Last week I finally had the chance to visit the renovated Guerlain flagship store on Paris' Champs Elysées.
The changes are minor in the ground-floor boutique, only new counters and displays. The adventure really begins when you walk up the dimly lit staircase to the first floor. You are surrounded by golden mosaics and the walls aren't straight but curvaceous.
Once upstairs, you enter a large room full of daylight, with a giant chandelier in its centre. Around the chandelier is a circular table with all the Guerlain scents, each in every available concentrations to try.
On the left wall a display with the “stars” of Guerlain (bestsellers): Shalimar, L'Instant and L'Instant pour Homme.
On a long table by the side of the bay-window, La Voilette de Madame and Le Mouchoir de Monsieur in their original Baccarat crystal "escargot" bottles. La Voilette is very faint, reminding me of the "old paper" note (iris) in Après L'Ondée. I heard a SA explaining to a customer that it was the ideal "his and hers" wedding gift (800 euro for both). There were also 2 colognes for children, both in bee bottles. One with a pink sticker the other blue. I think they were called Bébé and Baby but didn't sample them.
Next the "Les Parisiennes" collection in the bee bottles. Derby (smelled somewhat brighter than I remembered), Liu, Voile d'Eté (now Quand vient L'Eté), Guet Apens (now Accroche Coeur), Purple Fantasy (why, oh why?), Guerlinade, Metallica (now Métalys) and Philtre d'Amour (a soft Aromatics Elixir clone). Actually except for Liu and Derby I didn't really care for any of the "Parisiennes". I never was crazy about any of those limited editions when they were originally released anyway. A SA told me that they would soon have a sprayer that would adapt on the bee bottles.
Now my favorite part: a series of small windowed cabinets you open to smell long-lost Guerlains. Kadine (very ambery with cinnamon... Parfum Sacré without rose), Cachet Jaune (an oriental with lots of vanilla), Sous le Vent (that one was broken) and Ode (like Luca Turin said, Ode is very much like Joy). There was also Véga, a subtle aldehyde in the style of Liu but with less vanilla, the only one available for purchase at this point. Véga is sold in a large apothecary bottle like those used by Creed and comes in a very chic grey box.
Next room. That's the room with fountains where customers can have their bee bottles refilled with Guerlain classics. Here are also the 3 new Frederic Malle-style creations, in square bottles with pump. You can either sample them by spraying or smell them on wooden fans.
Rose Barbare by Francis Kurkdjian reminded me of a mix between The Different Company's Osmantus and Rose Poivrée;
Cuir Bélouga by Olivier Polge: I thought it was a rather heavy and linear amber/vanilla;
Angélique Noire by Danièle Andrier: That was my favorite, the only one from the 3 that had that Guerlain touch. Smells of almonds. It reminded me of a more elaborated mix between Heliotrope by Etro for the powdery notes and Mandorlo di Sicilia for the vanilla notes. Unfortunately it wasn't very long-lasting.
I also sampled Plus que Jamais Guerlain the new Jean Paul Guerlain eau de parfum specially blended for the reopening of the flagship store. It's a gourmand in the style of Angel and Prada but with a floral side like Silver Rain. Smells younger than other JP Guerlain creations. It comes in a Jicky shaped bottle with a pump (and also in a giant size). The Jicky bottle looks like to become, along the bee bottle, the new standard flacon for Guerlain. For those who don't have the time to wait to engrave a "flacon abeille" with a name, there is a selection of empty Jicky bottles (to be filled with the juice of your choise) with already printed stickers with personal messages, like for example: "Je t'aime". They come with a pump and in the same chic grey box as Véga.
Finally the "home fragrances" section. Before arriving in that room you cross a wall with display cabinets with rare vintage perfume bottles like Coq d'Or and Bouquet de faunes.
There are four home fragrances to choose from. Each available as a spray (a frosted Aqua Allegoria bottle), candle, incense and box of 3 soaps. I don't recall their exact names but there was a rose, a woody one called Tibetan something, a third one and my favorite: Contes d'Hiver (winter tales). Contes d'Hiver reminded me a bit of Winter Delice with more vanilla.
This was a great visit! Like an interactive Guerlain Museum. There are sales assistants (they all had the new Kisskiss lipstick as a jewel around their neck) but they are not pushy and let you look around in peace.
On the spot I wanted to buy Véga, Derby and Contes d'Hiver. My BF almost bought Angélique Noire. To calm down we decided to cross "les Champs" and have tea and something sweet at Ladurée. I wished my schedule could have allowed me to return the next day to eventually buy something!
The Guerlain boutique is located at: 68, Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008, Paris. Tel 01.45.62.52.57.