The new L'Heure de Nuit from Guerlain, a simplified modern version of the classic L'Heure Bleue, makes sense in the same way that the countless Shalimar flankers do. After all, we're celebrating the 100th anniversary of L'Heure Bleue, so what's better way to introduce a new generation to this masterpiece by creating a young and easygoing variation that's stripped of the more difficult elements of the original? It's yet to be seen how many of those who received a bottle of Shalimar Parfum Initial for Christmas 2011 will graduate to the real Shalimar. My guess is that will see more Shalimar converts than new L'Heure Bleue devotees, but not because L'Heure de Nuit isn't a lovely welcome to Guerlain.
L'Heure de Nuit is a sparkling and cheerful (cheerful??? a L'Heure Bleue flanker???) sweet and creamy floral with just a hint of powder (whatever perfumer Thierry Wasser did to keep the heliotrope and iris in check is truly admirable). It's youthful with that familiar sweet clean musk, but still somehow smells like a Guerlain fragrance: the foundation and relation to L'Heure Bleue are there, just without the melancholia and statement spices that can make the uninitiated feel entangled and suffocated in Miss Havisham's curtains. Which is a shame, I think. A little challenge and maybe a bit less orange blossom sparkle (or an orange blossom imitation. Somehow it smells too clean to be real) might have taken L'Heure de Nuit beyond the cute, light, and inoffensive.
There's absolutely nothing to complain about in the scent itself. It's actually one of the best in its category; if it were released in a format similar to Shalimar Parfum Initial or even the limited edition Ode a la Vanille (and its own flanker, Madagascar something or other) I'd have been very happy and promptly bought a bottle to wear on many summer days or romantic spring nights. My issue is with the pretentious packaging of L'Heure de Nuit in a 125ml bee bottle from Guerlain's Les Parisiennes collection and the pricing of $270. This positioning takes away the justification for L'Heure de Nuit as an entry level fragrance and leaves us with... what? If I'm after a luxury version I'll just go with the original in extrait de parfum. It lasts on my skin much longer.
See other reviews by Victoria on Bois de Jasmin, Angela on Now Smell This, and Thomas on Candy Perfume Boy.
Notes: white musk, orange blossom, iris, heliotrope, jasmine, rose and sandalwood.
Guerlain- L'Heure de Nuit ($270, 125ml) is available from Guerlain boutiques around the world and select department stores (Bergdorf, Harrods and such).
Paris by Night via thirdyearabroad.com.
Paris Sunset by Mark Goldstein.
L'Heure de Nuit bottle via Guerlain Facebook page.