Guerlain Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique : Perfume Review



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

A lurid press release that makes bodice ripper novels appear tame has pretty much been the only distinctive thing about Les Elixirs Charnels, which include Gourmand Coquin, Chypre Fatal, Oriental Brûlant and Boisé Torride. Despite my lack of excitement about the collection, I nevertheless made a trip to Bergdorf Goodman to try the latest release, Floral Romantique. After all, I thought, the last thing one loses is hope! And I am just about to lose it… This review does not even need my customary three paragraphs to encapsulate my feelings about this new Guerlain launch. Floral Romantique is an orange blossom version of Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue with an ultra-luxurious price tag.

If you have smelled Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue and Marc Jacobs Daisy recently, you can imagine the feeling of Floral Romantique: airy, radiant floral accented with a fizzy citrusy top and a dry amber base. The floral accord relies on a rich dose of orange blossom, which gives it an interesting twist, while the sheer white floral notes give Floral Romantique a petally, luminous effect. Once the zesty brightness of the top notes vanishes and the slight smokiness of tea and amber becomes more pronounced, Floral Romantique enters into the familiar waters of all Light Blue offspring—crisp and sweet.

The reason I find Floral Romantique disappointing is precisely because it lacks originality and character. For a similar effect and much less money, one cannot go wrong with Chanel Chance Eau Tendre, Dior Addict Shine, or Calvin Klein Euphoria Blossom. In a way, I can understand why Guerlain keeps releasing all of these commercial and safe fragrances, from Idylle to La Petite Robe Noire. Its target audience, especially in the US, needs to be expanded, and it is very difficult to do so with fragrances like Shalimar and Mitsouko. Yet, every brand has an identity, its own DNA that makes it unique and distinctive. I think that the more Guerlain deviates from its traditions, the less coherence and value it will have as a brand.

Guerlain Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique includes notes of mandarin, petitgrain, ambrette seeds, yerba mate, carnation, jasmine, lily, tiare flower, ylang-ylang, cedarwood, smoked tea, benzoin, chestnut. Available from Bergdorf Goodman and Guerlain boutiques. 75 ml Eau de Parfum, $255.

Sample: my own acquisition



  • Olfactoria: It is never a good idea to dilute and bend what you are into something you don’t even want to be for somebody else, be it a person or a target audience. By trying to appeal to the fruity-floral brigade, Guerlain loses its loyal customers. In a line as exclusively distributed, I really do not get what they are doing. I get Idylle, but I don’t see why the exclusives have to conform to mass market ideals. Who goes to the Maison Guerlain and Bergdorf’s after all? Not the Daisies and Lolas of this world… April 21, 2011 at 4:09am Reply

  • Suzanna: That does sound disappointing…and predictable. It is as if Guerlain must keep striving for a bigger market share, knowing it is out there being cut into by the “mall” fragrances (and Chanel) and yet not attaining the hoped-for sales figures. As Olfactoria notes, this cuts away the loyal customer base, and it also fails to attract the new (younger) customer who would wear Chance Eau Tendre. One of the reasons is that the exclusives are not mass-marketed, so it works against itself from the beginning.

    Of this line, I have enjoyed the sizzling amber in Oriental Brulant most. April 21, 2011 at 9:51am Reply

  • dleep: I am so disappointed. I thought it would be something really special. Thanks for the review and for saving my wallet. April 21, 2011 at 12:21pm Reply

  • key change: And the price tag! April 21, 2011 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Uella: V. I saw the most ill-informed SA at the Guerlain counter tell everyone these were all natural perfumes. I’m sure a lot of people think it must be true just because it’s expensive. I challenged her and she clearly didn’t appreciate it but it was beyond my control I had to say something. April 21, 2011 at 1:31pm Reply

  • Suzanna: Boise Torride was a big let down also. It had a too-sweet, too-powdery base reminiscent of the type of commercial fragrances used in feminine hygiene products. It’s a shame that fragrances cross lines like that, from soap powder to urinal cakes to shampoo to perfume. At some junctures it is not possible to discern the difference. April 21, 2011 at 1:53pm Reply

  • Victoria: That’s essentially how I feel. I understand why they took such a commercial route with Idylle, but for the niche fragrances it makes no sense. After all, Chanel has their Bleu de Chanel and Chance, yet it also offers beautiful, non-commercial fragrances in Les Exclusifs. April 21, 2011 at 10:37am Reply

  • Victoria: I have tried them all, but now I cannot recall a single fragrance. I believe that I also preferred the amber, but on the whole, I found the whole line to be overly sweet. April 21, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • sweetlife: Yes, please! Then maybe I’d get to smell it! April 21, 2011 at 4:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also had hoped for something more original. I just do not get it, this is supposed to be a niche launch. Why is it so commercial and dull? April 21, 2011 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Victoria: The price tag is the most impressive part of it! April 21, 2011 at 12:55pm Reply

  • Victoria: On a related note, can we please petition Guerlain to release Quand Vient La Pluie in a regular bottle? I absolutely adored this beautiful twist on L’Heure Bleue, but did not like the unnecessarily fancy (and expensive ) bottle. April 21, 2011 at 12:55pm Reply

  • sweetlife: The discussion above and your review really beg the question of whether the relentless push for growth is always the best thing for a company. Wish more people would understand the value of concentrating on profits within a niche instead of expansion. Hermes has done that quite nicely,and I applauded their recent statements defining that plan in opposition to the typical LVMH strategy. Poor Guerlain. April 21, 2011 at 5:25pm Reply

  • dee: LOL! April 21, 2011 at 1:42pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Yes, that’s exactly what I meant by “poor Guerlain.” The Hermes family seemed to address exactly this problem in the NY Times article where they discussed resisting LVMH’s advances. The son said something along the lines of, Well, we could put out a lesser product, dilute the brand and make a lot money quickly but then in five years we’d have no status left, and thus no company in the long run. Exactly what seems to be happening at Guerlain. Alas. Hope I’m wrong! April 21, 2011 at 6:04pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Goodness, that’s a lot of “exactly’s” lol… Feeling very emphatic about this topic, apparently. April 21, 2011 at 6:05pm Reply

  • Victoria: Suzanna, yes, I found the same thing. It was my least favorite for this very reason! As you say, it went from a fine fragrance to a functional product within minutes. Also, it does not help that some of these gourmand-oriental accords are now finding their way into shampoo. I bought a shampoo recently that smells exactly like Chanel Chance! April 21, 2011 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: The last time I visited the counter I had a very nice experience–the ladies were helpful and nice. However, on one occasion I was subjected to a lecture by some “visiting fragrance expert,” whose every sentence started out either with “these fragrances are all natural, so…” or “as an expert, I would recommend…” Either approach got tiresome after a while! April 21, 2011 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: That fragrance was one of the best perfumes Guerlain has released in the recent past. And what do they do–they package it in that silly bottle and make it pretty much unattainable. April 21, 2011 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: The problem is that Guerlain is a small company within a large conglomerate like LVMH. Watching LVMH market Guerlain is not unlike observing King Kong trying to pick up Ann. I find the same thing applies to other niche brands within LVMH like Fendi, Kenzo, etc… However, it is much more pronounced with Guerlain. April 21, 2011 at 5:36pm Reply

  • Victoria: I certainly feel the same way! I am rather tired of smelling yet another Guerlain and feeling that I can get something similar at Sephora for a quarter of the price. April 21, 2011 at 8:39pm Reply

  • Marina: Boisé Horride more like, brr. This one sounds even worse though… April 22, 2011 at 9:07am Reply

  • Victoria: This one is actually better overall (it is far more wearable to me than some others in this collection,) but in terms of character, it is rather bland. April 22, 2011 at 6:24pm Reply

  • Sherri: Thank you so much for this review! I am late responding and in the minority, it seems, in that I liked both Gourmand Coquin and Oriental Brulant. It’s true they’re a little sweet, but both have that soft, rich, velvety Guerlain feel to them that works very well for me. I might still love this one if it is a “Light Blue” done in rich velvet. Doesn’t sound like it, I know, but I can still hold out hope. 🙂 You’re an awesome writer–thanks so much again! April 23, 2011 at 8:15am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: I’m amazed, the commentaries are so clever here. The level is set high 🙂
    I share the same point of view about Guerlain.

    Worst, my last statement is that I discorver that we have a blind spot in the blogosphere : we’re so eager to compare actual Guerlain to the vintage classic formulation, we tend to forget the reformulation are still going on.

    Now when I go to a Sephora, I don’t know either to curse my nose or Guerlain.
    You know, it’s not easy to compare right in the shop, but I was cautious enough to buy most Guerlain before we got an ebay restriction here in France.
    My feeling in that “L’heure bleue” and “Mitsouko” and “Apres l’ondée” are still going more defaced, and the cologne theme parfume like “Eau de guerlain” “Jicky”, all are getting more subdued.
    The more I get sensitive to my vintage, and my nose skilled, the more I find what’s happen alarming.
    My favorite perfume is “Chamade” pdt, and I got many vintage form, and the EDT proved me that anything but greed explained most of the reformulations (the vitage EDT was full natural ylang-ylang sparkles and jasmine lushness, the actual is only synthetic cripness, still good last years, but getting even more sharp ; EDP turned fatty amber and vanilla, when it was uplifting benzoin incense and fully dewy rose and jasmine) May 20, 2011 at 1:23am Reply

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