Since he joined Guerlain as in-house perfumer in 2008, I've blamed Thierry Wasser for all the new Guerlains that are awash in white musk. I even thought he might not be able to control himself and add some white musk to Mitsouko or Eau de Cologne Impériale or L'Heure Bleue. I imagined him in charge of the installation of an Olympic-size swimming pool under Guerlain headquarters that, upon completion, was filled with white musk. (Guerlain is doing well financially, so white musk works for them and lots of perfume consumers...if not for me.)
I may have been putting too much blame on Wasser's shoulders because his cohort, Sylvaine Delacourte, until recently the Director of Fragrance Evaluation and Development at Guerlain, just launched her own perfume line with a collection of fragrances centered around — white musk. Now I imagine Thierry and Sylvaine cavorting in the Guerlain musc blanc pool, planning their next nose-ache in a bottle.
I've tried all five fragrances in Sylvaine Delacourte's new The Musk Collection (Dovana, Helicriss, Lilylang, Smeraldo and Florentina — the most insufferable of the bunch ) and must report they all smell pretty much the same after a few main notes fade away (white musk is IT in these perfumes). I'll review only one of these fragrances today, just in case another Now Smell This contributor falls in love with a perfume from the collection and wants to write about it. (Do you believe in miracles? I don't.) Helicriss's immortelle fends off white musk better than the floral notes in the other perfumes, so Helicriss is today's subject.
Helicriss is described thusly by Sylvaine Delacourte:
Helicriss, a hero borrowing the botanical name for the immortelle flower, 'Helichryse', has a very classy side, full of strength and charisma. It begins with a citrus tonic of grapefruit and lemon and then come the aromatic notes of cedar leaves and rosemary and sage as momentum gathers. Contrasted with a bouquet of spices and by the immortelle, in its wake comes an intense musk, magnified by the combination of frankincense/benzoin. The serious tone is embodied by patchouli and foam. If Helicriss were a colour it would be grey. A memory of my holidays in Corsica, it makes me think of the very distinctive fragrance of the scrub lands, a warm and welcoming scent.
Ah, the oft-referenced scrub lands of Corsica! (reimagined here as scrub-blands).
I timed Helicriss's development on my skin:
2:38 p.m.: Application of fragrance; synthetic-smelling "citrus."
2:38 p.m.: Almost immediate disappearance of "citrus;" immortelle emerges (this immortelle does not broadcast itself but stays close to the body).
3:11 p.m.: Immortelle, and its "spicy" facet, continues to dominate. Cedar? Rosemary? Sage? Frankincense? Intense musk (or intense anything)? Phantoms — or these ingredients are in such meager amounts as to be undetectable.
4:32 p.m.: the first hint of sweet, vanillic white musk joins the now-mellow immortelle.
6:15 p.m.: White musk encapsulates the immortelle.
7:00 p.m.: Cloying/annoying white musk is triumphant; immortelle suffocated (at which point you could reapply Helicriss, but why bother)? If you want a great immortelle scent, get Annick Goutal Sables.
As you can tell, The Musk Collection does not leave me wanting more from this brand (and I have a suspicion that no matter the subject of a Sylvaine Delacourte collection, white musk will be present).
Sylvaine Delacourte Helicriss is £115 for 100 ml.
Sounds like nothing worth attention, unless someone likes white musk.
L, you would have to be a white musk fan for sure.
That was brutal, Kevin! But then again, people who brought “L’Homme Ideale” and the endless Les Petites Robes Noires to the market deserve no mercy from the critics.
(Just in case, I use “brutal” as a compliment.)
Eleanor…ha! White musk and I get into “dirty” fights
I do like the collection, and Helicriss and Dovana especially. Helicriss however differs from the other four a lot. On my skin it is not musky, but spicy! Yes, spices, pepper, a lot of Iso e super. A nice fragrance for those who love Le Labo Rose 31 and ethereal peppery scents of that type.
Antonpan…Helicriss was mild on me, but I love really powerful immortelle. Happy that a fan showed up!
I was thinking about sampling from the line. Money saved I’d say. Thank you for you review.
Guess you (and me) won’t be swimming in that pool..
Loves…not even a toe in that pool.
Thank you for the review. I liked these marginally better than the Tom Ford White Musks, but I was more than happy to hand off my samples to a friend at work who really likes white musk (she got my Tom Ford samples as well and loved them) as soon as I sniffed them.
Monkeytoe…wow…I had forgotten all about the Tom Fords.
I really wanted to like these as their sample pack is so generous. I didn’t get on with Florentina at all though. But sometimes it is nice to smell like soap – or bubble bath, like lovely Eau de Métal – so I will give them a proper go. And to be fair to Florentina, I’d just driven from Wales to London in December rain, so I should probably try it on a spring day…
Florentina was flabby on me. But Grain de Musc had it in best of the year and said an angora kitten…
Mrs D…Florentina was my least favorite…to put it mildly…its fluff got stuck in my throat and nostrils.
I ordered the sample set as it was only 4€ and figured I would probably be underwhelmed, which I was. Not a huge white musk fan. I actually liked the Tom Ford ones better, as they had more sharpness. I have passed the samples on to a friend.
Cazaubon…my samples will be headed to Pennsylvania.
I thinking that you have a bias here based on one for last posts about musks, where you said that you didn’t like them. Unfortunately i think that this ended prejudicing you in seeing the way that they are differently worked in this collection. What you say as all smell the same is not exactly true in the skin. Also, you treat white musk as a unique thing, which is not true since this is an idea of an accord where you combinate different musks and materials for a certain texture. Your review doesn’t help – it could be a negative one, but still one that does justice to the fragrance.
Rickbr…I do love musky fragrances, but don’t like clean, overly sweet, laundry-esque musks that are mostly referred to as ‘white’ in ad copy and lists of fragrance notes. I try to write my reviews to reflect my reaction to a fragrance, that’s really all I have to offer. Helicriss got the review I felt it deserved…which will please some readers and not others, which is OK.
Probabaly many of the scents you like with musks contain exactly what call of laundry-esques musks, probably they are not mentioned as white, and thus you don’t face them with an already preconceived notion. If there is something that this musk accord in this line doesn’t have is a laundry like aspect. Just compari with Emporio Armani White the Emporio Armani Him to see the difference.
Rickbr…Thanks for your instruction, but I know what I smell. There are certainly white musks in perfumes I like…and wear, but I strongly dislike the Sylvaine Delacourte fragrances and their musks.
Thanks for your review! I’m not a big fan of white musk, myself, but I do have some perfumes that have more prominent wm bases so I guess it depends how it blends with the whole. But, I’m not in a rush to order these.
Elisa…I love Hermes Gentiane Blanche and it seems to have a dribble of white musk
So I had to get the sample set because I’ll confess to liking some of the musky Guerlains–like Idylle edp–and while they didn’t totally blow me away, they were nicely done in most cases. I liked Dovana and Lilylang quite a bit, but then I like the broad spectrum of musk from clean whites to skanky morning-afters. Originally I had high hopes for Florentina, but it smelled like a milder Prada Infusion d’Iris, which I already have so it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.
But I really like the two I’ve mentioned for easy bedtime perfumes or when you need to wear something quiet (like those situations where you aren’t supposed to wear perfume *wink*) and am considering picking up these two. Helicriss didn’t really suit me because I’m not wild about immortelle, but it might be nice on the right person if they enjoy such things.
Points to you, Kevin, for being brave enough to try a perfume largely composed of what seems to be one of your big note nemeses.
AbScent, well, you never know if something you supposedly ‘hate’ will be pleasant…just didn’t happen with these for me.
Looks like Tom Ford was quite a few years ahead of the white musk curve lol. The only one I really liked in his white musk collection was the White Suede which ended up in the main Private Blend range when the white musk collection died, and is still there so must sell well.
NT, indeed…Tom Ford’s came out in 2009!
Hmm, I’ve ordered the sample pack, haven’t received it yet. I’d say that I have ‘medium’ expectations about these fragrances, but had I read your review before, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to order the samples. Anyway, thank you for reviewing this, Kevin, I always enjoy your ‘angrier’ reviews! And if it turns out I totally hate the whole collection, I’ll just write those £4 down not as ‘perfume spending’ but as ‘educational purposes’.
Gravity, and you may like one!
Bravo, Kevin! I must remember “scrub-blands” for future reference.
I’d bet Delacourte doesn’t swim in common white musk herself but rather wears something rare like JAR or a bespoke fragrance.
Noz: thank you! I could also see her wearing a JAR fragrance and saying: “Made JUST pour moi!” haha!
She’d be sure to take credit for it, too!
Yes, but at what o’clock did the serious-toned foam come into play?
Isabella…indeed! What is the origin of this foam? An overloaded washing machine?
You crack me up, Kevin. Your “bad” reviews are the absolute best! (And I happen to like TW, btw.) Just recommended Sables to Portia at the Posse. Wonderful, brilliant perfume. It’s a shame these SD sound so meh. The packaging looks nice in the picture.
Solanace, the bottles do look nice and hefty…but haven’t seen them in person.
I have Dick Emery in my head as I write this (English comic of the seventies) – he had a character who ended sketches with the words “you are awful……..but I like you”! I’m not a white musk fan and have found many recent Guerlain releases suffocating as a result. But I thought I’d give these a go (trying to put my pre conceived notions aside). I thought they were alright just not my thing and I agree with the person above me who referenced Infusion d’Iris for one of them.
Dona, good quote!
This was a great read! And you know that I absolutely agree with you on the white musk issue. I can’t tell you how many otherwise great perfumes in the last eight to ten years became scrubbers at the half-way mark once the white musk took over. It always smells to me as if I rubbed deodorant over my perfume!
Have you considered a career as a stand-up comic?
Rappleyea, ha! Such a good way to describe the white-musk effect…putting scented deodorant over perfume!
Well, this reminded me that I really ought to add Corsica Furiosa to my buy list. And I do think that’s a pretty bottle. But otherwise . . .
Nicolasix…I can’t believe I’ve not smelled that one yet either….
Her line had great reviews in France and it got me curious. I thought I would love Florentina (I am in an “almond” phase) but was a bit disappointed. The top notes fade in like a second and I ended with plain white musc on my wrist.
Nevertheless I really enjoyed Smeraldo, a green leaf-based scent (angelica root, yuzu, mastic tree, vetiver). Probably because it reminded me so much of the morning smell in my parents’ garden. I will order a bottle, prices are reasonable and the packaging is pretty, plus Sylvaine Delacourte is a lovely person.
However I did enjoy your witty review
Thanks, Eleonore…for being so gracious and letting us know your admiration of one of the scents!