Guerlain’s in-house perfumer, Thierry Wasser must feel the pressure when he creates a brand new fragrance for the brand. He has almost 200 years of heritage to contend with and it can’t be easy to make magic when you’ve got the likes of Shalimar, Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue looking over your shoulder. Still, the man has done some great stuff at Guerlain, ranging from Shalimar Parfum Initial, his modern riff on the house’s shining star to the strikingly un-Guerlain flower garden of Idylle. Wasser is respectful of the house’s traditions, but he’s also a talented nose who knows how to bring something new to such a venerable name.
But it’s not just the likes of Shalimar et al that are tough acts to follow, Guerlain’s masculine offerings also have quite a reputation that I’m sure more than just a little bit intimidating for Mr. Wasser. Habit Rouge, Vetiver, Heritage and even the more modern L’Instant Pour Homme, are all fragrances on the male side of the aisle that are held to high esteem amongst perfume lovers and casual consumers alike. So it is with a watchful eye the world awaits the launch of Guerlain’s latest masculine ‘L’Homme Idéal’ – a fragrance marketed with the tagline; “The ideal man is a myth. His fragrance, a reality.”
L’Homme Idéal is in fact, Wasser’s second masculine pillar for Guerlain, the first being Guerlain Homme, his wonderfully fragrant ode to the mojito. With L’Homme Idéal however, Guerlain and Wasser have moved away from the fresh, zetiness of Homme to something much deeper, richer and dare I say, a little bit cheekier. This is a more mature fragrance with a good sense of humour, and one that pays homage to Guerlain’s gourmand heritage as the patisserie of the perfume world, picking facets from the (quite recent) past and zhuzzing them up to make something that is masculine, but in an unfamiliar way.
Top: Citrus, Rosemary and Orange Blossom
Heart: Almond and Tonka Bean
Base: Indian Vetiver, Cedar and Leather
How Does it Smell?
The first thing one notices when sniffing L’Homme Idéal is a novel yet pleasing nod to Guerlain’s phenomenally popular (and just generally awesome) feminine offering, La Petite Robe Noire. This olfactory reference is in the form of a sweet almond note that boasts wonderful cherry-like nuances and feels more than just a little bit cheeky. This mini-homage to the little black dress is quite striking at first, coming out of the bottle all dark and bitter with a syrupy orange blossom undercurrent that adds a touch of stickiness to the proceedings. There is some citrus in the opening – something vaguely lemony/bergamot-esque – to stop that bitter almond note from become too edible, but for the most part the initial stages are about anise, almond and cherries. Yum, indeed.
After the first hour or so, the bitter almond facet fades and L’Homme Idéal becomes the domain of tonka. Tonka bean has a vanilla-like odour with hay-like and anise nuances. In the heart of this new Guerlain, the tonka feels like a dry vanilla devoid of sweetness and accented by a hazy splash of cocoa. The overall impression is warm, resinous and rich without ever becoming cloying or likely to cause indigestion. The balance is pretty much spot on, and whilst this style of solid gourmand isn’t exactly new or groundbreaking, Wasser’s application of the genre here is a masterful example of balance. I told you that he knew what he was doing…
In the base, L’Homme Idéal matches a pliable cedar note with an ashy dose of leather. This provides a relatively cushioned bed, complete with the requisite smoke and sharpness, to ensure that all of the gourmand fluff up top doesn’t get out of hand. The notes promise a hint of vetiver amongst the wood and leather, but in reality the almost chocolaty blend of cedar and tonka overpowers whatever vetiver whispers there may be in the base, and as a lover of all things delicious, that is absolutely fine by me.
So is L’Homme Idéal the ideal fragrance or the perfect masculine? Well, the answer to that question is entirely subjective, of course. It would be fair to say that it is a more commercial outing for Guerlain and will likely have a wider appeal than more divisive fragrances such as Habit Rouge, or Homme. But that’s not to say that it is unintelligent or that it forsakes ingenuity for mass appeal. In fact, L’Homme Idéal works because it presents a likeable and recognizable accord with a feminine twist, which stands to reason when you think about it, after all, the perfect man would be likeable and in touch with his feminine side now, wouldn’t he?