Sunday, January 04, 2015

Guerlain Jicky, EDP

After my reaction to the modern version of Guerlain's Jicky perfume, I ordered a decant of the vintage hoping I might be better able to understand what others see in it. I still don't see (or smell) it. It befuddles me, as I really ought to like it-the notes are all there. Still, something in the way it is composed, and the strange thing the notes do as they wear makes me really dislike it. It is claimed that Jicky was the inspiration for Shalimar and Emeraude, two fragrances I adore. Clearly, to my nose they were both vast improvements on the original, but Shalimar, and especially Emeraude do have that odd citrus blast, though it settles down quicker in Shalimar. I like Bergamot, but I don't like it in Jicky. Let's be honest, I don't like Jicky-not one bit. It isn't for lack of trying though.

Civet isn't my problem with Jicky, at least not alone. Many of my favourite scents have a good wallop of civet, and in the right combination it can work nicely. For me, in Jicky it isn't working, in fact it is less noticeable than the sinus-grabbing citrus/lavender/rosemary aspect that drops to the back of your throat like you'd just gargled with Listerine...and then your mother washed your mouth out with a bar of Yardley lavender soap. Or Earl Grey tea. Or both. Mr. ETB gets this sensation from baby powder, which interestingly has some similar notes. When you wear Jicky, you taste it too.

Around the middle, Jicky starts smelling like the storm cellar the first time you open it in the spring to get ready for tornado season. The feral farm cats have been living down there all winter having squeezed in through the gaps in the door, and the dirt floor is damp from recent rain and cats doing cat things. Ah, there's the civet! Oh look, there's fungus growing in the corner, well never mind that now, the tornado is coming and the air has that funny pre-storm smell. Oh wait, false alarm...hey, someone grab the can of Lysol, I'm going to spray the cellar out a bit for next time. Hey, does anyone else think it smells like Jicky down here? Are those beaver tracks?!?

All of this would be fine, in a weird earthy yet intensely chemical way-if it didn't last quite so long. The lavender and herbs just will not die. They fade a bit, then blend with a decomposing sweetness, and then we're back to gargling soap. At moments, it reminds me a bit of Imperiale, which will always smell like a gin and tonic (with a twist of lime) to me. But then, the damn cat sprayed, *again*.

Strangely enough, Jicky does smell very Guerlain in composition. As strange as it is, it is still recognisable and that heritage is alive and well in so many of the other perfumes. Every family has individuals that send you fleeing the room-Jicky is that cousin you can't stand because she traps you into a conversation where she's the only one talking, and even that is largely screaming. Jicky is the sleazy car salesman who shakes your hand, and you have to glance down and make certain he didn't nick one of your rings. Jicky is the 300 level biology course you needed for the anthro degree but didn't want to take, and then the horrible instructor dropped a brain back into a tub of formaldehyde and splashed it all over your lab coat and even though you changed after class, you still reek of brains and preserving solution hours later when you meet with your academic advisor and discuss the feasibility of switching to a history degree instead. Maybe I'm projecting, let's try putting it this way-Jicky smells quite dead, and alive at the same time. Even a funeral parlour does a better job of disguising the chemicals with florals.

I know there are people who feel Jicky is a magical masterpiece. Perfume is an art, and much like my inability to see any artistic merit in those awful Cthulhu/Chihuly glass thingies every museum insists on erecting in prime window space, Jicky eludes me. Subjective, of course but I wouldn't call someone ignorant for admiring Jicky. I don't, "get it"  but obviously many, many people do. They probably don't have storm cellars.

In the spirit of fairness, I will continue to try the remainder of the decant from time to time and see if I get a different impression when the seasons change,  or if it works layered with another fragrance. I don't need to like something to understand it, so perhaps that is destined to be my experience of Jicky.

And because I never like to miss an opportunity to link a KITH episode, here's the "Husk Musk"


Curtise said...

Goodness, someone give this woman a job as a perfume reviewer. I've said it before, but it bears repeating - you write better than anyone I know about smells!
Never heard of this perfume though. I know - I'm not a proper woman at all. Sorry. xxx

Beth Waltz said...

Being well acquainted with storm cellars, tornadoes, and the earthy, feline smells you describe so well, I've struggled in a similar manner to describe why I don't like a certain expensive Scotch. And when you say you don't "get" Chihuly, I can empathize: I don't get taxidermy in the same way.

You're right about Jicky. Do you think the fabrics women wore once upon a time -- and the soaps used -- influenced the appeal of those strong scents? Wet wool can be as rank as a damp dog, and wet camel hair...! Please give Antilope by Weil a trial and tell us what you think. (By 1945 there was rayon.)

Propagatrix said...

I have never knowingly encountered Jicky, but your description makes me think of an old handbag I once looked at in a thrift shop. When I opened it up to check the lining, an overpowering blast of Eau de Old Lady nearly flattened me. I still taste that scent at the back of my throat when I get carsick.

Thank you for the Kids in the Hall clip as well. You're doing the Lord's work. Really.

Goody said...


Thank you. I don't know that most people would dig my take on perfumes, but I do try to call them as I smell them. You don't need perfume to be a proper woman...though they can see you some if you desire to be, *improper*.

Scent and colour have strong associations for me, and it seems natural to mention which fragrance I wore with which outfit, but I understand most people don't do that, and if they did it would likely be entirely different associations. I w

@Beth Waltz
Yes, scotch! As soon as you said it, I could smell Gelmorainge in my long-ago brain.

Cold rayon has a scent too, or at least I always thought it did-somewhere between paste and furnace dust. You're right though, I'm sure a good many people used perfume as a masking agent rather than an enhancement.

Bibi said...

"The room smelled of her perfume (at some point I asked her what it was, and Colette said: " Jicky. The Empress Eugenie always wore it. I like it because it's an old-fashioned scent with an elegant history, and because it's witty without being coarse--like the better conversationalists. Proust wore it. Or so Cocteau tells me. But then he is not too reliable.)"
-from "Answered Prayers" an unfinished novel by Truman Capote
The main character, PB Jones of "Answered Prayers" further describes the Parisian author Colettes' choice of fragrance as 'kinky' (perhaps due to it's nearly indecent dose of civet?)
Not sure I want to know what kinky smells like.
Vanilla, lavender, civet & a blast of citrus to start, sounds a bit jarring & discordant. Oh well, to quote Jean-Paul Guerlain " To imagine a scent is to imagine the woman who wears it.” It takes all kinds I suppose.

Goody said...


Does it make me a TV evangelist?


Thank you, now I have a comic image in my brain of Colette reading a copy of "Cat Fancy" and moaning, "Ahhh, yes, that's the stuff!"