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Guest post by Olivia 





I have a confession.. I could never really get there with summer. Instead, falling squarely if not neatly into the misfit camp, there’s a prominent facet of my character that really gets off on the disenfranchised gloom, the ennui-flecked hinterlands of colder weather: I go about willing, even buoyantly braced for climatic underwhelmisms. Genuinely, for the most part, the long looping requiem that is the starker side of the year here speaks much more to me, in the ugly-beautiful vistas it creates, in that electric zing of foggy morning air and the almost abrasive clear headedness it breathes in. A paean to winter isn’t remotely the way you’d want to start a review of a paint-by-numbers summer perfume, but while all the above is true (almost heretically so) – I do love the scents of summer, and year round; the densely creamy florality of sun cream; the thick unction of monoi; the gorgeously over ripe slimy-banana scent of ylang; robustly sexy jasmine; the lactonic, pillowy quality of coconut.


Perversely, summer sits easiest with me in concept: I like the idea, the colours, of painfully blue sky and fierce midsummer sun, everything exaggerated by a heat that seems to balloon the senses and add a crazed hyper real touch to life. In an ambient light that is beamish and bursting, there is an intense veil of something pure and life affirming that somehow connects everything up: the phosphorescent sunsets, flamboyant flowers fanned out like Day-Glo dancers and the rocking whoosh of salt water as your feet lift, weightless as shadows off the seabed. Crucially too, it always makes me think of giddy teenage holiday flings and falling in love: that lickety-split, glittered adrenal rush that leaves you tingle toed and cherry cheeked and your heart weeping round the edges like a tub of Soft Scoop. Things feel exciting, reanimated, and pregnant with possibility. Perhaps it’s these qualities that cast a particular kind of romance over the idea of a summer perfume: at the same time as being necessarily utilitarian (cooling, airy) it should embody these fantastical moments in some way, transporting us like a talisman to some removed technicolour daydream, a strict and lovely inversion of the diurnal tumult and tedium.


The French do summer well. Each August as Paris drains itself toward the coasts, everything seems to take on a universal open-shirted bon vivre: work can do one. The focus now is on late and long lunches, on family and wine, on protracted indulgence and a gorgeously relaxed sense of hedonism. All preferably slathered and slipped in the buxom butteriness of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (a divine tiare scented body oil) and buckets of Sancerre. Guerlain, alongside their signature, beautifully moody wink ‘n’ smoulder orientals (Shalimar, Vol du Nuit..) have several perfumes that reflect this sentiment. Olfactory explorations of that summery, particularly franco-bacchanalian lilt focused somewhere between the Croisette and the Comoros: the honeyed, heady imperialist fantasy Mahora, with its piquant and petroleum undertones; Metallica, that gorgeous over-ripe slick of ylang, gnashing carnation and smooth as Chartreuse vanilla overridden with a bizarre and lovely brassy bite; the lazy, late morning yielding sand between the toes insouciance of Lys Soleia. This year, Terracotta Le Parfum – an accessory to the summer make-up line of the same name, joined the gang.


To spray it on is to be caught up in a sudden solar squeeze, a near perfect Polaroid of warm air and sunshine. From a little, light bite of bergamot things tumble through a fairly prominent green jasmine and into a salicylate rich lei with ylang, orange blossom and tuberose all twirling around reasonably indistinctly from each other. The lactonic element of this composition binds the florals together, lickably, sinking into a balmy (characteristically nouveau Guerlain/Wasser-esque) base of slightly vanillic musk reminiscent of tanned, touchable skin. Its final, lilting resting point is a radiant, peaceful kind of sensuality – an evocation of that intuitive and irresistible sexiness that you sometimes catch in someone when they are totally unaware of themselves, languid within their own skin. In essence then, this perfume is in perfect alignment with the (gorgeous) Terracotta make-up range, which it joined this year as a limited edition: the aim is just that allusive healthful, sun-ripened and happy glow – la bonne mine – that seems to glint and gleam innately from the inside (..pretty much an entirely alien notion to me to be honest, but these products are great at faking it.)


Terracotta actually feels quite classical to me. At least it bows quite low to those bigger boned French floral perfumes of the ‘70s, but removed by several degrees as if quoted in Chinese whispers. There is, actually, something of that Biba (or possibly more accurately, Bardot) era about it perhaps: a carefree, salt-tousled hair and beads quality that makes me think of long late summer grass the colour of freckles, of face paints and daisy chains, of listlessness, acoustic accords and beatific wooze. That said, it isn’t nearly sullied enough to tip over into full bohemia. Rather it comes across with clean lines and desaturated, block colours (it is ultimately quite a simple perfume) – shades even, reminiscent of sun-bleached photos: pale orange, rinsed indigo, foggy duck egg set against a pale sepia background curling lazily at the edges. It’s brimful of that particular sort of mid-century optimism, all technicolour and tans, but seen through the refracted lens of a modern (more reticent?) touch.


Just maybe, predictably, I’d like a bit more coconut in there (I have been, and would recommend layering it with a coconut lotion – probably the Yves Rocher one, just because.) But then again that might detract from its essential feathery, prêt-à-porter quality; because despite the archetypal heavyweight heft of these florals, Terracotta wears like a billowed veil on me – it’s a sotto voce accessory: an adornment rather than an armour, blended as smoothly as the bronzer of the same line is delicate. Imagine the thick impasto and lush, steamy tones of a Gauguin seen on acetate: the texture and weight of a daydream, designed to be caught on the air almost as an idea rather than a laboured study in exoticism. Besides, the extra dollop of fatty-luscious coconut would likely anchor this perfume into a wobblesome monoi pudding (akin possibly to Montales’ fantastically loudmouth, coconut drenched, maraca-clacking carnival Intense Tiare – a one spray event, and trust me.) The best features, and utility actually, of this fragrance – to be splashed on, on your way out to have some fun would be lost if it were heavier.


While ultimately it probably lacks that certain indirect, strange quality – like olfactory Escher drawings – that personally renders perfumes close to my heart (the weird and moodily diaphanous Dune is probably my de facto beach scent: which given its windswept gloom and wonderful despondency probably isn’t so surprising.) But I think I’ll probably enjoy Terracotta’s contrarian ebbing from my skin in the husk of winter, when its simple light will sharpen up and become more abstracted. Then, the clash of its inherent positivity with an onyx, ink washed afternoon will be a nicely disarming colour separation: uncomplicated, bright blooms huddling under heavy jumpers like a portable warmth, as outside monastic skies play their shadow show behind bell-black, bony fingered trees and anti-freeze air.










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Filed under Frangipani

23 responses to “TERRACOTTA LE PARFUM by GUERLAIN ( 2014 )

  1. Couldn’t agree more about summer – it’s all in the anticipation! Up to midsummer is wonderful, then the reality of jaded, dusty August brings one down to earth…then it’s glorious September and October again – with the promise of winter months with fires and cosy couches and books (so difficult to read outdoors!).
    Your writing is sublime, don’t stop!

    • She won’t.

      And we couldn’t be more different in that regard, O and I.
      I LIVE for heat. She loves the cold
      And yet we both love these kind of scents.

    • Olivia

      Yeah, maybe that’s a part of it – the anticlimax. But I think for me personally, the ‘issue’ (..I realise I’m flashing a little too much neurosis for a Sunday morning!) is partly a physical one, in that all that close heat just flattens me and makes me feel all oozed and gross (my weakling anglo-saxon hide is much less attuned to baking and bronzing and much more to goosebumps.) And partly I guess I just don’t like the happy-go-lucky ethos of it so much as I do the more pinched cheeks and snuggle down approach to winter (..that sounded pretty miserable!) I really love Spring though, when everything feels at perfect pitch; Summer is just played out too loudly for me.

      And fires and couches and books – yes please! And quickly..

  2. Cath

    What a wonderful post. I live for the colder months too, really can’t stand the heat (really Neil, summers in Japan are cruel, admit it!).
    I’ve been wearing Terracotta on and off and there is something that didn’t quite convince me. I guess my expectations were too high and therefor I was underwhelmed when I first tried it. I have to say though that worn in the hot and humid climate we experience in Japan, Terracotta bloomed and came to its full beauty. I wonder if I can love Terracotta in winter? Winter is when I go for the cozy, gourmand, ambery etc scents. Aaah, I can’t wait for the hot season to be gone.

    • Olivia

      You know, I like Terracotta well enough but I’d be the first to admit I don’t get any great shakes with it. Ultimately I think it’s quite a utilitarian perfume: part of the beach bag set, alongside the flip-flops and the trashy paperback.

      I think expectations are always higher with Guerlain anyway (how could they not be?) It sits well within the new-ish releases (as I said I definitely sense Thierry Wasser’s fingerprint) but it doesn’t make me come over all tingly like some others.. I think I’d like a bit more heft to it? ..something. For sure it’s no masterpiece. I think Metallica is my favourite of the ones I mentioned above – it’s certainly more odd, and just has more to it somehow.

      Totally with you on the cozy, gourmand and ambery scents (add in breeze block vanillas and cyanide-sweet almonds, please) I feel very at home in those and they suit me much more than florals, to be honest. Love ’em. Dune, as I mentioned, is a fantastic way to work amber into the heat.

      • Cath

        Dune. I have a bottle somewhere, I’ll have to give it another try.
        I have only sampled Metallica/Metallys (gifted by a generous friend) and I adore it. The Ylang in it is just amazing. I’m cherishing the last drops in my vial. A part of me wants to use it, and then another doesn’t because I don’t want to be unable to no longer sniff it. Has it been discontinued? I can’t find it anywhere. Ylang&Vanille fills my Ylang needs for now.

      • My supply of Ylang & Vanille is dwindling….as you know I love that one.

        Metallica….so rare now.

      • Olivia

        Metallica is a very special perfume, totally gorgeous. And yes, sadly very much gone. I looked for a bottle for years (that I wouldn’t have to sell organs on the black market for.) I did finally find one, a big fat 250ml-er. Even so I ration it which is crazy considering I have enough perfume that I’m all set to be entombed with it. Its ylang is second to none (I do like Ylang & Vanille too, although I do miss that spicy, coppery edge of carnation in it.)

        MPG Fleur Des Comoros is worth checking out (quite a suntanned and chewy ylang/jasmine) and if you like gourmands/vanilla Micallef Ylang in Gold is rich and custardy, almost like Casmir with Ylang sprinkles (..or something) Then there’s Songes too, obviously. Lots more of course – maybe warrants a future post! ..but nothing quite like Metallica (RIP.) I’d say use your sample, Cath: enjoy it! Wearing it is the best bit.

  3. ninakane1

    Beautifully written post Olivia. I enjoyed reading this. Will check the perfume out.

  4. I am happy that I stocked up on Metallica years ago and still have two unopened bottles. I also have an unopened bottle of Mahora along with an opened one. One of my most prized bottles is the original blue bottle (with glass stopper) of Guet-Apens.

  5. Cath

    I never knew about Metallica, boohoo, my loss.
    Thankfully I have many other ylang ylang loaded summery Guerlain beauties (with back ups) including Mahora, Y&V, Lys Soleia, Terracotta voile d’été and others.
    I own MPG Fleur des Comores but the passion fruit note in it bugs me. AG Songes is supposed to be nice but every AG I’ve tried has a common note that turns rubbery on me. I know, I’m not an easily pleased customer. 😉
    I think we will need another post on Ylang Ylang, there is just too much to write about this queen of flowers.

  6. Wonderful post Olivia! You and I feel the same about summer. I always feel it is overrated and there is too high of an expectation to ” get out and have some fun”. I am now, with the beginning touches of Autumn in the air, feeling a bit more alive and brighter. I am sure you must be feeling the same.
    I used to own Terracotta, at least the late 90’s incarnation Voile d’ete, and found that to be similar to how you are describing this newer release. It was interesting, but not a fully “complete” scent. Which works well for a summer scent, but I always wished it had gone further.
    It is funny hearing about all these much desired Guerlain scents. As I told Neil in the past, I used to work for Guerlain and owned all of them; Metallica, Mahora, Guet-Apens and many others. I never wore them so ended up selling all of them on eBay ages ago. Hopefully they went to people, such as everyone here, who truly love them- as opposed to those who only collect for the bottles, quelle horreur !
    I do hope to read more of your posts in the future, very lovely piece, truly.

    • Delighted to meet another chill-seeker – (I’m not a complete freak – yey!) And thank you for the compliment.

      I liked the original Terracotta too – although I’d agree it never felt as fleshed out as maybe I’d have liked. The initial blast of carnation was pretty exhilarating, and very evocative of sunbaked Provencal roofs and terraces, but then it whimpered somewhat. As you say though, good for summer when you perhaps don’t want anything too extrovert and enduring.

      God, I love Guerlain. My very favourites of those I own, I think. There’s a few I never wear either – they’re not really ‘me’ I guess, but I like having them around as beautiful things (both the scent and the bottle.) I can sort of see why people collect them just for the bottles – all those little bees make a pleasing little hive after a while. But full ones?! – An atrocity, surely.

  7. Lilybelle

    I loved your post. What lovely writing and imagery! I haven’t tried Terracotta but a summer-loving friend who lives in NYC loves it. She said it sold out everywhere within a split second. I liked Terracotta Voile d’Ete, if anyone remembers that. It really did evoke a sunbaked warmth. Hopefully, I’ll try this new one at some point. I’ve been slathered up in sunscreen hiding in the shade this summer (I’ve just had one spot frozen off my face, and I’m hoping to prevent anything more serious). I can’t wait until Fall sets in! It’s my favorite season – that bittersweetness and inward turning, and the crisp air. That’s for me.

    • Thank you so much, it’s so nice to hear you enjoyed it. I really appreciate it!

      Bittersweetness and inward-turning – yes, exactly that. Perfectly put. It’s a gorgeous time of year (although sadly quite brief here) and I feel totally at home with it. I love being able to get more wear out of all those delicious orientals and richer scents too.

      Sorry to hear about the sunspot, sounds like a bit of a scare.

      • Lilybelle

        It’s true, fall and spring are all too short. :-/ And the hot, hot summer and cold, cold winters drag on interminably. As for the sunspot…oh well. I’m getting older. I suppose I’ll love to a ripe old age and leave a scary looking body, as it’s now too late to die young and leave a beautiful one!! 😀

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