How does one review the oldest perfume still in production? Especially when you love it dearly. I will try…carefully and with respect. Created by Aime Guerlain in 1889 there are a couple stories that surround the inspiration of Jicky. One is that he created it for an English girlfriend he had- this sounds very romantic and knowing the Guerlain men did create fragrances inspired by women seems possible. Jacques Guerlain, Aime’s uncle, once said, “ I felt something so intense I could only express it in a perfume”. But, this same uncle was also known by the nickname of Jicky so it seems more likely he was the inspiration for the scent. Love is a more romantic inspiration but I think everything about Guerlain perfumes are romantic. Before Jicky, perfumes were soliflores, perfume waters that featured a single flower like rosewater, violet and the like. Floral scents that were light and as simple as the flowers themselves were in nature. Jicky changed all of that by incorporating unusual spices and some synthetic ingredients and turning perfumery upside down.
Jicky is not a perfume for lightweights, but that doesn’t mean it is strong. At least not in an 80s heavyweight perfume way of strong. On the contrary, it sinks into the skin and becomes part of the wearer. It smells old world and modern at the same time. The “old world” part may present a challenge to some wearers. The lavender and citrus top notes feel clean & classic in an eau de cologne kind of way but the twist that makes Jicky so incredible comes along and everything changes. The lavender is rich and oh so French smelling, so if you are a lover of the fruity floral scents that line the perfume counters and shelves these days, Jicky is not for you. Its a green and herbal lavender, the herbs could be Herbes de Provence…..so it’s not a sweet lavender at all, and its coupled with a bright and tart citrus note. Just when you think you are wearing a soapy clean simple lavender scent, the classic Guerlain tonka and vanilla begin to waft up and ground that airy top note, warming it with a touch of sweetness. Opoponax
(sweet myrrh) adds a resinous warmth akin to incense without the smoke. The warmth is an olfactory illusion though, because a cool earthy iris swoops in and then BAM! everything gets ethereal from that point on.
The real magic in Jicky comes from the civet
. Civet is a glandular secretion from the civet cat which has a strong scent that is a weird balance of fecal and floral. When it is purified (in the case of natural civet, although I would imagine synthetic civet is used more frequently these days) the scent reveals a deeply feminine floral scent. Civet is used to enhance scent and as a fixative. It can be an acquired scent taste as well as some may be anosmic
to it, as I was. For that reason it was years before I “got” Jicky and no longer found it kind of boring. Better I suppose than my dear friend Vicki who only gets “cat bum” from it YIKES! Civet is one of those tricky notes. You either love it, hate it or can’t smell it. And, you can learn to love it, like an acquired taste. For me, on that fateful day at the Guerlain counter, it was sudden love. After years of not smelling it, I decided to give it a go. I tried the eau de toilette (Guerlain perfumes are notorious for smelling quite different in different concentrations) and suddenly the lavender, citrus, herbal, iris, vanilla, tonka cocktail became 3D and I LOVED it. How could I have missed this? How did I not smell iris in this before? Vanilla? Wow. Then, I tried the eau de parfum…..heaven in a bottle. The sweet and dark femininity of Jicky becomes richer as the perfume concentration intensifies. I think a man could wear the eau de toilette quite easily but it’s not enough for me…..now I have my eye on a bottle of the pure parfum…..
Jicky transcends seasons. It is perfect on a hot summer day, the lavender and citrus cooling and soothing. On a cool breezy day the vanilla tonka combination becomes cozy. As with most of the Guerlain masterpieces though, I find Jicky is most perfect on an “imperfect” day. On a gloomy day, or even better, on a stormy day, with menacing clouds that make me feel a bit dark and melancholy. Guerlain takes poetry and makes it scent.
If I was a synaesthete
I would say Jicky smells like rich, dark purple velvet. Now, doesn’t that sound beautiful?