Guerlain recently launched French Kiss, a new fragrance for women and the latest addition to its Elixirs Charnels collection. French Kiss's release was timed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Guerlain's KissKiss lipsticks, and it is described as a "glossy floral fragrance" with notes of raspberry, lychee, rose, violet, vanilla, heliotrope, iris and white musk.
I have quite a few favorites in Guerlain's fragrance range (mainly the classic scents), and I'm also a fan of the brand's cosmetics. I even own a KissKiss lipstick. And I typically love rose-and-violet perfumes. All in all, French Kiss sounded made for me. When I initially smelled it on a paper blotter, I was charmed by it. This week, however, I've been working my way through a sample vial and I'm feeling somewhat disenchanted.
Part of the reason I liked French Kiss on paper, in retrospect, was that it reminded me distinctly of another lipstick-inspired fragrance, Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose. On my skin, it's a very different experience. The raspberry and lychee top notes are much more forceful and long-lasting, and the florals are overshadowed by a heavy, plasticky dose of heliotrope. Two years ago, I wrote a slightly cranky review of Guerlain's La Petite Robe Noire, summarizing my thoughts by saying, "To me, La Petite Robe Noire 2012 is a washed-out copy of Lolita Lempicka topped with a shot of Cherry Coke." Along those lines, then: French Kiss is a more color-saturated version of Lipstick Rose topped with a tablespoon of cherry cough syrup.
In order to give French Kiss a fair chance, I've tried it several times. Maybe I'm just feeling a bit grumpy due to the holiday season (Angela, you are not alone!), but I haven't ended up liking it any more upon repeated wearings. It just feels overly bright and sweet, and it never becomes part of me in the way that Lipstick Rose does — or, for that matter, other rose-and-violet scents from La Rose de Rosine (rose-violet with a chypre twist) to L'Occitane Délice des Fleurs (candied violets and rose petals).
I'm looking back at Guerlain's use of the adjective "glossy" for this fragrance, and I think it fits. French Kiss has a synthetic, shiny quality to it, and if it were a color, it would almost certainly be fuchsia. It's fun, like a new lip gloss, in a way that walks a fine line between chic and trashy...and it costs $260, which is just too much money for something like that. I wish Guerlain would release a perfume that really smells like its KissKiss lipsticks: a subtle blend of violet and iris with a drop of heliotrope. I suppose I could just spray on some Après L’Ondée and call it a day.
Guerlain Elixirs Charnels French Kiss is available in 75 ml Eau de Parfum, $260.