Arsène Lupin Dandy:
Arsène Lupin Voyou:
Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
When I reflect on Jean-Paul Guerlain’s impressive body of work, from Vétiver de Guerlain to Chamade to Samsara, the recent Guerlain PR fiascos involving him sadden me even more. With the fragrances he created, he managed to do what LVMH is still struggling with: to take the classical Guerlain signature of warm tonka bean, rose, iris, vanilla and modernize it. Even more so, he has created scents that have a timeless appeal and that (if regulations do not interfere) will outlive all of the L’Instants, Insolences and Idylles. Jean-Paul Guerlain mentioned in a few interviews that Arsène Lupin Dandy and Voyou, on which he has worked with Guerlain in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser, are the last fragrances he will create. If so, then this chapter in Guerlain history will be closing on a high note, because out of the two, Arsène Lupin Dandy is a refined, elegant composition with a timeless quality.
Arsène Lupin fragrances are inspired by the fictional character from the series of books by Maurice Leblanc, whose character of gentleman thief Arsène Lupin were as popular in French speaking countries as Sherlock Holmes. Although both fragrances are marketed for men, I would like to note right away that Arsène Lupin Dandy would make an excellent fragrance for women, particularly those of us who love classical fragrances in the woods and green chypre genres.
The main impression of Arsène Lupin Dandy comes from an elegant ménage a trois of its soft leather-amber, green balsamic notes and the warm violet-jasmine accord. It hits its high note with a liberal dose of bergamot, the characteristic peppery bite of which is deliciously amplified with cardamom and pink pepper. Earthy, green notes that set the tone next unfold simultaneously with the dark, balsamic incense note. This lends a memorable tension to the composition, the same excitement one feels stepping outside on a cold winter day and suddenly realizing that the smell of spring is in the air. Arsène Lupin Dandy then moves through the delicate floral heart (accented brilliantly with some very nice jasmine absolute,) and into the refined base of creamy, sheeer musk, dark amber and leather. Despite the heavy, rich notes, the fragrance never loses its refinement and soaring, airy character. It takes me to the glorious Guerlain fragrances like Sous le Vent and Vétiver. Also, those who admire Serge Lutens Bois et Musc and Lalique Encre Noire, will find Arsène Lupin Dandy appealing.
Arsène Lupin Voyou is technically less interesting, and while enjoyable, it lacks the dramatic development and originality of Arsène Lupin Dandy. It is built on a classical masculine dry woods accord of cedarwood, sandalwood, patchouli and amber, which is wrapped in a big dose of vanillic, sweet notes. Sheer marine notes lighten the effect of the composition, while a creamy note of sweet, warm musk wraps it to the point of being nebulous. In the end, it is just a nice, good-quality, but utterly conventional masculine scent. In the similar vein of dry woods with oriental accents, I would prefer Nicolaï Baladin, Tom Ford Bois Marocain, Comme des Garçons 2 Man, Serge Lutens Daim Blond, and Hermès Eau d’Hermès.
Arsène Lupin Dandy (fragrance family: woods) includes notes of bergamot, pink pepper, cardamom, violet, frankincense, labdanum, leather and patchouli. Arsène Lupin Voyou (fragrance family: woods) includes artemisia, bitter orange, coriander, cardamom, peppercorn, rose, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber and benzoin. Both fragrances are in the Parfums Exclusifs collection. They are available from Guerlain boutiques and Bergdorf Goodman in the US.
Samples: my own acquisition