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.]