As you know, I hauled a bunch of my less-common stuff downstairs recently for my perfume party, which allowed me to revisit some of the things I never smell, including my bottle of Guerlinade. Back before the Earth’s crust cooled, and pterodactyls soared overhead, and Guerlain still made interesting perfumes… I used to call myself a Guerlain fangirl. I was all over Jicky and Mitsouko, in particular, but had opened my arms wide, embracing the house in general. Okay, with a couple of exceptions. But still.
And so I came to realize that if I was going to be true to my Guerlain-ness I obviously needed to own a bottle of the so-called Guerlinade, right? The heart, the soul, the essence of Guerlain? The only problem was, the bottles were fancy and pretty and it was a discontinued LE, and I kept getting shut out of the bottles on eBay. I think for awhile they sold for $200 – $300, which used to seem like real money. Here, here’s a pic of a bottle that just sold on eBay for $124 and it’s empty. (Hint: there’s a bottle on there right now, UK eBay – 2 days left, no packaging. $16.00? No bids? Have at it.)
Anyhow, having failed to get a bottle, one day I whined to Patty about my streak of bad luck, and she offered to sell me a partial bottle, which almost got confiscated at the airport when she had to do carry-on (she didn’t bring it at the last minute), and how much would that have hurt? A lot. So I got my bottle, and I said: Oh! Hey! So! That’s the Guerlinade! And that was the end of it, because I thought it smelled boring. I put the bottle away.
Anyone who is looking for something with the intensity of Mitsouko, or the animalic exoticism of Mouchoir de Monsieur or Jicky, is going to be disappointed. Conversely, it doesn’t replicate the powdery genteel sweetness of L’Heure Bleue or Apres L’Ondee either. To me Guerlinade is less about some universal Guerlain base than a higher plane, a lofty realm to which, frankly, I wish Guerlain still aspired. Notes are bergamot, rose, jasmine, tonka bean, iris, and vanilla.
Guerlinade starts off with a strong hit of bergamot over the florals – I can really pick out the rooty/powdery qualities of the iris – and as the bergamot falls off the rich vanillic aspects of the base rise up, although it never becomes remotely like something you’d call edible. Although there’s nothing listed in the notes to suggest it, in the middle stretch I get what smells like musk, nothing like the animalic reverb of the Guerlain classics but definitely there on my skin. There’s something — like hay, or suede – in there that creeps out later as well. The drydown on my skin is stronger, drier and less sweet than what I’d expect given the list of notes, and the way it smells when I first put it on.
If you haven’t smelled Guerlinade, I personally wouldn’t kill myself getting ahold of a bottle. And on eBay, anyway, if the outer packaging is there, you’re probably going to be bidding against bottle collectors. But having worn Guerlinade on and off for several days, I moved the bottle out of its display box and onto the shelf of fragrances I actually reach for and wear. It smells elegant and expensive without, in fact, boring me. I have no idea whether Coco Chanel really said elegance is refusal, but something about the luxe yet spare Guerlinade works for me like a single strand of pearls.