The New Weird Accords at Guerlain
The word "weird" has an interesting etymology. Before meaning "strange" or "bizarre" or "uncanny" in the Middle Period, the Online Etymology Dictionary states that it means originally "having power to control fate, from wierd (n.), from Old English wyrd "fate, chance, fortune; destiny; the Fates." It can mean "to turn", "to bend". There is thus a connotation to the notion of "weirdness", to which I'm particularly attuned to, which is how "forced" (or self-conscious) a "weird" action can feel...
A weird action beggars belief, contradicts common sense, is out of step and in the process of it happening, it feels terribly convoluted and forced - and you exclaim, or think "weird!" spontaneously - it's a gut reaction.
Someone has decided to "force destiny" and as a result does not earn our admiration but instead we are left to wonder about the artificiality of the action we are witnessing. There is an intrinsic lack of depth in weirdness. It is in essence nothing but a forced action which somehow never takes fully hold of reality.
This is the range of emotions I feel towards the new, unadvertized and visibly reformulated version of Jardins de Bagatelle (1983) ca. 2014 as I smell it today compared with how it smelled like ca. 2006 still, 23 years after its creation by Jean-Paul Guerlain.
31 years on, and now it smells really "weird" and odd not only compared with its original self, but also in terms of its perfume structure.
Jardins de Bagatelle has never been sung on the level of Shalimar, L'Heure Bleue, or Mitsouko. It has cruised relatively unnoticed except by its aficionados. It has not been made part of the canon of the Great Guerlains. Of course, this is understandable as a more recent, less classic 80s addition to the house catalogue. Yet, it has been kept alive. Smelling it today tells you that the house of Guerlain must have considered killing it altogether like they did for Après L'Ondée extrait. Jardins de Bagatelle is nearly dead, or reborn under a new, much distorted, and, I will repeat, weird form.
First of all, you won't recognize it in the beginning of its development but you will welcome the blast of raw jasmine you get slapped in the face with, if you love jasmine. The house prefers to advertize tuberose. Dirty jasmine lovers, please check it out.
The recognition of the original form of Jardins de Bagatelle comes incredibly late inside the development of the perfume. This phenomenon allows us to classify it as technically being a dupe of itself since this is a phenomenon reported by long-time users trying on a copy version of an old favorite. It feels that only its ghostly apparition is still lingering on almost like a virtual impression of its former self. Or again, its soul is still flickering like a flame in the wind.
The scent personaity is fragile and more like a memory imprint than a living experience. It has become like a perfume quote of itself rather than the full perfume composition. This is weird enough. But where it gets weirder - and you start really wondering what crazy thoughts are running through the heads of the perfumers at Guerlain and what Thierry Wasser was thinking - is that the drydown of Jardins de Bagatelle ca. 2014 is actually a copy of Chamade by Guerlain (1969).
What on earth is going on, Guerlain? What is the virtue of proposing a composite perfume patchwork of "Guerlain moments" rather than the real deal?
You can only guess that it's ingredients-related. But it also feels eminently desperate and not clearly thought out - not of the house sole fault though. It feels like Jardins de Bagatelle devotees couldn't stand to see it sink and that to assuage them, the house put forth a weird concoction containing a reduced dose of their olfactory fix to prevent damaging withdrawal symptoms. Has it worked out for them?
On my part, I experience both bemusement and a certain level of pleasure at inhaling the new, flawed Jardins de Bagatelle Eau de Parfum. But I try to remain lucid. It is not Jardins de Bagatelle as you knew it. It is more like a sentimental scrapbook containing a collection of smiling snaps with Guerlain. You had such great times together, and some of it remains in those artificially frozen smiles preserved for the eternity of matter like joyous mummies. Yet, it is not really alive anymore. From a perfume composition standpoint, the updated fragrance verges on incoherence. It probably makes more sense on a marketing level, but barely.
If in perfumery there is this vague perfume shape called a millefleurs which stands as a promise of happy floral Elysean fields, please welcome now the perfume with a thousand magical tricks up its sleeve to keep you happy and content. Just close your eyes and remember the past, only vaguely.
Ingrid Bergmann once said that happiness is a good health and a bad memory. The new Jardins de Bagatelle is excellent at that - it is both vital and endowed with a feeble memory of a string of events, not necessarily related.