Perfumer Jaques Guerlain
Maybe it’s some weird human drive for finding distinction, maybe it’s simply the result of having more perfumes than I could ever imagine wearing in a lifetime, but I find myself focussing on the qualitative differences of some very similar perfumes. Guerlain Habit Rouge eau de toilette and eau de parfum. The same for Guerlain Insolence. Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois, Bois de Violette and Bois et Fruits. I’ve found themes that I like and now I’m looking for the variations.
I’ve gone backwards historically, starting with the Sheldrake/Bourdon perfumes for Lutens and going back to the ones that started the trend: Guerlain Jicky (1889) and Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904). The contrasts between Jicky and Mouchoir play out as the differences in temperament you might find between twins. These perfumes differ in degrees of expansiveness, but have more similarity than difference. But when resemblance is taken for granted, the differences jump out at you.
Both perfumes have a rich, almost tactile quality but Jicky also has a cat’s poise, an active balance that might shift one way or the other on a whim. Jicky’s play of lavender and vanilla seems to sparkle, suggesting something fluid and always in motion. Oh, Jicky has its raunch. The civet note is neither subtle nor hidden, but it’s playfully lewd. Jicky seems very aware of its shifty personality, and may play any side at one time or another to charm you. Mouchoir speaks with the same voice as Jicky, but is more reserved. To use a word that I wish had never fallen out of use, Mouchoir is melancholic. Where you can take the entirety of Jicky in in a single breath, Mouchoir takes a bit more commitment. The effort pays dividends, though, and wearing Mouchoir rewards you with a sense of groundedness and presence.
Is Jicky simply a less uptight version of Mouchoir? Or is Mouchoir a more introspective version of its impulsive elder brother? To look at the two more specifically as perfumes, Jicky leans more toward the oriental genre. It is thicker and more voluptuous. It’s dessert qualities are right on the tip of its tongue when it kisses you. Mouchoir, particularly in its basenotes, has the austerity of a chypre, emphasizing dryness over dessert. Accordingly, it’s basenotes growl where Jicky’s purr.
Only the most sensitive nose around you will likely spot the difference in these perfumes from one day to the next. Deciding which to where is far more important to you than to anyone around you. And here is the delight of these twins. Choosing the right one and feeling the satisfaction as I apply it feels like setting loose the butterfly effect on my day.