Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Writing letters to YOU, originally uploaded by !!! Monika !!!.

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.

Top notes: Lemon, Bergamot, Rosewood, Lavender, Rosemary
Heart notes: Vetiver, Jasmine, Rose, Orris Root
Base notes: Tonka bean, Opoponax, Patchouli, Civet, Benzoin

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.

Interested in reading more about Jicky? Visit:

The Scented Salamander

Bois de Jasmin

Fragrance Bouquet

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At April 07, 2008 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ayala, thank you for the wonderful review of JICKY, as well as your many other insightful and informative blogs. I hadn't been able to really enjoy fine fragrances for many years due to chronic allergies, but in the last few years they have improved to the point where now my nose isn't stuffed up most of the time (which really puts the damper on enjoying a perfume!), and I found myself rediscovering a long sidelined interest, and in search of a fragrance to call my own. I'm a 40 year old man, who's gradually discovered that I'm not particularly impressed with the majority of men's fragrances out there…it seems (to me anyway) that many of those commonly available lack genuine innovation and are more just variations on a limited number of popular themes. On the other hand, while there certainly are a lot more choices and creativity evident in women's perfumes, I of course didn't want to choose something for myself that was clearly a feminine scent. And in particular, I was hoping to find a fragrance that would smell "unique" on me – although my "nose" is most certainly of very limited experience, it really seems that while most colognes/perfumes do react with your body chemistry and smell different on each person to some extent, there are a few which really seem to evolve (both positively and negatively!) on the skin of different people differently to a much greater degree.
These are the things that lead me to JICKY – it was quite a search for me, but a lot of fun -- learning about perfumery brings together so many interesting things – culture and history, botany and chemistry, and most of all, art and imagination – I think that a truly special fragrance is a creation worthy of being called a masterpiece just as much as any other work of art. But in addition, a perfume can actually interact with your body (skin) on a physical level unlike a painting or sculpture which you just look at, sometimes producing a very personalized appreciation of the creation – and olfactory memories are stored in a different part of the brain than visual memories, where they often can be retained longer and recalled more vividly (the classic anecdotes about smelling something like Mom's apple pie, and for a moment feeling like you've gone back in time to your childhood and reliving those memories associated with that smell of your mother baking in the kitchen, etc.).
About JICKY in particular… I've read how it was worn more by men than women for about the first 20 years after its introduction in 1889, until after ~1910; it really does seem to be able to be a unisex fragrance – one which as Aimé Guerlain was reported to have said is "… difficult to decipher, of which you wouldn't be really able to tell whether it was meant to be for a man or a woman." (quotation from The Scented Salamander) This seems to be made even more so by, at least in my limited experience in addition to quite a few comments I've read from people who've tried it, how differently it reacts on different people's skin – some opinions seeming so negative it gave me some pause until I tried it for myself. One thing in particular I'd mention is the civet – after reading all the "baby vomit"-like references, it didn't sound so good, but I didn't find it to be overpowering or offensive at all, just sort of an animalic presence in the base which blends in very harmoniously. I had tried Mouchoir de Monsieur first, mostly because many reviews describe it as a "Jicky-Lite", where the civet is more understated – but I actually found the civet to be more noticeable and isolated, perhaps because MdM didn't seem to have the same fullness that Jicky does, to be able to integrate it into the whole fragrance as well. MdM came across to me as a very refined, mature fragrance, quite powdery, with what seemed a very unusual opening that I didn't like that much, but then got better after the drydown. One last thing for anyone considering Jicky (whose had the patience to read this far!), don't discount the difference that Ayala points out (as well as other reviews I've seen on different sites) between the EDT and the parfum (and the EDP) – there really is a difference between them!! – the more citrus/herbaceous nature of the EDT comes across quite differently than the EDP, which is what I prefer – the EDP seems very similar to the parfum, and is available as a refillable spray, which was something I had wanted. I only mention this because if you want to try Jicky, there aren't many retail stores that carry Guerlain products in the first place (I live in the eastern U.S.), even fewer that stock Jicky, and of those that do, most just have the EDT – if you just tried that, you might decide you don't like it without having tried the others, and miss out on experiencing a wonderful fragrance!
Thanks again Ayala for all your artistry, information, and for providing such a great forum!

At April 08, 2008 10:11 PM, Blogger Ayala Moriel said...

Dear Gabriel,
Thank you so much for reading and posting here on Smellyblog and sharing your perfume experience and Jicky in particular.
I am glad to hear that your journey was enjoyable and lead you to such a gem as Jicky. What a simple, rich and elegant luxury it is to dab the parfum! The EDT is quite different but nevertheless well made and both should be tried. I haven't tried the EDP yet myself.

It is so true - there seem to be so many cookie-cutter fragrances out there, just repeating the same idea and with very similar bases. I find that particularly true for the "masculine" fragrances; it's as if most contain a certain accord to brand them as "masculine" and as a result the originality is quite rare. Almost every time I try men's perfumes I get that reaction of familiarity, something I've smelled in another men's fragrance before.


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