French Arabia: Guerlain Les Deserts d’Orient – and a winner!

  Before I get started on this review, let me announce the Interlude Man/Interlude Woman winner:  Brooke!  contact me with your deets at my gmail addy:  evilauntieanita and I will get these out to you!


Okay!  On to Arabia!  via France.

There was a bit of groaning and sighing when Guerlain revealed the trio Les Deserts d’Orient, which are aimed primarily at the Middle East market (the script is Arabian on one side of the bottle, French on the other.  The USA is SOL on this one).  Guerlain is French.  That’s it.  Fin.  They make French Perfume (even their  flankers, which I do not like, retain some vestige of French haute perfumery).  There is no need for them to explore any other avenues – certainly not the over-explored notes (cough-oud-cough) we associate with Middle Eastern perfumery.  (n.b. I’m engaging in hyperbole and generalization here, for your reading pleasure.  No one actually said any of this to me – but I heard the muted mutterings, even out here in Cowville!  Don’t deny!)

Well, everybody can relax.  Guerlain has not sold out to the Oud Villains, nor have they abandoned France for the UAE.  Instead, Thierry Wasser has done Just As He Ought:  he has given us a French interpretation of Middle East perfumery, which is the only logical thing to do (if Arabs (or I)  want “pure” Middle Eastern perfumery we will go to a Middle Eastern perfumer).  The opulent Encens Mythique d’Orient, as lush as a Pasha’s bedchamber, has captured my heart completely and will probably capture what’s left of my poor little stash of simoleans, too.   It opens with a lovely ribbon of smoky rose underlaid with the signature vanilla base so indicative of their romantic Orientals – and there’s a little touch of aldehydes in the middle to give it a bit of sparkle.  Encens Mythique d’Orient is a mobius of French and Arab perfumery, as if Shalimar was created by an Arab perfumer for a French queen.  And it has that level of quality I expect in a Guerlain fragrance – a quality I found lacking in Initial and Le Petit Robe Noire (and isn’t there a LPRN2?  what an awful name).   I was confused by the mention of frankincense in the notes because I get none of that silver thread one finds in, say, the early Amouages.  But Helg set me straight in her review – it’s not the frankincense that is driving me wild, it’s the ambergris!  And I thank her for using the words ‘nutty’ and ‘buttery’.  Everyone knows the salty/animalic in ambergris but it’s that elusive buttery nuttiness that grabs me, deep in my core.

Encens is a Statement Perfume, with the confident elegance of a bespoke Oscar de la Renta suit – or Oscar de la Renta himself (Oscar, if you’re reading this, try it.  You’ll like it.  You’re welcome.).  It has presence and sillage (which you would expect from a EU190 scent meant to be worn in the punishing heat of the Middle East) but Thierry Wasser has imbued it with class – without the vulgarity of ‘classy’ – if that makes any sense at all.  But it’s also riiiiiight on the edge, which is what makes it a bit more intriguing – it could almost topple into 80s territory.  You know how we tend to compare new scents to old?  Well, it took me awhile to figure out what this is reminiscent of – and it’s not Shalimar.  It’s Jardins de Bagatelle, a Massive 80s if ever there was one.  In the very early stages Encens is one diamond bracelet away from Big Hair – and it’s that teetering that keeps it interesting for me. About 3 hours into the drydown, the ‘Middle Eastern” aspect starts to evolve – the rose steps back, just a little bit,  and allows a warm incense (frank-incence?) note to slide its way to the forefront.   The 80s vanish and it becomes a contemporary, quality ‘Arabian’ perfume, in the French Manner.   It’s definitely one of those  perfumes that  makes you want to dress to its level.   I’m wearing it now, while I write this review, and I just wrestled my unruly hair into a French twist.  I wish I were in a better dress.  And I need to go put on some lipstick.


There are two others, which I will review anon.  I’ll tell you all about Songe d’un Bois d’Ete and how it saved me during a 3-hour tour with my incontinent father.  See?  Something to look forward to.

Notes (from Surrender to Chance)Encens Mythique d’Orient is smoky with frankincense, rose, amped up with aldehydes.  Ambergris from New Zealand, selected specifically for this perfume by Thierry Wasser, was added for depth, along with aldehydes, frankincense, ambergris, saffron, rose, orange blossom, patchouli, vetiver and moss.

You can sample this at Surrender to Chance.  Many thanks to Patty for letting me whine her into getting them!  Once you sample and fall in love (and you will) you can get them at the Guerlain Boutique(s) in UAE, Belgium and at Harrods in UK.

  • Wow. OK. This sounds so good that I might have to order samples. Dammit. 🙂

  • Ninara Poll says:

    *cries* Agh, this sounds much, much too lovely! I lust for it.

  • minette says:

    hi…. just wondering whaddup with all the fonts lately? this one is particularly hard to read. may just be me, but i liked it mo’ bettah the way it used to be – with regular-size, consistent font.. just a longtime reader’s observation. which is possibly worth absolutely nothing. 🙂

    • Musette says:

      No, it’s definitely worth something!! We can’t tell what’s irritating unless you guys tell us. What about this font makes it hard to read? Is Arial easier? Lmk. I have no real font-ego here and I HATE difficult to read blogposts so your response would be much appreciated!

      xo :Devil:

      • minette says:

        hi. i appreciate you being open to hearing more. mmmm… i think in this article it’s the fact that this larger, different font is also bold – it makes everything shout and swim. one might think that my older eyes would like a bigger and bolder font, but i prefer the regular-size font that you guys were using. i think it looks cleaner, and is easy to read. i realize part of my reaction is to the aesthetics, not just the legibility of the font. using different fonts and sizes with each article doesn’t look as clean – because each article is surrounded by a lot of stuff – you get too many font styles and sizes in the same place and it doesn’t look as good. i think the focus should be on your writing, and when font styles and sizes are competing with one another, it’s a distraction. again, just one person’s opinion. 🙂

  • nozknoz says:

    Having trouble typing because my tongue is lying on my keyboard….

    The image of perfectly coiffed Thierry Wasser sniffing huge gross chunks of ambergris is making me LOL!

  • Ann says:

    Hey, sweet M — great review! You sure know how to make a girl salivate over something that wasn’t even on her radar and that she had no intention of trying. Your glorious reviews send perfumistas’ wallets scurrying to hide under the couch, that’s for sure! 🙂

    • Musette says:

      Mine is whimpering and hanging on to the back leg of El O’s barcalounger (figuring that at 285 he’ll render that chair unmovable)…but I’m going to PRY IT LOOOOOOSE!

      xo :Devil:

  • AnnieA says:

    A little off topic: just visited the Montreal Guerlain boutique, where they still had some of the 2012 Muguet. At ca. $550 a bottle I am glad to say it was pretty but not 100 times nicer than Coty’s Muguet. Bought the somewhat-less-expensive Vetiver Pour Elle, after sniffing the Villes line.

    • Lily says:

      Annie, I used not buying Muguet as a justification to getting Vetiver Pour Elle. I am certain I am happier w/VpE than I would have been with Muguet!

      • Musette says:

        $550? For a muguet? Eddie R would have to come back from the dead and….oh, who am I kidding? …hell, even THAT wouldn’t get me to part with $550 for a muguet. I’m such a Philistine… :The-Incredible-Hulk:

        xo :Devil:

  • HemlockSillage says:

    A perfume that inspires you to twist up your hair, and apply lipstick? I love that idea. I have several things from Amouage, Chanel and Houbigant that inspire that mood; I put them on, and then suddenly have to dress up more. I need that nudge, and love that image.

    The other odd thought I had while reading this was whether it is better to collect in a genre, deeply within one style of perfume (ie, big incense, ambergris and rose fragrances) and KNOW everything that can be known about that style OR to collect widely, across all kinds of notes and styles of fragrance. I’ve done both at times in this fragrant obsession. Incense (and musks) were my first loves, and I have dozens in each of those genres. Now when a new incense based (or Oriental if you’d prefer to categorize it that way)fragrance comes along, I try to decide where it fits in my collection–does it fill a subset within that collection. . .I LOVE trying new ones in that style, I usually enjoy them. Good news is, I’m less tempted to BUY, BUY NOW!

    But I’ve been working to branch out, and try other genres. I have very few sweet/gourmand fragrances in my collection. I’m willing to learn, not to force love, ’cause that’s not the point, but instead to explore. If this makes any sense? Citrus/refreshing fragrances are a must in my climate, but I’ve really enjoyed adding BWF and green/chypres to my collection, when before, I’d pass on those releases. Just a thought.

    I look forward to your further reviews in this collection; your teaser was wryly funny. A 3 hour tour. Hope your ‘fumes were up to the test. I look forward to hearing about it. Be well.

    • Musette says:


      Not to flog P’s biz or anything – but that’s why Floyd made Surrender to Chance, so you can run all over the board, or dig deeeep into one genre. I wouldn’t have touched these with a barge-pole without first giving them the One ML Whirl. Anything over $50 (which is pretty much everything) gets sampled first, then I decide if I can live with a decant or will I have to go the Full Bottle Route. Those blasted Amouage attars will be the snapping point for my po’ wallet, alas.

      And now, this blessed devil, Encens Mythique. “Damn you, Guerlain!

      xo :Devil:

  • Mals86 says:

    Curse you, woman. I’m going to have to stop reading your reviews.

    Because I had COMPLETELY written off this Guerlain-explores-Arabia trio, and I’m not really a Guerlainophile (save Chamade and Shalimar Light, I *personally* could do without the house), and I’m not much of a incense fan either. Or ambergris.

    And then I really looked at those notes. Aldehydes? A perfume that demands some lipstick? Suddenly I’m interested.

  • Lily says:

    Encens seems the best of the three and a complete surprise! Haven’t tried Jardins de Bagatelle, isn’t that one like the red-headed stepchild of the Guerlain line? But now I’ll try it :/

    Regarding LPRN you’re confusing “quality” with gravitas. LPRN has quality but no gravitas, it is an un-serious perfume to the chagrin of *serious* Guerlainistas. Didn’t help that LPRN came out in the same box as the Exclusifs the first go round. Compared to similar Lolita Lempicka, LPRN is an absolute delight with amazingly well-balanced notes.

    Wasser didn’t author LPRN so no credit or blame here – it’s a Hammami /Delacourte creation. Shalimar Initial on the other hand is garbage. 😉 That one was all Wasser.

    • Musette says:

      I found LPRN to lack quality as well as gravitas (it smelled very synthetic) but I do get what you’re saying there.

      Shalimar Initial was such a shock. I understood, in theory, what they were trying to achieve there but it was such a misstep. It smells like it was created by a room full of CPAs (not perfumistas who happen to be CPAs. Just regular old CPAs). I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like slapping a perfumer than I did when I smelled Initial.

      xo :Devil:

      • Lily says:

        rofl over “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like slapping a perfumer than I did when I smelled Initial.” I felt like that about Belle d’Opium.

  • Eva S says:

    I was lucky to win samples of these here on Perfume Posse, and they are so lovely! I have ordered FB of this and Rose Nacree already!
    Patty, see what you did to my wallet! 🙂

    • Musette says:

      Wow. I can hear your wallet screaming all the way over here!!

      Remember how we first had Blame Louise? Then Blame March?

      It’s time for BLAME PATTY!



  • Sherri says:

    I’m glad you love this one too!! I thought it is so beautiful!! Amouage has set the bar high in the Middle East market; how refreshing to see Guerlain rise to the occasion and produce quality things of beauty that still manage to maintain their French identity and Guerlain family roots. Competition and high expectations are good. Love the end result; the silage on this one is perfect. It’s very sensual (so says dh) but not at all vulgar. I actually thought it very calming. Is that the incense? Or maybe the oud?

    Anyway, I have fallen in love with not one or even two, but SIX, new perfumes in the last two months!! Are we having a good perfume year, or what??! Okay, not a good budget year, but a goooood year… 🙂

    • Musette says:

      You hit the nail on the head, here! There is no oud in the notes, though – but it is so well-crafted that it gives that ‘oud’ vibe without smacking you over the nose with it!

      xo :Devil:

  • Poodle says:

    As tempting as it sounds I will not be sampling this one anytime soon. I already have too many lemmings. Great review and after that teaser line at the end I look forward to reading your next one.

    • Musette says:

      We’ll see….there’s…incontinence..involved.

      Just sayin’

      xoxoxo :Devil:

      ps. I still get such a kick out of your avatar. Give that dog a huge kiss for me!

      • Poodle says:

        Stanley the poodle loves kisses! He’s my big teddy bear.

        Lol. I have elderly parents so I have a feeling I’ll be thinking of my dad when I read your story. Been there.

  • dinazad says:

    Are you kidding me? I don’t have the time to pass by Guerlain during my Paris weekend!!!!!!! Paris is big, and I’m dead set on getting to know a new “quartier” (which is not known for its plethora of perfumeries) ! I don’t have time for fabulous new Guerlains! WHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE!!

    P.S. La Petite Robe Noire 2 was quite a bit better than LPRN1, IMHO…… But I still prefer Arsène Lupin.

    • Musette says:

      MAKE TIME!

      You will thank me. This one is absolutely LOVELY!

      And I am NOT feeling your pain. ‘Paris weekend’ (hmmph) :Disapproval: How ’bout …uh…Peoria weekend? :Cry-Out:

      Have a wonderful time! Eat a P. Herme chocolate sable for me!!!

      xoxoxo :Devil:

  • FragrantWitch says:

    You uttered the magic word…Shalimar. And ‘buttery’ and ‘ nutty’. Shalimar created for a French queen by an Arabian perfumer? Hello! And, well, let’s just say a sample shall be mine. My mother-in-law mistakenly bought me a bottle Shalimar Initial, instead of Shalimar, in France. And its Guerlain clearly but sort of like their ‘economy’ line. I wear it on days I don’t want to think but just smell nice. La Petit Robe Noir was just blah, and then it was blah mk2. I think Wasser phoned those in!

    • Musette says:

      I almost spilled my coffee at ‘economy line’! I agree on the TW phone-in but I wonder if that was the brief? Guerlain trying to get ‘current’? Who knows. I do think he has redeemed himself with these.

      xo :Devil:

      • FragrantWitch says:

        I Hope it wasn’t the brief. Guerlain has no need to get current IMHO- they have a tradition and an aesthetic that is respected round the world. Uphold it sez I!

  • sally anne says:

    OH lucky I live in Australia…it is unavailiable here lol…………….I have been a wearer and lover of Jardin de Bagatelles since I ‘discovered’ it in the late 80s…I’m sure I’d really like this.