Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire : Perfume Review

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Guerlain-la-petite-robe-noire

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

La petite robe noire, little black dress, is a perfect concept for a fragrance. Scent is as much of an embellishment as beautiful clothing, and an appropriately selected perfume can lend much to the allure of its wearer. Moreover, the idea of a little black dress — the perfect, versatile garment — is very appealing. As such, Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire ended up on my must-sample list. Alas, the problem with La Petite Robe Noire is that it does not convey to me the timelessly chic quality that its sartorial referent should have; it is more of a dernier cri attire suggested by the composition of bubbly red fruit on a cotton candy and patchouli base.

The initial impression of La Petite Robe Noire is my favorite aspect of the composition. The anise-almond top accented with citrus notes is immensely appealing, with a lush red fruit accord lending the composition a mouthwatering, delicious quality. The fruity notes, suggesting a range of impressions from wild strawberries to raspberries, are sumptuous and juicy. Once the fruity top and the supporting cast of sheer floral notes settle, the ubiquity of La Petite Robe Noire becomes apparent. A big dose of Velvetol (cotton candy note) and patchouli provide the main character. All I am left with is some Angel inspired déjà vu.

While La Petite Robe Noire is not without its merits—fans of fruity gourmands will appreciate its vivacious treatment of the theme — there are so many other fragrances of its type. It is hard to say what exactly makes it more interesting from the others or what justifies its high, ultra-luxury price. I certainly do not harbor illusions that Guerlain should only release fragrances in its well-worn oriental genre amplified by plenty of Guerlinade, but I so wish that its new releases would at least explore new territories, rather than offering us yet another good market-tester.

Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire (fragrance family: fruity floral) includes notes of lemon, star anise, bitter almond, rose, licorice, raspberry macaroon, patchouli, white musk, smoked tea, and vanilla. There are numerous comparable fragrances, but here are a few contenders in the lower price category: Dior Addict 2, O Boticário Acqua di Colonia Floral, Cacharel Amor Amor (especially its lighter, fruitier flankers,) Bath & Body Works Black Raspberry Vanilla, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Calvin Klein Euphoria Blossom, Lancôme Miracle Intense, and Estée Lauder Pleasures Exotic.

La Petite Robe Noire has also received a richer floral flanker, La Petite Robe Noire Modèle 2, created by Thierry Wasser. It includes notes of bergamot, lemon, galbanum, iris, orange blossom, marshmallow, white leather and musk.

Sample: my own acquisition

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29 Comments

  • carmencanada: In and of itself, LPRN is very pleasant, and always a huge hit with my younger London students, unsurprisingly, but the first thing I thought when I smelled it on the 68 Champs Elysées was: “this ain’t black”. The second one was: “I hope I can get a table at Ladurée right across the avenue, pronto”. I did and gorged on macarons (raspberry, liquorice, rose and vanilla) rinced with jasmine tea… The proper place for this blend is in the mouth!
    I’ll add I was quite shocked at the time that Guerlain would pilfer what is clearly the Chanel heritage. But Chanel hadn’t copyrighted the name… January 12, 2011 at 4:25am Reply

  • Olfactoria: What a great name – and what a disappointing fragrance. They could have done such interesting things, but decided on the umpteenth fruity gourmand. It is not a little black dress, more of a Juicy Couture pink terry cloth leisure suit. Blah. January 12, 2011 at 6:15am Reply

  • Marina: Such a waste of a great name, which now nobody else can use who could possibly do justice to it. 🙁 January 12, 2011 at 7:41am Reply

  • Olfactoria: So true, I second that! January 12, 2011 at 10:23am Reply

  • Victoria: Very true! In a way, it is Coco Mademoiselle with a raspberry macaron. Whenever I smell the latest Guerlain patisserie inspired fragrances, I wish that they had a counter selling macarons the way IUNX did in their original store. Some of those combinations would have worked remarkably well in a pastry. Can you imagine a tonka bean flavored macaron? I bet Pierre Herme must have done something like that. January 12, 2011 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Elisa: This one struck me as a Lolita Lempicka rip-off — but if I’m going to buy a rip-off, I want it to cheaper, not more expensive. 🙂 January 12, 2011 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: Well, I see it more as a hot pink Betsey Johnson dress (whose clothes I adore,) it is, at least, does not have the cheap ubiquity of those Juicy Couture suits.
    As I write it, I should confess that I am sitting here wearing a Juicy Couture suit. Even though I got it on sale at Marshalls, it is black and I never wear it outside, I am not immune to trends either. 🙂 January 12, 2011 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: The bottle though is lovely. Serge Mansau did a wonderful job. I just noticed how oddly gothic the ad looks… January 12, 2011 at 12:19pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, it is definitely in the same category, with a much stronger fruity-floral accord. As I wore it, one day I kept thinking “Coco Mademoiselle,” another “Lolita Lempicka.” Then someone asked me if I am wearing BBW Black Raspberry Vanilla!
    I went and tried it after that comment and found that Black Raspberry Vanilla is actually very pleasant, especially for someone who likes fruity gourmands. January 12, 2011 at 12:22pm Reply

  • carmencanada: I think they *did* serve Pierre Hermé macarons at the launch, though what flavour I don’t know since I wasn’t there… If I remember correctly, Octavian Coifan posted once on the perfume-inspired pastry recipes he’d conceived. Sadly, I never tasted those either. January 12, 2011 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Zazie: Knowing how chanel used to advertise her all-black dresses and shirts, in the pre-WW II period, the name she gave to those creations, I’m glad it is not the house of Chanel advertising the perfume PRN… 😉

    I totally agree with you that some Guerlain perfumes are wonderfully edible: I concocted a “l’heure bleue-inspired sweets-box” for a fried who loves the fragrance. I went to a confetti shop, chose some candied violets, mimosas, and roses (too bad candied iris does not exist!), added some plain almond confetti, sugar aniseeds, and mouthwatering white chocolate-covered cherries.
    I had problems letting the box go!!! January 12, 2011 at 12:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: My word, I would have trouble letting that box go too! Sounds wonderful! Guerlain does traditionally have a beautiful, abstract gourmand theme running through their fragrances, from Shalimar to even Chamade.

    There was a shop in Sienna selling chocolate bars flavored with orris butter, which was sinfully luscious. I cannot remember the name, but I will check my notes later. If I find it, I will email you. I also love violet flavored marrons glacés, which I bought from Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano’s shop in Liguria time to time. I miss them, although at least now I can buy their candied fruit online from a shop based in the States. January 12, 2011 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: Mmmm, I blame my breakfast of chocolate cake and candied fruit stuffed stollen on your mention of macarons! 🙂
    One would imagine that with the macaron craze sweeping the pastry shops even on our side of the pond, it would be easy to find good ones in NYC. I still have not found anything that approaches the delicacy, lightness and rich flavors of Ladurée’s. I do not even mention Pierre Hermé, whose macarons are my top favorite. I even bought his Macaron book and tried making them myself. I forgot to scale the recipe down, and as a result, we were eating macarons for months (they store well in the freeze.) January 12, 2011 at 1:06pm Reply

  • March: Everyone’s said this already, but the name! That name! What an incredible name for a fragrance, and what a disappointment. You’re right — it would make a halfway decent outfit, but not a little black one. The bottle’s fun, too. January 12, 2011 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Victoria: That is what I feel above all–a waste of a great name. I usually do not care much about the marketing concepts, but this is such an appealing one.
    The thing is that there are so many safe, trendy, commercial scents that just a pretty perfume is no longer quite enough. January 12, 2011 at 5:26pm Reply

  • k-amber: This post almost makes me rush for Laduree, two shops in Tokyo :), to get licorice macarons! I also like their rosy saint-honore. I could not agree more, Victoria! I wonder they use very good essence..

    Kaori January 12, 2011 at 11:38pm Reply

  • Victoria: Kaori, I love the rose and cassis flavored macarons, but licorice is among my favorites. I especially love its black shell, which is so dramatic.
    Pierre Hermé often uses Sevarome essences to flavor his pastries. I tried their rose essence, which is excellent. I am sure that the others are good too, but in the US, the only place I know that sells them requires you to buy a vat of essence. Not reasonable for me and my small-scale baking.
    Not sure if I asked you this before, but have you tried the desserts by Hidemi Sugino? I am in awe of his creations based on two books I own, but I hear that his pastries are amazing. January 13, 2011 at 11:37am Reply

  • k: Around ten years ago Avon came out with it’s fragrance, “Little Black Dress”. So, unfortunately, it seems Guerlain cannot even claim originality in the name. January 13, 2011 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, thank you! After your comment, I checked my sample stash and even found samples of this Avon fragrance. There was even a Little White Dress. Both were discontinued. LBD is a nice oriental, with a bright fruity-floral accord. Little White Dress is less interesting, pretty much a single soft musk accord. January 13, 2011 at 2:25pm Reply

  • Vintage Lady: Pleasures Exotic by Estee Lauder has the Exact scent or almost since I must be very humble about this, than a bottle of an extract I got among a few while being in the Middle East. But I like this scent very much. Thanks for this review about La Petite Robe Noire, very beautiful.! January 13, 2011 at 3:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: I was smelling Pleasures Exotic earlier. I like it, although the original Pleasures is my favorite. Exotic, however, has a very nice fruity note, delicious, not at all sharp and screechy, like many tropical fruit notes tend to do at times. January 13, 2011 at 3:34pm Reply

  • k-amber: Thank you for the name, Sevarome. As google-ing Hidemi Sugino, I found “mythical mousse cakes, the best in the world”.. I didn’t know the name but sounded very famous.. The shop is located near my sister’s place, so I will try them. Honestly I don’t eat cakes very much and enjoy mainly dark chocolates and nicely flavored macarons and cookies. Many shops have started to sell imported chocolates and cakes lately, in stead of high end fashion merchandises, which means a sort of downsizing…

    Kaori January 13, 2011 at 9:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: Kaori,
    If you try them, please do let me know if you like them and what they are like. The recipes in the book look amazing.
    I am also more partial to chocolates and macarons, but in general, I am not immune to a siren call of any nice looking pastry. 🙂 January 13, 2011 at 10:54pm Reply

  • March: Completely off topic, but for years I mourned my macaron deficit and gorged on them during my few trips to Paris. Then one day, a couple of years ago, I learned of a shop about 20 minutes away that has them, baked fresh by a woman who was a pastry chef and trained in Paris. Being able to drive over there and have some when I want them has been one of the joys of my life, I tell you. They’re not Laduree, but they’re darned good. January 13, 2011 at 11:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: March, isn't it amazing to make these discoveries? Like when I found out that the best oud as well as my beloved Omani frankincense are available right in the West Village (Enfleurage store).
    I need to search better for a good macaron in NYC, I am sure that it must exist. January 14, 2011 at 10:02am Reply

  • Debbie: Apologies, I’m very late to this post, having only just acquired a sample of LPRN, however I thought I’d comment as somewhere during the drydown I detect something of the Yohji Yamamoto about it. This has left me with a more favourable impression of LPRN than I might otherwise have. I’d be interested to know if anyone else noted a similarity. November 5, 2012 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Nati: This is exactly like “Very Irresistible”, which should be called “Very Insupportable”, and the black dress the name refers to is due to mourning of the deceased victim that unsuspecting trusted a spray of it on her skin. November 15, 2014 at 6:33am Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I guess, it wasn’t the one for you. November 24, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Fogdew: Natiiiiii dont be so cruel to the perfume, poor thing! Hahhahah
    I liked this one, it’s not the most wonderful perfume ever, but I do like it! It’s uplifting, pretty and easy. Sometimes that’s all we want or need. December 15, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

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