Custom naming rights wrapped up in the patina of exclusivity. That’s one way of looking at Guerlain‘s attempt to distinguish Mon Exclusif from the flood of new releases put out each year, not only by other brands but also from the ten to twenty fragrances that it itself issues. Another way of viewing it, though, is as an asinine, childish gimmick that seeks to hide the utterly generic, insipid, and commercial nature of its scent behind the illusion of luxury and exclusivity, with the added benefit of higher prices to boot. This is a fragrance that I think is driven by cynical marketing and market trends rather than the desire to create a original, compelling creation that stands out on an olfactory basis. [Update 1/26/17 — This fragrance has been renamed as Mon Guerlain. It is the exact same formulation and scent as before. Guerlain pulled “Mon Exclusif,” renamed it, removed the option of personalized stickers discussed below, and selected Angelina Jolie as the fragrance’s celebrity face. In essence, it chose a different form of marketing than the stickers it originally had to distinguish this scent. But the perfume itself remains unchanged, so the review on the substance of the scent itself stands. Mon Guerlain will launch in February 2017. ]
Mon Exclusif is an eau de parfum that was released last year and whose bottle is a modern reinterpretation of Guerlain’s famous Coque d’Or. The novelty gimmick is that, “for the first time,” you can give your fragrance the name of your choosing, a name which you can then spell it out on your bottle by applying big, fat, metallic stickers or decals. An 8-year old would be thrilled. I simply rolled my eyes. Repeatedly.
On its website, Guerlain describes Mon Exclusif as an “oriental fougère” that is an “astounding feat of its kind,” and says:
For the first time, Guerlain is offering you the freedom to name your new exclusive feminine fragrance. Because your relationship with your fragrance is very intimate, it’s up to you to name this partner by your side…
This surprising Eau de Parfum is an astounding feat of its kind: caressing oriental notes of sandalwood and toffee contrast with a fresh fougère accord embodied by an exceptional lavender.
Guerlain reinterprets the illustrious Coque d’Or bottle. Created in 1937, it was loosely inspired by men’s bow ties for chic occasions. Today, it is a bow with a twist, boldly worn by a woman.
Customise your bottle with the name that you have chosen using the metallic letters provided.
The accompanying list of notes is:
Mandarin, Bergamot, Sugared almond, Lavender, Solar notes, Iris, White musks, Sandalwood, and a Toffee accord [which Fragrantica says consists of salted caramel, vanilla, and coumarin].
The “astounding feat of its kind” opens on my skin with lemon cotton candy and sugared almonds, sprinkled with the smallest pinch of sweetened lavender, then covered with a veil of clean, vanillic white musk and placed on a bed of sweetness. The latter smells of soft white woods that are clean and given a sepia tint with the merest wash of toffee. After a few minutes, a red fruitiness appears, smelling like the jammy berries that Guerlain puts in the vast majority of its fragrances these days. Yet, as a whole, Mon Exclusif is a very gauzy bouquet, light, soft, and delicate in both body and feel. Despite its many and varied types of sugariness, the gauziness in the opening keeps the notes from feeling gooey or syrupy. One doesn’t feel flattened under a bushel of candied heaviness, at least not initially. The bouquet in the first 20-30 minutes is too gossamer thin for that. If anything, Mon Exclusif opens as an extremely citrusy, fresh, bright, and clean take on candy and the gourmand genre.
Mon Exclusif shifts rather quickly. The citrus, white musks, and sugar rapidly grow in strength. The almond note is largely swallowed up, feeling more abstract and nebulous than it did at the start. The lavender also grows sheerer; wisps of it weave around the background, but it feels insubstantial and elusive. If a lavender lover was anticipating a gourmand version of Jicky, they might be disappointed by speed with which the note is subsumed within the increasingly lemony, toffee’d ball of sugared, musk plushness. The lavender is really a negligible part of the scent. In fact, I don’t think Mon Exclusif is a fougère at all, not the classical sort nor the oriental variety that Guerlain stated on its website. To me, it’s a gourmand fragrance, period, albeit one that periodically dips its toe into the musk and fruity-floral sub-genres at different stages in its development. And none of it resembles Jicky on my skin.
Instead, the opening phase reminded me of a gauzy, cotton candy variation on two fragrances from other brands: Narciso Rodriguez‘s For Her musk fragrances combined with a good heaping dose of Lancome‘s La Vie est Belle. The similarities appear roughly 20 to 30 minutes into Mon Exclusif’s development when the red berries really kick in, adding a fruitchouli-style jamminess to the scent. It’s followed by a indeterminate floralcy that smells rosy rather than anything resembling actual iris. Like ribbons, the two accords wrap around the candied bouquet, merging into the sugared lemon fluff, the toffee, and the plush clean musk. By the end of the first hour, the syrupy red berries become so prominent that they actually vie with the sugared lemon and musk for supremacy as the lead note.
By the 90-minute mark, the fruity accord wins completely. The result is a raspberry lollipop laced with lemon cotton candy, sweetened clean musk, and something nebulously floral, all atop on an equally sweetened (and synthetic) woody base. There is no lavender, no almond, no iris, no real toffee, and no discernible, clearly delineated, solid sandalwood, either. All of it feels like a candied variation of the blockbuster seller, La Vie est Belle. That’s really Mon Exclusif’s fundamental essence on my skin.
Nothing happens to change that focus or main bouquet, either, no dramatic twists or turns. This is a fragrance that, on my skin, is driven primarily by four main chords: 1) lemony cotton candy; 2) fruitchouli-floral, berried jamminess; 3) musk that is simultaneously sweet, clean, fresh, and plush; and 4) sugary vanilla that gradually takes on a caramel nuance later on as well. In the hours that follow, all that really happens are fluctuations to the strength, nuances, or order of these four accords. They take turns shining in the spotlight, almost like a relay race where one element dominates before handing the baton over to the next.
For example, at the start of the 3rd hour, Mon Exclusif turns significantly sweeter. The sugary notes take the lead, followed by the jammy raspberry, their sweetness subtly amplified by the vanilla which has now awakened in the base. The white musk trails at the back of the pack, but it has taken on a rather sharp quality for my tastes. A switch occurs about 4.25 hours in. The jammy red fruits become minor, muffled wisps in the background; the cotton candy at the head of the pack no longer smells of lemon but of vanilla infused with occasional whiffs of caramel; and all traces of woodiness or floralcy have disappeared. For the most part, Mon Exclusif is now primarily a vanilla candy puff enveloped in soft musk (that, once again, makes me think of Narciso Rodriguez’s For Her aesthetic).
Yet, the relay race means that this is a scent that doesn’t hew to one set path; every time I thought an accord had finally died out — like the lemon cotton candy, the toffee/caramel, or the fruity-floral, raspberry jamminess — it would eventually dance back on scene, sometimes alone, sometimes in tandem. They splash onto the powerful, sugared vanilla that is Mon Exclusif’s primary focus, but they never take over. Throughout this time, the only constant is the clean, equally sweetened musk that ties everything together. Eventually, that’s all that’s left, and Mon Exclusif dies away as a wisp of sugary, clean sweetness.
Mon Exclusif had good longevity, average sillage, and soft projection. I typically used several generous smears equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, and the scent usually opened with 3 inches of projection and roughly 3-4 inches of sillage. The latter grew after 20 minutes, but it never extended beyond 6 inches at most. Mon Exclusif became a skin scent roughly 5.25 hours into its development, though it was easy to detect up close without major effort for a while to come. In total, the fragrance typically lasted between 10 and 10.5 hours in my various tests.
None of it was my personal cup of tea. One of my many issues with Mon Exclusif is how generic it smells and how cynical it feels. On my skin, its character could be defined primarily in terms of other fragrances. It’s not just a vanilla candied twist on La Vie Est Belle mixed with Narciso Rodriguez’ For Her. It’s also a remixed mishmash of other Guerlains: the gooey raspberry of La Petite Robe Noire (and so many others); the caramel praline of L’Homme Idéal (and so many others); the sugared almonds of the now discontinued, vanilla-heavy Shanghai; the abstract fruity-floral, pink gourmandise of Guerlain’s Chypre Fatal (a ludicrously misnamed scent if ever I saw one); and the citrusy freshness of so many scents that I couldn’t even begin to list them. It’s as though the popular elements of a whole slew of fragrances — from Guerlain and elsewhere — had all been tossed into one bottle pursuant to a checklist.
It’s Guerlain by the numbers, by rote. No wonder the company managed to release 20 fragrances last year. (As the blogger, Monsieur Guerlain, noted in a 2015, year-end post on Facebook: “that’s more than one every three weeks.”) Here, I’ll admit that the scent is generically pretty at first in a commercial way, but none of it is “an astounding feat of its kind.” (Really?! Claiming that with a straight face takes some guts.) For me, Mon Exclusif is so derivative that, in six months time, I doubt I’ll be able to remember anything about it other than: “various forms of cotton candy” and “stupid stickers.”
And, yes, the stickers get my goat. The naming issue feels like smoke and mirrors to distract from the generic nature of the composition under the guise of individuality and bespoke luxury. I find it to be a bald-faced, brazen marketing gimmick that also tries to justify a $180/€130 price tag for a scent that resembles more inexpensive fragrances. (At Sephora, a 50 ml bottle of La Vie est Belle eau de parfum costs roughly $86; a 50 ml bottle of For Her EDP is $97; and both can be found for even less on discount sites.) Look, lots of companies have put out their gourmand interpretations of For Her or La Vie est Belle. Others have cannibalized their own popular elements to use in a remix of their greatest hits. To my memory, none of them have used cheap stickers as a central part of the whole charade of uniqueness and luxury, particularly not stickers that I could buy in an arts-and-craft store for $3 or less.
It’s almost galling and insulting how stupid the whole thing is. Guerlain’s description that I quoted above condescendingly tells me that they are “offering” me the “freedom” to name the fragrance whatever I want (as if I couldn’t do that already in my head), and then they give me a bunch of stickers. For this privilege, I get to pay $100 more than the retail cost of some of the fragrances they seek to ape. I can’t get the thought of “My Little Pony” and “Hello Kitty” out of my head. But I’m not 8 years old, and I don’t want to put a bunch of stickers on my $180 bottle of perfume.
Without them, though, what’s left, really? A derivative ball of fluff. The sole reason it’s supposed to stand out is because, “for the first time” (my emphasis), you can give your bottle a name. That’s its one claim to originality, in my opinion, and it’s merely smoke and mirrors, a gimmick whose juvenile aspect is better suited to a child’s plastic toy than to an adult’s “luxury” purchase.
In fairness, I suppose stickers were the only way to achieve a personalised outcome for a mass-market perfume that is being sold by the thousands, but I wish they didn’t look so bad. The blog, Sorcery of Scent, has a photo of their customized bottle, complete with the “gargantuan” letters and their “cheapness.”
The accompanying review is tactfully polite. I snorted up my coffee at the dry comment that “whoever suggested it is a modern, sweeter version of Jicky needs some significant rhinoplasty.” And, while Dimitri did call Mon Exclusif “pretty” at the end, the actual part of his description is mixed to ambivalent. For example, he writes, in part:
Mon Exclusif is sweet… tooth-achingly sweet. If you have an aversion to the candied purple buzz of Insolence or the fudge-dense chewiness of the L’Art et Matiere offerings, then Mon Exclusif will raise your glucose levels through the roof! Sweet mandarin and zesty bergamot meet the nose, followed by a familiar candied almond accord which one can find in both L’Homme Ideal and LPRN… this is wrapped in lavender sugar and nectar-like solar accords that I sense present perhaps in Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia. Bittersweet iris and clean white musk are combined with a burnt sugar accord, the sum of which act as a fondant poured generously over the whole composition. It is this sticky vanilla/toffee that lingers on skin and in the nose for many hours.
Like La Vie est Belle and For Her, many of the fragrances referenced in his description are extremely popular with lovers of mainstream perfumery, which may explain why Mon Exclusif receives overwhelmingly adoring praise on Fragrantica. There, comment after comment gushes about its gourmand sweetness, its vanilla (characterized by one person as a “sugar cookie”), its caramel, its “brightness,” its delicate floralcy, and its femininity. One poster, “AveParfum,” actually says flat-out that the scent is “a toothache in a bottle.” And, yet, she loves it. For her, Mon Exclusif opened with a “syrupy-sweet” cherry note before moving onto a long main stage of praline with some vanilla that was joined, later on, by a wisp of “ethereal” floralcy as well. For others, the sweetness wasn’t excessive, but “satisfying” or “high class.”
How you view Mon Exclusif is obviously going to depend on your baseline definition of sweetness, as well as the style of perfumery you prefer. Hardcore gourmand lovers clearly adore it, so if you’re one of them or if you love any of the fragrances mentioned here, then you should ignore me completely and get a sample. However, if you have issues with candied sugariness, fruity syrup, clean musks, or gourmands that skew more feminine rather than unisex, then I don’t think Mon Exclusif will be for you.
At the end of the day, Sorcery of Scent’s Dimitri summed up my feelings to a “T” when he said that Mon Exclusif was bound to be popular, but he would give his “left gonad to welcome a new mainstream chypre to the Guerlain portfolio… one devoid of a single sugar-dusted almond, nutty praline or saccharine pink berry.” Now that would be a novelty, indeed.
Wow, this irks me. It sounded like a decent fragrance and if it were sold for less without the “freedom” to name it, I might actually purchase it. But not for $180.
If it were the price of analogous perfumes, like in the $70-90 range, I’d be much more positive about Mon Exclusif as a mainstream gourmand, even if its intense sugariness meant the scent was outside of my personal tastes. But the whole “naming” thing as represented by those bloody, $3-looking stickers… it’s just too much for me. Fragrance by rote and by the numbers is one thing; adding cynical marketing gimmicks and a ludicrously elevated price tag on top of it is quite another matter. I hate it when companies think they can play you like a sucker.
I’m so glad to see my feelings about Mon put into words (and so eloquently as always) by someone else. I read the Fragrantica reviews and I felt like I must be some lonely, thousand year old cavewoman. I mean generational differences and all, of course, but if I was 17 I don’t think I’d be any less annoyed by this over-priced tacky sub-toddler appropriate thing.
I had the same disconnect when reading the Fragrantica page! I felt as though I were from an alien planet. If you occasionally write Fragrantica reviews, I hope you’ll consider lending a counter-balance to the views on that page by writing a comment about your experiences and views. The lack of any sort of dissenting view or counter-balance creates a very misleading picture of what this scent will be like for everyone. Not everyone is a gourmand lover or comes from the same olfactory background. As you noted, and as a few people have written here, there are generational differences in how one perceives certain styles of fragrances, fragrance families, or compositions like this one. The Fragrantica comments seem to be written almost entirely by gourmand lovers (or perhaps those with more youthful, modern tastes), but the impression that is left if one merely scans the page is that the fragrance is a slam dunk hit with everyone across the board.
I have not tried this, nor will I. I have been into perfume for many many years–at a time when there were not that many except the great classics and a few new ones. But what was out there was all good–even if it wasn’t ones style. However, despite that I like the fact that perfume lovers have come out of the closet and enjoy many of the niche fragrances, the niche perfume world (not to even mention the commercial department store perfume world) is also becoming “commercialized” in main stream way. And mostly I believe it’s for money and not the love of perfume. Hopefully, there are still many of us out there who are in these blogs and into perfume that are mainly perfume lovers/perfumistas who enjoy diverse fragrances.
I really relate to what you’re saying. While I don’t think Guerlain is a niche company (or puts out anything remotely resembling “niche” in style), I’ve been railing all week to my friends about the growing commercialisation of niche perfumery. I think the big or bigger “niche” companies are following the mainstream tendency of putting out fragrances with a set number of profiles and, as a result, many of them smell the same. (The fact that they tend to use the latest hot, trendy aromachemicals — often from the same handful of distributors like Givaudan, Firmenich, and IFF — doesn’t help.) Every year, there are one or two thematic bandwagons that they all jump onto. Last year, it was primarily spiced smoky leather or woody smoky leather. (I sometimes felt as though I were writing the same review or description again and again for most of the last 3 months of 2015.) More and more these days, I feel one has to go to the really indie or artisanal brands to experience anything with character or a truly creative profile.
Oh yes I so totally agree with the same set of aroma chemicals. I often chuckle to myself that the big chemical companies must produce a worksheet suggesting how to style them! I adore going in on the splits, and so many fumes are just playing with “animal”, “woody notes”, “leather”…. Then there’s been a run on “aldehydes”, and we won’t mention “oud”! With the result that you end up with a collection of things that basically smell the same. And I think I’ve hit the wall on the insane prices now. Going to shop my ridiculously large stash for a while……
I love sweet cotton candy scents now. But yes, this is quite lovely, ridiculously overpriced, could be a classic and popular mainstream like Robe Noire. What a shame that gorgeous lavender note is so fleeting in this. Why didn’t they design that to persist like it does in the Chanel one -Jersey?- I wandered out wearing it the other evening and my daughter promptly stole my decant and wouldn’t give it back, so the young ones do like it when done so well.
Hi Marion, welcome to the blog, and thank you for sharing your experiences with the fragrance. 🙂
No kidding! Sheesh.
Oh, K, how we’ve missed you! And how the marketers must tremble… 😉
“Another way of viewing it, though, is as an asinine, childish gimmick that seeks to hide the utterly generic, insipid, and commercial nature of its scent behind the illusion of luxury and exclusivity, with the added benefit of higher prices to boot.” This has the wit (and bite) of Luca Turin, with the added benefit of one of your detailed reviews!
“Cotton candy and stupid stickers” sounds like a good name for it. I’ll wager I remember this review longer than the fragrance!
Heh, thank you. 🙂
I too feel rather annoyed by this strange offering. The ‘meh’ fragragrance disappoints and the cheapness of the whole sticker idea appalls. The clue was there in the name though – “Mon” has come to be shorthand used by perfumers generally for entry level teenage fragrance albeit in this case for the offspring of those with way too much money and nowhere near enough taste. Hence the sugar rush and the tacky stickers may be explained but by no means excused. I don’t think even the tweenage daughters of oligarchs would fall for this cynical ploy. Next year expect a bottle shaped like a cat.
I think the tween daughters of Russian oligarchs would prefer Roja Dove’s Tutti Frutti trio of fragrances with their candy pastel colouring, scent, and name. Talk about cynical marketing ploys!
Oh yes, quite right about the dubious appeal of Roja’s bottles with their ‘jewels’ that look like boiled sweets. Another case of trash cynically pretending to be treasure.
What utter rubbish! I won’t put MY nose near one of their hideous bottles!
I was waiting for the inevitable musk and fruit (or musk and citrus) review to say this. I ride the metro daily. And there are signs to turn down ones music if listening on headphones so as not to annoy others. I’m a large headphones gal, and I duly turn down. In counterpart why do I have to be blasted by heaping doses of cheapo musk and fruits or citrus (musk in particular) every morning? For now can still borrow my nose in my blanket scarf and sniff my own glorious yet subtle and delicately spritzed scent (yesterday was Anubis, which has inched up to my top 5 favorites of all time. So far). We live in a visual-auditory centric world. Where the concepts of of noise and light pollution exist. Olfactory pollution should be a thing. That being said, enjoyed the post as morning coffee with K! Hi Kafka and Zola. How is he doing these days? We haven’t heard about him for a while and I hope that your brief absence after the attar series wasn’t because he needed your full attention for medical reasons.
So glad to hear that Anubis has become such a favourite. As for me, no, my time away was unrelated to Zola’s medical condition. That said, he’s currently battling an infection and is on a heavy dose of steroids, antibiotics, and other things. But I caught it early, and his spirits are high. 🙂
It would be a relief if the redoux of the synthetic LVEB and the accord du jour (pink pepper I’m looking at you) would just subside and some different types of frags be introduced… But I’m am old curmudgeon that when I read these releases I go clutch my vintage opium or givenchy III tight.
Thank you for a truthful , well explored review.
Haha, I’m clearly an old curmudgeon, too, then. 😀 😛 And I completely agree on the blasted pink pepper. It dominated most of the fragrances of the 2000s era. Its replacement in this decade, the 2010s, is an equally cloying, olfactory similar, raspberry fruitchouli jam — and Guerlain sticks it in almost everything. Unfortunately, so do most other brands it seems. Oh well, us curmudgeons from a different era can huddle together here. 🙂
Well, at the risk of being heckled, I love this stuff. The lavender comes through on me and I love that vanillish Guerlinade. I did save about $50 getting this directly from Paris so I don’t feel ripped off. The naming thing is goofy and I have not stuck any little letters on my bottle, but I am very fond of this sweet little scent. I also really like all the L’Art et Matiere scents. I’m sure I’m hopelessly bourgeois but I do like some mainstream things. They aren’t all bad in everyone’s opinion.
It’s great that it works so great on your skin, my dear. And no worries about being heckled. As I noted in the review, everybody seems to love the scent on Fragrantica. Everybody (though most of the comments seem to come from gourmand lovers).
You’re a gourmand lover, too, and own a lot of fragrances in the genre. So you’re in the category of people that I explicitly said should ignore me and just get a sample. 🙂 The fact you love it comes as no surprise because it’s right up your alley, but you’re hardly alone in your feelings about this popular scent. If anything, I’m in the one in the minority who is likely to be heckled for my views on it. Lol.
At the end of the day, none of that matters, though, and all that counts is that *you* love it. 🙂 I’m very happy you found something you enjoy so much.
You are very kind. My love of gourmands was slow to take off but now I”m solidly in the gourmand camp.
@RickyRebarco I hope I didn’t sound like some kind of perfume snob – nothing could be further from the truth. I like almost all of the Art et Matiere scents and the vast majority of my bottles are ‘mainstream’ – I’m a peasant and proud of it. I was just thrilled to read a non-rave about Mon Exclusif because everyone loves it and even though I’m happy with my taste it gets lonely being the only person who doesn’t love some of the things people rave about now. I’m just frankly old, was brought up on heavy chypres, aldehydic florals and huge orientals – plus I have a hard time with high priced bottles of eau de parfum from any and all brands. If I ever put anyone down for liking any perfume – it will for sure mean the senile dementia has kicked in.
No problem! Everyone has their individual tastes. I totally appreciate all the high class niches and I own many of them. Some things just hit a “sweet” spot for all of us sometimes and Mon Exclusif is one of those for me.
I so agree with you Kafka. I cannot believe Guerlain’s cynicism. This is such an insult to their customers – pretending to flatter the potential buyer by calling this an exclusive simply because you can call it whatever you want!!! Who are they kidding? And they make it a bit more expensive than their other scents to sort of convince the buyer that this is the case. Who could possibly fall for this? I have no idea how popular this fragrance is. All I know is I sniffed it a couple of times and wanted to cry because I love Guerlain but I hate what it’s becoming. I love its classics – more so in vintage than in modern – but the extraits are still good all things considered. And to see this venerable house fall so low with this generic gourmand and an unbelievably cynical gimmick makes me very sad.
Hi Lilly, welcome to the blog, and thank you for sharing your experiences with Mon Exclusif. I share your sadness about what’s become of Guerlain, too.
From a branding perspective, this makes the think like they’re aiming it at little girls, not grown women. My First Guerlain. It’s all very confusing. Do they even know their audience? I thought it was a bad idea with that one La Petite Robe Noire bottle that had stickers, and it’s still a bad idea here!
The stickers for that La Petite Robe Noire limited-edition bottle were godawful in my opinion. But at least that bottle wasn’t priced like this one! I think Guerlain’s audience definitely skews younger than it did pre-LVMH, so I think they’re quite aware of their audience, unfortunately. LVMH wanted to remake Guerlain as a younger or youthful brand, moving away from the “old lady” perception that so many of the younger generation had after fragrances like Shalimar or L’Heure Bleue.
And they’ve succeeded in that endeavor in spades, in my opinion. Guerlain has become one of the go-to brands for gourmand-loving younger people, people who write appreciatively about how the new fragrances don’t have Shalimar-like “nasty bits” (to paraphrase one person’s comment that I saw recently). I suspect the brand has turned into a money-making juggernaut for LVMH as compared to what it was like in its early acquisition days when its image was seen as older, and when its fragrances were perceived to be for “old fogey” grandmothers or grand dames.
My Great Granny Tessy’s beloved Coque D’Or…(I can still smell it)..well, there’s no need for me to hunt down a vintage bottle now…the legacy is ruined….FOREVER!