Guerlain Djedi and Plus Que Jamais

I opened up a package from The Unnamed Friend (but you know who you are  – hugs!) and there were small tastes of not one but TWO guerlain perfume - guerlain djedithings that are too special to drop in the Candy Samples:

Guerlain Djedi and Guerlain Plus Que Jamais.

For a dedicated Guerlain Love Slave like me, this is about as good as it gets, fragrance-wise. I exercised superhuman restraint and tested them on separate days. My samples, so generously sent, were already close to depletion and I didn´t want to waste a drop.

So, here goes:

Guerlain Plus Que Jamais (more than ever) is a new release I hadn´t smelled yet, although I´d read a very funny essay about it in the Washington Post when a local columnist ended up spending the $300+ it cost (by his reckoning, an outrageous fortune) as a present for his wife. I am going to link here to Bois de Jasmin´s review, which I´m not going to pretend I can improve on. (It also contains a link to the Gene Weingarten essay.) Instead I´ll point out that her comments stayed with me because, as she puts it, “the fans of house will no doubt find it enchantingly wistful and unapologetically glamorous.”   In short, I was expecting to love it, while simultaneously sort of hoping I wouldn´t, because that is a LOT of money for one bottle of juice… notes are lemon, bergamot, ylang ylang, rose, jasmine, orris, vanilla, amber, tonka bean, vetiver.

guerlain perfume - guerlain plus que jamaisThere is no mistaking it for anything other than Guerlain – this is, to me, the Guerlain essence, its gestalt, the warm, powdery breath of the Guerlinade on my skin. This is the one they should have named Guerlinade, not that emasculated floral that is conspicuously missing its signature skank. Do I love it on its own merits? Unfortunately, that question will probably have to wait for a trip to Bergdorf in New York (or the 68 in Paris) for a larger, atomized sample. I need more juice to render the decision. Until then, I will offer two comparisons:  it is most like Guerlain Attrape-Coeur; it is much like Guerlain Jicky EDT with less citrus and naughty bits. I am afraid I am going to love it.

Guerlain Djedi dates from the days of the Perfume Dinosaurs –  the early part of the 20th Century – when Guerlain´s hat hadn´t got knocked sideways and Coty wasn´t a name that made you think of the drugstore and Pink Musk. I remember reading a review of it (I think on Luca Turin´s defunct fragrance blog) wherein Roja Dove described Djedi´s extreme dryness. It is a leathery chypre that has always sounded faintly shocking to me, along the lines of Bandit; here I am going to cop out and link to Marina´s excellent review of the fragrance. It didn´t sound like a Guerlain that would break my heart with love, but it was certainly on my list of things to try. My taste is not from one of the original bottles, but from the 1990s reissue of only 1000 numbered bottles. As you can imagine, the price of this stuff on eBay is astronomical, with bottles going for more than $500 last time I checked. Cribbing from Marina: “the perfume´s list of notes supposedly includes rose, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, leather, civet and patchouli.”

English is a rich language, but I think I need a whole new vocabulary to describe this fragrance. My initial reaction was: this is unlike anything else I have ever smelled. Guerlain Djedi is not leather, but it is chypre, of the darkest, most severe sort. It is almost mineral in its austerity. It is the smell of hot gravel in the sun. It is the smell of smoke in the desert. It is the smell of dry sticks, or sunbleached bones, baking in the sand. There is a short burst of vetiver, but it is carried past you on a hot wind (the Santana) from a long way off, and it does nothing to relieve your thirst. There is a brief, bizarre twist (as Marina noted) where it smells faintly like some sort of spiced savory food.

All this sits on a base of some mysterious reverse-image Guerlain – someone took the powder, civet and oakmoss of the Guerlinade and beamed it back and forth a few times to an alternate universe that contained nothing sweet at all. By the following day (this is some tenacious juice) it has regained a little of the vetiver and the quite attractive savory-spice-stew smell (cinnamon, cardamom, maybe nutmeg or clove?) on top of the moon rocks.

In the end what fascinates me about this composition is not the presence of anything – there is no gentle rose, no healing rain, no worn leather. Instead, it is defined by the absence of the familiar roots and flowers and any of the velvety vanilla whisper of the Guerlinade, leaving me stranded in a desolate place where nothing is familiar, and yet I am not afraid.

  • Melanie says:

    Hi all, new perfume obsessed person here. I just got a decant of Djedi and naturally, if unexpectedly, fell in love with it. Fortunately, so did my husband, so if a bottle miraculously comes up on Ebay, I have his support to go for it (just this once!) Vintage Guerlains are my obsession-Opium was my signature scent for years, but I just got bored. I hate to admit it, but even my beloved Opium doesn’t have anything like the richness and interest of vintage Guerlain scents. I’m sitting here still smelling the Djedi on my skin, and I can’t sniff enough, that perfume was made for my skin! Love this blog, it’s more “approachable” than some others for a perfume novice like me-though still very descriptive and informed,and informative. Thanks for the education, and the new perfume obsession-now if I can manage to acquire the Djedi, I will have acquired my perfume Holy Grail and can die happily, doused in it!

    • March says:

      Melanie — so glad you enjoyed it! Djedi really is an amazing scent. By the way, if you look on eBay, seller Dragonfly Scent Me is very reputable and has a lot of cool vintage.

      • Melanie says:

        Thanks, I have added her to my favorite sellers-I am dying to try the mythical “Metalys”. I’ve also ordered decants from a place called “Fragrant Fripperies” (got the Djedi decant there), and I love the selection-it’s unbelievable to someone like me who never dreamed it was still possible to get even a sniff at these perfumes! I believe that FF is somehow affiliated with this site? Anyway, thanks for the site and the tip re: Dragonfly Scent Me 🙂

        • March says:

          Fragrant Fripperies is actually Patty’s decant business — and is also how I met her! Buying a decant of Messe de Minuit… needless to say, Patty is *a dream.*<:-p

  • Kerry says:

    Hi all,

    I tried Djedji and it’s a huge hit with me. Pepper and smoked wood – just love it.

  • March says:

    Judith — thanks! Even without leather I thought it was well worth the effort.:x Of course Marina’s going to cry when she sees this. All she wanted was the leather.

  • Judith says:

    But I do agree with you that it’s all about absence. . .

  • Judith says:

    Well, see, I get leather. Very. dry. leather. And oakmoss, etc.–as if someone had wrung all the sweet peachiness(and much of the complexity) out of Mitsouko. And vetiver–and I guess, yes, some of the spices–cardomum, etc. And maybe the bones–yes, I can see the bones. But no beef here.


  • March says:

    Judith — wow, you actually WEAR Djedi!


    So I have to ask you, do you get that beef-‘n-cardamom combo that Marina and I got? I’ve decided it’s our replacement for the leather.

  • March says:

    Mimi, thanks. I was so happy to have a chance to smell it. Someday I’ll get a chance to smell Coty Chypre, my other longing. Guerlain Ode I’ve smelled twice in vintage, and … meh.

  • March says:

    M, what I want to know is if anyone else gets that pot-roast note. That must be what we’re getting instead of leather. Makes me think of the dishes my high school boyfriend’s Polish mother cooked.

  • March says:

    V, I’m looking forward to a revel. I wonder why they couldn’t do better on the atomizers, though.

  • Judith says:

    Beautiful reviews, as always! I love both these scents, but the one I really enjoy wearing (and would wear the most) is Djedi. Either I’m twisted or my skin is weird–most probably both:)

  • A lovely and very evocative review of Djedi, thank you.

  • Marina says:

    I feel better now. I am not the only one who does not get leather in Djedi. Woohoo!
    Selfish, moi? :d

  • Victoria says:

    I agree–dabbing PQJ is akin to getting a tiny sip of full bodied red wine. One simply needs to revel in it. 🙂 I tossed the stupid atomizer from my bottle, because it did not release enough liquid, and now I am just using a dropper, applying the golden drops like precious jewellery on my neck and wrists.

  • March says:

    Marina — wow, there you go again, our skin is soooo different. As much as I could tell it was all Guerlinade, which is a smell I’m wild for. I just felt like I needed a big ol’ atomizer to get a bead on it, though.

    If it makes you feel any better, as you can see I didn’t really get any of the “leather” in Djedi, either. I just got the bones, the moon rocks and the … beef with cardamom? (what the heck is that?)

  • March says:

    Victoria — I think that, if given a chance to spray on Plus Que Jamais with abandon, I will find myself in the unfortunate situation of wanting it desperately. To me it was a beautiful portrait of the Guerlinade I feel I’ve been missing on its own.

    The Djedi… yes, I probably would not describe it as “wearable,” although the 36 hours I DID wear it (it lasted that long!) it was almost more an Experience than a Fragrance.

  • Marina says:

    what a wonderful article! I am sad though…I hoped with all my dark, selfish heart that you will not like Plus Que Jamais. I don’t want to be the only one who just doesn’t get this scent. It smells of nothing on me! Nothing! I mean, it does have a smell but…bland, uninteresting something. When I first smelled it I though it could not possibly be Guerlain’s scent and the one that costs this much $$$ at that. “The Guerlain essence, its gestalt, the warm, powdery breath of the Guerlinade on my skin.” What?? Where?? … What is wrong with me? :((

    Djedi on the other hand…I am cosidering selling my soul for a bottle of it 😮

  • Victoria says:

    I love both PQJ and Djedi, albeit for different reasons. PQJ has an elegant, nostalgic quality that is missing in most of the modern compositions. It is not quite retro, but there is something about it that makes me think of vintage compositions. Thankfully, it does not appear as an overly luxurious composition, which would have certainly killed its nostalgic air.

    Djedi is an interesting leather chypre, although it is less wearable than some other fragrances of its type for me. I much prefer Doblis by Hermes and Sikkim by Lancome, however Djedi is another beautiful composition that I am glad to have in my collection (even if it is a small sample).

  • March says:

    Pam — hey, I never thought I’d get to smell these, either, and there they were. So you just keep dreaming. To smell Plus Que Jamais, you only have to get as far as NYC. I am kind of glad I didn’t fall under its spell.:) Thanks for stopping by!

  • March says:

    Cait — eeeewwww! You are making me laugh and killing off my desire simultaneously. Perhaps I should thank you for that!:x “Boozy” and “mai tai” are not descriptors that will get me to come a-runnin’ when applied to fragrance.

  • March says:

    Vi — see my answer to Patty. The Plus Que Jamais would be a Will-Robinson-Danger-Danger for me. I could see myself deciding upon a bigger sniff that I had to have it or I would die.

    The Djedi I am just insanely grateful to have smelled. Having said that, it’s not something I’d feel the need to own, because it wasn’t something I’d see myself wearing very often. And I really only like to own things I want to wear. (No, believe it or not, that is not a requirement for perfume obsession. Lots of people own lots of things they would never wear.) Hope that makes sense.

  • March says:

    Patty — huh. I think the Jamais would be meh for you. That base is, I think, something you admire but don’t really want to smell up close and personal.

    The Djedi… the Djedi was a freaking Burrito of Oddity. In terms of the Weird Factor, it was like the first time I ever smelled Dzing! I mean, it’s one of those “Wha – what the hell?!” smells. Asking myself if you’d like it is like asking, would Patty like borscht?:-? It’s that unusual.

  • March says:

    Hey, Monica — yay, an order from Bill! I hope he throws in some extra stuff from his Love Bag. And what could be better than Philosykos? Philosykos at 40% off!

    Re: what I wear in public. Weeelll… fortunately the Big Cheese is mostly anosmic, so whatever I wear isn’t going to seduce him anyway. But I’m doing a post Friday on fragrance oddities. So, what unusual things do you like?

  • Pam says:

    What a beautifully written article, March. A real joy to read. In reality, I will probably never get to sniff either of these Guerlains, but a gal can dream, right? 🙂 Have a great day, and thank you for this marvelous post.

  • Cait says:

    Dear March,
    I smelled Plus que Jamais and Indra had a perfect comment. She said, “It smells like a mixed drink.” I would usually dismiss such disrespectful remarks, but I have to admit it was true! It has that tangy, fruity, boozy quality of a mai tai or something that would be called Sex On the Beach …

    I think it lacks aesthetic integrity as compared with many Guerlains that are undeniably independent creations. It’s sort of a gratuitous effort at an expensive composite.

    Your take on Djedi is compelling. I haven’t smelled that yet.

  • violetnoir says:

    Whoa!!! I love your descriptive review, M.

    But tell me…did you like them???

    And, congratulations on receiving such a beautiful and amazing sample package.


  • Patty says:

    You’re killing me. Based on your love of skank and my horror at actually wearing it, how will I feel about these two, do you think? Beautiful reviews.

  • Monica says:

    Hi march!
    thanks for the wonderful reviews =) I find that as I get more and more obsessed about frags, the ones that i really appreciate and love aren’t the one that I wear in public (because they are too usual!) also I just have to say that I made my first phone order ever to Bill and my very own bottle of Philosykos is on the way! thanks so much for the info *hugs*