The thing about Guerlain perfumes is that it's hard to stay mad at them. Even when I try. Even when they put rhubarb in a perfume (and package it in a ridiculously large bottle and charge a hefty price for it). Take London, the fourth perfumes in Guerlain Les Voyages Olfactifs Collection. Even rhubarb and tea notes don't make me remember London when I smell this cheery youthful perfume. I dare say that even if Guerlain had slapped a picture of The Queen on the bottle it wouldn't have made close my eyes and think of England.
I didn't expect to particularly enjoy Les Voyages Olfactifs - London and initial sniffs at Bergdorf and in Paris didn't make me sing Rule, Brittania! when smelling the bottle or spraying my wrist. I gave London neither much skin space nor time and attention until I had a generous amount of it at my disposal, and I admit to doing that somewhat begrudgingly. Rhubarb? In an exclusive Guerlain perfume? Yeah, right.
The thing is that for a very modern fruity-woody perfume that aims at the fresh and hip crowd that will not be caught dead in vintage Parure or Mitsouko, this is a really nice option. It's not too sweet, doesn't smell like a cheap body spray, doesn't leave a chemical after-taste and all in all, Les Voyages Olfactifs - London is an easy to wear perfume that feels balanced, pleasant and very current. It opens up with a lightly caramelized fruity accord that is carefully toned down with citrus. The rhubarb crumble or cobbler is delicious and homemade, nothing industrial about it. My skin tends to amplify the warmer notes and sweeten the tea, so it begins to smell almost like a Guerlain perfume as time goes by. The sheerness of the tea causes me to spray heavily (maybe that's why they make you buy a jug of the Les Voyages Olfactifs Collection perfumes: I felt a similar need to spray with abandon with the other ones I sampled. In any case, the violet is there but less pronounced than we normally expect from Guerlain, the wood-vetiver dry-down is perhaps the weakest link of the composition as it smells barely of wood or of vetiver-- it's both are watered down and washed out as to not offend the sensibilities of youth. I would have liked more punch and drama, and a bit of a London stormy weather.
Still , I can't argue with wearability and the understated fashion sense involved in making this perfume. It's not me and not for me, yet if I were to introduce the young and impressionable to Guerlain I'd choose this series and not any of the Aqua Allegoria thingies.
Notes: black tea, rhubarb, bergamot, grapefruit, rose, vetiver, violet, cardamom, cedar.
Guerlain Les Voyages Olfactifs Collection- London ($225, 8.3 oz EDP) is available at Bergdorf Goodman and select Guerlain locations around the world. A press sample was sent to me free of charge from the company.
Art: Iris Egbers for The Sunday Times.