L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême / Eau de Parfum by Guerlain (2005)

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L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême/Eau de Parfum (2005) is not an altogether different fragrance from the original L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme (2004) that preceded it. Both were compositions by the late Béatrice Piquet intended to be the next chapter in the storied saga of men’s fragrances for the house, especially in the wake of Jean-Paul Guerlain being kicked out of his own family business after selling a controlling stake in the house to LVMH, who were in search for a permanent house perfumer at this time while using stand-ins like Piquet to continue Jean-Paul’s effortlessly traditional Guerlain style. The hype and controversy that followed L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme is the direct reason for the release of L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême, which was later reformulated as an eau de parfum by Thierry Wasser when the whole line underwent homogenization into bottles that look like the one Habit Rouge (1965) introduced. Many older fans early on expected a powerhouse like Derby (1985) or a rich barbershop presentation like Héritage (1992), but they were kidding themselves by 2004 because those styles were all but dead outside Tom Ford’s anachronisms over at fellow LVMH brands YSL and Gucci at the time. Instead of that, L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme was more of a sequel to Habit Rouge, translating the “Guerlinade” into a gourmand with traditional oriental tones worked in to try and foolishly bridge the emerging generational divide in the men’s segment. L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême in its original form was the house essentially trying to apologize to its older clients, who clearly had deeper pockets and were keeping the brand aloft, delivering a stronger and more overtly-masculine take on the accord of the original “LIDG” that would better appeal to their sensibilities. Guerlain Homme (2008) would end up being the deliberately-targeting youth market masculine entry, creating another controversy among male “Fragheads” online, but that’s another story altogether. The house of Guerlain really hasn’t been able to do anything “right” with its most die-hard fans since choosing an outside perfumer for succession over Patricia de Nicholaï (niece of Jean-Paul Guerlain), so any creations after 2008 are more or less apocrypha.

The key differences between “LIDG” and “LIDGE” are the tweaking of the notes they both share, and the addition of white pepper, vetiver, and an earthier, more-natural patchouli that would clearly find favor more easily to a mature nose used to patchouli appearing the way it does in scents like Givenchy Gentleman (1974), than something waxier and more fractioned/isolated like the patchouli in most modern designer contexts. What this means to someone who may not have smelled “LIDG” before trying “LIDGE” is that this is more of an oriental than a gourmand, and more conventionally-masculine in tone. The opening of lemon and bergamot is joined right away by star anise, with the elemi taking more of a back seat to it than in “LIDG”, allowing a white pepper note to come through and replace the lavender found in “LIDG”, sharpening this up. The camphorous nature of the patchouli in this iteration lends a minty touch not found in regular I’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme, but that peeks through a heart of jasmine and lapsang tea, with the added natural sweetness of neroli replacing the thicker sweetness of cacao in the dry down. The cacao is still there, but moved into the base alongside the sandalwood, patchouli, and oakmoss. Hibiscus is replaced with hibiscus seed and also shows up in the base, while ambrette is swapped for vetiver, benzoin, and vanilla. The ever-so-slightest hint of “Guerlinade” is there to maintain that historical link, but you have to really look for it as opposed to “LIDG”. L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême wears stronger, greener, spicier, woodier, and feels like a missing link between the original “LIDG” and something like Cartier Roadster (2008). The smell of “LIDGE” is not orders of magnitude stronger than “LIDG”, but is much less subtle, less blended, and will get your attention more, especially with the patchouli. Wear time of “LIDGE” is over 8 hours and projection is still moderate, but sillage proves more tenacious than its predecessor. Versatility is actually a little wider with this one if only because the drier and spicer mood it sets allows “LIDGE” to fare better in hotter weather, but I’d still say this is formal or romantic use only and even then best in cooler environments where the vanilla in the base doesn’t scream.

In my eyes, the only real difference between “LIDG” and “LIDGE” is the mellifluous blending of the former, with full intent to be a classicly-minded interpretation of a modern style, and the more heavy-handed approach which leads to greater note separation in the latter, meant to appeal to old-school guys who wanted bolder and more-noticeable masculine accords in their fragrances. Neither take on the DNA found in both fragrances is modern in execution to begin with nor overtly masculine, but while “LIDG” followed the conventions of the 2000’s a bit closer with its more-floral and “metrosexual” nature, the way “LIDGE” plays out on skin as smokier and deeper speaks clearer to someone that appreciates sophistication over subtlety. I commented in my review for it that L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme is very niche in style, and I think that L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême is even more so, especially in light of the note separation and bold brush strokes that perfumers in the niche section like to paint with when composing. The modern Eau de Parfum that eventually replaced the original “LIDGE” is also more than satisfactory to my nose, although someone who has been wearing the original for years is bound to tell them apart and find resentment for the new stuff; it is the nature of things when dealing with the perfume community. From what I can tell, the guys out there in the “FragComm” tend to prefer “LIDGE” (particularly in sought-after vintage bottles) over any rendition of the standard L’Instant, although I disagree with that assessment, placing me in the minority here by siding with the original Béatrice Piquet-penned composition, because the additional smoke and patchouli do nothing to enhance the likeability in my eyes. Having said that, “LIDGE” in any format is a marvelous and classy oriental perfume with gourmand touches for men, showcasing that “Guerlinade” can be made in the hands of those outside the esteemed perfume family. Whether or not you need both “LIDG” and “LIDGE” is up for debate, but neither of them is a bad choice. Thumbs up.

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