Guerlain Insolence : Fragrance Review


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

This review is for the Eau de Toilette version. Please also see my Eau de Parfum review (a superior interpretation, in my opinion.)

Guerlain Insolence is a curious study of contrasts. Upon the first inhale, the fragrance bursts into shades of Barbie doll pink, which would no doubt surprise a die-hard Guerlain lover. However, after a wild strawberry tinged 15 minutes, the composition pirouettes into an elegant heart dominated by violet, which rests on a creamy base of musk and woods. Initially, the nail polish remover sharpness of the top notes proved to be quite distracting, preventing me from making up my mind on Insolence. And yet, just when I thought that I had figured it out, Insolence managed to present an interesting facet. It revealed its Guerlain heart when given a fair trial. …

Overall, the top notes of Insolence are the least Guerlain aspect of the perfume. After all, the classical fragrances do not feature heavy fruit notes, which as Insolence’s creator Maurice Roucel explained, is due to the fact that they were not considered sophisticated. A touch of peach in Mitsouko or a drizzle of plum liquor in Parure is the most one can expect from the classics. On the other hand, the hot strawberry of Insolence is vivid and persistent.

However, give it enough time, and you will discover that Insolence is still Guerlain at its core. The voluptuous woods, the soft roses and the rich iris of Guerlinade resurface as the composition dries down, even if the liquid gold of the classical Guerlain amber is missing. In Roucel’s words, Insolence is his answer to Guerlain’s own pearl, Après l’Ondée, which the perfumer names to be among his absolute favorite fragrances. Once the berry fizz of Insolence begins to dissipate, the cold, transparent flower–half-iris, half-violet–of Après l’Ondée begins to take form. Here, Roucel again adds his own special touch—a languid, indolic shimmer of orange blossom. Its melting warmth is underscored with a green note, which lends it a fresh touch.

Insolence is plush and curvy, revealing the seductive themes that Roucel explored in his other fragrances, from Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur to Rochas Tocade. The parfum concentration especially heightens the seductive richness of musk and woods, while the Eau de Toilette remains more transparent. In either concentration, the fragrance is remarkably tenacious, with a strong and distinctive sillage. Certainly, while it is well-crafted, Insolence does not match the cerebral quality of Roucel’s Iris Silver Mist, nor the perfect poise of Hermès 24, Faubourg, another of Roucel’s gems. Still, it is young and chic, an olfactory portrait of a twenty year old girl wearing a Chanel suit. If this is what it takes to bring a new generation of customers to the Guerlain counter, I will be the first to applaud the effort (and in this case, to wear it as well.)

Insolence includes notes of violet, raspberry, red fruit pulp, rose, orange blossom, iris, tonka bean, musk and sandalwood. Insolence and select Guerlain fragrances are available from Neiman Marcus, Bergdoft Goodman, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.



  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    What an amazing review – as usual. As I’m writing I want to tell you that I am enjlying a Guerlain moment :L’heure Bleue style. Funny, you are writing of the only Guerlain- up until now – that I am truly loved.
    Not to digress, I loved Insolence so- for my own birthday gift I treated myself to Insolence – the extrait and the Eau de Parfum. Both are exquisite . with excellent sillage. Maurice Roucel has outdone himself as usual!.
    However, I sprayed L’heure Bleue – the parfum. I cannot resist smelling the beautiful essence of L’heure Bleue! I saw it in an EDP too.
    Next week at the Guerlain event at Bergdorf’s I may be tempted to choose between. Apres L’ondee. L’heure Bleue and Vol De Nuit ! February 5, 2007 at 12:50am Reply

  • Kathy: Dear V,

    I surprised myself by really enjoying Insolence when I tested it at Sephora. My 15 yr old niece said that it smelled like grape lollipops, but it did drydown beautifully. The sillage and lasting power was excellent, and I have put Insolence on my wish list. I’d love to try the parfum strength too. I’m sure that I am at least 20 years over the target age group for this fragrance, but I will wear it with pride. February 5, 2007 at 6:18am Reply

  • chayaruchama: What a lovely review, Vika.
    I wish I could muster enthusiasm for Insolence- but I agree, the parfum is far more pleasing than the EDP [for me, at least].
    There are many other ways to wear violet- and I probably wear most of them !

    Stay warm, well, and loved- February 5, 2007 at 6:44am Reply

  • March: Once I got past the bottle, which annoys me for some reason, and those top notes, and the Hilary Swank ad campaign… I really liked it. For awhile there last year I was walking around the mall smelling Insolence everywhere instead of Angel, and it was quite pleasant. The base reminds me of two of my favorite femme Guerlains: Apres and LHB. February 5, 2007 at 7:21am Reply

  • Elle: I’m not a berry fan, only occasionally do I like violet scents and I have an ambivalent relationship w/ transparent scents. However, I adore M. Roucel and your beautiful review has me convinced that the parfum may well be taking a place in my scent closet before too long. February 5, 2007 at 8:25am Reply

  • ~vanilla girl~: Another one that I must add to my *sniff* list!
    curious of the red fruit pulp though.
    ~stay warm~ Victoria.. -34 in northern ontario today! February 5, 2007 at 8:47am Reply

  • Flor: I thought it was “cute” and liked it, but not really my kind of “pretty”. I showed it to my hubby and he said it smelled like a “little ballerina girl” and said it was not appropriate for me (btw I’m about 30 yrs old). I think I would give it to someone else, but I wouldn’t use it myself. The one thing I thought didn’t mesh well was the name. The name to me has a rock ‘n roll edge to it, and the fragrance is anything but. It’s a breezy, pretty little “ballerina girl” running through a field of strawberry shortcake flowers, (to me at least). So, I thought the campaign and name, Hillary Swank and all was an odd choice for what was inside. To me a more appropriate campaign for the juice would be something like Miss Dior Cherie. February 5, 2007 at 9:15am Reply

  • newproducts: Your review is making me think I did not give this one a fair chance when I did a cursory sniff at the Neiman Marcus counter. I will revisit it when I have the chance. February 5, 2007 at 11:26am Reply

  • violetnoir: I wish that I could be as enthusiastic about Insolence as you are, darling.

    On me, it smelled like a weak imitation of L’Heure Bleue. I call it “L’Heure Bleue, Jr.” 🙁

    Hugs! February 5, 2007 at 12:38pm Reply

  • violetnoir: I totally agree! But I’m way above the legal limit, so I’ll take my Guerlains at full-strength! 🙂

    Hugs! February 5, 2007 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Marina: It pains me not to love this one. Pains me! I don’t get any chic or Guerlain-ness from it. So sad. 🙁 February 5, 2007 at 10:06am Reply

  • Ina: I agree with you, it does have a Guerlain heart but it’s more along the lines of Meteorites for me than Apres l’Ondee. February 5, 2007 at 12:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, the parfum is excellent, especially strong on the woods and iris, and I am enjoying it. The EDT is sweeter, with more obvious berry notes, but even they fade quickly. Now, I do not care for the bottle and much less for the marketing campaign. They made Hilary Swank look like an alien. February 5, 2007 at 12:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kathy, I am with you–I completely disregard all of the target group notions, since they are marketing trick anyway. For instance, D&G Light Blue and Paco Rabanne Black XS are quite similar (made by the same perfumer as well). The only difference is that one is marketed as feminine and another one as masculine. February 5, 2007 at 12:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, yes, the parfum is what I prefer. I also love violet in all of its forms. February 5, 2007 at 1:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, yes, Roucel himself noted that Apres L’Ondee is his favourite Guerlain fragrance and that Insolence is similar to it. I do not mind smelling Insolence–it is a nice change from Angel and Flowerbomb I smell everywhere! February 5, 2007 at 1:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I think that you might definitely prefer the parfum. It is richer, not transparent, not bubble gum pink. Very elegant and sophisticated. February 5, 2007 at 1:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sonia, stay warm! It is dreadfully cold here too. Red fruit pulp is of a raspberry variety here. It works well with the violet. February 5, 2007 at 1:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Flor, I thought so when I first tried it, but when the fragrance dried down, there was nothing cute, strawberry and pink about it. In fact, it reminded of Samsara with its sandalwood drydown. I found it not very young, somewhat traditional, but overall, with the effect of the top notes and the more sophisticated and restrained base, I think that it might appeal to the younger consumers. All in all, it is much better than what I expected from a young market targeted scent. February 5, 2007 at 1:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, I think that you might prefer the parfum. The most difficult part for me was to judge it without prejudices (either negatives in regards to the concept of a pink, fruity scent or positive in regards to my admiration for Roucel’s work). In the end, I was pleased. February 5, 2007 at 1:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: N, the top notes are just not what I normally like in perfume, and the first time I tried Insolence, I was ready to dismiss it. I wonder what you might think after trying it again. February 5, 2007 at 1:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, I agree, especially since in a way, Meteorites is a violet heart of Apres L’Ondee. February 5, 2007 at 1:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I do not mind young girls wearing L’Heure Bleue Light. 🙂 It is by far better than the usual vanilla-caramel stuff the marketeers foist on them. February 5, 2007 at 1:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I completely agree. As for me, I still find room to enjoy both. 🙂 February 5, 2007 at 2:25pm Reply

  • Karin: I thought I would like this a whole lot better than I did. I’ll have to revisit it in different weather, etc.

    [email protected] February 5, 2007 at 8:31pm Reply

  • Tommasina: Hello, Victoria. Thanks for this lovely review. I don’t know how you keep it up: day after day of wonderful articles. I salute you!

    I’m amazed to hear that this is considered by some as L’Heure Bleue since L’HB was a devilish mess on me and I quite like Insolence – not the bottle or the marketing, though. Both of those put me off trying it for a while! It’s pretty, like violet cachous but, strangely, quite different on me from Meteorites (which I also like – though rather more as a harbinger-of-spring perfume than anything else).

    It’s quite cold here today in my part of NC and I’m wearing a sweater infused with JPG though intending to put on (shock, horror) Sung to go walk two dogs in a minute… February 6, 2007 at 5:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I am enjoying it right now. 🙂 February 6, 2007 at 4:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tommasina, thank you for your kind words! I also do not think that Insolence is quite like L’Heure Bleue. It was inspired by Apres L’Ondee, as its creator said himself, and this I can see completely. To me, it is closer to Apres L’Ondee and sharing only but a distant relationship with Meteorites. Meteorites is a powdery, sweet violet. The violet accord in Insolence lacks the powdery quality and has a satiny smooth effect. February 6, 2007 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Michaela Rou: Apart from the berry top notes that I find a bit difficult to accept, Insolence edt is such a beauty! Perfection, almost, and an amazing sillage. I absolutely love it, it’s my office go-to fragrance. That OMG candied violet, the iris, the burlesque, pin-up in a classy way feel is hard to match. I wish I’d test the extrait. The edp has disappointed me so far, I can’t get past the smoky vibe of an almost funeral violet. Well done, the edp, but certainly not my thing. There is a deep, sad melancholia in the edp while this is so joyful, like a burst of feminity and happiness. Edp is more cerebral and complex, edt is more femme. September 8, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad you reminded me of Insolence. It’s so perfect when it starts to get grey, misty and autumnal around here. Like you, I don’t care for the top notes, but the rest of the story is beautiful. September 8, 2014 at 4:42pm Reply

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