Review: Álvarez Gómez Agua de Colonia Concentrada — 4.0 points

The weather here has been unkind as of late, with frequent rains and chilly draughts, but I am determined to douse myself in my favourite eaux de cologne. After all, it is still summer, and the cheerful tone of citrus never fails to brighten the greyest of days. This time I pick a Spanish wardrobe staple, so to speak.

Agua de Colonia Concentrada, literally ‘concentrated eau de cologne’, was first produced by Álvarez Gómez in 1912, and it has since been a household name in Spain. It comes in a vintage-looking flacon with an easily recognisable yellow plastic cap and label. This iconic canary is perhaps a clue to the exuberance of the juice.

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And rightly so. Its debut is a huge burst of lemon, and this is exactly the sunny disposition I look for. Still, it can also be a little sharp, and if you have used lemon-scented household products, you might not appreciate that. As the effervescence of lemon subsides, agrestic herbs continue to underpin its bright character. There is a camphoraceous side that recalls lavander and rosemary as well as an anisic accent throughout that reminds me of basil. The impression is simply zesty and aromatic. Agua de Colonia Concentrada is all about scintillating lemons and bright herbs.

Of course, there are many more elaborate or novel eaux de cologne, from the baroque Eau de Cologne Impériale (Guerlain, 1853) to the modern bitterness of Eau de Gentiane Blanche (Hermès, 2009), but I sometimes crave for something as simple as vats of lemons and herbs. The lack of sweet florals and opaque musks in Agua de Colonia Concentrada also means that it is never cloying. The brew is one of bright rustic charm, and such simplicity is its winning quality.

And, the carrot of such an affordably priced concoction — at 9.00€ for 80 ml – will surely give you the perfect juice with which to douse yourself. It lasts reasonably well enough as an eau de cologne intended to refresh. Simply put, it is one of those old-school classics. It suits just about any occasion, season, and time of day. Just spritz away!

source: parcoparfumerias.com

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Review: Guerlain Jicky — 4.5 points

Legend has it that Jicky (Guerlain, 1889) was named either for the English lass, of whom perfumer Aimé Guerlain was enamoured, or for the nickname of his dear nephew, Jacques Guerlain. But, for certain, Jicky claims the title of ‘the oldest perfume in continuous production’.

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What makes it special is the creativity of Aimé Guerlain. He made use of what he knew and had at the time. He exploited the popularity of the fougère accord, which had been successfully pioneered by Fougère Royale (Houbigant, 1882), and experimented with the increasingly affordable synthetic compounds. The result was that Jicky was not only an imminently attractive fougère, but also one with a memorable signature that began to take shape and would later set the framework for later oriental icons of Guerlain like Shalimar (1925) and Habit Rouge (1965).

Jicky, as a classical fougère, features lavender, a material that possesses herbal, floral, and warm gourmand facet. Aimé Guerlain dressed it up with a lot of sparkling citrus, a sprinkle of herbs, and a warm vanillic base.

The aromatic freshness of lavender is expanded by citrus and herbs in the top. Bergamot and lemon lend their hesperidic sparkles. The original formula of Jicky likely contains as much as 32% bergamot oil and 2% lemon oil, with a boost from linalool obtained from distilled rosewood. Rosemary and thyme add an agrestic accent, giving it a rustic Provençal charm.

In contrast, the warm base that emerges later accentuates the sweet gourmand aspect of lavender. It is a powdery mélange of iris, vanilla, tonka bean, and sandalwood – a rudimentary Guerlinade, if you will. The use of aroma chemicals such as coumarin and vanillin gives Jicky a special sweet vanilla character. The animalic overtone of civet is also there, like a creamy ganache. Jicky settles into this warm animalic powder with an aromatic backdrop of lavender and herbs for most of its duration.

Jicky might have a familiar ring to its predecessor Fougère Royale because of its fougère structure, but its juxtaposition between raw citrus and vanillic base lends a different character. This memorable contrast would not be possible without the use of aroma materials that give a strong signature to Jicky. For such a creative twist on a familiar accord and a memorable character, Jicky is very special.

A note on the concentrations: I find the extrait de parfum indubitably richer than the eau de toilette. Already in the beginning, the bergamot is plump with tart-sweet and floral nuances, not so much as diffusive as that of the eau de toilette. Lemon oil is more pronounced as well. The lavender is rich with floral and herbal facets, and it lasts longer. Of note is the civet that feels like a ganache smoothing over the bucolic herbs. Its oriental vanilla and tonka bean accord is present in full glory. The emphasis of the extrait de parfum is on the aromatic and warm oriental character.

The eau de toilette of Jicky, however, starts on a more diffusive note of linalool-laden bergamot. Its lavender is more herbal. Civet puffs seem to come and go. The familiar oriental accord requires a nose pressed hard to the skin to detect. Overall, the eau de toilette feels like a hesperidic eau de cologne with herbal and oriental accents. Its lasting power is mediocre.

I have not tried the eau de parfum, so I cannot comment on that. But between the extrait de parfum and the eau de toilette, the former is classically rich and infused with a Guerlain DNA, but the latter is like a creative twist of a classic eau de cologne. Though not a die-hard Guerlain fan, I am partial to Guerlinade and would pick the extrait de parfum. Perhaps, spraying the eau de toilette on top to add the hesperidic brightness would be perfect — alas, the price may not permit such a double purchase.

Sources: guerlain.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

  1. Esposito, Lawrence J.; K. Formanek; G. Kientz; F. Mauger; V. Maureaux; G. Robert; F. Truchet (1997). “Vanillin”. Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 4th edition 24. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 812–825
  2. Reimer, Karl Ludwig (1876). “Über eine neue Bildungsweise aromatischer Aldehyde”. Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft 9 (1): 423–424