Boadi – keeping the Union Jack flying in the same steady-handed way as she did with the choice of bubble-and-squeak canapés, the seasonal home-grown flowers, the field maples now destined for a leafy avenue at Highgrove.  But if the new Duchess (or Dude-ess, as I like to think of her) had been looking for a romantic French bouquet, this limited-edition ‘flanker’ to contemporary Guerlain bestseller Idylle would have been parfait.

The ‘Duet’ in the name refers to two elements in the Idylle original that have been ramped up, for this version:  rose, yes, but also Indonesian patchouli.  The patchouli tethers it, as that element characteristically does, without making it heavy or in the least hippie-dippy.  (Patchouli being synonymous, in less able hands, with whisper-of-joss-stick fragrances.  Not that I’ve anything against patchouli:  generally I can’t get enough of it, but it’s as if the characteristic earthiness has been fractionated out of it, here.)

So the hype goes, Thierry Wasser – and The Scent Critic won’t embarrass him any further by prattling on about his gifts – was inspired to create this by Hector Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’Eté– the languid movement entitled ‘La Spectre de la rose,’ I suspect, because this is as full-blown a rose scent as you could hope to dab behind your diamond-earringed lobes.  And it’s certainly utterly classical:  a so-grown-up tumble of jasmine, freesia, lily of the valley and lilac garlanding a rosy heart.

Lashings of lily of the valley, actually.  Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that rather than call this ‘Duet’, it could have become ‘Triplet’ – because at times lily of the valley makes a takeover bid for this, in the most glorious way.  How appropriate, actually, for the lily of the valley ‘moment’ we’re having right now.  Those deceptively powerful little while flowers are romping away in our gardens outside.  And as we’ve all ooh-ed over, lily of the valley dominated the Dude-ess’s bouquet and secured her sassily soignée sister’s Demi-Chignon.  (Nice work, Team Richard Ward.)  In Duet, the lily of the valley amplifies the scent’s greenness, stopping it from becoming headache-ily heady.

Meanwhile that classic chypre co-star patchouli, in case you’ve ever wondered, is actually a member of the mint family, its name derived from a Tamil word – paccilai – which translates simply as ‘green leaf’.  In Victorian times, so fragrance history tells us, patchouli leaves were layered between precious fabrics being exported from India, for its insect repellant properties – particularly paisley shawls.  (A whiff of patchouli on a shawl was apparently a mark of authenticity.)  I’m rather of a mind to spritz this, then, on all my pashminas, which become total clothes-moth-magnets at this time of year.  At best, it’ll keep the little blighters at bay;  at worst, I’ll enjoy being cocooned in Duet-scented softness, after sundown.

Other ‘tweaks’ to this variation-on-Idylle’s-original-theme include tinting the juice amber and presenting the flacon in an Art Deco-decorated bronze magnetic box.  Heretically, The Scent Critic isn’t one for keeping her scents in their boxes (I’m in too much of a hurry to spritz-and-go to fiddle around with origami-ed cardboard), so the packaging is the only part of this fragrance that my eco-conscience is having a little trouble with – as yet unable to find a new use for this very handsome but superfluous-to-requirements ‘outer’…

On my skin, there’s no powderiness and (patchouli notwithstanding), not much of a base.  Instead, it’s all heart – sweet heart notes that stick around for an unusually long time.  Maybe a trace of musk comes through at the end, but this is surprisingly ‘stable’ on my skin:  what I spritz is pretty much what I’m getting several hours later.  And that is not a complaint.

To me, overall, this is an entire warm summer’s evening, squeezed perfectly into a bottle:  white flowers pumping out in the darkness, flares lighting the way to a grand marquee, men crunching along gravel paths with beautiful women on their arms.  The Scent Critic is wallowing in Duet’s elegance and sophistication, happy to add it to my fragrant A-List.

It really is just crying out for a strapless dress and some really high, bejewelled sandals to wear it with.  And personally, I am secretly hoping that although the royal bride chose a perfumer closer to home (and three cheers for that boost to the British fragrance industry), Guerlain Idylle Duet was wafting around somewhere in that elegant congregation or at the wedding dinner knees-up – spritzed onto an aristocratic décolletage, totally bewitching anyone seated nearby.  It surely belonged there.

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