Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Masculine perfumery is often seen as either minimalist (citrus and musk) or ostentatious (Yves Saint Laurent Kouros). Yohji Yamamoto Yohji Homme, Divine L’Homme de Coeur, Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Pour Homme were among my first discoveries from the domain of specifically masculine perfumery. I have recently added L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme to my list. Created by Béatrice Piquet in 2004, it features notes of jasmine, citrus, star anise, hibiscus, patchouli, sandalwood, lapsang tea and cacao bean.
The first rush of bitter citrus is underscored by spicy fresh leaves and sweet chill of anise. A cured leaf note rises up to create a smoke screen over citrus, softening its bright shimmer. Caramelized undercurrent undulates out of the shiny layers, creating a vision of slowly ossifying petals. A note bridging a gap between a flower and a woody stem lends an appealing indeterminacy to the composition, teasing one into thinking that the accord is about to become more floral and lacy. Instead, a dark rose turns into rosewood embellished by bittersweet smokiness and delicate sweetness. Gentle earthy patchouli laced with musky ambrette seed is completed by citrusy freshness, which persists into the drydown. It is not an effervescent sparkle of lemon, but a cut glass sharpness of synthetics, which actually complement the rest of the composition well, giving a layer of translucent glow to the bitter caramelized notes. Like a well aged whiskey, L’Instant Pour Homme has a beautiful prolonged drydown, containing a trace of the initial exciting burst.
While the fragrance opens up in a manner that may recall classical masculine compositions, the drydown is finely constructed in such a way as to blend gender divisions. It is beautiful in the same way as Chris Sheldrake’s compositions for Serge Lutens–it escapes conventions and predictability.