Fragrant Ditties: Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Collection
I have said it many times before, but it bears repeating: Guerlain is one of the greatest perfume houses on the planet – fact. I know thisto be true in the same way that I know that the sky is blue and that I simply cannot resist anything that involves even the tiniest hint of chocolate. It’s just an undeniable truth. I mean, Guerlain are the very people that brought the world Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko, three of the greatest perfumes ever made in a short period of time spanning just over 10 years. One needs no further proof than that, but their back catalogue of scents (a great deal of which are available here at Escentual) provides more than enough evidence to support my claim.
In 1999, Guerlain broke from their rich and opulent tradition, and launched the Aqua Allegoria collection – a series of perfumes that complimented, rather than compromised the heritage of the brand. Intended as an affordable, entry-level line of nature-inspired fragrances, these olfactory ditties take from the natural world; explore photorealism and present unusual twists on familiar ingredients. These are casual masterpieces that feel effortless in their complexity and beautiful in their simplicity.
Each year Guerlain adds to the collection but these new additions, like all good things, are always ephemeral, with some staying for the long haul, whilst others only grace the world with their presence for a short period of time, with some simply lasting one season. As it stands, the Aqua Allegoria collection is made up of five perfumes; Pamplelune & Herba Fresca (Mathilde Laurent; 1999), Mandarine Basilic (Marie Salamagne; 2007), Nerolia Bianca (Thierry Wasser; 2013) and Limon Verde (Thierry Wasser; 2014). These refreshing, floral and citrus perfumes make for a summer-centric compilation of scent that is constructed for the warmer seasons, but seems simultaneously perfect for any time and any occasion.
“The Holy Grapefruit”
Top: Grapefruit and Bergamot
Heart: Neroli, Petitgrain and Cassis
Base: Patchouli and Vanilla
How Does it Smell?
Is there anything more refreshing than the zingy bitterness of grapefruit? The answer to this question is simple – there isn’t. Whilst I personally cannot abide the taste of this acidic fruit (I’m in the minority, I know), I do adore the smell and am also firmly of the opinion that a truly grapefruit-esque perfume is a rather marvelous thing, indeed. The trouble is though, that most grapefruit fragrances are nothing like the real thing, often simply showcasing the polite and easy-to-like tones of orange rather than the altogether more astringent melody of grapefruit.
There is one perfume however, that captures the humble grapefruit in its full, acerbic glory, and that is Guerlain’sPamplelune. Opening to an expansive room filled to the brim with bursting, fresh pamplemousse, Pamplelune presents every part of the grapefruit, from the sweet, dewy juice to the mouth-scrunchingly bitter pith and skin. There’s fizziness to this perfume too, almost as if it is a fabulous cocktail from a trendy bar kitted out for the latest trend of molecular mixology. Did I mention that it’s also very, very good?
Underpinning that biting grapefruit is a lively dose of patchouli that adds presence and volume to the fruit. It’s not that super-clean, wimpy patchouli often seen nowadays, either and much to the pleasure of my nose, this earthy note also provides a touch of something almost animalic to Guerlain’s beautiful ode to the unassuming grapefruit. Pamplelune is the crowning jewel of the Aqua Allegoria collection and if you like grapefruit, or any citrus fruit for that matter, you have absolutely no excuse not to try it!
Top: Clover Leaf and Italian Lemon
Heart: Spearmint and Green Tea
Base: Lily of the Valley, Cyclamen and Pear Flower
How Does it Smell?
You wouldn’t necessarily think it, but decent mint scents are hard to find. Often they commit the cardinal sins of being too reminiscent of toothpaste (a pleasant enough smell, sure, but not something one wants to smell of) or simply not minty enough. Guerlain’s Herba Fresca is one of those rare mint scents that get the balance absolutely spot-on.
Opening with a soft wave of herbal greenery, Herba Fresca presents the freshly crushed leaves of garden mint over a delightfully floral blend of iced green tea. There’s something so remarkably satisfying about this almost-drinkable fragrance that makes it utterly irresistible to even the most mean-spirited of noses.
Often, mint perfumes can come across as a novelty – something to sniff with a smile but ultimately lacking in any sense of genuine wearability. Herba Fresca however, is a serious perfume that takes the note of mint and turns it into something effortless and enjoyable. I have just one word of warning though: you may want to drink this delicious cocktail of scent, but trust me when I say that, like all perfumes, it smells a heck of a lot better than it tastes.
Top: Mandarin Orange and Basil
Heart: Green Tea
How Does it Smell?
Much like Pamplelune and Herba Fresca, Mandarine Basilic is one of the veterans within the Aqua Allegoria collection. Debuting in the summer of 2007, this particular take on citrus plays on the idea of sweet vs savoury, pairing the conflicting notes of orange and basil together in a tasty, yet wearable nod to Italian cuisine.
In the opening, Mandarine Basilic is all about orange, and it plays up to the juicy feel of the fruit, bringing to mind a picture of great big oranges practically bursting with fragrant juice. After the initial blast of citrus subdues, the herbal intensity of the basil becomes more prominent and gives the impression of a vast platter of fruits and herbs, ready to be consumed.
Things become much greener as Mandarine Basilic treads carefully into the dry down. Green tea, with ever-so-subtle hints of jasmine, provides a delicately bitter underpinning for the freshly squeezed orange juice and rustically ripped basil leaves. The opposing forces of the sweet and the savoury clash harmoniously (an oxymoron, I know) all the way through, rubbing each other up the wrong way to make for a perfume that is a bright, light and so utterly right. It’s quite a thrill ride, believe me.
“Orange is the New Blossom”
Top: Bitter Orange, Petitgrain and Peppermint
Heart: Neroli Essence, Orange Blossom Absolute and Ylang-Ylang
Base: White Musks, White Amber and Cedar
How Does it Smell?
No perfume ingredients are more evocative of beautiful sunny days than orange blossom, neroli and petitgrain. Guerlain’sNerolia Bianca has this trio of loveliness in spades and is, rather unsurprisingly, a delightful rendition of citric-sunshine that is guaranteed to bring a smile to ones face, no matter what the weather.
Neroli Bianca pairs orange zest, hot white flowers, the cool tones of peppermint and light, soapy musks to create a very ‘alive’ perfume that manages to be rich and honeyed, as well as light and airy. This is the scent of a sunny day spent in a grove of orange trees – a whirlwind and a rush of heady intoxication that feels as light as the summer breeze.
As the perfect scent for summer (and a rather decent take on the note of orange blossom), Nerolia Bianca accurately captures the themes of the Aqua Allegoria collection in a perfume that brings lightness, simplicity, longevity and joy in an unassuming but pleasingly pretty little package.
Heart: Caipirinha Harmony, Tropical Green Harmony and Fig
Base: Tonka Bean
How Does it Smell?
Limon Verde is the latest addition to the Aqua Allegoria collection and it would be fair to say that it’s certainly the most tropical one so far. Launching just in time for the Brazilian World Cup, Limon Verde is a fragrant snapshot of Latin America, capturing the fruits and flowers of the continent, in addition to the infectious zest for life possessed by the people that inhabit this vibrant corner of the Earth.
Lime is the star player in Limon Verde’s aria for Latin America. From the outset this green fruit is presented as dewy fresh with a sugary sweetness that feels very mojito-esque in its presentation. And who doesn’t like a mojito, right? I know that I certainly do! But Limon Verde isn’t ‘all cocktail and no cigar’; it is, in fact, a floral-citrus filled with muted hints of tropical greenery and subtle white flowers.
In the base things become perhaps a little bit too generically musky for my tastes and Limon Verde doesn’t manage to carry the vibrancy of the citrus right through to the dry down, ultimately losing the enjoyable contrasts created by those opposing stripes of crisp green citrus and white flowers. But as far as lime-fragrances go, this one delivers the appropriate level of exotic zest, especially in those mouthwatering top notes.
Join the Discussion!
Which is your favourite fragrance in Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria collection?