Not long ago, I happened upon Guerlain Arsene Lupin Dandy along with its companion fragrance, Joyou. I was also faced with an immediate decision: The fragrance was going away for reasons not known at the time and therefore not discussed.
It’s a habit that Guerlain has had for some time now, I’ll talk about another case in a future post (Coriolan and its rebirth): Create a fragrance, tightly niche market it, and then remove it from existence. Dandy was no exception to this rule, although the lifespan was quite short as it had only been publicly introduced in 2010. I’ll talk more about this at the end of this post, but for the moment I’m reviewing a fragrance that is not currently available; the experience that anyone will have is, at present, vicarious. But what an experience it is.
Guerlain Arsene Lupin Dandy (2010): The perfumer — in this case, Jean-Paul Guerlain — managed to truly capture the essence of a masculine yet refined scent. It’s a difficult fragrance to define as a single-note and it’s by no means dull, but the general tenor is oriented towarda target market of males over age 40. Let’s discuss the notes, first:
At the top, it begins with bergamot and bitter orange, though neither feels overly citrusy on the skin at first spray; rather, they’re just refreshing enough to lighten the introduction. The heart notes consist of cardamom and pink pepper to add some rich spiciness and intrigue, as well as a bit of sharpness. The base introduces a powerful dark leather along with sandalwood, warm patchouli, and trail of Olibanum. None of these seem very extraordinary components in or of themselves, and you’ll find the combination common to many fragrances of a deeper chypre category.
As many things with Jean-Paul Guerlain, it’s the manner in which they are composed that makes the difference, and here the outcome is greater than the sheer sum of the parts. Guerlain has both maintained the elements that have made “the Guerlainade” famous, all the while steeping them into a rich, tasteful and distinguished fragrance that reacts very well to warm skin and protrudes with a subtle yet noticeable sillage. Longevity is very good as far as Eau de Parfums go, though your mileage may vary. I found that 10 hours was routine, and even longer was quite common. My wife could clearly smell the fragrance in close range over 15 hours hence.
I’ll put the sillage question in perspective. A diner in the northeast US is a busy place on a weekend morning, and the hostess seating us — someone we know well, and who gets to smell more than her share of very common scents — literally stopped me to ask, “What is that you’re wearing? It smells wonderful!” It was Dandy. I didn’t bother her with the story behind it, as she’ll recall the scent but not the name, but rarely would she ask that question, and never once has she asked it of me despite the numerous scents I’ll have worn over time. Usually, sillage makes one think of over-spraying a fragrance; with Dandy, it was a natural and pleasant outcome.
This is not a fragrance I would recommend to anyone under the age of 40. They wouldn’t appreciate it in the same way. This is a scent for enthusiasts and aficionados. The general public might appreciate it, they won’t completely understand it.
Price point is…rather, I should say “was” in line with other premium fragrances at around $230 for 100ml. For now, that is if you can locate one of the last remaining pieces. To be sure, the originals are usually somewhat more intriguing than reformulations (and as I write this, I’ve diaried a note to myself to discuss Coriolan in a future posting).
Rating: 4.5/5. Highly recommended.
Bottom-line: Occasionally, Jean-Paul Guerlain weaves his magic into a fragrance treasure that becomes a sought-after rarity. Arsene Lupin Dandy is one of those times. While it doesn’t hold a pedestal spot similar to Shalimar or Jicky, for the enthusiast it will hold a very specific memory and place. I’ve saved the better news for last in that this is not a fragrance that is “disappearing”, but is expected to be unveiled sometime around 2012 with a slight name change. Instead of “Arsene Lupin Dandy”, it will simply be named “Arsene Lupin”. The ‘Dandy’ will be dropped due presumably to trademark or copyright violations. Voyou will simply be called Voyou.
In the meantime, if you have a piece that has the original name, you have a collector’s piece.