There are faceless men in Game of Thrones, men who go by no name, have no set identity, are fluid in their ability to take on different guises, and who worship the Many-Faced God. Guerlain‘s Myrrhe & Delires reminds me a lot of them: many faces with a fluid identity that is sometimes quite elusive and often quite forgettable.
It’s a fragrance which I first tried a few years ago, but I never got around to writing about it simply because it frequently slipped my mind. It’s all too easy to forget about Myrrhe & Delires, which is actually part of the problem. Or the biggest problem. Every few months, I made the resolution to cover the scent, but something interesting invariably came up, something which moved me for better or for worse, or triggered some sort of emotion. So, my little decant went back on the shelf. From time to time, I would see it and would struggle to remember what exactly Myrrhe & Delires smelt like because, you see, that faceless quality leads to an all too forgettable nature. I could vaguely recall a fruity, rose-y-ish gourmand with licorice smokiness, but that’s about it. It left no real impression at all. Even now, after re-testing it for the umpteenth time, it’s hard to describe its exact specifics because, on my skin, Myrrhe & Delires is the fluid Many-Faced Guerlain that has no real face at all.
I had forgotten entirely about Myrrhe & Delires (as usual) until a few days ago when the blogger, Monsieur Guerlain, announced on his Facebook page that the fragrance was being discontinued, and that Guerlain had confirmed it. Monsieur Guerlain states that the Myrrhe & Delires will only be sold in stores while stock or supplies last. In rounding up my retail links for this review, I noticed that the fragrance is already off the one Guerlain website that always allowed online purchases, the French one. Typically, all the Guerlain sub-sites permit you to put their niche fragrances on a wish-list, but only Guerlain France consistently permits online purchases of their higher-end releases. That is no longer the case for Myrrhe & Delires, a definite sign of discontinuation, so I thought it best to review the scent while supplies last for any of you who may wish to try it.
Myrrhe & Delires (officially Myrrhe & Délires with an accent) is an eau de parfum created by Thierry Wasser and released in 2012 as part of the L’Art et la Matière Collection. Each fragrance in the line seeks to highlight the beauty of one specific raw material, and some of them are quite successful at it in my experience. For example, Tonka Imperiale definitely showcases tonka, while Angelique Noire has a ton of angelica, for better or for worse. Cuir Beluga, however, is not a leather fragrance, in my opinion, though it is one of my favorite Guerlains from the amongst the newer creations.
In the case of Myrrhe & Delires, Guerlain states its purported focus is on “Majestic myrrh, smiling and luminous.” Hm. If they say so. Guerlain also calls it a “Fruity Oriental,” which is more accurate, in my opinion. The rest of the description is as follows:
Like a taste of forbidden delights, myrrh casts an enchanting spell with its mysterious notes. Floral, fruity and amber, it reveals its liquorice and smoky facets in turn. The Guerlain perfumer has mastered this rare and precious material and boldly orchestrated a luminous and golden myrrh, a myrrh full of frenzy and whimsy…
Contrasting, luminous, mysterious.
Top notes: grapefruit, pink pepper, black pepper, pear.
Heart notes: rose, iris, myrrh, apricot.
Base notes: frankincense, liquorice, patchouli.
On Fragrantica, the list is somewhat different:
Top notes are bergamot and grapefruit; middle notes are osmanthus, jasmine, rose and violet leaf; base notes are patchouli, incense, tonka bean, vanilla, myrrh and licorice.
Myrrhe & Delires opens on my skin with clean sweetness marked by lightly powdered iris, followed by a shy, dry, pale rose. They are dusted lightly with pink peppercorns that smell a bit fruity but are primarily just a quiet veil of spiciness. Lurking all around is an abstract, indistinct fruit accord that smells fresh, sometimes liquidy, but never like actual pear or grapefruit. It’s more like a suggestion of both, refined past their identifying characteristics to add a vaguely fruity freshness and cleanness without shape or substance. A few minutes later, the licorice appears to bind everything together.
What’s unusual about Myrrhe & Delires’ opening for me is that all the notes feel elusive, diaphanous, and nebulous, yet combine together seamlessly to create a gauzy scent that is also strong and noticeable. The iris, rose, fruits, and pepper spices are all there, but they aren’t individually distinct or clearly delineated at all. I can feel their presence a lot more than I can pull them out one by one, but, at the same time, I frequently can’t feel anything more than an abstract suggestion of things. There is an elusiveness to each note, a hazy quality where they briefly shimmer on center stage before floating away on the wind like dandelion fluff. Part of the problem is that Myrrhe & Delires is extremely well-blended and seamless, but another part is that each note feels as sheer and as light as a feather. Together, they somehow manage to create a scent that is strong at first, at least if you apply a lot of it, but many of the individual parts are like remote specks without definition.
That is particularly true for the iris on my skin, right from the start. It never smells cold, stony, reminiscent of makeup powder, and it often isn’t even floral in nature. It’s more like a nebulous, muted suggestion of something vaguely iris-y-ish, mixed with just a touch of sweetened, semi-vanillic powderiness.
It hides behind the rose which is one of the few notes with any substance throughout Myrrhe & Delires’ lifetime. Initially, it shimmers like a blurry mirage, more an echo of something vaguely rose-y-ish but, 10 minutes in, it grows fractionally stronger and clearer, hinting more obviously at being a rose. At first, it’s devoid of the typical gooey, syrupy sweetness found in so many modern Guerlain creations, though it ends up there later on. In the opening phase, though, it is a soft, pale, almost clean, nebulous floral that skews toward the drier side. Weaving their way around it are wispy tendrils of the licorice, the spicy/fruity peppers, and a new touch of incense, but none of them stand out and all of them feel indistinct. It’s even harder to pinpoint the actual vanilla and tonka which I occasionally sense wafting about the sidelines, indirectly adding a suggestion of something plush and comfortingly sweet, but often feeling more like a figment of my imagination.
The ostensible, supposed centerpiece note — the myrrh — is completely silent on my skin throughout all of this. I can’t detect any of its usual facets: no dusty, musty, woody, cool, soapy, or liturgical Church-y notes appear anywhere. Myrrh can sometimes have an anisic undertone, like that amplified in Serge Lutens‘ La Myrrhe, but Guerlain has used actual licorice here, so I can’t detect the titular note at all. If any resin appears, it is solely frankincense (olibanum) which makes a distinct showing after 90-minutes, but myrrh? Not on my skin, not in any authentic, traditional way.
At best, Myrrhe & Delires’ opening could be summed up as a vaguely rose-y-ish floral with vaguely iris-y cleanness, coolness, and lightly powdered, vanillic sweetness, all laced with licorice, spicy, and fruity accents. It’s nice, and I’ll be using that bland word a lot, because it fits Myrrhe & Delires’ rather ho-hum nature. And, yet, the opening is also enjoyable in an easy, mindless, undisturbing way as well. It is technically polished, even perhaps chic in a casual way, but nothing about the opening bouquet stands out to any degree. It feels like the sort of fragrance that you could toss on when you’re not quite sure what to wear, but need something casual and impersonal that won’t stand out at a PTA parents’ meeting. I doubt that was what Guerlain was going for, especially at the price point. (More on that later.)
Myrrhe & Delires shifts by incremental steps, with changes that are frequently more noticeable on the scent trail than up close. Roughly 30 minutes in, the fragrance grows sweeter and, from afar, smells mostly like a rose with spicy and citrusy facets, streaked with a quiet, muted, floral cleanness. The rose, grapefruit, and pink peppercorns are the clearest individual notes. Sometimes, the licorice joins them on the trail. Once in a while, a tiny hint of soapiness pops up there, too. Up close, however, the scent is dominated by a growing, syrupy sweetness from the pink peppercorns and a very fruity patchouli (or fruitchouli). The licorice is starting to grow stronger, too, while the iris is now virtually imperceptible. A subtle whiff of acridness lurks about, perhaps from the frankincense, but it doesn’t smell smoky in the usual sense at all. Like everything else in Myrrhe & Delires, it is hard to pinpoint and feels indistinct.
At the end of the first hour, Myrrhe & Delires becomes richer, significantly sweeter, and finally feels a little smokier as well. The incense appears hazily on the sidelines, though it is initially hard to tell in any concrete way. It doesn’t smell like myrrh, I can tell you that, and is closer to the blackness of frankincense — the two do not smell alike and have a definite difference in aroma. That said, perhaps the soapiness that smudges the edges of Myrrhe & Delires stems from the myrrh. All the notes feel blurrier than ever. I can’t pick out the pear, grapefruit, peppers, vanilla, tonka, or iris, and even the licorice is turning elusive. The licorice is actually the oddest note on my skin. It fluctuates in both strength and clarity, sometimes extremely noticeable in its own right but, more often, it is subsumed within the general frankincense smokiness, and smells like a nameless streak of dark sweetness that is almost balsamic at times.
Generally, Myrrhe & Delires is merely a fruity, lightly spiced, increasingly sweet rose scent with vaguely licorice-y, incense smokiness, but it continues to vary in its details. At the 90-minute mark, the incense finally appears on center stage in a strong, clearly delineated, significant way, smelling purely of black frankincense with nary a whiff of myrrh at all. It’s fully fused with the licorice, resulting in a blurry, mixed accord that is simultaneously smoky, sweet, balsamic, and resinous in nature. It wraps itself around the syrupy rose, forming the main focus of the scent. Roughly 2.5 hours in, other notes appear in the background, though, as usual, none of them are very clear. There is a jasmine-y-ish sweetness, a whiff of something nebulously violet-ish, something vaguely apricot-like once in a blue moon (though never anything actually like the osmanthus mentioned in Fragrantica’s note list), and a drop of something green-ish with no face at all and which never resembles the violet leaf listed by Fragrantica. The fact that I’m using so many vague “-ish” suffixes should tell you something.
Myrrhe & Delires stays that way largely until its very end. There is a ton of gooey fruitchouli and pink peppercorns, so much so that the incense can’t turn the rose truly dry the way it is in Encens Mythique d’Orient from Guerlain’s Deserts d’Orients Collection. The smoke continues to have an oddly acrid undertone or nuance to it, though it’s subtle in the face of all the gooey sweetness. By the start of the 5th hour, Myrrhe & Delires is merely an incense-licorice rose drenched in an excessive amount of fruit syrup and occasionally laced with muted, mostly ghostly hints of jasmine, violets, and slightly powdered vanilla. In its final hours, all that is left is sweetness with vaguely resinous and vanillic vestiges.
Myrrhe & Delires has good longevity and moderate to soft projection on my skin. Using 3 large smears equal to 3 small sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opens with 4 inches of projection and a soft, discreet scent trail. Both grow rapidly after 20 minutes. The projection becomes about 5-6 inches, while the scent trail is about half a foot at times. Using a smaller amount (2 smears equal to 2 sprays from a bottle), the projection and sillage are less, though not substantially so. Generally, Myrrhe & Delires drops closer to the skin at the end of 2 hours, then becomes a skin scent on me about 5 hours into its development and lasts between 9.5 and 11 hours, depending on whether I apply the equivalent of 2 sprays or 3.
In reading other reviews, no-one talks about a rose-heavy scent, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on Myrrhe & Delires’ primary focus. The two notes that are mentioned the most frequently are the licorice or the iris (usually not together), while the myrrh seems to depend on which site you read. For The Non-Blonde, as for me, there was no noticeable myrrh at all. She wrote that Myrrhe & Delires opened with sweet and powdery qualities that were infused with the brightness of peppery fruit, before quickly taking on a tactile suede-like plushness from the iris, and ending up in the drydown with delicate incense and refined patchouli.
On Fragrantica, people found other notes dominated, though it is the licorice which is mentioned most frequently in the comments. A few found the scent to be primarily myrrh and licorice. Two people thought there was so much licorice that Myrrhe & Delires closely resembled Lolita Lempicka‘s namesake creation. One Fragrantica poster thought Myrrhe & Delires smelt primarily of pineapple, before concluding it must be the osmanthus; another detected a heavy amount of patchouli; a third noticed jasmine and osmanthus, but said the order of main notes was “myrrhe, osmanthus, patchouli and jasmine;” and a fourth thought Myrrhe & Delires resembled “a sweeter, more floral Coromandel.” One chap said he could not detect any incense in the “regal blend of rich, appealing sweet gourmandy notes,” but he noticed a lot of licorice and thought that the overall scent was like “an upscale mix between their L’Instant homme and Dior Homme (non-intense).” A few others noticed subtle whiffs of violet; one chap wrote that Myrrhe & Delires reminded him of “Guerlain’s Attrape Coeur/ Guetapens opening.”
On Basenotes, in contrast, all 3 reviews there talk primarily about the iris. The first comment describes Myrrhe & Delires as a “soft iris amber aroma with just a hint of patchouli and myrrhe;” the second calls it an “Upscale version of Dior Homme Intense,” a scent known to be iris-centric; while the third said it “developed a very tiresome iris-peachy-amber note” before becoming so sweet that he had to wash it off.
For all its shapelessness, I thought the opening phase of Myrrhe & Delires was nice, but I had issues with the rest of the scent. It’s excessively sweet and gooey for my personal tastes, I don’t enjoy so much licorice, and I’m not a rose lover, particularly when it’s drenched in fruity patchouli as it is in so many of the modern Guerlains. I’m also very biased against pink peppercorns, a dated note that dominated far too many mainstream fruity-florals in the 2000s.
My greater issue with Myrrhe & Delires, though, is what I mentioned at the start: its consistently forgettable character. The nebulous and elusive nature of many of the notes doesn’t help matters, but I think there is also a generic vibe to a rose-y-ish floral that is drenched in fruity patchouli and pink peppercorns. Had the scent skewed more towards the gourmand iris that some others experienced, my feelings might be different, but I doubt it. Thierry Wasser’s fragrances are consistently too, too sweet for my tastes, and the amount of licorice here would forever be a sticking point.
Even if one adores Myrrhe & Delires and sees it as a polished, upgraded version of the fruity-floral with the gourmand twist of licorice and the possible (but not guaranteed) inclusion of myrrh, the real question is whether that’s enough to make you want to buy it at the price point? A 75 ml/2.5 oz bottle costs $260. For me, that’s too high for a scent that was so ho-hum and faceless, I consistently forgot about it over the years. The fact that others compare its bouquet to cheaper, mainstream releases — like Dior Homme (Intense and non-Intense versions), Lolita Lempicka, and Oriflame‘s Pretty Swan (6 people voting on Fragrantica) — should also tell you how distinctive it is, and suggests to me that Guerlain’s higher price may have played a significant role in Myrrhe & Delires’ discontinuation.
Still, if you love licorice or gourmand florals, and if you don’t mind that the possibility that there may not be any myrrh on your skin, you should seek out Myrrhe & Delires for a test sniff at a Guerlain boutique or at one of the handful of department stores that carry it. If you end up loving it, now is the time to buy it, before it vanishes off the shelves completely.