Eau de Guerlain, one of the house's four summer eaux (see also Eau de Cologne du Coq and Eau de Cologne Imperiale). Each one of them has a small twist, a certain characteristic that separates them from the masses and gives the wearer an extra pleasure. In Eau de Guerlain's case it's the flow, the lack of sharpness in what is otherwise a lemon with a side of lemon and a garnish of lemon verbena. And if you're lucky enough to have an older version-- also a nice hit of oakmoss.
Released in 1974, an era when "sport" fragrances were green, herbal, and really really good, Eau de Guerlain is another great example. There's no mistaking that this is a "lemon cologne" it really is- pulpy, leafy, rindy- it's all lemon. But you won't be making a "just bit into a lemon" face when you wear it. The floral-herbal facet makes it smoother, more transparent, and somehow incredibly pretty. Luca Turin called Eau de Guerlain "nostalgic", and I think he's spot-on about it. If you've read "Gone With The Wind" you may remember that one of Scarlett O'Hara cherished memories of her mother was her scent, lemon verbena. More than a century after Ellen O'Hara's fictional death I think Jean-Paul Guerlain was on to something. Mrs. O'Hara's lemon verbena sachets, her immaculate clothes, her prim lace-- it's all there.
But Eau de Guerlain is not a Southern Lady. The floral part develops rather quickly and becomes more about stems, crunchy leaves, and moss. The bright yellow turns more dry, slightly brown, and the green is more velvety. You can still smell the lemon, but from farther away, as the scent fades and dissipates into the summer air.
Eau de Guerlain ($102, 3.4 oz) is available from select department stores.
Image by Dennis Wojtkiewicz.