It’s impossible to write about Jicky (Aimé Guerlain, 1889) out of its historic context. Therefore it is mentioned here as the closing entry for the spontaneous Fougere series that has reflected my train of thought during my work on a particularly challenging perfume.
It was Fougere Royal and Jicky that marked the end of an era of single-note scents, and birth was given to sophisticated perfumes that represented abstract concepts rather than trying to duplicate nature (i.e.: soliflores and citrus/herbal colognes). It was also around the same time that the use of synthetic molecules commenced – first with coumarin, and a little later with vanillin. But you probably know that already… What I would like to mention is how remarkably similar is Jicky to Shalimar. Yes, yes, yes, we all know the story about how Shalimar was supposedly created by Jacques Guerlain dumping a sample of vanillin into a bottle of Jicky. This may or may not be true. But what’s certain is that the two are utterly similar. And more importantly – regardless of Jicky’s role in the birth of modern perfumery, it has, nevertheless, provided the blueprint of future Guerlain masterpieces to come. The structure, evolution, and last but not least – the Guerlinade at its root – are quite familiar, especially when smelled after experiencing scents such as Vol de Nuit, Shalimar, and even later creations as Chant d’Aromes and Chamade. When it boils down to the drydown, you’ll always find the Guerlinade in all the classics designed by the Guerlain dynasty.
Jicky opens with a burst of herbaceous freshness, marked by the presence of lavender and rosemary. Citrus is also an important component at the opening – some bergamot, but mostly - lemon singing in harmony with the underlining sweetness of tonka bean, it’s a luscious sorbet ready to be licked. Vetiver shows a glimpse of itself early on too, than dives back in and disappears into the landscapes of animalic woods. The heart, although containing some florals (rose, jasmine) does not feel floral. Just as in Shalimar – the bouquet’s role is to transform a collection of essences into one seamless olfactory tale. This is where the signature Guerlinade accord of iris, tonka bean and vanilla begins, creating a sensual skin-like warmth underlining what otherwise would have been a herbaceous-citrus cologne-type fragrance. With the animalic vibrations of opoponax, civet and a touch of leather, vetiver and the most miniscule hint of patchouli. When experiencing the parfum extrait the similarities to Shalimar become quite self-evident, from the overall bouquet to the final dry down stages, and with its overall skin-like sensuality.
The mood for Jicky, however, is completely different than Shalimar. While Shalimar takes you directly to the depth of seduction and desire, Jicky does so in a most subtle way. I wore it and wondered how strangely narcotic a lavender is in that context, all the while maintaining its dignified antiseptic qualities. Was it the English lavender that pinched Aimé Guerlain’s heart? Or was it something else he missed about his mythical first love in Engladn? Or, perhaps, it wasn’t meant for a woman after all, but rather for his young nephew who will later on follow his footsteps and unleash many more Guerlain fairytales.
Jicky is said to be initially difficult to accept by women to whom it was created, and was more popular with men. (Mouchoir de Monsieur, created by Jaqcues Guerlain in 1904 was meant to answer to that demand). It may not smell as significant or original at the moment, among the myriads of scents, not to mention lavender scents alone – but its remarkable survival over the past 118 years speaks for itself.
This review is for the pure parfum, which is far more concentrated and less citrusy/herbaceous than the Eau de Toilette.
P.s. A couple of words regarding the bottle design: although the same bottle is often used for both Nahema and Vol de Nuit parfums, as far as I know, the champagned-stoppered bottle is the one originally designed for Jicky, apparently by Gabriel Guerlain – Aimé’s brother and Jacques’ brother, who was the manager of the Guerlain company at the time. If you know anything else about the bottle design, please share your knowledge with us.
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