The past perfect… Jicky by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

He was the odd boy out, all the men new that.

But what he lacked in bravado and swagger he made up for in bravery.

“Put that boy on a horse, doesn’t matter how big or fat or fast or fearsome and he’ll hang on for dear life and the win”.

Another difference: the small, silken haired, slightly lop-sided youth with the winning streak was always sweetly scented and well presented.

The other lads smelt of horse and sweat and horse sweat.

He smelt of hay, meadow hay with stray lavender and wild rosemary and yellow irises wrapped up in it.

His scent was not of the horses themselves, but of their tack.

Of leather saddles and reigns, breastplates and martingales, highly sheened stirrups and bits, gentle hackamores and the work horses’ harnesses.

Of the equipage too: of orange aroma polishes and spicy resins of all descriptions for hyde and hooves and brass. Of the vanilla custard powder for manes and the wood varnish gloss for coats. Of curry combs, and dandy brushes, shedding blades and bot bricks.

The other riders left the grooms to tend their mounts he always took special care to see his ride was radiant. He even gave them basil to chew on so as to beautify their breath.

So it was that this polite, soft and well spoken, immaculately turned out slip of a man of twenty four was picked to ride his majesty’s horse.

The Derby of the year thirteen would crown his and the King Emperor’s achievements.

But the Sovereign’s horse though stunning was sickly and too slow, and as Anmer ambled behind the pack the suffragette stole her chance and sealed their fates.

Had she meant to die?

No matter, she did, four days later in a cottage hospital.

And history, and his life, changed.

Whenever he smelt that scent, that Derby Day aroma, he saw a woman’s face about to fall under horse’s feet.

The horse had ridden on riderless, but the rider could race no more.


At Mrs Pankhurst’s funeral some fifteen years later a slight woman called Bertha laid a wreath ‘to honour the memory’ of Emily Davidson.

The same soul, at this time called Herbert, would die in a kitchen full of gas in 1951.

The kitchen it was said was immaculate.

The surfaces polished to a citrus sheen, the mise en place pure perfection.

The meal remains uncooked.


Jicky is the perfume of the point in history at which all things changed.

It is the step forward in scent that could never be untaken – a thrusting out in front of the speeding clamour of fate.

From here on in nothing could ever be the same again.

From here on in perfume had the option of a beginning, a middle and an end.

Jicky’s beginning is now as familiar to us as the subtle hiss of the atomiser’s spray, both sharply citrus and soothingly aromatic in almost equal measure.

In its middle it becomes more animal than botanical it gains horses’ leather and something a lot like civet that goes unlisted. But these are not wild animals and the dark resins and perfumes of grooming and petting are in place too. And if some of those polishes have a slight paraffin base? Then so much the better.

The dry down has become leitmotif too, it is vanilla and earth and wood and a certain sweetness that seems made for fragrance.

To wear Jicky is to wear a piece of history.

The first modern perfume is no longer a modern perfume.

Long may this part of the past persist in our present.


On the question of sex?

Jicky is the olfactory Orlando.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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18 responses to “The past perfect… Jicky by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. R

    I really enjoy these timeless description of a perfume. Should try to do one too in the future.
    But I have to confess I don’t understand what ” Jicky is the olfactory Orlando.” means. Care to expand on this?
    Thank you.

    • Dear R
      Thank you as always for taking the time to read and comment!
      The Orlando I refer to is the hero / heroine of the novel of the same name by Virginia Woolf – played on screen by Tilda Swinton.
      The character lives through history, changing genders in different generations.
      The rest I shall let you judge for yourself.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      PS. Do try and get a description down and be sure to let us all know when you have done so – I would be thrilled to take a peak.

  2. Lilybelle

    I love Jicky. It is one of the Immortals. If it were an Olympian would it be Hermes?

  3. I am left speechless, really, I know you’re always telling me it’s about the perfume – but I would beg to differ, (okay, it’s about the perfume) AND the prose.
    You knock my socks off,

  4. batkitty

    Jicky thrills me every time I wear it. To me it’s the scent of the demi-gods, half celestial and half thoroughly “of the flesh”. Where the two aspects meet is sensuality itself.

  5. Mr. Perfumed Dandy, I’m always speechless with your reviews and most admire your great taste and knowledge on fragrance. Jicky (or I should say the Jicky family) is one of my newly acquired love and will most certainly reminiscent his/her glorious history, enjoy the refined present and look forward to seeing his/her limitless future.

    • My Dear Mr Chau
      I am most positively sure that the famille Jicky are just as happy in your company as you are in theirs. Their history truly is one to fascinate and well worth becoming acquainted with!
      Thank you as always for the kind words.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. I have only smelt Jicky once and the rest of that day is a moment lost in heaven. I love your review.

  7. ladyjicky

    I adore Jicky – always have and in the Parfum – divine!
    Created for men, worn by women – Jackie O and Brigette Bardot both wore Jicky and those two knew a thing or two ! I have worn Ms Jicky for over 40 years myself!

    • Dear Lady Jicky
      The Dandy is delighted to have so eminent a guest visit his humble salon.
      Indeed, created by a man for a man, or woman, for men or women.
      Truly, through the generations Jicky has proved itself the Orlando indeed.
      Still so pleased that it is enjoyed by yourself and all the sexes alike.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  8. I don’t love Jicky, but I respect it and regard it highly. Great description. I am enjoying your blog.

    • Welcome Dear Iscent
      I know many people who can’t bring themselves to love Jicky. To respect her is I think as honourable a response.
      I thank you for your kind words and commend others to search out your own writings.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  9. Jicky is one of a few classic Guerlain perfumes that I like. I enjoyed reading your review for it.

    • My Dear Udina
      I am at one with you, I think Jicky is remarkably easy to wear, though it is something quite out of our time. I’ve also notice that many fewer people have the adverse reaction to it that Mitsouko engenders in so many!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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