The Little Black Dress Edit, Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire Collection Review
If you were to ask me what I think is the most joyful and exuberant feminine fragrance on the market today, I would answer with Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire, not allowing for a moment’s hesitation. La Petite Robe Noire simply is a damn good perfume and in a world where the modus operandi is perfumes stuffed with sickly sweet fruit and vague flowers, it schools the competition as to how a proper fruity floral (or even a proper perfume, for that matter) should be done.
La Petite Robe Noire started its life as a Guerlain boutique-exclusive perfume, created by perfumer Delphine Jelk. As its name suggests, the fragrance was designed to evoke the most iconic of fashions – the little black dress and used suitably dark and vivacious ingredients, such as black tea, liquorice and cherry, to capture the timeless essence of the LBD.
I remember sniffing it at the time of its launch (just before I quickly snapped up a bottle) and thinking that Guerlain had missed a trick by not launching it with wider distribution – “this stuff would sell like hot cakes”, I said to myself. Well it turns out that’s exactly what the brand decided to do and what a wise decision it was. Colour me psychic!
In 2012, having been re-orchestrated (read: slightly tweaked) by Guerlain’s in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser, La Petite Robe Noire was dressed in a brand new bottle and launched to the unsuspecting masses. It turns out that the world was very much ready for an expertly crafted perfume that comes served with a healthy dollop of French whimsy and humour. It was unsurprisingly, a massive hit.
Guerlain’s walk-in closet is now filled with four different black dresses, each of which showcases a completely different style. These different versions (the Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Extrait and Couture) are more than just varying concentrations, they are entirely unique garments expertly crafted by the most iconic of perfume houses. There is a place for at least one in every perfumistas wardrobe. The only question is – which one will it be?
La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Parfum
Top: Bergamot, Black Cherry, Almond and Berries
Heart: Bulgarian Rose and Turkish Rose Absolute
Base: Liquorice, Patchouli and Black Lapsang Tea Leaves
How Does it Smell?
La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Parfum is very similar to the exclusive version launched originally in 2009, in fact I would even say that it captures everything that the original has to offer but succeeds at being altogether more vibrant and fun. It opens with a haze of flirtatious vivacity, floating about with notes of sparkling bergamot, tart raspberries and deliciously sweet cherry. The top notes are wonderfully effervescent, fizzing around like the dancing hemline of a bubbly black dress, and it’s hard to sniff them without wanting to smile.
But La Petite Robe Noire isn’t all about fizz and fluff, in fact it is so much more. Guerlain is well known for being the pastry chef of the fragrance world, using gourmand notes in unconventional ways to create beautifully wearable perfumes that are tasty but not sickly. Their ode to the little black dress is no exception and the bright, diffusive character of the top notes is backed up by a plethora of tasty treats. Sweet, nutty almond, dark anise, rose and raspberry come together to give the impression of a decadent macaron, straight from the glamorous patisseries of Paris.
In the base, La Petite Robe Noire becomes warmer and considerably more dense. A measured dose of patchouli meets liquorice, vanilla and smoky lapsangsouchong tea to create a plush bed of delicious aromas that ensures that this perfume is not just a cloud of ditzy fizz, and to reaffirm that it’s an expertly crafted delicacy.
La Petite Robe Noire is a strong and distinct character. She’s an ebullient fashionista with the talent, smarts and eye for beauty required to maintain one’s interest. I’m just going to go ahead and say it – La Petite Robe Noire is a modern masterpiece.
La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Toilette
Top: Rose, Jasmine and Orange Blossom
Heart: Cherry, Apple, Blackcurrant and Green Notes
Base: White Amber and Musk
How Does it Smell?
Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Toilette isn’t just a lighter version of the Eau de Parfum, it’s a new interpretation of the little black dress signature, viewed from another angle. This viewpoint is much fresher and zestier than the original, evoking the image of a short summer dress as opposed to something better suited to eveningwear.
La Petite Robe Noire EdT starts with a blast of crisp and dewy notes. Pink apple, bergamot and jasmine all jump into the foray to create an opening accord that is pretty, diffusive and joyfully sunny. It’s lighter, yes, but that’s not to say that the spirit of the original has been ‘dumbed down’ or lost in this brightness. Instead the effect is delightfully relaxed and breezy.
The key difference between the EdP and the EdT lies in their use of flowers. Where the more intense Eau de Parfum utilised a gourmand rose note, the Eau de Toilette presents a sweet but transparent use of orange blossom, giving the impression of subtle floral prints. This takes La Petite Robe Noire to dizzying heights where a playful spirit is a requirement and a love for fashion is a welcome bonus.
The dense pastry of the EdP’s base is replaced in the EdT with a glowing cocktail of white musks. These musks add diffusion whilst tempering the perfume’s sweetness, to create a dry down filled with dry, hay-like florals and freshly cleaned linen. It all simply works as a lighter, more casual approach to the La Petite Robe Noire signature without losing any of the high-fashion sensibility that makes wearing these perfumes such a joy.
La Petite Robe Noire Extrait
Cherry, Black Tea, Almond, Patchouli and Vanilla
How Does it Smell?
Those of you who are familiar with Guerlain’s Extraits, or any Extrait for that matter, will know that these precious concentrations are the most supreme editions of their fragrance. La Petite Robe Noire is very much in keeping with this – it is to perfume what Chanel couture is to fashion, and it is easily the least frivolous and most sultry version of Guerlain’s little black dress.
Dabbed from the gorgeous heart stoppered bottle, La Petite Robe Noire Extrait is instantly richer, deeper and dare I say – smokier. That’s right, this is the sexiest of the little black dresses and it’s the one that’s likely to ensnare unsuspecting gentlemen who simply cannot resist how darn delicious it is. Sniffing it, one can’t help but imagine that there is a striking set of lingerie (in black, of course) hiding just beneath the surface.
La Petite Robe Noire’s gourmand facet is also intensified and in the Extrait this element is pure cherry pie, filled to the brim with sticky cherries & marzipan and topped with Guerlain’s thick and chewy pastry accord – a signature seen in the house’s classic oriental gourmand ‘L’Heure Bleue’. Everything about it is delightfully sumptuous and unctuous, making for an enveloping experience that puts so many other fruity gourmands to shame.
Now all of this may make the Extrait sound thick, heavy and indigestible but the truth is far from it. Thierry Wasser is a masterful perfumer and by the slight use of his hand and a masterful flourish of dark, smoky tea and spicy vanilla, he has managed to create an exceptional contrast to all of those edible notes. The result is a warm, resinous base that feels both rough and smooth.
La Petite Robe Noire Extrait is a truly indulgent and luxurious perfume. Like most Extraits it wears close to the skin, draping one’s skin in a silky veil of delectable scent that lasts for the longest time. If you’re looking for the most complex, striking and exquisite little black dress to wear then this version really is a treat.
La Petite Robe Noire Couture
Top: Bergamot and Raspberry
Heart: Rose Essence and Rose Absolute
Base: Patchouli, Moss, Vetiver and Tonka Bean
How Does it Smell?
La Petite Robe Noire Couture is the newest dress in Guerlain’s wardrobe and it is definitely the most different of the garments hanging in the closets at no. 68 Champs-Élysées. For this particular take on the LBD, Guerlain have taken the La Petite Robe Noire signature into the glamorous and standoffish world of the chypre. Now the term ‘chypre’ should be used loosely here, this is no Mitsouko after all (Guerlain’s classic chypre) but it is a thoroughly good stab at bringing the most mossy and aloof genre bang up to date.
This couture edition of La Petite Robe Noire is notably different right from the outset. For a start, it’s much crisper and filled with fresh, dewy notes up top, replacing the tartness of raspberry with a slightly sour dose of bergamot and pear. This is a distinctly transluscent twist on the delectable signature so wonderfully defined by the Eau de Parfum and it takes La Petite Robe Noire into entirely more sophisticated and glamorous heights.
The gourmand facet unfurls at a much slower pace and to a lesser extent than any other of the little black dresses. The bursting skins of sweet cherries found in both the EdP and Extrait are swapped for a delicate slug of cherry water, providing a much softer use of the note. This cherry-soaked water surrounds a beautifully understated and jammy rose note that acts as a subtle nod to the macaron heart of the original.
But whilst this more chypre-like version of La Petite Robe Noire is decidedly less edible than its sisters, it doesn’t lose its sense of fun, it’s just that its idea of fun is entirely different. You’re more likely to find this one possessing a seat on the front row of Paris fashion week than you are dancing the night away in New York’s trendiest clubs.
La Petite Robe Noire Couture is the most mature and grown-up perfume in the collection. In the base particularly, where it uses the astringent qualities of patchouli and vetiver to create a discordant texture akin to rubbing one’s hand the wrong way across a piece of velvet. It successfully merges the gourmand and the chypre to present a fragrance that is both contemporary and glamorous in an old-fashioned kind of way. If the original La Petite Robe Noire was a black baby doll made out of chiffon and leather, this one is a silk gown with clean lines, straight edges and a bucket load of style.
Thanks for entering, everyone. Our three lucky winners are: Ruby Scarlett, Sabine G and Eileen A. Congratulations all!
Intrigued by the wonderful world of La Petite Robe Noire? Well, we have the competition of a lifetime! Tell us which of the above fragrances best suits your personality and why, and you would win 1 of 3 beautiful fragrance gift sets, featuring: 1 x Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Parfum 50ml 1 x Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Toilette 50ml 1 x Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire Couture Eau de Parfum 50ml So, what are you waiting for? Comment below by Sunday 16th March to start spring in suitably chic Guerlain style. Best of luck!
Terms and conditions: No purchase necessary. A purchase will not improve your chances of winning. Contest begins 5th March 2014 and ends 16th March 2014. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on or about 17th March 2014. Open only to UK residents. Three prize winners will receive the items stated above. Prizes must be accepted as awarded; not redeemable in cash or credit.