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.