Which Woman Are You Tonight?

Before I forget –August 30 is the cutoff date for registering online for the Chi-Cocoa Scentsation. I think we have 35ish people!!! It’s gonna be fun. I think we’re getting a bunch of swag from the stores, plus our bottle swap, plus the afterparty… I can’t wait to meet some of you.

Also, Vogue in September has an interesting article about having a passion for stinky foods (durian, ripe cheeses, fermented fish), which you might want to check out from the skanky smell perspective, and Denyse has done another great post on stink.

* * *

Today we feature most of the PR blitz for Guerlain´s new LE at Bergdorf, Les Elixirs Charnels. My comments are at the end. Put your seatbelt on, and here we go. It’s LONG. Try to speed-read it without missing the, uh, flavor.


Which woman are you tonight?

Guerlain has always celebrated femininity in the most audacious ways. Now, with a new collection of three deliciously deviant Eaux de Parfum, the perfumer breaks the rules and fires the imagination once again.

LES ELIXIRS CHARNELS, created by Christine Nagel and Sylvaine Delacourte, evoke the desires of a woman who loves to play with different personalities, the better to surprise and to seduce.


“A creature of Sizzlin (sic) Sensuality” – ORIENTAL BRà›LANT

“I just love it. I love it when I become that unpredictable and compelling creature, sure of myself, and sure too that he will instantly satisfy my every whim. No words are needed, one sign says it all. That´s how it begins.

I hold his gaze in mine, stroke his cheek with the back of my hand, then slowly slide it down his neck. He is hypnotized, transfixed. He knows he is in my power, follows meekly wherever I lead. I put my hand to my throat to give him a little of my essence, then I start again. Capturing the ELIXIR CHARNEL, my skin becomes the scented seal of my call to love.

This silent prelude already simmers with a sensuality that is instantly perceptible in my fragrance. An oriental, naturally, vibrant as an embrace. Full and warm, it is irresistibly addictive with vanilla and tonka bean. At the same time, storax imparts an intensely animal quality, creating an aura as seductive as my feline form stretched out on the bed. Throughout the composition, contrasts and surprises fuse voluptuously, while – thanks to a touch of white almond – the Elixir also has the softness of my palm when I decide suddenly to come over all tender with him.

If my fragrance had a colour, it would be the colour of the blood that rushes to your cheeks and throbs in your temples. A deep, dark red, the symbol of an intense desire and a passion of which you can never have enough.

“A Femme Fatale” – CHYPRE FATAL

He has been watching me sleep for a long time. I can sense it. He has had my body, but not the most secret part of me, my ELIXIR CHARNEL. The two of us are but one: the visible and the invisible, the tangible and the intangible, the deceptively innocent milky white of my skin on which I unveil my fragrance. The scent of an extremely elegant and innately rebellious woman, if you believe what people say about me. An icon of absolute seduction, like those legendary creatures who will forever inhabit the collective imagination.

As he contemplates my curves in the moonlight, he breathes in the Elixir that I have left on my shirt. He loves to feel it change, from one minute to the next, as he bends over me. It is a fruity chypre with an intense aura, composed silently to announce my presence and to impress my image on the memories of others. Around a hieratic rose to which patchouli brings its spicy, woody overtones, vanilla and white peach sensually soften the harmony.

I always open my collar to put more fragrance on my décolletage. Playing with the appearance of a strict suit, I can thus arouse passion with the mere glimpse of a curve unconstrained by the artifice of lace. That is what people prosaically call “the fire beneath the ice” of Hitchcock heroines. Fascinating women who are never completely won.

In a few hours from now, I will leave without a word. As always, he will watch me put more ELIXIR CHARNEL on the scented cotton, and he will not try to make me stay. He knows there´s no point. Will I be back? Maybe. Or maybe not.

“A Charming Childlike Woman” – GOURMAND COQUIN

The moment I like best? When I tie my scarf around my neck before going to meet him. I let the silk become suffused with ELIXIR CHARNEL, the essence of a deliciously mischievous woman.

He cannot resist my childlike charms. Especially when I snuggle up to him like a kitten before sliding between the sheets for a not so restful siesta.

It´s time to play my favourite game, the one where I blindfold him and drop onto his skin a sprinkling of black peppercorns and a trickle of chocolate. Those are two of the notes of my fragrance – a sexy and very feminine gourmet composition. A dash of rum, and the spice and cocoa bean become quite intoxicating.There´s also a rose harmony with voluptuous overtones of vanilla.

He knows my smell, but he always forgets the names of the ingredients. That makes me laugh, but of course I never tell him, so his senses can discover them through these tantalizing olfactory riddles.

I curl up beside him once again, and this time I tie the scarf around his wrist to show that he belongs to me.

We drift off vaguely into sleep, but I know he is keeping one eye open. And quite right he is too! After all, I might awake at any time, ready to tempt him with new discoveries.”

* * *

Did you make it through? Wow, huh? So, let´s all towel off and grab ourselves something restorative to drink, and discuss.

1) Who did they write this for, and why? I mean, bless them, are the folks at the Guerlain counter supposed to pass this on to the consumers? Or is stuff like this written to keep the owners´ relatives employed while driving me slowly insane?

2) And charnel is the French word for carnal, fine, but I had to look that up. Does that make me dimwitted, or did you figure that out on your own? If you didn´t, did the word instead conjure up (as it did for me) a charnel house, i.e., a place of death, and/or where they keep the bones? Does that bother anyone besides me, or am I shamefully Anglocentric in my thinking?

3) Two of the three of these are gourmand, and twenty bucks says they smell pretty much like the last few gourmandy releases from Guerlain. Let´s dump them all in a vat and call them Plus Que La Pluie Ganache. Another ten bucks says the “intensely animal quality” in Oriental Brulant will be mostly undetectable to the human nose, because that would funk up the scented seal of the call to love of which you can never have enough.

4) Sizzlin sensuality aside, it is hard to pick the most startling lines from this. I think “the softness of my palm when I decide suddenly to come over all tender with him” sounds deliciously porny. “He has been watching me sleep for a long time. I can sense it. He has had my body, but not the most secret part of me, my ELIXIR CHARNEL…” sounds simultaneously creepily stalker-ish, vaguely obscene and kind of hilariously wack. On the third hand, there´s the Charming Childlike Woman, whose favorite games involve blindfolds, pepper and chocolate – as opposed to Boggle or Old Maid, I guess. “He cannot resist my childlike charms. Especially when I snuggle up to him like a kitten before sliding between the sheets for a not so restful siesta.”

5) For anyone who is now getting irritated, thinking I´m smirking about the as-translated-from-the-French quality – I am not. It´s the whole over-the-top fever dream aspect that astounds me. How do you say I need some hip waders and a bigger shovel in French?

6) HIERATIC? Oh, for Pete´s sake. What, it had better flow than sacerdotal? They couldn’t work in gnosis? Or chthonic? Or maybe they were meaning it in the Egyptian sense, I don’t know.

Which woman am I tonight? I am the woman who finds all this a bit befuddling. I think: 180 years of perfumery and we have come to this? Multiple pages of white noise, just so much soft perfume porn that feels like it would smell if it were written on dryer sheets? I am the Guerlain house whore – and yet, I am bored with these games of chocolate and blindfolds. Will I be back? As they say in the ad for Chypre Fatal … maybe. Maybe not.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Kristy for extracting the bottle photo from my pdf file so I could load it in here!

  • RHM says:

    I’ve smelled & tested all three of the Elixir Charnel long before I read any of the ad copy.
    I did not care for any of them, nor will I be purchasing any of them.
    I am not impressed with the copy, it tells me very little about the fragrance, nor does it inspire me to do anything but roll my eyes & worry about the direction of a once grand fragrance house.

  • GGS says:

    Yes. Thank you. Well-said.

    (I see I wasn’t the only one that pictured a *mammal* seal when reading that line!)

  • Kathryn says:

    Well, yes, in French Carnal Flower would be Fleur Charnelle. My point, evidently badly made, was that Malle (or whoever) had managed not to mangle French and English into some weird Franglish that makes little sense in either language. We agree that would be silly.

    But the use of the French name in the Guerlain copy still seems….strange. Considering that charnel has a disturbing alternate meaning in English, it just seems tone deaf to write something like “Capturing the ELIXIR CHARNEL, my skin becomes the scented seal of my call to love.” And it verges on the hilarious if one pauses to think that “seal” also has an alternate meaning in English, that of “large aquatic mammal.” There are just so many things that are odd about this. It may be good French, but it’s certainly bad English.

  • Bela says:

    Carnal Flower is an *English* name composed of two English words: it would have been moronic of Frédéric Malle (or whomever) to call that perfume Flower Charnel, i.e. one English noun + one French adjective. Only Miller Harris and a couple of other silly people would do that.

    Elixirs Charnels is a *French* name made up of two French words. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

  • Kathryn says:

    Oh, the identity politics of perfume! I just got an email from Estee Lauder with the subject line “Are you an Idealist or a Perfectionist?” What does that, compared to the Guerlain Elixirs ads, tell us about the difference in American and French concepts of who women are?

    Well, maybe that’s overstating it. There is that very refined questionnaire on the Frederic Malle website attempting to match your personality with their perfumes. I’m glad Malle had the wit to call his perfume Carnal, not Charnel, Flower. (That was one of the matches they came up with for me.) Whew, provincial French-bashing narrowly avoided.

    But at the very least, the Guerlain perfume porn and other perfume identity marketing does say something about the audience the corporate perfumers are trying to reach. In the case of the Guerlain Elixirs, it strikes me that the marketing must be aimed at men, and specifically those with fantasy lives that are far more extensive than their actual relationships with real women. Pretty sad, but it’s so over the top that it’s funny, too.

    And on the topic of over the top, Rizzo in Grease and the Madame in Moll Flanders (mentioned by allabouteve above) were both played by Stockard Channing, who went to Harvard/Radcliffe as history and literature major. I think her performances in those roles demonstrate that it’s possible to play at being bawdy without being completely oafish. Really, the worst thing about the Guerlain ad copy is not so much that it fooled around with sex role stereotypes, but that it did so in such a truly stupid way.

    • March says:

      I am still pretty baffled by all that claptrap. First off, who (besides us, having a laugh on a perfume blog) would slog through that nonsense? I assume they’re emailing it out, but not actually trying to present it to innocent customers in the store. Of course in the development of a fragrance you come up with a narrative, but this still doesn’t make sense to me. It will probably sell out pretty quickly, though, and they sound inoffensive. The fragrance, not the verbiage. 😉

      • Louise says:

        Wanna sneak into BG with me (Divalano, you in?), maybe in drag, and check out what the very nice SAs at Guerlain are really saying about the Carnals b-)?

  • Bela says:

    Re. 2) This is what I’ve just written on MUA. It’s relevant here too:

    Since the original name of the series is in French, it’s up to Anglophones to get over the fact that the word sounds like something distasteful in English. It can’t be helped: ‘charnel’ means ‘carnal’ in French, and *nothing else*. It has no mass-grave connection. As we know, any word in any language can have a bad or hilarious meaning in another. So what? It’s impossible to take into account *all* the ignorant or dirty-minded people out there.

    My advice is to learn some French and stop being so squeamish.

    • MJ says:

      I know French – but I think in my native language (English) first and foremost. Not in French, Chinese or Japanese. So maybe Guerlain needs to suck it up and realize that names may, or may not, go over well internationally? Sounds like they have or don’t care.

      • March says:

        I’m voting: b) don’t care. Carmencanada said it does sound pretty fetching in French, so my assumption is they just decided to run with it.

    • GalileosDaughter says:

      My advice to Guerlain is: you’re an international company.Do a little research like all other
      multinationals. The plain meaning of charnel in English is associated with a house where bones are kept. Has nothing to do with ignorance or dirty minds. It’s the plain meaning.
      English is spoken in one of their largest markets, heck if not their *largest* market. They should have known the meaning. Either *they* were ignorant, or were of a mind where they did not care.

      I’m not saying don’t use French words–they are lovely. And of course Americans should learn other languages: Spanish, Italian, Chinese and French to name a few.

      But, a little research would have indicated this problem to Guerlain. Either they:
      1) didn’t do the research or
      2) did do the research and didn’t care or
      3) did do the research, did care, and cynically thought that it might be good for “shock value,” publicity, whatever.

      • Bela says:

        Once again, the name Elixirs Charnels is in French, not in English. It sounds very good in French (‘charnel’ is a rather sexy word). That is all that matters. It doesn’t have to sound anything in English or in any other language. As I said, it’s up to non French-speaking people to get ‘au fait’ with the meaning of ‘charnel’ in French and realize that they have no reason to be shocked or whatever by it.

        Now, Miller Harris et al., who use a mixture of French adjectives with English nouns and vice versa without any kind of regard for correct grammar – that is something to be het up about. But no one does b/c once again no one actually knows what’s wrong with those perfume names. Ignorance is no excuse.

        • Louise says:

          Your lectures become tiresome, particularly in light of the fact that you commit grammatical “sins” in English at times. Notice that many other French speakers who read this blog are not bothering to comment. Guelain does it wishes, the scents will be interesting or not, charnel implications aside.

      • March says:

        It’s unlikely that someone at Guerlain was unaware of the English meaning; it’s not that unusual a word. So my guess is, they were delighted enough with the French meaning they decided to ignore how odd it would sound in English.

  • sarasotagirl says:

    *lights cigarette*

  • allabouteve says:

    Wow.How ridiculous for Guerlain.I just saw a movie called “Moll Flanders” (Robin Wright,Morgan Freeman..)yesterday and this could have been written by the Madame (how’s that actress called that was Rizzo in “Grease”??)who was teaching Moll how wonderful it is to control a man only with the force of her body…I mean, hellooooo…we’ve moved on something like a century since then..this is nooooot the way to make us buy this stuff!!(I admit,it made me laugh, that’s true..but that’s it!)
    Talking about Guerlain..why is it that limited editions like Spirituese Double Vanille are so hard to get here in Europe?Are they only sold in the Guerlain boutique in Paris and in..maybe Bergdorf Goodman??And why does it seem that special things (even if I’m not willing to buy it)like these are first released over there in the States?I had a look at the Guerlain website..nothing.

    • March says:

      The Guerlain website is useless for that stuff. And I think the highest level of exclusivity pretty much confines the releases to the Bergdorf boutique in NY, and their flagship in Paris. That’s it. I know these are in Paris now because Carmencanada smelled them. FYI — it’s not entirely clear to me that these are actually *available* for sniffing (i.e., testers) in NY now, just that you could order them. For $250 a pop. And … no thanks!

  • minette says:

    yes, but how do they smell?

    leave this sort of purple prose to people like me please, guerlain! i love writing in the guise of the perfume. it’s great fun. but i’m not selling them.


  • gina says:

    omg I really just want to throw up.

  • GGS says:

    Bless you March, I was laughing out loud throughout the post and the comments. My husband had to stop what he was reading to come over and see what was so funny. I couldn’t wait to read him the one about the peppercorns and chocolate. For some reason he wasn’t bowled over with desire! But he did think it was funny.

    He knows my smell, but he always forgets the names of the ingredients.

    HA HA HA

    Let’s call them the ‘Fumes of Death.

    • March says:

      I keep giggling about “he always forgets the ingredients.” Like the scent games we play with our husbands — what’s this smell like? And they guess … rose? Leather? Sweet?

  • dissed says:

    Initial reaction: Huh? Say WHAT?

    My vote goes to Suffering Bastard.

    • March says:

      We all suffered a little with this one, didn’t we? PS I am not making that drink up. My dad used to order them all the time at their favorite local joint, the Polynesian … I seem to recall the Fog Cutter as well. Man, I would kill to go back to that place.

  • Jemimagold says:

    All I can say is that I literally got *shivers* (and not in a good way) running up my back reading that horrid ad copy. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was an April Fool’s Joke, in August.

    • March says:

      When I was first reading it, I confess it took a minute or two to sink in. Then the bs detector redlined, and I thought: hmmmm, this would be a really great post.

  • Kim says:

    Well, I’d like the bottles if they made the labels sleeker rather than quasi goth/romantic. And the prose – enough to make me not want to bother smelling them. What is Guerlain thinking? If they are trying to go mass market, do they really think that the masses are going to read that much material before buying a perfuem? I barely read my cell phone directions!

    • March says:

      Ah, the rebel, refusing to read directions! Then perhaps Chypre Fatal is the best for you, because it is, and I quote, “the scent of an extremely elegant and innately rebellious woman.”

  • Cait says:

    Ohh, still battling nausea after reading that shite. These seem so uninspired, too. From Guerlain? The grand perfumer? No mystique, no ideas, just retrograde ad copy from hell? If this is the future of perfumery then I guess I can stay in the wilderness debt free.

  • Robin says:

    I’ll admit it — I always start in “skim” mode, so it took me a few good seconds to understand that this wasn’t something hilarious you wrote up over a few good drinks. Regardless, it’s the best laugh I’ve had all week, so huge thanks! I love that the bottles match the Harlequin prose.

    • March says:

      You’re welcome. I wish I’d had it as a stellar example to crib from for the Prix Eaux Faux … although this is on a quasi-pro level.

      You and I always enjoy a good gripe about a bottle. I didn’t even bother for this one given all the other material, but don’t you find them … a little cheesy? Trying to decide why. Is it the dreaded cap again? Like, they were trying to take away the visual impact, or pretend they’re crystal, but you can feel the plastic in your hand? The spray mechanism is ugly, IMO. And that froufrou label makes me think of Jessica Simpson Fancy, which is probably not what they were hoping for.

      • Robin says:

        M, the cap looks cheap, but it’s definitely those metallic labels that provide the bodice-ripper romance touch. Yes, just like JS Fancy — pink satin sheets & all. Honestly, this is all ridiculous. I’ve defended the advertising for Guerlain Homme because it all strikes me as funny & tongue-in-cheek, and while tongue-in-cheek isn’t what we expect from Guerlain, whatever. This, however! I mean really.

        How much are these things, anyway? Because if they’re ultra-expensive, that will give me my 2nd best laugh of the week.

  • Elle says:

    OH. MY. GOD. Thank heavens I didn’t read this directly after having lunch. WHO the h*ll wrote it? They should be forced to post their picture alongside it. And who put their stamp of approval on it? Unbelievable! They want self respecting, grown up women to fork over $200 or more dollars for scents w/ this sort of ad copy? OK, I may indeed love one of the scents (I’ve heard good things about the chypre), but I am definitely going to have to try to erase the memory of this copy from my mind. Oh, and aren’t they introducing them in NY first? If so, then you’d think they would indeed be a little more aware of the “charnel” associations.

    • Debbie says:

      Yes, it was my thought that the advertising firm ought to be let go. I wonder who approved this at the highest level? They all need an attitude adjustment. I sincerely hope this isn’t the shade of things to come thanks to LVMH. I hope even more that the scents aren’t as stupid as the prose.

    • March says:

      Ma petite fromage … you do not want to be the charming, childlike woman? Stamping your dainty feet like the lioness who turns to the kitty between the sheets, in wanton preparation for the not-so-restful siesta?

      I can not get enough of the siesta kitty. Lord. Laughed all day, though. Uh, you’re right, thinking they’re not worth the money. I wish I had some of those drugs, though.

      PS And Carmencanada is going to review, but her teaser reply to me up there was a noncommital “meh.” She used “marzipan piggies.” So, thinking I am spot on about #1.

  • Disteza says:

    Which woman am I tonight? I am the unimpressed, apathetic woman who is not only unmoved, but swirls amongst her intense desire to mock such bad prose and her child-like confusion at why Guerlain feels the need to turn to porny bloviation. #-o

    I also got the connotation of charnel=death, even though I know charnel=carnal in French. I was, frankly, disenchanted with the whole thing. I mean, this is freaking Guerlain! Why are they bothering with all the copy? Are the new frags really that bad/boring? On an aside, didn’t LMVH or one of it’s lookalikes acquire Guerlain?

    • March says:

      I think the bottles are a little cheesy looking, and for brevity’s sake I deleted the annoying paragraph about the fabulousness of the bottles. So there you are.

      I have to say, though, today’s commentary has been loads of fun. 😡

      • Disteza says:

        OMG–they thought THOSE bottles were fabulous? I can’t get over the candy-colored juice inside of them either. It looks like something a 12-yr old girl would buy to match her bedspread!
        At least the L’Art line had some freaking self respect, even if the perfumes were a little on the pedestrian side of pretty. One hopes that the effort and artistry was all dedicated to the making of the ‘fumes; they sure didn’t seem to throw much talent at the marketing or packaging.

        • March says:

          Yes, the Matiere bottles at least said “you can’t afford me” when you looked at them. (Maybe they hissed it.) These are goofy. They remind me of Lancome on a bad day.

  • sybil says:

    I figured charnel meant something different in French, but yeah, the slaughterhouse association was rattling around in the back of my head when I read this…along w/ “she’s pretty proud of herself, isn’t she?” The whole thing is just full of obnoxious. Didn’t they have anyone proofread it, in any language? This is not sexy!

    • March says:

      They didn’t proofread too closely, given the giant typos. And no, I certainly couldn’t have done any better, given that I speak no French. But certainly someone was paid to do this, and they could have done better. But only a little better, because assuming that’s more or less what it said in French, it’s pretty awful. /:)

  • violetnoir says:

    I usually have something to say, but all that tussling between the sheets palaver has left me depleted. I think you summed it up quite nicely for all of us, March!

    This proves the point that truth is always stranger than fiction.


    • March says:

      With the peppercorns! And the chocolate! Aren’t you just MAD?!? “Hey, what did you get all over the %*)%@*#) sheets?!?!” That’s how I’d feel about it. But maybe that’s all part of the not-so-restful siesta.

  • PlaysbyScent says:

    ‘Charnel’ certainly brings back memories of the Black Death and narrow streets reeking with foul stenches, doesn’t it? 8-x Although I don’t like the word ‘carnal’ all that much more in English anyway, it’s up there with ’intercourse’ for sucking all the fun right out of hanky-panky. “Will the defendant please answer the question – do you or do you not have carnal knowledge of that woman?”

    I’m not sure where the pepper is going to end up, but if you thought sand in your bathing suit was bad… Anybody else worried she’s going to inadvertently come up with the recipe for gunpowder?

    I rather enjoyed the gormless statement ‘…he always forgets the names of the ingredients.’ Ethylene glycol monophenyl ether, ethylene glycol diacetate, propanoic acid; methyl anthranilate, isosafrole – poor guy. I have the same problem.

    I could forgive the stilted translation but still found it painful and uncomfortable to read. I wonder if it might have been a little more palatable told in the third person rather than the first? All that me-me-me is terribly in-your-face and sounds like bragging; third person allows the reader to insert themselves into the scene without some egotistical drama queen having got there first. ‘…unpredictable and compelling creature…as seductive as my feline form…the softness of my palm…milky white of my skin…my childlike charms…a deliciously mischievous woman…I can thus arouse passion with the mere glimpse of a curve unconstrained by the artifice of lace…scent of an extremely elegant and innately rebellious woman., if you believe what people say about me…’ Oh gawd, just die already.

    • March says:

      Hahahhaha!!! I thought the “always forgets the name of the ingredients” thing was hilarious because it was a cross-cultural translation of: men are such clueless dopes. But you’ve made it funnier in a different way.

      Wow, I should send those guys a check, I have had so much fun with the post today!

      I wrote a really terrible first novel back in the day, all in the first person, back when the earth’s crust was first cooling and (as it turned out) that first-person perspective was the kiss of death. You’re right, it only makes things more AWK-WARD.

  • Aparatchick says:

    They nearly lost me at “mischievious gourmet fragrance for a childlike woman,” but I soldiered on.

    I thought this must be like the Dark-and-Stormy-Night Bulwer-Lytton bad writing contest, in which people actually try to write a stupendously bad opening sentence.

    Crypt-Keeper Porn, indeed!

    • March says:

      Love your moniker. 😡 I will admit the childlike-woman thing annoys me all out of proportion, as the mother of three girls that the American Marketing Machine is always trying to turn into tiny pole dancers.

  • Denise says:

    I didn’t make it through; I kept giggling. I hope no one is reading these at work! Can’t tell if I would be interested in these; I keep going back up to look for notes and then getting distracted by the images of a scented seal and a woman with a handful of peppercorns in one hand and a squeeze bottle of Hershey’s syrup in the other. Baffling.

  • Melissa says:

    Argh! I have this hideous image of an elegantly dressed Jacques Guerlain holding the arm of some grand dame who has just allowed him to place a few drops of one of these exquisite new creations on her wrist. And then he rather haughtily exclaims “Madame, he will not be able to resist your childlike charms. Especially when you snuggle up to him like a kitten before sliding between the sheets for a not so restful siesta.”

    Yes, Rick (above) is correct. The patriarchs are rockin’ their graves as we speak.

    • March says:

      Yes, YES!!! THANK YOU!!! On the sales floor! To some immaculately dressed woman… it’s beautiful. Does she slap him, or just turn on her lovely heels and go?

  • Patty says:

    Didn’t you and Lee and me write something along these lines as a joke this year? Do you think they’re, um… stealing! from us? 🙂

    I’ll reserve judgment on the scents until I sniff them and just ignore this overripe prose. Lord.

    • March says:

      Carmencanada is going to review them, she just had a sniff. She used the words “marzipan piggy.” What’s that doing for you?

      Well, these guys are pros. Ours was good, but this was amazing.

  • MJ says:

    I thought charnel house too. The copy reads like submissions for one of those Worst Romance Story contests, or the Bulwer-Lytton Prize.

    • March says:

      They just did the new Bulwer-Lytton, it was awesome. Local guy. Writes for Mervis Diamond Importers. It was something about NEw York — love, taxis and manhole covers with escaping steam.

  • tmp00 says:

    well, my least French class was in college and I doubt I could ask for the bathroom so that “Charnel” has got some negative associations for me. I don’t quite see why they went with it, frankly. Malle changed “French Lover” just to be taken seriously and Buick had to change the name of the LaCrosse in Canada when they learned it was slang for self-pleasure.

    I don’t know; the “eau s’abbatoir” aspect to the name is almost as goofy as the prony prose…

    • March says:

      No?!?!? It’s slang for self-pleasure? LaCrosse? Quick, someone, put it in French for me! Je veux à la crosse? Is that it?!?

      Yeah, but they changed French Lover to Thunder Wood, didn’t they? Why not go with ‘Stache Pornstar? 😕

  • Jerky Judith says:

    Hmmmm. . . If you are “dimwitted,” I am an idiot: although I theoretically know French, my speed-reading brain saw “Charnel” as “Chanel.” So I wondered why your comments (which I read more slowly) kept mentioning Guerlain!8-| Oh, well. I am sorta interested in Chypre Fatal.

    I am really sad that I won’t be able to make it to Chicago. I was trying to arrange things so I could go, but I just buried under week. Will miss you. . .and all the fun>:(

    • March says:

      Wah, I will miss you! I was hoping you would come, but I know this is not the best time for you.

      I don’t know. Guerlain Chanel has a certain ring to it …. classy-sounding. Wonder if the Chanel suits would have an issue with it? 😕

  • barbara says:

    okay-I feel pimped…didn’t someone buy Guerlain in the last few years??Someone who forgot their history of elegance?Porn(er, girl romance) sells- will it sell parfum, is the question? Anyone smell this stuff??I guess the new wave is to psyche us out-don’t you want to BE these women???LOL

    • March says:

      Carmen up there has smelled it.

      The earth, she did not move. Carmen was not feeling like whipping out the peppercorns and chocolate sauce in celebration… 😉

      • carmencanada says:

        No, she is now craving any number of desserts, but not as spread on French lovers… French lovers are not to be had this season, the rain she has fallen too hard on the apricot trees (OK, maybe the stuff, she *is* having an effect on my brain).

        • March says:

          Yes, yes she is having an effect on your brain. 😉

          And moi? I am always craving any number of desserts. I am shamelessly addicted to anything custard-y, chocolate, and those macaron things, which pretty much makes Paris Sin City for me.

  • Debbie says:

    “He has been watching me sleep for a long time. I can sense it. He has had my body, but not the most secret part of me, my ELIXIR CHARNEL…” sounds simultaneously creepily stalker-ish,”

    It is creepy as h***. And yes, “charnel” absolutely makes me think of guts hanging around, etc., like an Ed Gein find or something. Too gross for words.

    It could win the fake ad contest in a heartbeat. Who writes ad approves this stuff? Guerlain is not Walmart fragrance to be pimped.

    People were complaining about an ad for some Homme fragrance that showed wonderful animals, including a hot guy, drinking from a watering hole. That one was tongue-in-cheek, absolutely charming from the animals, and the guy was sexy. In contrast, the picture painted by these words…..eewww.

    • March says:

      Oh, I have to go to YouTube. I want to see the hot guy drinking from the watering hole, I am all for it.

      You are seconding me on the creepy stalker aspect.

  • Billy D says:

    I actually laughed out loud at this:

    “He has had my body, but not the most secret part of me, my ELIXIR CHARNEL…”

    Mostly because I imagine some woman screaming out those last two words in faux ecstacy. What the hell is her carnal elixir??

    • Louise says:

      Now, Billy, imagination is called for here 😮 🙂

    • March says:

      Argh, yes, isn’t that the way it always is? Men desperately trying to figure out where the damn ELIXIR CHARNEL is … I love its quasi-dirty secret code sound.

      • Billy D says:

        Hey now, I could argue that women have just as much trouble coaxing out the ELIXIR CHARNEL from men as well. Luckily (or fatefully), I have never been tasked with um…encountering that most feminine of fluids, so at least I have an excuse.

        Guerlain better have something up its sleeve for the holiday season that doesn’t involve a $1,000 limited edition gold-plated bottle, a set of scents limited to an edition of 25 at $5,000, or a crappy mainstream offering. As it is, these look exceptionally boring, not to mention hard to find, and Guerlain pour Homme or whatever it is, the one with the green lion, is tanking with critics as well. Give us something to loooove.

        • March says:

          Dude, I totally know how to tap the Elixir Charnel. Although it’s not a scent I necessarily want to wear around on a regular basis … hey, do you think this entire post w/commentary will wind up in everyone’s spam filter, or are we being coy enough?

          The LE platform irritates me in general. Associated with this kind of perfume, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise? 😕

  • Louise says:

    I opened the email with these descriptions in between classes, hoping that dear Jason at BG was maybe offering some samples 🙂 Wrong /:)

    My first thought was that my 10th graders who have significant learning and language disabilities might have written better PurpleProse soft erotica. Hey, maybe we’ll use that as an assignment? :d/

    Then I guffawed. I think I lost all interest in the Elixirs, even before reading the notes, which seem either :-& or |-).

    The names of the individual perfumes are also awkward…Chypre Fatal just sounds moribund, Gourmand Coquin is sorta “flirty pudding”, and Oriental Brulant begs the question “who/what is burning?” . The bottles look blah, these are “exclusive” at what 100 bottles per perfume, and the cost? $-) No thanky!

    • March says:

      Thanks for your critique. That’s part of what I was wondering — would this sound any better if you read/said it in French, by someone who speaks the language? I think Carnal Elixir has a certain ring, but if it’s really Burning Oriental, that’s just … weird.

      I bet your students could do a better job too. And I am not sure I even saw the price mentioned?

      • Louise says:

        Maybe Flaming Oriental would work better :p ?

        • March says:

          Now I’m visualizing Mongolian BBQ on Wisconsin Ave… with one of those big ridiculous drinks, a Zombie or a Suffering Bastard…

          • Melissa says:

            No, no, wait! Forget Flaming Oriental! How about Elixir Charnal Suffering Bastard? How’s this for copy?

            He is hypnotized, transfixed. He knows he is in my power, follows meekly wherever I lead. I put my hand to my throat to give him a little of my essence, then I start again. Capturing the ELIXIR CHARNEL, Suffering Bastard….

          • Louise says:

            Brilliant :d/ ! Gag me with a chopstick :-&

          • March says:

            Wow, that was beautiful. They should hire you.

          • Melissa says:

            Nah, just a little creative editing. But if I had a day or two to spare, I could write one heck of a nauseating perfume romance novel.

  • GalileosDaughter says:

    I immediately thought of charnel in the English meaning as well. Not good at all. Then to have this ridiculous copy…I cringe at what Guerlain has become. Are there no adults in charge over there any more?

    Plus Que La Pluie Ganache. Please don’t give them any ideas! Let’s all just pretend that the thought never occurred to anyone, please, and maybe it will all go away.

    • March says:

      What does that mean, anyway? I meant to try to translate it. More than the rain ganache? Huh. Has a certain je ne sais quois. 😉

      There are no adults over here either. OTOH nobody’s compensating our brilliance.

  • trinity says:

    Yes, the ad copy is pure dribble. But, has anyone SMELLED them yet? For God’s sake, this is GUERLAIN we’re talking ’bout. I can forgive anything if the juice is good.

    I think they need to hire a new advertising firm ASAP though!!

    • March says:

      Okay, okay, I haven’t SMELLED them. Busted. And I could poke fun back at myself and say, hey, maybe you should smell them. I think they are only in NYC (not sure if they are actually there yet) but they are very limited in quantity and distribution.

  • Shelley says:

    Ha! “Crypt-Keeper” porn (from Masha, above) is good…and helps explain “charnel.”

    Yes, March, I too came up with the Anglo-sense of charnel on that one. Was a bit “huh?” at first. But I’ve been simmering with Denyce’s discussion of skank for the past two days, and therefore entered a ‘ah, death, the ultimate forbidden scent’ approach to it all.

    Somebody in marketing is wondering while all those bloggers aren’t eating this up…aren’t they into this kind of stuff?

    • March says:

      Well, yes — that’s another way to go, the “forbidden scent” route. But then I feel like the ad copy should be different, this is too flirty for that. I’d like to see Guerlain work the death angle. 😕

  • Olfacta says:

    “FumePorn.” That’s a good one. The next sound you will hear is me putting my finger down my throat…

    Ok I feel better now.

    Years ago Harlequin had a “hot romance” line. Nice to see that some of those writers got lucrative copywriting jobs from Guerlain!

    • March says:

      Guerlain Hot Romance.

      Has a certain ring, no? Hey, if Givenchy can do Hot Couture…

      I think they should hire me. 8-|

  • Rick says:

    My initial reaction to this was the same as yours, March – a very awkward translation from the French, with its weird cadences and gnarly phrasing. But that doesn’t excuse the content, which reads like a parody collectively whipped together by a jaded crew of put-upon copywriters. “My skin becomes the scented seal of my call to love” is some kind of classic – I keep imagining Tori Amos trying to sell that line over a run of pounding chords. But the line that really stopped me in my tracks was our wily narratrix’s tossing peppercorns on her amour and topping them off with a drizzle of chocolate. I’m guessing that the original French must have implied a vixenish twist of the peppermill kept conveniently at bedside, but, in this version of the standard Lap It Up, Drive Him Wild scenario, you can’t help but picturing the Charming Childlike Woman discreetly trying to pluck the peppercorns from between her teeth, which sort of undermines her little coup de théâtre.

    Oh, Guerlain, Guerlain. . .several patriarchs must be turning in their graves. Interestingly enough, Malle was going to call Carnal Flower Fleur Charnelle, but worried that it was too similar to Tubereuse Criminelle.

    • March says:

      Oh, yes — the peppercorns! Now there’s one of those perfect touches, funny in the way you described — one of those “hmmmmm, lost in translation?” moments. As a writer/editor you would be sure to appreciate this in all its … florid glory.

      I picture her discreetly trying to spit the peppercorns out over the side of the bed like watermelon seeds. SEXXX-AY! 😉

      Charnelle sounds like soft toilet paper to me, but at least I would not immediately have come up with Death. And I agree with Malle that the idiot non-French would have mixed them up.

  • MattS says:

    Yikes. I had to stop reading and just skim down to your comments; I was cringing. I was embarrassed to be a human being. So what the hell is this stuff supposed to smell like? Your choice of pic to go with this crap was perfect ‘cuz it sure doesn’t seem like it was written anytime recently.

    • March says:

      I tried to put in a photo of the bottle but can’t figure out how to release it from the PDF format. :”> It’s pretty but not stunning. I am sure I will be trying the juice at some point, I still want to, cringe-worthy text aside.

  • Erin T says:

    Forgot to say, though: Christine Nagel! Usually, she’s kick A! Maybe I can still have hope, a secret, sizzlin hope….

    • March says:

      Hey, I have (insert favorite hilarious porny phrase from the above Guerlain text) for these too. Maybe they will be great, or at least one of them — groups of three make me nervous. How bout all that energy into one juice?

  • Erin T says:

    I was reading Mary Roach’s new book on sex this evening – don’t miss her previous first book on death, “Stiff” – and so have already had that rare pleasure, literally barking aloud with laughter at something on the page. Your first point made me do it again. I did not guffaw during the actual ad copy itself, because I was so astounded and baffled. I think it was the mental image of the SAs handing this out to someone that finally woke me from my stunned state and gave me the belly laugh. Thank you so much.

    Agree with the second point, too. The name just seems doomed over here before you even add in all the pseudo-erotic backstory. (And I won’t be able to wear the oriental now, reminded as I am of an infamous family anecdote where my brother spilled his gigantic Coke at a Sizzler steak house, after my father had warned him about ten times not to do it, and my father swept the whole flood off the table into my brother’s lap. I am a creature of associations.)

    • March says:

      Ha! Distracted by your Coke story … the stuff of which family lore is built. And I love those laugh out louds… shall we drag up Mating again in an effort to get people to read it?!? LOL, everyone! 😉

    • Debbie says:

      So your Dad expected to be listened to? Sounds like something that would’ve happened in our house. Ah, the memories.

      • Erin T says:

        He has quite a long fuse, actually, my dad, but when he blows, he goes very red and you expect to see steam come out of his ears. To his eternal credit, he has never ever spanked or hit us, but there is usually a rage-induced physical feat of some sort (redirecting of the Coke seas, heaving of an impossibly heavy gas lawnmower, or the instant shredding into microscopic pieces of a wool sweater, for example.)

  • Masha says:

    Crypt-Keeper Porn! I love it! I didn’t know Guerlain had gone all Goth. Does BPAL know they’ve got serious competition? 😉
    OK, they’re French, but English is now the primary global language and every company that has translations into English needs to hire a NATIVE SPEAKER! This reminds me of how the Chevy Nova never sold in Latin America, and finally, the marketing folks “discovered” that in Spanish, No-va means “No Go”.
    I’m afraid these new perfumes sound like a Nova!

    • March says:

      I almost put the Nova in here as an example! And I know perfume companies occasionally release a fragrance with two different names — Malle (inexplicably) had French Lover overseas and something dull here that translated to Thunder Wood (giggle). Bois something. I guess they thought American men wouldn’t wear French Lover? But it’s such a great name!

      Anyway, they could have gotten away with Elixir Carnal, that works nicely.

      The fancier Guerlains, at least recently, have names I try and fail to memorize. Quand Vient La Pluie, for example, which is probably wrong. :”>

      • Existentialist says:

        …but American men *will* wear something called “Thunder Wood”?

        • March says:

          Sure, why not Thunder Wood? 8-| I think that’s the eye-batting emoticon.

          Okay, it’s in French. So it’s Bois … something. Bois d’Orage? We Americans would have no idea what that means anyway. Repeat after me: “BOYZ DORAGE” rhymes with porridge…

          • Emmy says:

            Have you considered doing a pronounciation guide for those of us who have no idea how to pronounce 3/4 of the names of perfume? Also is there anyone from Seattle who can make some recommendations for someone completely new to perfume to go for education or who wouldn’t mind taking this eager but clueless neophyte by the hand?

    • Debbie says:

      “Crypt-Keeper Porn”? BWAHAHAHAHA! Wow, you nailed it.

    • Wordbird says:

      Got to say this ad’s copywriting smells like a a big pile of MR2 – another infelicitously named car that is called an ‘Em Arr Two’ in English, but in France is pronounced ‘Em Air Deux’ or ‘merde’, which is dung.

  • carmencanada says:

    Uh…ok. Somehow, this reminds me of the erotic short stories that are given away every week in August with the purchase of the French Elle (or were: I don’t buy it any more). Soft pornish *pour femme*. Except that the Elle stories are written by real writers.
    Seems like a lot of trouble to sell the scents: also seems like someone came up with the idea of “we don’t have the budget for tv ads, we’ll just tell’em the story anyway”.
    Sex scenes (even when just alluding-to-sex scenes) are the toughest thing to pull off for a writer. When that translates into the “every word must be given the go-ahead by marketing”, on top of the writer’s own trite fantasies, unwittingly revealed, you get this sort of Pablum. What would be hilarious is if this had been focus-grouped. Could you imagine the scene?
    I’m willing to think something was lost in translation, but still.
    You do have a good point about “charnel”, it’s a beautiful, evocative word in French but a very infelicitous choice in English. I thought it would be translated too on the bottles…

    And thanks for the link to my blog. The discussion going on there has been lively and scarily literate!

    • March says:

      I can’t get past the mental imagery of the SAs actually trying to USE this stuff. Whipping out their PR materials in front of the immaculately groomed Bergdorf ladies who lunch and launching into a reading … I think the response would be bafflement or offense, I cannot decide which.

      I do think Charnel should have been translated for the English speaking audience. It is not a hugely common word, but I would imagine many fragrance fans would recognize it and find it disturbing.

      You are welcome for the link! I am afraid to comment, though. :”>

      • carmencanada says:

        And why, pray, would you be afraid to comment, o queen of skank?
        I’ve just come back from the Guerlain Champs Elysée store. The SAs haven’t had their training yet, the testers just go it yesterday. My reviews are pending further sniffage, but, no, I can’t picture the affable and dignified Guerlain staff launching into that purple prose, be it in French, ze language of l’amour…

        • March says:

          I keep reminding myself (paraphrasing here) of your great phrase re: flirting in Paris, along the lines of: a way to a woman’s panties is through her brain, or some such. Relating to my wonderment at the philosophical discussions young post-college men were having with me when I was in that fair city …. believe me, this does NOT happen in the U.S. The thought that they might actually be *flirting* made it more appealing, not less — I guess being in your 40s doesn’t put you in the might-as-well-be-dead sexual category there… wait, where was I?

          I’ll sound like a goober — “yeah, I love me some SKANK!” compared to the erudition of some of your commenters.

          • March says:

            PS Whoops — hit save too soon — I am looking forward to your reviews! Give me a hint … do they break any new ground? Can you smell the Intensely Animal Quality in Brulant? (whimpers at the possibility of Guerlain skank)

          • carmencanada says:

            Do they hit new ground? Nah. And the animal must have been one of those little pink marzipan piggies.

          • March says:

            Wait … the *anal glands* of the marzipan pig. :@)

          • Existentialist says:

            Coming into this late to say … ewwwww…
            Seriously (ha) this is so freakin’ funny, my eyes are watering. “We drift off vaguely into sleep” alone is worth the price of admission.

          • March says:

            Sorry. :d And thanks for pointing that out, I’d overlooked that little gem when I was buried up to my neck in all the rest of it. Vaguely, indeed.

    • Louise says:

      CC–your blog is always exceptional, the skank posts (and comments) truly outstanding ^:)^

      • carmencanada says:

        I must say I’m pretty proud of having fostered that discussion… Those posts are actually part of an ongoing book project, that’s why they’re a little less topical and a little more philosophical.

  • Catherine says:

    Okay, let’s just say…. This is Harlequin *bull-crap.* I’d have some serious reservations. Come on–this is the land of *France*, not that there are complications about feminine sexuality and what it means. But this American (who’s left two French fiancés…ummm, no I am not going to make generalizations…okay, I’ll try not as I research the French phrase for shovel the romance sh-t) is really *(&^$&^W!!!

    Second, dear March, you are not just an Anglophile. I see Charnel and think of death and sex combined (is this my French theoretical/philosophical reading coming through? *chagrin* in the case of Guerlain–shame on you–or chagrin at my faux American education–reader decides). By all bias aside, I do wonder how it reads in the French language–is the subjunctive going on? Does this make a difference? **Call for the Francophiles (fluent French speakers-not me!) amongst us!** I’m just saying…Kilian’s excess seems tame in comparison! And he was SO taken to task…

    I’m a woman who needs a good rose I can wear from Guerlain! That’s who I am!

    • March says:

      I am assuming it reads marginally less awkwardly in French, because I do think 10% of the problem is translation. But I think it captures the essence of the bs accord… check out carmencanada’s feedback below, she speaks French.

      PS I am not the queen of rose, but certainly Nahema has its fans.

  • Cheezwiz says:

    I tried, I really tried, but it’s impossible to make it through any of those without cracking up, or at least rolling your eyes. Prix Faux winners. Except it’s REAL ad copy! b-(

    • March says:

      I admit to extensive giggling, mitigated by one small part of my mind that wouldn’t stop fixating on “charnel.” Yeah … that would have won the Prix, dontcha think?