Guerlain L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme : Perfume Fragrance



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.



  • Anjali: “…slowly ossifying petals.” What an image!

    On my skin, L’Instant Pour Homme was not very pleasant, but I think maybe it was just that by then I was so used to the woman’s version (which I love — I know, I know, unpopular opinion) I was expecting something like that and didn’t give it a fair chance. Will have to test it again!

    Have you tried the new L’Instant Pour Homme Extreme? I think I saw a bottle when I was out shopping last weekend… September 2, 2005 at 1:58am Reply

  • Lost in Jersey: Ah – it is the exact uniqueness of L’Instant that had my husband saying, “No way!” After some gently coaxing – ok – brutal determination on my part, he finally relented and started wearing this ‘for me’. I don’t think many men are used to florals in their fragrances and it takes time to adjust. Phil now wears this often since he has come to appreciate the fact that he doesn’t smell like everyone else; it smells divine on him. Great review as always, V. September 2, 2005 at 9:27am Reply

  • Robin: Beautiful review, V, as always. I liked it better than the women’s on the scent strip but haven’t tried on skin yet. Ack — must clear through all these darn samples one of these days!!! September 2, 2005 at 11:42am Reply

  • Tania: And thank you so much for giving me a sample of this. Totally not what I expected! I didn’t like the L’Instant for women all that much. It was nice, but…well, it was nice. The pour Homme reminded me of a much better blended and more interesting version of the best part of my quirky old friend Slatkin Absinthe. In other words, the woody-patchouli-anise part. I’d always wanted a better version of the Slatkin, and voilà!

    The Slatkin surrenders its austerity after an hour or so and becomes a blackcurrant fragrance, but L’Instant pour Homme hangs onto the good part for ages, and even gets better over time. I must remember not to forget to tour the men’s section at Sephora when I’m shopping. It means I miss good things like this.

    It definitely also has a smokiness to it, as you say. What I detect also as it dries down is a floating note of vetiver weaving in and out of the composition, which lends it an airy character it might otherwise lack. Keeps the black licorice effect dry and savory, rather than candy-sweet, too. I didn’t get any citrusy freshness, but I’ll pay more attention next time.

    This is definitely one a gal could wear. It’s more interesting and girl-friendly than Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, which also plays with a woodsy anise, and which I’ve tried to wear several times (but found too masculine, after all, in the end).

    And P.S. what was the masculine Caron you tried on that smelled so good on you? Speaking of girl-friendly masculines, I mean. September 2, 2005 at 9:31am Reply

  • Laura: Well, another one I’m now forced to try. V, you should wear a warning label on your person. Where is the FDA when you need them? September 2, 2005 at 9:53am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anjali, I have not tried Extreme version yet, but I am definitely planning to. I find the original to be just fine in terms of tenacity, but I am curious how different Extreme is going to be. If you sample it, please let me know what you think. September 2, 2005 at 11:34am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: F, thank you. I am glad that you prevailed, because it is one of the most interesting masculine fragrances, and yes, Phil will not smell like most men. I noticed that P. does not like any citrus or fougere blends, but he liked this one. I love the caramelized anise element that keeps peaking out of the base. September 2, 2005 at 11:41am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, only happy to share! I find that it is a very interesting composition that avoids the typical astrigency of male fragrances as well as extreme sweetness. Discovering that beautiful anise note was the best part. The citrusy element was very subtle, but it is just the thing to keep licorice from getting too sweet, along with the smoky and earthy notes. I found myself thinking of the composition as a very smooth blend, with every note folded in perfectly into another.

    I am curious about Extreme, but I cannot complain about tenacity on my skin.

    BTW, I just realized that I never tried Slatkin Absinthe. This needs to be rectified soon. Your description sounds very interesting.

    The Caron I was trying was Le 3eme Homme. I loved it–floral and spicy as a prelude to smoky. September 2, 2005 at 11:54am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, which government would you contact to put a warning label on me? 🙂 I have 3 passports (with one of them offering a citizenship in a country that no longer exists). September 2, 2005 at 11:57am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, thank you! I have to say that it is rather unrepresentable on the smelling strip for the first couple of hours, and even then it is more citrusy than the result on the skin. I would be curious to hear what you think, especially since you like anise. September 2, 2005 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Marcello: Great review! I remember trying L’Instant Pour Homme on the first day it came out in Holland. I received a sample from a Guerlain rep who was on her “tour of duty” that morning; in the first instances of the opening, I found it slightly reminiscent of Coriolan. Meanwhile, Ms. rep showed me the drydown chart: not the traditional top-heart-base pyramid, nor a linear drydown, but rather a distinct top, followed by a cloud of notes revolving around some sort of central accord. It looked intriguing. The faint similarities with Coriolan progressively vanished to my nose; and most of all, I noticed that IPH wasn’t as “typically masculine” as the former. I agree that IPH seems to defy traditional gender boundaries: the great news is that it’s about increasing complexity and variation, as opposed to a search for bland ambiguity (remember that annoying “unisex” fad of the early 90s?).

    While IPH made a positive impression on me, I didn’t feel compelled to buy it. I have to admit I really like the packaging, though. September 2, 2005 at 8:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marcello, thank you! “Increasing complexity and variation, as opposed to a search for bland ambiguity” is such a perfect way of putting it. I like some masculine fragrance from an artistic standpoint (Coriolan is one of them), even though they are a bit too masculine for me to wear. IPH definitely expands the horizons as well as blends boundaries. Moreover, florals can do well in masculine perfumery. That is exactly what Roudnitska has done to Eau Sauvage–added a lot of hedione to it, infusing the heart of the composition with a mist of green jasmine. And it was perfect! September 2, 2005 at 11:23pm Reply

  • MC: I tried L’Instant Pour Homme Extreme on Friday. It isn’t that different: The sales assistant claims it is “woodier, with more patchouli” but I found it sweeter – there is thread of sugary cocoa running through it that I didn’t find very appealling.

    It doesn’t have the Sacrebleu bubblegum opening note of the EDT version or the freshness of its anise. Instead, it’s a hazier, heavy-sweet wood scent that tends to overwhelm rather than develop. It lasts forever. I much prefer the original version.

    Nice bottle, though. September 5, 2005 at 4:00am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, thank you for the review! I must say that it does not sound very appealing, however I will definitely try to sample anyway. I agree on the packaging–it is among my favourites. September 5, 2005 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Tania: I’m trying it again today, and this time I do notice the citrus, but it wasn’t what I was expecting! It comes out sort of like candied citrus, not the lemony freshness I was imagining. It’s still in the stages before the anise/vetiver phase right now, and it reminds me a little of Caron Pour Homme (although maybe that’s because I just tried that one). Smells not so much like Slatkin right now. That could’ve been just a delusional association on my part. Regardless, I love the woodsy anise idea in scents, and this is a particularly fine example. Thanks again! September 6, 2005 at 1:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, that is exactly the note I am noticing–candied citrus, not effervescent at all. I think that other notes of the composition make it sweet, but I do not mind. This is certainly a very interesting fragrance, with a beautiful anise whisper supported by a particularly nice patchouli note. Very glad that you liked it! September 6, 2005 at 2:13pm Reply

  • Ferris Égoïste: i need to try the original. The extreme version is a bit harsh, but it is nice as well. May 22, 2013 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Tijana: So glad I came across this review 🙂
    My husband is on his second bottle of the Extreme version, which I personally adore, to the point that I wanted to wear it myself 😉
    I am normally not one for genderizing perfumes, but I don’t enjoy wearing something ultra-masculine… I am glad to read your thought on this perfume’s drydown, as I couldn’t find anywhere comments from people on whether it is too masculine or not (did not seem to me, but I wanted second opinions on this). Now I will venture into spritzing myself occasionally from my hubby’s bottle and will try again the standard version as well, although if I recall correctly, the Extreme was even a bit less masculine to me when I first compared because, excatly as MC says, seems sweeter than the original… 🙂 May 23, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t find it too masculine, and I love spraying myself with it. I got nice comments on it from my husband, who at first, didn’t even recognize it as his own perfume. 🙂 I bet it smells great on you. May 23, 2014 at 4:34pm Reply

      • Tijana: Hahaha, my hubby did not recognize it either right away! 🙂
        Yes, I love it, thanks for giving me the courage to try it on me – not sure why I needed it, but it seems I did and I appreciate it! 🙂 May 25, 2014 at 6:53am Reply

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