Perfume Review & Musings: Pamplelune by Guerlain (1998)



Pamplelune is part of the Aqua Allegoria line. It was composed by nose Mathilde Laurent who is also the creator of Shalimar Light - the 2003 version - and Attrape-Coeur. It was launched in 1998.

Pamplelune offers a variation on the grapefruit theme which is not only meant to refresh but to be distinctive and original. It is a fresh and sophisticated fragrance with a marked presence, some may say, too marked a presence. It is not as light and fruity as some of the other Allegorias. The scent flaunts asperities and does not wish to compromise with pleasantness....


Fragrance Notes are: California Grapefruit, Italian Bergamot, Neroli, Petitgrain, Black Currant, Patchouli, Vanilla.

The composition opens on a burst of acidic, juicy grapefruit enhanced by other citrus notes such as bergamot and petit grain. A dry nuance is immediately apparent; one can smell light, dry touches of patchouli. You can also detect some mint.

Next, the perfume becomes rounder, sweeter, fruitier and a little flowery with the neroli and the blackcurrant notes becoming most apparent to the nose. The sweetness then starts to recede and a more acrid and austere accord emerges with the fruity grapefruit still hovering in the background but now with softer, polished edges.

At this stage, the sulfurous, thiol note that is natural to grapefruit and blackcurrant makes its presence felt. The perfumer has chosen to emphasize this aspect of the fruit rather than suppress it unlike the choice made for Eau Fantasque by Fragonard which also contains both these slightly mixed-feeling notes. It is a very astringent and dry - even acrid note - which is not unpleasant but not meant to convey easy-smelling either.

Perfume critic Luca Turin proposed a small experiment whereby he suggested you should try smelling garlic and Pamplelune side by side to catch a whiff of the common sulfur note. Out of curiosity you can decide to follow his suggestion. You can then perceive the kinship between the two but while there is affinity across the spectrum of the aromas, they remain well separate in terms of their identities.

However, Pamplelune does evoke that human excretion stigmatized as "B.O." as the drydown progresses. It makes you think of natural skin musk. That facet is omnipresent becoming more pronounced as the drydown evolves.

Pamplelune is arguably a controversial fragrance to wear in the context of the so-called "Deodorized Society" in which we are invited to evolve today. This remark gets validated the further you go West, it seems. In North-America body odors are supposed to be masked while a reconstructed clean, non-offensive, scented barrier is put between you and the rest of society. In some cases, "unscented" is the way to go.

This over-sensitivity to human smells is particularly strong in the US where the acronym B.O. perfectly illustrates the obsession most people have of smelling out-of-control that is, "bad". In 17th century France, it was not so and in 20th century France, a tolerance for stronger perfumes persist. In old-regime France, people wore perfumes to enhance their natural body odor according to cultural historian Alain Corbin hence a marked taste for animalic scents such as amber, musk, and civet. 

Pamplelune is an interesting scent. It goes against the grain of societal preferences affirming a personality of its own while playing with a summery note evoking breakfast, glasses of juice and health while letting out it can suggest decay.

Out of the many Guerlain fragrances I smelled one afternoon at a counter, this one stood out (together with Mouchoir de Monsieur and Angélique Noire). Grosellina and Tutti Kiwi that same day on the other hand elicited the reaction in me that I felt I didn't like nor hated them.

Earlier today I stopped by The Body Shop and tested their new Rose Cassis. Well, my conclusion is that between smelling controversial and smelling cute - and also sickeningly banal in this case -, I'll choose the controversial perfume anytime.

You can find a 4.2 oz bottle of Pamplelune for $33.73 at

There is a review of Pamplelune by Cait Shortell available here on Legerdenez


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10 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Foo. Devoted Guerlain love slave that I am, I cannot enjoy this one. I have no objections to B.O., but this one is all cat pee on me. THAT I object to. (I have a gift for bringing out the, uh, boxwood in many a fine fragrance.) Fascinating note about perfumes worn to enhance body odor, by the way.

  2. March,

    Now that you say it, I completely agree with you, it does smell of catpee. But, I still like it. It's that same uriney note one finds in a musk tincture or civet that mixes so well with other refined notes in a perfume. I also love the fact that I can smell my natural skin scent more when wearing pamplelune.

    Edmond Roudnitska says some very interesting things concerning the perfumer's appreciation for civet despite the fact that, as he says so himself, it smells of s*#t.

    I'll find this quote and will also try to post something on the civet note sometime. I'm fascinated by this ingredient and I love it in Tonatto's Oropuro.

    Mimi Froufrou
  3. My impression when trying this was a grapefruit that had been sprayed by an un-neutered male cat. I assume the later is from the black currant note. What were they thinking?

    Jim Barnett
  4. Lol -- pardon my perversity, but I love this perfume.

  5. i have bought it and liket it lots. it was only after reading some reviews when i thought of BO, and honestly, i kind of want to fight for this interestinf perfume by wearing it whatever people say.
    i also like layering / combining it with mandarine basilic from the aqua allegoria line

  6. Hey, I want to have sex with my right arm that smells of Pamplelune, so how perverse is that? :)

    Seriously though, Pamplelune I only tried today for the first time and it was instant love, I think. Not only in terms of scent but also composition, as I see the perfume as remarkably well done. The cat pee association, although present, is by no means a detractor to me. Did I mention just how sexy this perfume is? Told ya, a pervert :-D


    • I think this is one elegant perfume, despite the little sweaty aspect. Elegant sweat? I think so.

      Chant Wagner
  7. I've just bought my first bottle of Pamplelune as something fresh and light for summer. I don't detect cat pee at all (and this is from someone who has smelled the real thing all too recently!), but I do agree about the B.O. comments. I still in fact quite like it!


    • It's a great one!

      Chant Wagner
  8. I am a Guerlain girl, and this is my favorite daytime fragrance (I tend to wear the Mandarin-Basilic scent when I go out in the evening). I find the Pamplelune to have more of a floral-rose note as the day wears on, and I get nothing "cat pee" or otherwise unpleasant from it. Interestingly, as I tend to exercise at night, the rose-like note that I detect becomes more pronounced when I sweat, but still remains subtle and not unpleasant at all.

    Amy Taylor

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