I’ve always had time for Idylle. Its original, 2009 eau de parfum incarnation angered many critics – who proclaimed that Thierry Wasser had driven yet another nail into the Guerlain coffin – but I found several aspects of its unusual, chypre-like construction enjoyable. Various additions to the line have since followed, including an eau de toilette, a limited edition called Duet and a gentler construction dubbed Eau Sublime (not yet released in the UK). In their own ways, these have served to highlight the tension that’s been present at the heart of the Idylle brand since its birth: it doesn’t quite know whether to embark on an all-out campaign to appeal to a young demographic or to grab the attention of a more worldly-wise customer.
The arrival of the extrait suggests that the scent has grown up. In terms of the emphases placed on its constituent parts, it lies somewhere between the edp and Duet: the rose and patchouli are pushed right to the foreground; the moss notes in the base are made prominent; the citrus aspects are unobtrusive. Sadly, the distinctive middle section is still with us and, as in the edp and especially the edt, it threatens to overwhelm the whole with its overly synthetic-smelling lily of the valley reconstruction. But at least it doesn’t hang around for as long as it does in the other versions and knows when to make way for the smoother, classier players in Wasser’s rich formula.
What’s most interesting about the extrait is that it's the first version of Idylle in which the fragrance’s original garden-after-the-rain concept is wholly convincing. Despite the fact that it features several heavy hitting ingredients in its composition, the scent grows lighter and more luminous as it progresses. Shadows are chased away by the sun, petals turn from crimson to white and woods take on a less threatening hue. It may not be up to Giverny standards, but this is the best Idylle yet.
In brief… Guerlain have decided to start 2012 by looking back: they’re giving us a flanker of a flanker in the form of Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau (or L’Eau De Shalimar Parfum Initial; take your pick). As you’d expect, it’s a softer, more fleeting rendition of Shalimar PI, with a sweeter citrus opening and less pronounced iris notes. I’m beginning to wonder if Guerlain have missed a trick with this range. When Jacques Guerlain made the original Shalimar, did he decide it ought to be called Jicky Vanillique? Did Jean-Paul Guerlain believe Habit Rouge ought to be released as Shalimar Pour Homme? No, in both cases, the newer creations were granted distinct identities. I suspect Shalimar PI would have won more fans if it had been permitted to strike out on its own. But I guess that, at the moment, nothing will be allowed to interfere with the marketing strategy bolstering the ‘current’ feminine, the aforementioned Idylle.
We boys are getting a flanker too: Guerlain Homme L’Eau Boisée. Top marks to Thierry for not dishing out the usual pale nonsense that clutters up men’s perfume sections. He’s taken the minty-rum accord of the excellent Homme, boosted the citrus note from the Eau flanker, thrown in a selection of woods (notably a delicious cedar) and extended the impact of the vetivert (wonderfully metallic and licorice-like) to achieve a commendable January-meets-June effect. Very good stuff indeed.
[Review of Idylle extrait based on a sample provided by Escentual.com in 2011; reviews of Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau eau de toilette and Guerlain Homme L’Eau Boisée eau de toilette based on samples provided by Guerlain in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]