Friday, 3 August 2012

Persolaise Review: La Petite Robe Noire + Déserts D'Orient from Guerlain (2012)

Some people complain that Guerlain is consciously trying to attract younger customers. I'm not sure why that's a strategy to be deplored. Surely the under-25s deserve to have their tastes catered for as much as anyone else, and I'd certainly prefer to see them reaching for Shalimar Parfum Initial or an Aqua Allegoria rather than, say, the new JLS perfume or the Big Pony women's quartet from Ralph Lauren (smell them if you dare... but don't say I didn't warn you). I also wouldn't mind if they went for the new version of La Petite Robe Noire, which they are reportedly doing in their droves in France.

Most of you will of course be aware that the original LPRN from 2009 was an 'exclusive' scent available only at Guerlain boutiques and certain concession counters. I never had a chance to test it properly, but I remember being overwhelmed by the chocolate-and-berry explosion of its opening. Then came a companion scent - same name and 'exclusivity' - which played with greener notes. But it seems this duo was so successful that the gods of LVMH decided to tweak the formula of #1, make it more accessible and release it as part of the main collection. In other words, they've gone for a re-boot, complete with a viral Internet campaign which commendably features no celebrity faces. In fact, it features no faces whatsoever.

What of the scent? Well, the top section isn't as intense as I remember it, although the basic premise remains unchanged: chocolate and fruit. For the first few minutes of its life, Thierry Wasser's composition veers remarkably close to Andy Tauer's Une Rose Vermeille: both perfumes present powdery roses on a deliciously edible base. But whereas Tauer's work is suitably crimson, Wasser's adheres to the blackness demanded by his fragrance's name: the floral heart comes with a cheeky licorice edge, dark cherries and a whiff of bitter coffee. Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, in the drydown, the fabric of his little dress turns into leather. Granted, it refuses to grow up and it remains cutesy and facetious, but at least it allows its sassiness to develop into something other than just vanilla or white musks... which is much more than can be said for most creations aimed at a younger crowd.

In brief... Rose isn't a traditional Guerlain flower, but it pops up again in their Déserts D'Orient trio, designed specifically for the Middle Eastern market. The theme running through all three scents is bitter saffron, which is expressed in particularly fascinating fashion in Rose Nacrée Du Désert. As its name suggests, the heart of the scent is floral, but its presentation is lifted out of the ordinary by a desiccated, camphoraceous, almost medicinal blend of eucalyptus, spices and husky woods. Encens Mythique D'Orient is perhaps the least enchanting of the three, mainly because it places its incense facet next to an incongruous lipstick note. But without any question, the star is Songe D'Un Bois D'Été, one of the most animalic Guerlains we've seen for a very long time indeed. Patchouli, cedar and, above all, cypriol create a force that appears to combine the most carnal elements of Dior's Leather Oud, L'Artisan Parfumeur's Al Oudh and Lutens' Muscs Koublaï Khän. And if that doesn't whip your appetite into a sandstorm, I don't know what will.

[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum provided by Guerlain in 2012.]



  1. I've blind bought LPRN on the back of reviews and the notes list. Only 30mls so not a loss I couldn't afford.

    I get cherries, specifically black cherries from a tin with the liquor rinsed off. The almonds and ameretto note hasn't appeared and the comment I read of black cherry yoghurt is accurate.

    The chocolate rose development follows and the cherry fruit remains to the end.

    It's nice and far better than the average red berry frags but some more Guerlainade would have been welcome

    1. Alityke, thanks for writing. I think LPRN is pretty good stuff, considering it isn't trying to change the world. And it's far better than most mainstream offerings.

    2. I am not saying LPRN is crap, but isn't it obvious it smells just like Lolita Lempicka's Black Midnight 2012 Edition ?! That's the real problem with this perfume... Nice juice, not so very nice inspiration. It sure delivers a nice, young, flirty sirupy fragrance but I wouldn't like to pay for a Guerlain and get instead a Lempicka Limited Edition. I so much preffer giving my money directly to Lempicka...

    3. Mihaela, thanks very much for writing. I'm afraid I haven't tried Black Midnight 2012, so I can't comment on its similarity to LPRN. But you raise a very important point about the role of the critic in relation to recognising originality.

      I suspect Michael Edwards may well be the only person in the perfume world who smells every single scent that's released... and actually, he probably struggles to keep up too.

      I can't pretend to try everything that comes out, which is why it's perfectly possible that I might miss the sort of connection you've pointed out. Thankfully, the blogosphere allows us to come together and share insights like yours. That said, it's probably almost impossible to create a scent that is 100% different from everything that's come before. Even in my own review, I pointed out an allegiance between LPRN and Tauer's Rose Vermeille.

      Thanks again for taking the time to write. I'll definitely keep an eye out for Black Midnight 2012 ;-)

  2. I really like the YouTube video for LPRN and after reading your description I'll certainly try it if I get a chance.
    The Desert D'Orient trio really is gorgeous! I fell for both Rose Nacre and the Ensencs and got FB. Songe is perhaps a bit too masculine for me to get a FB, but I'll use up my generous sample for sure!

    1. Eva S, the advert is great, isn't it. And yes, the Desert trio is pretty striking as well.

  3. You have made me quite desperate for a sample of this.... licorice? chocolate (has been mentioned somewhere)? "dark"? Oh yes please!!

    1. Just Her, I don't know if it's still exclusive to Selfridges, but if it is, I expect it'll be available UK-wide soon.

  4. LPRN is actually in my local Debenhams now. I tried it, and I tend to agree - black cherry chocolate, like those Mon Cheri liqueurs (do they still make those?) or black forest gateaux.
    It's good of it's kind, but it's not for me. Too sweet, too fruity.
    I take your point that under 25s are entitled to have their tastes catered for, though sometimes it seems every new mainstream release is aimed at them. LPRN is definitely one for the girls.
    Those Orients sound intriguing, though. Where can I try them, are they boutique only?

    1. Hi Tania,

      Yes, I know what you mean about the under-25s getting a disproportionate amount of attention sometimes.

      The Desert trio is available at Harrods. Let me know what you make of the scents, when/if you try them.


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