I’ve been wanting to try something from Guerlain’s exclusive L’Art et La Matière Collection ever since they were made available here in Singapore last year, but never found one that I could identify with until now. The L’Art et La Matière Collection was first released in 2005, and represents Guerlain’s goal of creating olfactory art through the use of the finest raw materials in perfumery. It is also a pun after the French expression L’Art et la Manière – the art and manners; and for me, it is perhaps the most modern in style from the vast range of fragrances that Guerlain has to offer. And the latest member of the collection best represents that to me – Neroli Outrenoir.
I was first intrigued by the name as I love Neroli as a fragrance note, and “outrenoir” (loosely translated as “beyond black”) held for me endless possibilities. The fragrance is styled in a manner that feels very true to the Guerlain aesthetics, luminous yet elegantly woven like brocade. It starts out deceptively fresh, with the zing of bergamot adding a crispness to the sweet orange blossom. However, unlike colognes where citrus notes are more commonly found, Neroli Outrenoir is balanced by the inclusion of petitgrain which lends the overall opening bouquet an interesting, almost aquatic green tint. This sweet prelude lasts quite a while, but gradually turns warmer and drier as the heart of the fragrance emerges.
The darkness in Guerlain Neroli Outrenoir comes from the smoky black tea, which has a dry, tannic quality to it. This is further reinforced by the emergence of balsam, cedar and smoky guaiac wood at the base. Intuitively, the combination of black tea with bergamot reminds me of a good cup of Earl Grey team, but in reality Neroli Outrenoir smells nothing like it. Instead, it is sweet and powdery at the same time, with a smoky incense-like quality to it. The entire brew is beautifully balanced, with the occasional waft of honeyed neroli weaving through. I was also surprised to find Vanilla added to be the blend, softly at first, adding a touch of warmth and a little gourmand though not overwhelmingly so.
Part of the attraction of owning a luxury fragrance is in the packaging, and I admit to having been drawn to Neroli Outrenoir in part due to this. My heart skipped a beat when I was presented with a hefty faux leather box with the Guerlain Sun King motive embossed on top, and the bottle embedded in a velvet setting within. The bottle itself is a work of art, with the name engraved on a golden plaque on the side of the bottle, and a charming bulb atomizer on top. Most emerging collectors like to first pick up one of Guerlain’s signature beehive bottles; but for me, it was always the bulb atomizer. And Guerlain has improved on the design with Neroli Outrenoir, incorporating a clever twist to switch it on and off to prevent evaporation and leakage.
Guerlain Neroli Outrenoir stays very close to the skin with very limited sillage, and never grows overpowering no matter how liberally you douse yourself with it. At the same time though, it has surprising longevity, staying well on throughout the day with minimal fading. I was surprised to find myself loving this fragrance more and more each time I wear it, and especially as the weather turns cooler. It feels very personal, the way perfume was meant to be; and each time I give the bulb atomizer a squeeze, I feel a little of the charm and luxury of the old world.