Guerlain Jicky — The Modern Parfum, The History, & The Old Legend

Astounding, beautiful, and an utter delight to wear— what a superb fragrance modern 2020 Jicky parfum is! And I say this as a decades-long lavenderphobe who only recently started to like some lavender fragrances but who still sometimes shudders at the thought of lavender.

But Jicky Parfum is more than a simple creamy lavender fragrance or even a fougère. In fact, to my great surprise, it was also quite a different kettle of fish than the modern EDP that I tried and reviewed around 7 years ago; this is a much more appealing and opulent scent.

Jicky is a Guerlain legend which celebrated its 131st birthday this year and is reportedly the oldest fragrance in continuous production. Even though I liked modern Jicky Eau de Parfum , once called a Parfum de Toilette, it’s the modern Jicky extract (parfum) that I’ve been intrigued by, particularly given the rave reviews I keep hearing from people whose nose and tastes I respect. So it seemed like an ideal choice to focus on in my return to writing.

Jicky Collage from Monsieur Guerlain.

THE HISTORY, THE LEGEND, ITS IMPORTANCE & WHY :

Aimé Guerlain. Source: Fragrantica

Jicky was created in 1889 by Aimé Guerlain. The legend is that he created it in memory of a girl he loved whose nickname was “Jicky,” though it seems that he may have named it after his nephew instead. It is a fragrance that is considered one of the very first “modern” creations, both in terms of its use of synthetically extracted molecules and in terms of being truly unisex.

In fact, Jicky was originally marketed as a men’s fragrance before floundering sales made the company switch gears and market it as a women’s fragrance. At that point, it took off and became a hit. But men still wore it, too. It became, in essence, the world’s first unisex fragrance. As I recently learned from a Twitter friend (@Salsera), Jicky was the signature scent of Sean Connery aka James Bond and 007. While I can’t see him wearing the current 2020 version that I’m writing about, I absolutely could see him wearing the original as it has been described to me. Regardless, I think that Jicky, including the current version, is a masterpiece that anyone of any gender who enjoys perfumes centered on creamy, vibrant, and aromatic ice-cream lavender florals should try for themselves.

From broader, historical, technical, and legacy perspectives, Jicky is significant for a variety of reasons. There is the issue of the synthetic coumarin molecules used for one of the first times in perfumery (supposedly after Houbigant did it first for his perfume), the unisex usage, and the role of modern gender marketing, but Jicky is also important because it reportedly served as the template for many of the Guerlains which followed. According to Monsieur Guerlain , who ran the acclaimed unofficial website about Guerlain’s fragrances and was an undisputed expert on them, Jicky was the first example of what later became known as “Guerlainade, “the signature elements in the base that is evident in almost all of the house’s creations to this day and which people often summarize simply as a lightly powdered, vanilla tonka sweetness. (Guerlinade is a little more than that, in my personal opinion. I think Vanillin plays a big role, too.)

The Little Book of Perfumes. Source: Amazon.

I really love this account of Aimé Guerlain and Jicky’s creation from the Smithsonian museum magazine , which relies quite a bit on Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s Little Book on the 100 classic fragrances:

Breaking with traditions and trends, Guerlain challenged conventions by introducing synthetic molecules into his perfumes. At its most basic,  Jicky  was primarily composed of lavender and vanilla scents, along with secondary citrus notes and a hint of the traditional Guerlain bouquet. While the lavender was steam-distilled through a standard process, the vanilla scent presented a unique problem — it was an expensive and rather weak extract. So Guerlain sought out an alternative: synthetics. According to [Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez ‘s] The Little Book of Perfumes, when the perfume was being conceived, only a single firm in Paris, De Laire, had the rights to patent synthetic vanillin, which was cheaper, sweeter and creamier than the natural alternative. Not only would these designed components — terpene alcohol β-linalool, coumarin and ethyl vanillin — add to the multi-faceted complexity of the scent, they also made it last longer. Although the process wasn’t perfect, the impurities of the synthetic extract added to the complexity of the scent.

[¶] It was brave. It was bold. It was the first perfume designed to stir emotions, rather than just recall flowers. And it was worn almost exclusively by men. At first, anyway. Women soon came around and Jicky  was actually marketed as a unisex fragrance. The ambiguity became a part of the identity of  Jicky and is still referenced in the official description of the perfume.

Some people find Jicky to be extremely similar to Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsieur, but it’s also argued that Jicky was the template for Shalimar. The theory goes that the latter is simply an oriental version of Jicky which has leathery resins and more vanilla, but not its boyish, herbal, outdoorsy, and originally dirty, masculine, civet elements. That’s the argument at least. I’ve never tried really old vintage Jicky parfum to offer any educated thoughts on these comparisons, but I can definitely see the Shalimar connections in the current 2020 version of the parfum.

Old Jicky ad featuring the pure perfume bottle. Source: Guerlain website.

Old Jicky ad featuring the pure perfume bottle. Source: Guerlain website.

One thing that is important for people to understand about Jicky is that it was originally intended to be an aromatic fern. The fern is one of the oldest, main, and most classical perfume groups. As Fragrantica explains, these fragrances are centered on coumarin, as Jicky still is in fair part:

Name of the olfactory group ‘fougere’ derives from French word ‘fougere’ or ‘fern’. Coumarin can be found in the center of compositions. Perfume-originator of this group is Fougere Royal by the house of Houbigant, created by Paul Parquet in 1882. The perfumer extracted the synthetic component coumarin and used it in perfumery for the first time. Coumarin can be found in nature in several plants, such as Tonka beans, and it possesses intensive scent of freshly mown grass. Fern compositions include notes of lavender, geranium, moss and wood.

It is a genre which is frequently associated today with male fragrances and colognes —which may be why a few women once found Jicky to be too masculine a scent.

However, in my opinion, when modern circa 2020 Jicky parfum is taken as a whole, the version on my skin is much less an aromatic fougère now than it reportedly once was, per the old descriptions of the classic vintage formulations. Moreover, to my surprise, it is also different than the EDP version that I wrote about many years ago. Judging the 2020 parfum on my skin, my mother’s skin, and my father’s skin, I might go so far as to argue that current Jicky, on some people, is an amalgamation of a classic brisk, fresh, citrusy aromatic fougère and a lush, modern, citrusy fougère-floral .

A detailed note list for modern Jicky is difficult to find. It’s usually a mere nutshell synopsis about lavender, a fougère accord, vanilla, and / or woods. However, according to Monsieur Guerlain and his old, now-deleted post (which I thankfully had saved parts of in my old EDP review), the modern note list for Jicky consists of:

bergamot, neroli, verbena, lemon, orange, rosemary, geranium, lavender, mint, wormwood, tuberose, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, cedarwood, patchouli, vetiver, civet, orris, tonka bean, vanilla.

MODERN 2020 JICKY PARFUM & WHAT IT SMELLS LIKE :

Source: 1ms.net

Modern Jicky Parfum opens on my skin with crisp, highly fragrant bergamot that smells like citrus ripened on a sunlit vine and then combined with Earl Gray tea, all of which has been generously poured over fresh, clean, fluffy, aromatic and herbal lavender. As a lavender-phobe, let me tell you right away that the note in Jicky smells nothing like the medicinal, astringent, abrasive lavender of my childhood nightmares. This is, dare I say, actually really lovely, soothing, and enjoyable.

Belle Époque era Absinthe and Green Fairy poster via Pinterest.

In addition to the bergamot citrus notes, the lavender is also coated in anisic, licorice, and green-skewing herbal absinthe accord. What’s interesting to me is that the aromatic, anisic, and fougère elements are just as significant and as strong as the lavender in the opening 30-45 minutes. I’m reminded of the old absinthe “green fairy” liquor so beloved by 19th century artists and bohemians. I had the non-hallucinogenic, modern version in Shanghai many years ago and the aroma was extremely similar to the accord here: green, fresh, and anisic, as if a bulldozer’s worth of fennel-like licorice were dumped on top of everything, then finally, a little vanillic sweetness. Here, in Jicky parfum, the licorice, Green Fairy Absinthe, and the Earl Gray bergamot add further complexity to the fougère lavender.

There is more happening on the sidelines and in the background, though it requires a somewhat larger application of scent for the nuances to be crystal-clear or overt. First, and quite separate from the absinthe accord, is fresh, hugely aromatic mint, the sort that is incredibly fragrant when crushed in a mojito cocktail or ground up in a mortar to release its natural oils. The quality of the raw material here, as with all the other notes in Jicky parfum, is top-notch.

Following the mixed absinthe accord and the mint, are a gaggle of even smaller, more subtle tertiary notes. First, there is geranium which smells of the slightly peppery, fuzzy leaves more than, say, rose geranium. After that, there is a complex woody accord which smells of cedar infused with old-school woody patchouli and very woody, earthy vetiver. Finally, there is a lovely vanilla that is neither sugary nor cloying. Rather, it’s simply creamy soft and evocative of French Vanilla ice-cream.

Photo: David Zanzinger at Zanzinger Unique Urban Stock Photography. (Direct website link embedded within.)

The overall effect in the opening stage goes beyond mere lavender to embrace a garden of lavender, herbs, licorice, green herbal absinthe booze, creamy vanillic lavender ice-cream, and an endless variety of rich green, leafy, verdant notes, all of which are then encircles by thin wisps of woodiness.

What a fantastically layered, nuanced, complex scent! Though my lavender issues remain, believe me, I’d wear Jicky parfum, particularly because of the even greater loveliness that lies in store as the fragrance progresses.

One of the things that I appreciate on a purely sensory emotional level is the intermix of sophisticated chic and pure cozy comfort. There are claims in history, aromatherapy, and neurological analyzes that posit lavenders trigger calm, serenity, and relaxation; the theory is that certain olfactory odors trigger certain parts of the brain which then release certain brain chemicals, endorphins, and/or emotions.

Close-up of part of the Tisserand Psycho-Aromatherapy Chart. Photo: my own. (Click on image to open in a new window.)

For millennia, lavender has been one of the main natural essences used to soothe and relax a person, so it should be no surprise that wearing Jicky parfum feels as though one has slipped into the embrace of a warm, highly scented bath made out of lavender ice-cream layered with all the freshest, brightest, fragrant elements of a garden patch and nature. To be clear, none of this medical smells or like some low-end “woo woo” spa aromatherapy oils. No, Jicky parfum is an extraordinarily elevated, sophisticated rendition of a multi-faceted floral-fresh, aromatic lavender composition. And all of it is completely unisex. Do not let the word “fougère” turn you off my making you think this is a masculine cologne, because it is a pretty universal and timeless bouquet of notes.

Source: www1.plala.or.jp

Roughly 25 minutes into current Jicky’s perfume development, it changes and becomes even better. No, really, I mean it! The licorice, absinthe, mint, herbs, and fuzzy geranium leaves are overshadowed and diluted by the arrival of a new set of notes. Now, there is a sweet, honeyed, heady jasmine interwoven with a vanillic floralcy that makes me think of ylang-ylang custardy, heady, rich golden flowers. That complex jasmine note is interwoven with the most bridal, greenest, sappiest, and most crystalline alpine of tuberose notes. To the tuberose haters out there, let me reassure you that there is absolutely nothing like the heated, fleshy, indolic, or camphorous tuberose that you might find in vintage Perfume Review – Robert Piguet Fracas: The History & The Legend , Dusita ‘sMelodie d’Amour , or Serge Lutens Tuberéuse Criminelle . It is really more like a crystalline, floral, sappy greenness, the sort of tuberose one finds in very deconstructed or minimalist fragrances.

Source: wallpapersbuzz.com

Trailing the jasmine and the tuberose is a dash of pink rosiness that smells both of the violet-dipped roses in YSL‘s vintage Paris and of rose geraniums splattered with a healthy slug of MFK‘ s A La Rose .

My heavens, it’s an enchanting, complex tableau when taken as a whole, a scent whose kaleidoscopic and prismatic reflections sparkle like champagne that’s been held up to the reflective light of a crystal chandelier. But it becomes even better 75 minutes into its development, which is when Jicky enters its second stage on my skin.

Jicky’s phase two was a complete surprise to me and miles away from my expectations of what would ensue based on the circa 2014 eau de parfum that I’d tried. It’s also a million miles away from a classic and masculine-skewing fougère, which is one of the reasons why I can’t see Sir Sean Connery wearing the current 2020 version of Jicky parfum. But, oh, how lovely it is: A lush, predominantly floral bouquet meshed with fresh, clean lavender and creamy, incredibly enticing lavender-vanilla ice-cream mixed with French vanilla ice-cream, then lightly smeared with Earl Gray bergamot mousse before being set against a backdrop of multi-faceted verdancy and just a wee, wee hint of sweet, dry, summer’s hay (the coumarin).

“This Gives Life To Me.” Art photo by Margriet Smulders via her website. (Direct link embedded within.)

The airy but creamy vanilla grows stronger with every passing minute, leaving me entranced, but I’m also fascinated by the unexpected character of the floral notes. For example, the diaphanous, stripped-down tuberose which resembles a bridal bouquet made out of flower buds in shades of green and green-white, not the blowsy, heady, narcotic, over-ripened blooms of fragrances like Fracas. Any sweetness in the scent not from the creamy French vanilla ice-cream comes from the jasmine and, yet, it actually isn’t like the heavy, intensely humid and heat, honeyed, syrupy jasmine that one finds in, say, middle eastern orientals . No, this is like jasmine on the vine, sometimes smelling like the fragrant night-blooming version, sometimes smelling like the freshness of closed buds. Similarly, on my skin, the rose is never a beefy, meaty, fleshy,

To be clear, the lavender continues to be a major presence, but it now skews almost entirely to the lavender ice-cream side rather than the clean, almost cottony fresh, highly aromatic aroma of lavender growing in a field. I also appreciate that the licorice and absinthe are mere will o ‘the wisps flitting in the background rather than a central presence in the way that they were in the first 60-75 minutes.

Photo: Wanna Be A Country Cleaver, Megan Cleaver, via Tastykitchen.com

This is the point where I must take several moments to describe how utterly different, utterly glorious, and opulent 2020 Jicky parfum smelled on my parents when I applied the same quantity to them as I did on myself. I’m honestly flabbergasted at the sheer degree of difference and by just how opulent and opulently floral 2020 Jicky parfum was on them. First, as a slight introduction, each one wafted a completely different opening bouquet than the way that Jicky appeared on me or on each other, but both of them were so utterly intoxicated that they immediately asked the price of a full bottle.

“Fluid Painting 63” by Mark Chadwick. Source: Mark Chadwick Art. (Direct link embedded within.)

On my father, Jicky parfum opened with an Earl Gray bergamot-imbued lavender floral bouquet laced with vetiver and lesser degrees of woods, slightly fruity citruses, and patchouli. Within a mere matter of minutes, however, it turned into a citric rose-jasmine-centered bouquet laced with lavender, vetiver, and patchouli in equal measure. 15 minutes in, it was all lush roses, syrupy jasmine, lavender, and fruity patchouli, slashed with lesser amounts of earthy vetiver, cedar, and a drop of geranium leaf-ish greenery.

On my mother, however, and to my complete astonishment, Jicky opened with a crisp lemony citrus (not Earl Gray bergamot) lightly sprinkled over a complete deluge of green and bridal tuberose, green but also ripe indolic jasmine, and, above all else, the absolute beefiest, meatiest, practically oriental ruby ​​rose. It is very similar to the sort of rose that appears in truly aged, gorgeous, vintage Shalimar extract and vintage L’Heure Bleue extract, but it was also similar to a heavy, immensely fragrant, almost Ta’if-like or Persian-like rose. Trailing behind it was the beautifully fresh, non-indolic, sappy green-white tuberose at almost maximum blast, smelling just like really clean, alpine, crystalline white floral buds. In third place, was lush night-blooming jasmine that was even more overt and obvious on the scent cloud that spread out several feet from her than it was close-up on her skin.

Roses, dripping with jam and honey. Photo: my own.

Lavender? Well, it was there on her, but it was in the background, dancing around with verdant notes and a dab of French vanilla ice-cream, and it took at least 90 minutes to bully its way past the roses, jasmine, and tuberose to become a central character in the show, assisted by Earl Gray bergamot tea, vetiver, and a smidgeon of soft woodiness. In total, it was a very different set of notes and steps of progression than what occurred on my skin. In fact, I’m still astounded by how the rose was on my mother as compared to me.

Source: 123RF.com stock photo.

At one point, I stood epicenter between my parents, each many, many feet away, and I was deluged by the most powerful wafts of their various Jicky versions, to the point that I felt practically intoxicated. They were ballooooooooooning Jicky to a crazy degree of sillage. Neither this degree of sillage, nor either of their scent versions appear on my skin, at any time. In fact, when I made each of my parents sniff my arm —though the scent on my arm was late at a different stage than theirs— neither one could believe how different Jicky was on me. On me, it definitely starts as a lavender fougère before eventually transitioning to a lavender mixed-floral bouquet, but never once has it ever started as a lush floral bouquet laced to a lesser degree with lavender. I love all the different versions I’ve smelled but the one that emanated from my mother’s arm … holy moly! It was practically like an intoxicating, euphoric drug – and I say that as someone who isn’t a rose zealot.

The civet. Source: focusingonwildlife.com

One thing that didn’t appear on any of us was the civet. It was a great surprise, frankly, given the EDP version, but there is no civet or buzzing, dirty animalic note at any point on any of us! I don’t quite understand it, to be honest. I had expected some minor undercurrent at the very least. The civety, skanky smuttiness was important as a juxtaposition to the fresh, clean, aromatic, fougère elements and spicing them up a bit. The absence here makes me even more curious now to try an old vintage parfum version like something, say, from the 1930s-1950s. (Assuming, of course, that I could afford it, which is unlikely because prices for really aged Jicky extract usually start at $ 1,000 or more.)

Purely in terms of vibes and what modern Jicky parfum makes me feel, there is a paradoxical contradiction at play. One the one hand, Jicky is an inordinately elegant, very chic, very Parisian composition. On the other, it is also at the same a very cozy, cuddly scent which evokes images of wrapping oneself in a cashmere sweater or blanket while sipping champagne or wine before a fireplace as Vivaldi tinkles softly. In a similar contradictory way, modern Jicky parfum feels classic, timeless, and wholly of the moment here and now. Yes, even in the now of 2020. That is, in my opinion, a testament to Guerlain’s grand old masters and the timelessness of the complex masterpieces that they composed.

Painting: ARTbyKirsten. Source: ARTbyKirsten Etsy store. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Jicky doesn’t change enormously on my skin in the hours that follow and as the second stage progresses. At the 2.25 hour mark, the notes essentially just dissolve into a blurry, amorphous haze centered primarily on a sweet, lavender-floral ice-cream infused with bergamot lemon mousse. The opaque filter placed atop the notes makes the jasmine, rose, and tuberose harder to pull out in distinct fashion and also makes the composition simpler, less prismatic or nuanced. It is, however, still thoroughly enjoyable and now skew completely to the cozy comfort side rather than to a mix with Parisian chic. At the same time, the sillage drops dramatically on my skin (though not on my parents) and Jicky becomes a soft, airy personal fragrance. At the 4.25 hour mark, the sillage and projection become even more intimate, and Jicky is a complete blur of floralcy, something vaguely lavender-ish and aromatic, Earl Gray bergamot vanilla meringue cream, and a minimal dusting of sweetened and vanillic powder. The whole thing has a textural softness like thick velvet on the skin and it comforts and soothes me every time I sniff my arm.

“Passion,” by Jaison Cianelli at cianellistudios.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

Modern Jicky perfume shifts a little in the middle of the sixth hour. The bergamot somehow becomes even more prominent while the woods gradually begin to emerge. At this point, they’re not distinct or strong enough to be very deep or clear, but they initially smell of a cedary dry woodiness and a lightly spiced patchouli woodiness before gradually turning into creamy, silky sandalwood mousse around the 8.5 hour mark, which is when the drydown starts.

Jicky parfum’s drydown is beautiful. Rich, succulent, intensely fragrant Earl Gray-skewing bergamot fuses with a creamy vanilla custard, a slightly ambered goldenness, and soft sandalwood (which adds even further to the fragrance’s textural butteriness and velvetiness) while thin ribbons of an abstract floralcy and of lavender- vanilla ice-cream wrap everything up neatly. If I Ignore the lavender part, everything reminds me strongly of the bergamot-vanilla-sandalwood later stages of old, vintage Shalimar and I can see exactly why so many people argue that Jicky was its original template.

Jicky dissolves further as the drydown continues. By the 11th hour, all that’s left is a satiny creaminess with a subtle spicy warmth (like Tolu balsam, for example) mixed with bergamot-flecked crème anglaise cream and, for the first time, coumarin which smells like dry-sweet, warm, sunlit hay. If I really bury my nose deep into the skin, I can smell a quiet powderiness that is lightly sweet and very vanillic (tonka), but it is the coumarin and the buttery, creamy, satiny texture of the fragrance (due in large part to the vanillin and sandalwood) which really steal the show away. In its final hour, all that’s left is a subtle smear of something vaguely hay-like, sweet, creamy, and vanillic.

Source: wallpaperscraft.com

Modern Jicky parfum’s longevity, sillage, and projection seem to widely vary, depending on who is trying it. Using roughly three wide smears from a dab bottle, roughly equal to about 2 sprays from a bottle, Jicky parfum performed and lasted very differently on me, my father, and my mother. On me, I’ve never had more than 13 hours of longevity, or 12 hours with 2 wide smears. On my father, Jicky parfum lasted not only 19 hours but also through a shower. (He simply could not believe it and, on him, by the way, the final scent was primarily of lavender tonka coumarin.) My mother had something between the two of us, though the lingering traces on her skin were mostly lavender floral. She, however, projected the greatest sillage trail, roughly 5 or 6 feet in the opening 30 minutes. My father had about 3 or 4 feet, as did I. Yet even when my sillage and projection dropped around 2.25 hours in, both my father and my mother were wafting a huge scent cloud. On me, Jicky was soft and close around the 4.5 hour mark, then intimate about 6 hours in, and a skin scent at the 8.25 hour mark. Each of my parents had significantly more hours before any of those benchmarks were reached. In short, I cannot tell you how modern Jicky parfum will perform on you, but I can tell you that it may vary widely on your skin chemistry.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES :

Monsieur Guerlain’s old avatar image, dug up from old Vimeo files.

It’s times like this that I miss my friend Monsieur Guerlain even more than usual because his unofficial site about all things related to Guerlain fragrances and whose expertise I admire would be a great source for a different perspective. All his posts are now gone, perhaps because he is reportedly writing a book on Guerlain. However, I had quite a few quotes in my old EDP review about his thoughts back in 2008 regarding modern Jicky as a whole. In that much missed old post, he laid out the perfume’s history, explained why it is a technical masterpiece on a structural level, and then analyzed its aroma:

Perfume, EdT, PdT. Multifaceted and subtle, Jicky shows a somewhat different portrait in each of its concentrations. The Parfum, with its focus on the base notes, is smooth and deep, at moments strangely unassuming like the milky skin of a baby, at others warmly carnal as a woman’s body. The EdT is much more open and zippy up top, lightheartedly emanating citrus-soaked purple lavender, herbs and tonka bean, a delicious mixture of sweet pastry and all the smells of Southern France in the summer. If one wants an all-in-one Jicky, the choice is PdT which has every part fully represented and given off in delectable succession, with extra sandalwood and the spicier of the three.

Rewording. Given the fact that Jicky was invented along with the automobile and the light bulb, it’s no surprise it hasn’t stayed exactly the same. Vintage Jicky was Guerlain’s finest example of the use of sandalwood oil in a perfume, glowing and slightly earthy, and Luca Turin remembers the Jicky of his childhood as “raunchier, more curvaceous, less stately” – all those turbid, spicy and leathery materials are no longer available to the perfumer. Jicky is now undeniably politer. A side effect of the tidying up is lower tenacity, an oft-heard complaint about today’s Jicky.

Recommended: Parfum or PdT from the late 1980s.

Source: Monsieur Guerlain.

Source: Monsieur Guerlain.

His assessment of how the PDT or Eau de Parfum is the best all-in-one representation of Jicky, with a spicier tonality and more sandalwood is one reason why I singled out that concentration in the past. Another factor was that I’d smelled the Eau de Toilette, and didn’t find it particularly appealing. It was far too thin, especially in its post-2010 reformulated state, and also too citrusy for me. But few modern Guerlains or Guerlain parfums receive the acclaim that Jicky parfum does, and today I know why.

Barbara Herman. Photo: CaFleureBon.

Jicky is not for everyone, but I really think it depends on both which version you try and when it was released. For example, those who are try the non-extract versions —like the circa 2012 PDT / EDP version that I wrote about years ago— and are unaccustomed to civet may have some difficulty, especially if they’ve never experienced an animalic note or are used to the cleanness of most modern, commercial fragrances. Barbara Herman, the vintage perfume expert who blogged at Yesterday’s Perfume before writing her book, Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume, gives a good account of her initial reaction to the scent. Please note that her review dates from 2009, and talks about an earlier eau de toilette formulation of Jicky, as well as the vintage pure parfum. Both are much, much skankier than the current, very polite tamer, post-2012 and 2020 versions, but her account still sheds light on the many different versions and formulations of Jicky that are out there:

Jicky is not a love-at-first-sniff scent, unless you are blessed with an adventurous nose or cursed with anosmia (the inability to smell). I sampled a modern formulation at Saks Fifth Avenue last year when I just began to get into vintage scents, and I was truly baffled. After spraying it on, I couldn’t believe that people said they loved it. Are they faking, I wondered, because they’re supposed to love a classic?

Between the blast of citrus and lavender, followed by the stink of (synthetic) civet, Jicky was a fragrance I was horrified that anyone would have worn. I began to wonder if perfume simply meant something different at this time.

I have since developed a more complicated nose, and able to appreciate other perfumes I’ve loved with enough civet to make them mysteriously erotic  […. So I then]  got a sample of vintage, perfume-concentration Jicky . Like a junkie seeking a hit of civet but having to wait for it to kick in, I was a little disappointed that the perfume concentration was so well-blended and rounded! Unlike the modern EDT , which gives you a one-two punch of lavender / civet, the vintage parfum Jicky took its sweet time to take off its underpants, as it were.

Like a horny teenage boy faced with a gorgeous, brilliant woman, I was not inclined to appreciate having to make small talk with Jicky before she showed me her carnal side. But, it had to happen. I got to know Jicky first as lavender, then as bergamot, easing into vanilla, and then, in the afterglow, the civet that hovered over these bright notes like the smell of sex after a romp between two freshly bathed people. [Emphasis added by me.]

Source: Black Dog Publishing.

As you can tell, the skank-laden civety Jicky parfum of yore is not the Jicky parfum of 2020. Nor is the modern 2009-era Jicky EDT that Ms. Hermann describes similar to the modern 2014-era EDP of my experience or the modern 2020 pure perfume featured here. And absolutely none of the modern versions sound as intensely animalic as the very oldest, original parfum version of Jicky described by Roja Dove in his The Essence of Perfume :

Jicky was launched exactly 100 years after the French Revolution; it too was revolutionary, and shocked in a way that has rarely been equaled. The volume of civet in its base is truly outrageous, and any trained nose would wonder how he got away with it: in true Guerlain style, Aime created something magnificent. No woman in polite society would have dared wear it and only the most audacious man took the risk (perhaps it reminded them of the civet of the earlier part of the century). It was to take many years before women readily adopted it, but adopt it they most certainly did.

On Fragrantica , the majority of the comments seem to be about OTHER concentrations of Jicky, like the modern EDP or EDT or even the vintage extract, not the modern pure parfum. A number of comments talk about its resemblance to Shalimar , though a few mention Mouchoir de Monsieur as well. Even more of the reviews focus on the dirty, skanky civet, so once again, they seem to be talking about versions other than the current pure perfume reviewed here.

Finally, a fair number of reviews address the issue of whether Jicky is feminine, unisex, or masculine, with the vast majority concluding that it is perfect for everyone. One of my favorite gender-related summations for Jicky (I think for the EDP) is from a chap called “Ion. ‘ After stating that ” Anyone who loves ‘ Egoiste ‘can not help but love ‘Jicky’. They are two perfumes with a common spirit ” and describing the fragrance, he concludes with:

“Jicky” is not a feminine perfume that will be worn by a man who wants to impress.

It will be worn by a man who wants to be loved!

Last, but most definitely not least, is the Pope of all fragrance critics and reviewers: Luca Turin. In his book with Tania Sanchez, Perfumes: The AZ Guide (2008/2009 edition), he gave Jicky the coveted Five Stars , compared modern and vintage versions, and wrote how it is a fragrance that still matters to this day:

Luca Turin on Jicky in Perfumes: The AZ Guide. Photo: my own.

Luca Turin on Jicky in Perfumes: The AZ Guide. Photo: my own.

My favorite modern version is, hands down, the parfum or, as Guerlain terms it, “extract.” I love this fragrance. If I were not saving up the equivalent of a few organs for my German Shepherd puppy (payment next week and arriving at my house just a few weeks from now) then I would gladly buy a bottle. In my dreams, I buy each of my parents a bottle too, because my god, my father has totally lost it for Jicky, despite always being an Habit Rouge man. Having said that, every account about vintage Jicky extract makes me think that is really the version for me. Unfortunately, I cannot afford $ 1,300 a bottle, so I will place it on my bucket-list of things to try and, in the meantime, hopefully buy the modern version one day soon.

The history, background, and other perspectives on Jicky have rendered this a much longer review than planned, so I’ll just wrap things up by saying that this lavender-phobe and pro-vintage Guerlain snob thinks that modern Jicky is superb, worth every penny, and a must-try scent whether you are a man, a woman, a lavender hater, or a lavender lover. At the very least, you’ll try one of the most famous fragrances in history and one of the most revolutionary.

As a brief side note, I remember reading early in April of this year that Guerlain and LVMH converted many of their factories to produce hand sanitizer for the Covid pandemic, which may be why quantities are sold out at the many fine department stores that usually carry Jicky perfume. However, Guerlain’s many different country websites still have the fragrance in stock. That said, I always believe it’s better to sample first if possible, especially when the full bottle price isn’t a mere pittance. I bought my sample from Surrender to Chance which ships to most places worldwide but you can also find samples on eBay. I hope you’ll try it. Fragrances that embody both endless comfort and raging Parisian chic are a perfect antidote to the bleakness and stressors of 2020.

Happy holidays, everyone!

DETAILS :
Cost & Availability : The pure parfum, “extract,” or extrait version of Jicky reviewed here costs $ 350, £249, or €305 for 1 oz / 30 ml bottle. It is available at Guerlain boutiques, and is listed on the company’s US and French websites. It is also usually available at a variety of high-end retailers. Unfortunately, however, at the time of this post in late December 2020, many retailers that normally carry Jicky are sold out or out-of-stock due to COVID production issues and due to what I read was Guerlain changing its factories over to producing hand sanitizer. In the US : Jicky parfum or “extract” is normally available at all the high-end department stores, like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, but they’re currently out-of-stock, too, and there is no estimated time frame given (as of 12/21/20) on when they will restock. Outside the US : In the UK, you can normally find Jicky parfum at Harrods but, again, they’ve exhausted their stock. As a general rule, however, and in normal times, you can find Jicky in the UK’s John Lewis, all usual Guerlain boutiques and retailers around the world. Samples : If you’d like to give the current version of Jicky Parfum / Extrait a test sniff, you can order, as I did, from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $ 8.99 for a 1/4 ml vial. They ship samples or decants to most places worldwide.

19 thoughts on “Guerlain Jicky — The Modern Parfum, The History, & The Old Legend

  1. I love your description of how this new Jicky smells different on different people. I can’t wait to try it now. The original Jicky smelled absoutely vile (to my nose) on me. It opened with a lovely lavender and then 30 seconds later was overtaken with a hideous, skanky fecal note that was just awful on my skin. It made me want to run away from my own body! This new version sounds divine and I think I would really like it. Thanks so much for the review. I had no idea there was a ‘new’ Jicky before reading this.

    • Well, it’s not “new” so much as its the latest formula and a formula which seems to differ from earlier 2008, 2014 Jicky in different concentrations. Nothing about this current sample smelled like the dirty, smarty, or fecal civet-laden versions described by others previously or even the EDP version I wrote about 7 years ago.

      It’s one reason why I reposted the old Jicky EDP review, to show the contrast with this current parfum sample on me and both my parents. Trust me, what we experienced is nothing like what you did. (Do you recall if it was the EDT or EDP?)

  2. Thanks for the blog. I’m reading your words with one spritz of Jicky extrait on my writst (sample gifted to me by a friend, should be current or from the last 2 years). Its still very lovely and I do get some civet (my experiences are limited to civet tincture, I haven’t smelt the synthetic civet which I’m told is way sharper). Truth be told, I’m having difficulty detecting a clearly delineated floral heart off my skin. I get hints of mentholic greenness fleshy butter (from tuberose?) but its very well folded into the Jicky batter. Always thought it was perhaps orris butter. I will keep on trying. Your and your parents experiences with Jicky parfum sounds amazing.

    • Did you decant into an atomizer? Maybe apply more, like 2 or even 3 small spritzes to see how they compare? I applied between 1/8th and 1/4th of a vial in my tests, more like 3 itsy sprites or 2 good ones.

      I think an increased quantity might bring some of the key notes into greater distinctness and clarity. Really low dosages or applications gabe me a blurrier scent, too.

  3. I haven’t smelled Jicky in any formulation, though I am interested in trying it. Same for l’Heure Bleue and Apres l’Ondee. Just because they’re such classics.

    My wife had Shalimar EDP at a point, I’ve worn it myself a few times. We weren’t that taken with it and I have sold it. I thought the Parfum Initial was the nicest of all Shalimar’s I’ve tried. I really dig Samsara EDP, though.

  4. This was a beautiful history of Jicky and the most thorough description of its charms I’ve ever read.
    I think Jicky is another fragrance I must try.

  5. Firstly , congratulations on the new puppy , and if no post follow before,
    a Happy New Year.
    Secondly , I’m happy that you and your parents are well .
    I’m very pleased you were inspired to write, for it inspires us.
    Fennel like licorice , ya got me.
    I’ll see if Surrender to Chance has any samples of the Modern 2020 Jicky.
    I have used Surrender to chance numerous times , and I have always been happy.
    I haven’t given Jicky any thoughts , even though I love the house of Guerlain.
    I did get Guerlain’s Vetiver earlier this year, a tester from fragrancenet for just under $30.
    Best $30 I’ve spent on perfume , seriously.
    I do like Rojo’s cologne Vetiver, but even with the discounts it’s hard to justify with Guerlain’s at that price.
    So now onto the Jicky search.
    First stop , StC.
    best wishes always,
    eddie.

  6. Dear Kafka,
    I am actually somewhat new to your blog, having only discovered it earlier this year, and was to find that you had since stopped posting, so you can imagine how exciting it is to see you reviewing again. I’m dropping by to tell you I love reading your verbose and picturesque impressions of fragrances, and I’ve always been very impressed by your ability to pick them apart and break them down in such detail.

    Thanks to your blog, I’ve been introduced to some of my absolute favorites, such as Chypre Palatin (even in its alleged reformulated form!), Amouage’s Fate and Jubilation for women, but there are so many more you’ve written about that I have yet to try. However, even as someone with somewhat of a vintage-leaning taste, I wasn’t fortunate enough to smell many of the glorious classics in their original (or, well, vintage) form, though I will say I still enjoy current versions of fragrances like Coco and Samsara, for example, and obtaining as much as a small sample of a vintage perfume can be quite a hassle.

    As an aside, have you tried Amouage’s Memoir for women, and Roja Dove’s Unspoken? I’m particularly interested in sampling the latter (some even seem to find it similar to Haute Luxe), though it’s been discontinued. As for Memoir, it seems like something that might align with your tastes, but I personally find that I struggle with its smoldering cloves and brooding incense. I’m also on a lookout for a bottle of vintage Poison, as I find the modern one to be too sticky sweet, fruity and purple-smelling. I’ve never seen you talk about that one, how do you personally feel about it?

    Finally, apologies for the long-winded comment! Congratulations on the puppy, glad you seemed to have ended this bleak year on a good note. Hope all is well with you, and a merry Christmas to you and yours!

  7. I love reading about vintage perfumes and they sound so appealing, yet with all the nonsense of reformulated versions they are just a mystery. I hate that they destroy masterpieces like Jicky, Chanel #5, etc. Lavender was an even older unisex scent than Jicky.

  8. What a wonderful post, it’s so nice to read your writing again! I love the current Jicky EDT with its sparkling opening. I prefer it to the EDP, but I still like the latter. I haven’t tried the parfum so maybe I’ll look for a sample! I hope you’ll post photos of the new puppy.

    • Oh, believe me, I plan to spam all of you with constant photos and updates on my new son once he arrives!

      Happy holidays, my friend.

  9. I was so happy to see this review of Jicky, and surprised knowing your longstanding avoidance of lavender. I loved to hear how it smelled so different on you and your Mom and Dad. I look forward to trying the modern version, as I am only familiar with the vintage EDT. Merry Christmas and and much better New Year to come! Congratulations on your new puppy!

  10. Two years ago, I snatched a flacon of 1980’s extrait on ebay, and it wasn’t even expensive. It arrived, the postman put it on the postbox inside the building I live, and yes: it was stolen. It is the only thing that was ever stolen, and it had to be a pristine bottle of vintage Jicky. I spent half a year trying to get the postal compony to own up, but they sat it out, and I decided to move on.
    The crying shame is, that whoever stole it must have been appalled at the “granny” smell (lavender) and “stink” (civet) and, so in my phantasy, must have dumped this glorious bottle five minutes later. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  11. I wonder if I was among the good influences that pushed you to try the recent extrait.

    I discovered this late Jicky in a place where one could dip a blotter in the extrait bottle.
    It was at Le bon marché. And the sheer glory of it dissolved the deception that was all the wishy-washy fragrances I tried before this day.
    It was like an archangels chorus of white notes. (thyme, rosemary, lavender, jasmine, jasmine, white musk)

    Since then, Jicky was not my thing.
    I had a 2008 extrait tester bottle, that I found overbearing.
    (the earthy patchouli is too visible, the civet stands out, and there is white musk à la “pour un homme de Caron”).
    Now I understand it better, mainly because, the sillage you produce is more enticing that what you get as the wearer.

    Unexpectedly, this new version gave me the lemming for it.
    There’s something dangerous when an extrait is worth its money 🙂

    This better version exists only since 2017.
    They took into account a re-weighing of the old formula (“repesée”) to fill the gap with modern palette.
    Jicky, Chamade, and Vol de nuit are huge success. Same for Jicky EDP. And very soon Chamade EDT/or maybe EDP (bulgarian rose galore in the heart notes).
    I was lucky enough to score a bottle at bargain price, despite the LVMH ban on ebay france.

    How to find the good batch for you and your readers :

    (for discount on ebay, or to spare you the mistake of buying an old formulation in the USA, because of old stocks)

    So the shop boxes must be white. (and not brown like glazed chestnuts)
    On top of it, the batch codes are a four digit code, it must begin with :
    7 then a letter from N to Z for 2017 (ex : 7S01)
    8 9 0 and now 1, then a letter from A to M : 2018 2019 2020 2021 (ex : 8A01)

    For 30ml cubical extrait tester bottle, a confusion is possible with the bottles that are a dozen years old. (The batch code get reset, it’s cyclical)
    The important difference is that recent tester bottles have TWO warning signs on the bottom : a flame in a diamond, AND a hand pointing an opened book.

    And prefer item sold with they boxes, the previous owner is much more likely to have kept then from UV light and heat.

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