Mon Guerlain

22 July 2017

I went to a meeting with a PR expecting to fall in love with a fragrance and instead fell in love with a brand.

To be fair, I went in knowing I liked the fragrance already – unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’d be hard pressed to have missed Mon Guerlain, the newest perfume launch from the house of Guerlain which has Angelina Jolie as the star of the campaign. Guerlain placed themselves firmly on the fragrance map – with Mon Guerlain stands at the front of every major department store and grabbed everyone’s attention. The fragrance itself… well, I’ll get into that.

I love a brand with history behind it, and that’s really where I’ve fallen for Guerlain – in its story. Guerlain started all the way back in 1828 – before Dior, before Chanel, the French had Guerlain. Despite the fact it’s a brand that arguably, until the stratospheric launch of Mon Guerlain, has been somewhat under the radar here in the UK, in France Guerlain is a renowned brand, an integral part of French history, and for me that’s probably most summed up in the fact that La Signature at the French Pavilion in EPCOT is an exclusively Guerlain store. Say what you will about Disney but the amount of thought they put into every aspect of the parks is beyond ridiculous and there’s a reason for everything – and now that I know a little more about the brand I can understand all the details of the shop even more.

But back to the history – in 1853 Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, created Eau de Cologne Impériale for Empress Eugenie, to celebrate her marriage to Emperor Napoleon III. He decorated the bottle with the bees of the Empire and the ‘Bee Bottle’, which went on to become an icon, was born. The ‘Bee Bottle’ has 69 bees on it because there are 69 provences in France, and Empress Eugenie must have liked it because Guerlain went on to become ‘Her Majesty’s Patened Perfumer’.

The bee icon features in the ceilings of Guerlain’s beautiful Champs-Elysees store – the lovely Harriet from Guerlain sent me these over to show you and, whilst they make look as light and airy as balloons those are solid gold bees that are in the store! 

But of course, if they’ve got solid gold bees from the ceiling, you can only begin to imagine how incredibly beautiful the rest of the store is. Jacques Guerlain – the third generation of the family to run the business was the Guerlain who claimed 68 Champs-Elysees as the House of Guerlain’s home. Work began in 1914, led by the architect Charles Mewès, who was also behind the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and the Carlton hotel in London. In the way that we list buildings here in the UK France lists its marble – so even today the store boasts the same marble wall and till points that it did back when Jacques first picked it out. I love that so much, that the essence of the house and its history literally lives in those marble elements that have never been, and never will be, changed.

As well as the marble the 68 Champs-Elysee Guerlain store (which incidentally is the biggest beauty store in the world dedicated to one brand!) is also home to a unique Guerlain experience – where you can have your own scent completely custom blended. And as you would expect, that comes at a pretty price – the starting point is £36,000 and the limit, well, it doesn’t exist! You can however get a personalised, engraved iconic ‘Bee Bottle’ filled with your choice of perfume which, although it’s still going to make for one of the most fantastic and indulgent purchases ever, is maybe something a little closer to being affordable for the Guerlain fan.

Which brings me back to Guerlain fragrances – and in particular the reason I went to the meeting in the first place. Mon Guerlain is beautiful – very feminine, very soft. I actually was really surprised by how much I liked it because I am not usually a sweet or floral fragrance – I love headiness, heaviness, spice and musk in my scents and I don’t do light, but somehow I really like this fragrance. And part of the reason for that is probably The Guerlinaid.

The Guerlainaid – doesn’t it sound wonderfully straight from Harry Potter? Mystical, magical and intriguing – perfect for a brand with so many stories and so much beauty behind it. The Guerlinade is compromised of 6 ingredients and those ingredients form the basis of all Guerlain perfumes. They are Calabrian Bergamont, Tuscan Iris, Bulgarian Rose, South American Tonka Bean, Vanilla and Grandiflorum and Sambac Jasime.

Those spices mixed with the florals, with that hint of citrus cut through the two main florals in Mon Guerlain’s notes. Those are Carla Lavender, which gives a fresh note to the fragrance and as an ingredient is 50 times more expensive than normal lavender - it’s only been used in one other perfume in the world – which Jersey by Chanel, so you’re in good company; and that Sambac Jasmine again. To be honest, I’m not usually the biggest fan of Jasmine but this is balanced out for me by the other notes. Such is Guerlain’s dedication to their perfume that the only use Jasmine which has been picked at a certain time in the morning, when the flower has just opened and is at it’s freshest.

The other part of the reason I’m probably on board with this is because of the Album Sandalwood, which gives a woody note to the fragrance and again offsets the floral without actually making it a woody fragrance. It's quite a special ingredient too as, until a few years ago Australian Sandalwood was going into extinction and now there are two crops in the world - one of which belongs to Chanel, and the other to Guerlain - which means these are the only two houses who will be able to produce fragrances using it.

Lastly it counts Vanilla as a top note, which gives that warmth to the fragrance that a lot of florals fragrances usually lack. So yes, it's undoubtedly a floral fragrance but if, like me, you're not usually a fan of florals give this a try - it's a warm floral with some wood and some spice and it's beautiful.

So beautiful in fact that, although I was gifted the fragrance and the body lotion, I had to go and treat myself to the shower gel and have the whole range - it feels so luxurious to have all three in my routine, and I love being able to really feel like I've enveloped myself in the fragrance.

I'd never really noticed but Angelina Jolie has actually never endorsed a product or been the face of something prior to Mon Guerlain. She's just always wanted to be seen as an actress and charity worker, but Guerlian was a particularly special brand to her mother and that was the reason she signed up for this. That, and the story of the perfume.

I'm all about stories and what I loved when Harriet was telling me about Guerlain's approach is that they don't sell perfume to 'give you' a personality - it's not sold on the lynx idea that 'wearing this will make you... [insert suitable word for concept they're marketing]. All their perfumes come from stories, and have done since way, way back. Shalimar, which was the world's first Oriental fragrance (imagine giving birth to a whole category of fragrance -we know fragrances as being Floral, Cirtus, Woody or Oriental - and Guerlain literally invented the Oriental category!) was inspired by a love story (that link takes you to Guerlain's YouTube channel btw, which has way more on it than I can fit into one coherent blog post.)

The Mon Guerlain story, or concept, is that this is the 'notes of a woman'. It's not telling you to wear it and become a woman, or become a woman ready for sex, or a woman being pretty, it's just a scent for a woman who already knows who and what she is, a scent for a woman that involves all of her. This isn't supposed to be a scent that's about changing yourself, or embodying something you're not, it's a scent that celebrates yourself and all your angles.

Speaking on angles - even the bottle is about representing that. It's a multi-faceted bottle, to represent a multi-faceted woman. It's actually called The Quadralope Bottle - you can learn more about their bottle and their history here. It's part of Guerlain history this bottle - it was designed by Bacarat, who did all the Guerlain bottles, back in 1908 and was made for 'Jicky', which was the first ever unisex fragrance in the world. The bottle is nearly entirely unchanged - the only difference is that solid band around the neck was originally a gold cord, which would have made the perfume prohibitively expensive, and the 'Guerlain' name branded into the bottom.

When you buy a piece of Guerlain you're not just buying a fragrance, or a lipstick, you're buying a piece of history. It's the type of brand where everything has a meaning and nothing is there 'just because'. In the online beauty world where we're constantly seeing new and upcoming launches, ideas new and recycled and advertising campaigns that are all about being the loudest and newest - there's something incredibly beautiful about buying a piece of history. And how appropriate that in buying this fragrance you're buying your own Guerlain - Mon Guerlain, My Guerlain.

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