Who would have thought that Thierry Wasser would create his most beautiful work thus far for Guerlain as part of the more incidental and experimental Aqua Allegoria range? But that is what he has done with Lys Soleia.
Over the years a number of odd little fragrances have popped up among the Aqua Allegoria line. Originally launched in 1999 as a cheaper, lighter more spirited introduction to the Guerlain name, fragrances are added and taken away, year in year out. Some are lovely, delicately scented and sometimes erring on the quirky and strange side. What has been interesting is that if they don’t work, they are removed and replaced with something else and so on. The line has the feel of a testing ground, for playing with scented ideas. They are not expensive but still retain a quality feel to them. I really like the lightness they often have and the interesting and imaginative combinations of notes and ingredients.
I loved Rosa Blanca from 2011, a strange and zingy rose scent with touches of magnolia and luscious peach. Thierry Wasser’s Jasminora from 2011 did not sell well, but I really liked it’s snowy whiteness, the underpinning of galbanum and musks which gave the drydown a lovely laundry feel. My two favourites to date were the weird and wonderful Laurier Réglisse (2008) by Aurélien Guichard and Anisa Bella (2004) by Marie Salamange. The Laurier Réglisse had a delightful orange blossom giggling quality as it went on, supported by bay laurel and bergamot. I don’t normally like too much citrus, but any bitterness of the orange blossom was sublimated by the soft rooty drag of licquorice, a note I love but don’t come across that often in fragrance (apart from the deliriously trashy Loverdose by Diesel….). A lot of people hated Laurier Réglisse, complaining about longevity and a certain harshness or synthetic nature to the later stages of the drydown. But I like a whiff of plastics and burnt flex in my floral indolics, so I rather liked the ambiguous and trembling uncertainty of the licquorice and more verdant facets of the foliage.
Anisia Bella was a coldhearted child. Chilly and beautifully distant. Aniseed is a tricky and potentially suffocating note. I love its effects in the original Lolita Lempicka eau de parfum, lashed to powdered violet and mounds of woody vanilla. I wear this over and over again, a twisted fable of a scent, imprinted with claws and tears, sugar and spice. When Annick Ménardo reworked the formula for the boys it was dull and lacked teeth, testing flat in comparison to her glorious and horny Kourous Body, one of the sexiest men’s fragrances ever created, all chewy woods, sage, incense and a lickable outpouring of benzoin. The whole composition smells buzzy and anisic, powdered and breathless. Anisia Bella was the thoughtful, reserved opposite. Green tea, violet and bergamot seemed to bring calm and poise to the notes like a sudden icy zephyr. I love star anise and licqorice, they add mystery and nostalgia to fragrance. The overall effect was a scent of powdered verdant chills. Quite a feat and one of the most enigmatic Aqua Allegoria fragrances.
So, over the years I keep an eye on the line, they come and go, I dip in and out. Then this year, a lot of buzz started up around Wasser’s latest creation Lys Soleia. Already this year, 2012 had seen a lot of creamy orange blossom and sun lotion type releases, beach holiday aromas dripped through scent and Mathilde Laurent had already produced an outstanding lily soliflore, Baiser Volé, for Cartier last year. But it seemed that Wasser, freed from the pressures of producing the next big mainline Guerlain hit or working at the extreme end of the luxurious niche lines (money spinners in Asia, Dubai and Russia) had been playing with the lighter Aqua Allegoria line and produced something truly wonderful.
Of course it registered for me as another lily orientated fragrance. This time an interpretation of oriental yellow lilies blended with creamy boudoir ylang-ylang and the beautiful tanning lotion aromas of salicylates. But there is a massive fountain of green in it, a juicy bamboo note which rolls across the skin underpinning the potentially rampant inundation of flowers, musks and vanilla. Guerlain list palm leaf as a note, maybe it’s this, although I’m not sure how much of a facet this brings to the perfume. The bergamot and lemon at the top smell like lemon ice cream, soft and melting, with pieces of real zest and a lickable Italian style gelato sensation.
The overall feel is utterly dreamy and enfolding, another beautiful beachy, suntan lotion take on white floral notes, this time minus this year’s ubiquitous orange blossom facet. In fact the composition has a very 70s hazy feel to it, soft and filtered, bronzed yet intensely romantic and innocent. Reminiscent of those haunting washed out beach scenes from Death in Venice, posed and vaguely unattainable, just out of reach on a scented horizon. For there is to me, something a little strange and deathly in Lys Soleia, a coldness, a face at a window that disappears from view when you turn back to look again.
Each time I wear it, I feel a little more haunted. The whiteness becomes translucent, ethereal. It has a wonderful creamy x-ray quality, skeletal and utterly pared down. A strange sensation for a fragrance so rich in white flowers and vanilla. Wasser has produced a remarkable perfume. Like driving along expanses of empty roads and suddenly coming upon a beautiful hitchhiker backlit against a morning sunrise. It has that shock of grace and smile to it. The more you wear it, the love turns colder, the summer turns to winter and still you love. It holds you. Addiction is an exhausting state. Three bottles in, I know this.
These two quirky and opposite Guerlain fragrances merit attention. One is comfort and sugary desire, so much fun and darkly compulsive in a well turned out velveteen candy way, with just enough bite to draw a little ruby red blood. The other is a glorious evocation of sunlit skin shot through with wistful longing and a ghost of love, the notes dying away softly into a slow white dawn.
For Part I of this Blog piece, please click below: