In its attempt to reach a younger audience, and to rid that most poetic flower of its timid, knees-clenched legacy, Guerlain audaciously chucked a synthetic neon-violet cannonball at department stores back in 2006. It was a funky, monstrous thing I immediately knew would be a flop (especially given the choice of Hilary Swank for the ad campaign, which to me felt totally ill-matched..)



But I was wrong.

Apparently Insolence has had its fair share of takers, and the scent now has its place assured in the Guerlain mainstream line-up, targeted primarily at a younger audience who will presumably later then grow into the illustrious stable’s grands classiques. Maybe it’s the sense of Guerlain’s Finest Moments  re-segued for the modern age (the marzipan of L’Heure Bleue; the powdery iris-violet of Après L’Ondée; the vanilla sexy of Shalimar, cleverly concealed within the caterwauling mix…) but it all felt so totally wrong yet ever so strangely familiar….














On top we have:


pink, purple and red laminated ra-ra skirts of lacquered, lacquered violets (the eau de toilette famously beginning with an indigestible, raucous Indian hair spray note that really takes you by surprise): then, a back-of-your-throat sheen of plastic red fruits: red currants, red apples, and all manner of other synthetic fruits rouges whirly-gigging frantically about the glo-stick violets…..but if you survive the hilarious first ten minutes of Insolence, as  you careen about from all the scintillating lacquer that is pinking up the oesophagus, you can actually have a lot of fun with this party-crashing violet



( for me, in truth, part of the very enjoyment of this scent is that opening, as it does what the name suggests: shock, slightly, with its brash impudence. The ‘reformed’ woman of the eau de parfum, for which another perfumer was roped in to apparently smooth things over, and where everything is blended just… so to make this lady smoother and more palatable to a wider mainstream audience, is to me so….. bustily bourgeois: more wearable yes, and more seamless, but with a slight suggestion of feminized lobotomy – though that might be somewhat overstating it.)



In Maurice Roucel’s more ‘vulgar’ original edt, Insolence has a girl’s- night-out vibe: shrill, fun, and very loud in a slightly late eighties/early nineties manner. It gradually dies down, though, to a perfectly nice vanilla-violet perfume with softer, blurrier, gourmand edges, those traditional notes of the Guerlinade base, that really let you know that despite all the ‘acting out’ of the perfume’s foot-stomping opening, THIS IS A GUERLAIN,  and that the girl in question fully intends, at a pre-destined age, to follow unquestioningly in the faultlessly chic footsteps of her immaculate, Jardins de Bagatelle wearing maman.


Filed under Floriental, Flowers, Perfume Reviews, Violet

35 responses to “NOT HILARY SWANK: INSOLENCE by GUERLAIN (2006)

  1. Debbie Lauri

    You have such a way with words Neil! Your images made me laugh. Guerlain has had 1 of my all-time favorites : Shalimar…as well a 1 of my least favorite nose-busting scents: Samsara. BUT…who picked Hilary Swank? That is an odd choice, no?

    • ginzaintherain

      Totally wrong, much as I like her, especially when she is cast against type as in The Black Dahlia, where she plays a hilarious vamp…but there is no connection between her and this perfume I can tell you!

  2. alabasterwrists

    Agreed. Hillary Swank? What were they thinking? I sniffed the edt in the dept store when it first came out and thought it smelled similar to others so I did not bother ( I’ll take L’Heure Bleue any day). yet I know it was quite popular and on page one of Sephora’s online fragrance page (now it is no where to be found on their website). By the way, love the graphics!

    • ginzaintherain

      Somehow I am pleased to hear that is popular, as one of the joys in this world is the sheer pleasure of someone walking by smelling exciting, and I can imagine on teenage girls, for example, this could smell amazing, a real boy magnet (as long as she waits an hour before leaving the house!)

      The images, well yes, they had to be PINK and PINK again for this one.

  3. I think I smelled this a while ago and didn’t give it much thought. The great thing about fragrance reviews like this is that they make you stop and consider revisiting past scents.

    It’s true that my tastes have changed and have maybe become more mature (?) as I have gotten older. But I can also think of a lot of women who never pick up that Jardins de Bagatelle so to speak 😦

    • ginzaintherain

      Oh, I LOVE Jardins de Bagatelle, actually and think it is criminally reviled (just because Luca Turin doesn’t like it). I wear it, my mum wears it, one of my friends wears it, and the cedary tuberose sharpness it leaves in the room is divine.

      I think I just mean to say that you can easily imagine this middle class minx switching to one of these earlier Guerlains with ease as she gets older..I quite like Insolence, although there is something very overdone in there..

      • I have to revisit that. Sometimes I think people rely too much on Luca Turin and should just go out there and see what they think for themselves.

        Now I see that you mean about transitioning with ease. We can only hope it is with grace too 🙂

  4. Dominic

    Dominique Ropion? I think it was Maurice Roucel:-)

    • ginzaintherain

      Of course: corrected (perhaps I was wishing it WAS Ropion, who would have done a better job, probably)

      Thanks for alerting me to the ludicrous error, anyway

      • Dominic

        No worries, for the moment i thought that Roucel did only one concentration and another one was made by Ropion. But officially only the first one figured as a creator. Anyway these two EDP and EDT are so much different, prefer EDP but the first one is also interested. Insolence is so addicting;-)

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  8. I thought it was Maurice RouceI and then thought I was losing it for a moment so I am happy that I am not the only one who makes mistakes.
    However, there was a time when Insolence first debuted and I liked it but the public opinion was just the opposite. It was before the perfume blogs so I didn’t have to be subjected to the wrath of the expert “nose”, however, I was still concerned because I liked the fragrance for certain times. It is so bawdy and in your face, but has other facets to it as well. At the time, the more that people hated it, the more I liked it–but still thought something was amiss in my liking it. I will admit it is not a fragrance that I am always ready to wear even now–one must be in a strong state of assertive mind to even contemplate a spray if you are going about in the public realm. But it is also a fragrance that makes you feel a sense of freedom once you spray it. It’s name is perfect for it, in my opinion.

  9. carole

    I was given My Insolence, and… I like it. I don’t like the opening-reminds me of being in university-that air of excitement on Sat nights. Followed by binge drinking and the morning after stroll home. It would be an excellent fragrance for that time.

    The drydown shows it is a Guerlain, just as complex as Shalimar.

    I liked Hilary Swank for the image-she is not overexposed, for sure. I do wonder what demographic this scent was designed for.

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  13. I only discovered Insolence 2 weeks ago when I was at Shinjuku Isetan. I went back home with Mademoiselle Guerlain, but before leaving the SA asked if I wanted her to spray something else on me. Since I’m a fan of L’Heure Bleue, she suggested Insolence EDP. Man, whoever said this is violets on steroids was so right! I managed to get a used bottle and shower gel for cheap, washed with it the day it arrived, and oh gosh, that scent lingers for hours, even days. Use with caution! The opening is shriekingly harsh but the Guerlinade base is delicious and classy. I’m glad to have this little oddball in my collection.

  14. jennyredhen

    I have only ever seen Hilary Swank in “Boys dont cry” where she played a cross gender teenager my friend and I were totally trollied and decided to go to the the movies. the one we wanted to go to was booked out so we went to see the above in the same complex.. OMG we were off our faces and witnessed this gruelling saga of intensity and bullying and rape, small town rednecks and sadists and all the rest…the horror of it all.. we were completely paralysed and speechless for the rest of the day.

    • Yes, she was very good in it, though ultimately I prefer her completely ‘out of character’ as she is in this picture, playing a bisexual vamp in Brian De Palma’s trashy Black Dahlia. She plays the femme fatale noire to Scarlett Johannson’s blonde tartlet.

      Boys Don’t Cry though….it was pretty harrowing.

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