Cuir Beluga, Rose Barbare & Angelique Noire: Guerlain L’Art et la Matiere

Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Rose Barbare & Angelique Noire

L'Art et la Matière is a trio of fragrances released earlier this year to coincide with the opening of Guerlain’s newly refurbished flagship boutique. The perfumes were “curated” by Sylvaine Delacourte, Guerlain's director of fragrance development. Three noses were asked to create fragrances, or, to quote the press release, to “freely express passion for an original, precious raw material”.

Olivier Polge has taken on leather, and the result is Cuir Beluga, with notes of mandarin orange, immortelle flower, leather, amber, heliotrope and vanilla. It starts with sweet but mild citrus, and dries down to a creamy cloud of vanilla suede. It is extraordinarily soft and well-mannered; I have always thought of Serge Lutens Daim Blond as the pale, buttery leather interior of a new, very high end car — the sort of car that the salesman is likely to call without irony a "motorcar" — but next to Cuir Beluga, Daim Blond smells positively edgy.

Like VIP Room, or like the softest, most expensive pair of leather gloves, Cuir Beluga manages to smell of leather without evoking any thought of actual animal skins. The longer it is on skin, the more abstract and cloud-like it becomes; if you can imagine a comfort scent based on leather, this is it.

Rose Barbare is by Francis Kurkdjian, and is described as “a heady, incisive Ottoman rose (aldehydes) over a modern structure of honey-chypree notes”. I did not find this to be heady at all, but rather, a dewy sweet rose with fruity undertones and vague, indistinct spice notes. It is warm but soft, not particularly dark or provocative, and despite the chypre classification, not noticeably earthy. It is very pretty, and would likely appeal to anyone who loves the Parfums de Rosine line.

Angélique Noire features bergamot, angelica and vanilla, and was created by Daniela Andrièr. It starts rather strong and sweet, but with a nicely spicy, bitter green undertone. The dry down is softer, and has a warm, enveloping creaminess with the tiniest hint of smoke. It is perhaps the most interesting of the three fragrances — it has the most presence, at any rate — but once the bite of the top notes faded, I found it too candied-vanilla to appeal to me personally.

All three fragrances are beautifully done, very elegant, very wearable. They are perhaps less unusual than I expected from the advance press; there is nothing here to ruffle Guerlain's traditional customer base. My favorite of the three is probably Cuir Beluga, but I would wear any of them if a bottle dropped in my lap. Happily though, I was not moved to grab the credit card, which given the price (€140 for 75 ml), was cowering in fear before any of these touched my skin. That said, any of the three is more interesting (and more Guerlain-ish) than L’Instant, and I will look forward to whatever Guerlain does next with this line.

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38 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Are those the Keiko Mecheri bottles I spy? They fall over constantly, and that is with the normal top. I'm thinking it can only be worse with a bulb sprayer. I don't understand why Guerlain would buy that design rather than create their own. Very odd.

    That being said ;O) they all sound pretty good! I can't wait to try!

    Victoria O

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oh, R, Cuir Beluga is one of my biggest lemmings and you just fed it, now it is a big huge fat lemming…Are these also only available from Paris? Just a purely theoretical question.

  3. Anonymous says:

    V, still can't quite believe that story! The bottle is in no way so distinctive that you couldn't copy it tomorrow without incurring trouble, is it? Am I missing something?

  4. Anonymous says:

    M, have not even bothered to check with Bergdorf Goodman. Last time I was there (fall) Guerlain was still at a tiny counter out on the main beauty floor, having been rudely displaced from their lovely alcove by the JAR boutique. But aren't they supposed to get their own space again soon? Am betting they will have this trio when they do.

    When I was there, all they had that was new was the Plus Que Jamais Guerlain.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think the new boutique is opening in February and I think that they will have Les Parisiennes collection (Attrape-Coeur etc), so should be no reason for them not to have these 3, right? Heh.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear R, your review is spot-on! I agree in every instance, having been able to sample them recently (thanks to V and S!). I especially liked your comparison to Daim Blond. Although I think they are all very beautiful and wearable, as you say, I'm also happy that I don't need to go into further debt for them. So far, Vol de Nuit and Parure have not been toppled from their pedestals. :-)

  7. Anonymous says:

    R, my credit card quakes with fear at the sound of your name! (It's still recovering from Divine l'Homme Sage…but worth every penny.) Your description of Cuir Beluga intrigues me, yet I know quite well that Daim Blond is the stuff of instant migraine for me, so why am I getting an impression of something much less confrontational? And the Angelique Noir – how does that compare to Malle's Angelique Sous la Pluie, which I like a lot? And do you know if they can be bought in London, or direct from Paris? Sorry – so many questions! (I'm lemming-free at the moment, a dangerous state…)

  8. Anonymous says:

    M, I wonder which of the side rooms they will give to Guerlain. I am voting for the space currently occupied by Jo Malone, which is so nice & spacious. We shall see…

  9. Anonymous says:

    A, did you have a favorite? Am curious…so far most of the buzz on the fragrance boards seems to favor Angelique Noire.

    My pedestal is reserved for Apres L'Ondee, or what is left of it…

  10. Anonymous says:

    N, Agree completely on the l'Homme Sage, it is well worth the money. Your credit card should be proud, LOL!

    Yes, would call Cuir Beluga way less confrontational than Daim Blond. It is a scent a lady could wear to tea, although that makes it sound rather insipid and lady-like, and I don't think it is. And certainly a man could wear it. Daim Blond is a leather scent, Cuir Beluga is a scent with a leather accent, if that helps any.

    Angelique Noire is nothing like Sous La Pluie. Imagine Sous La Pluie toned down with a hefty spray of Aquolina Pink Sugar, perhaps…but again that makes it sound much worse than it is. It is much less green-herbal, and not at all crisp or fresh like the SlP. It is creamier, darker, sweeter.

    Just realized I have no idea what Guerlain's status in the UK is. Do they have an actual boutique, free-standing or in a major department store? I do know that the French boutique will ship.

    And note to credit card: don't order unsniffed!

  11. Anonymous says:

    R, I´m wearing my samples of Angélique Noire & Cuir Béluga for the last few days. Haven´t tried Rose Barbare yet but since I´m not very much into rose fragrances, I don´t think I´ll be very attracted by it anyway.

    AN & CB are very well done – I thought I needed AN but sometimes I think it´s a bit too sweet for my liking – even in the drydown. Nevertheless it´s what I´d call a “sophisticated” fragrance ;) Very female without being too perfume-y. I´d like to have it for the times when I´m in the mood for a sweet fragrance that isn´t cloying.

    CB really is the smoothest leather I´ve ever encountered. It´s such a relaxing fragrance with just the right amount of vanilla. I could imagine loving to wear it in springtime, right now I find it a bit too soft.

    I called the Guerlain boutique in Paris to find out how much shipping to Germany would cost & they told me it´d cost € 25,- because it´s forbidden to send perfume as a package with the normal mail. I´ve never heard about that though I already ordered from France a few times – perhaps this might be the case for oversea deliveries.

    Anyway, the shipping is ridiculous, moreover it ´ll take up to 3 weeks to deliver – so I think I won´t buy AN :(

  12. Anonymous says:

    R, they all sound interesting…and very expensive. Let's see what I'm thinking when they finally arrive at Bergdorfs.

    Hugs!

  13. Anonymous says:

    S, it is getting harder & harder to ship perfume with all these regulations. 25 euros is rather steep.

    AN gets sweeter & sweeter on me the longer it is on skin. I like the first hour, but after that, I find it too much.

  14. Anonymous says:

    R, trying to decide if any of these are likely to grab you, and am guessing not (?)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Lovely reviews.

    Did you detect any of the classic Guerlainade base in any of the 3? It just makes me wonder what has happened to their base because I certainly didn't detect it in L'Instant. I also can't imagine them releasing the 'classic' base to various perfumers seeing as it was supposed to be a top secret formula.

    Just a thought.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Now my Cuir Beluga lemming is in full roar, because I've been wearing Attrape-Coeur for the past 24 hours and IT reminds me of what I wanted Daim Blond to be: A soft leather without too much sweetness.

    I must stop reading Guerlain reviews. Now.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Robin, oddly enough, I almost emailed you yesterday to ask if you were going to review these! I have tried several times to warm up to Angelique Noir and Cuir Beluga. I was disappointed. It's not that they aren't lovely scents; they are. To me in the dry-down they are reminiscent of Serge Lutens — rich and almost liquory. But I cannot detect any of the Guerlain “zing” I adore in Mitsouko, Jicky, l'Heure Bleue. To me these new scents are expensive-smelling but strangely inert. Attrape-Coeur, now, that's another story — classic Guerlain! Have you tried Vega yet? Also, your opinion: Jicky perfume or EDT? I can't seem to find the EDP anywhere, which would probably be my first choice.

  18. Anonymous says:

    B, Didn't Guerlain claim that L'Instant was based on the classic Guerlinade formula? I am far from an expert on Guerlain, but it strikes me that all the elements are there…the amber, the vanilla, the tonka, it is just that the end result is so breezy and modern and fresh that any obvious comparison to the rich, warmer, deeper classics is lost. I understand the parfum is much better than the EdP but have not tried it.

    Of the trio, the Angeliques has the most obvious nod to the older Guerlains. It is warmer & richer than the other 2, and has the obvious references to Shalimar (or perhaps more so to Shalimar Light) in the bergamot & vanilla.

  19. Anonymous says:

    M, Gave Guet-Apens a quick try a few weeks ago, and have been avoiding giving it a second one. Everyone seems to adore it, and I can't afford to buy a bottle! From what I've heard, it is more universally adored than the Cuir Beluga, if that helps to keep your lemming quiet ;-)

  20. Anonymous says:

    M, have not tried Vega, and not sure it will appeal to me as it sounds rather sweet. We shall see, assuming it ever makes its way to Bergdorfs.

    On Jicky: The EdT is very, very different from the parfum — crisper, lighter, more citrus-y, much less animalic. Some people find it too harsh. By any objective standard the parfum is far preferable, it is softer & deeper, but it depends on how much you like the animalic base notes. I have a small sample of the EdP, and it seems like a reasonable compromise between the two, but I take it that it is discontinued (?)

  21. Anonymous says:

    I have Angelique Noire and Attrape-Coeur. What I liked best about AN was that it smelled like a sweet vanilla version of Angeliques Sous la Pluie. The AC is more powdery, AN more caramelly. I also like Cuir Beluga and Rose Bulgare, in that order, and might buy them if I still like them when I go sniffing next month. Need to try that Vega sample too while I'm at it!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Your review seems very accurate to me. I like these, but had hoped for something more remarkable. I enjoy Angelique Noire the most, and will happily wear what I have, but I'm not sure I'll get more. As a leather fan, I found Cuir Beluga very disappointing–MUCH too soft. On the other hand, I am very taken with Attrape-Coeur–a truly beautiful scent!

  23. Anonymous says:

    T, do post & let me know how the Vega falls on the sweetness scale. If it is as sweet as the AN, it might not be worth my seeking out.

  24. Anonymous says:

    J, Would love to know which is selling the best. Would guess it is the AN. Agree completely that a real leather fan will not be impressed by CB — but it might just convert someone who hated leather.

    Drat that Attrape-Coeur. Really don't want to try it again for fear I'll need it!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Oooh, you've sucked me in with that description of Cuir Beluga. I love leather, heliotrope, and immortelle flower, the latter of which lends that distinctive smoky-maple note to AG Sables.

    What's Attrape-Coeur?

  26. Anonymous says:

    I can't find any, including on eBay, which I generally consider to be a sure thing… I guess it's the EDT or the perfume. Hmmmm, but now you've got me thinking: what I like about the EDT (have not tried the perfume) is its citrusy, crisp aspect, maybe Jicky in perfume is too much for me. Or maybe, like Mitsouko, I'll end up owning both! :-) As much as I like the Mitsouko EDP, the perfume is just awe-inspiring… although now I'm recalling this is not your favorite scent. Would you say Guerlinade is closer to l'Instant or Jicky/Mitsouko? I reread your review and can't decide. Thanks — hope you're dug out of the snow (when WILL it melt?)

  27. Anonymous says:

    K, it is very light, especially on the leather — try before you buy! Attrape Coeur is the new name for Guet Apens.

  28. Anonymous says:

    M, I am seeing the EdP at imaginationperfumery under “Parfum de Toilette”, try searching that way.

    Guerlinade (the fragrance, right, not the classic Guerlain base) is neither so light & modern as L'Instant, nor so deep & classic-feeling as Jicky & Mitsouko. It is very pretty, but not awe inspiring…I would take Apres L'Ondee over it any day.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Yessssss! Thank you.

  30. Anonymous says:

    PS I hear Santa is bringing me a bottle of Apres l'Ondee for Christmas. (I must have been a veeery good girl.)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Lucky you!!!

  32. Anonymous says:

    I visited them in an alcove on Saturday – I am pretty sure that it's the one that used to be JM.

    They did have Cuir Beluga and Angelique Noir. I tried them both and found them to be pleasant enough, but not very interesting. Definitely inoffensive, but I was relieved not to want to pull out my wallet.

  33. Anonymous says:

    D, thanks so much for commenting, glad to hear they are already re-located & have these in stock!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Ah, thanks for the clarification. Guet Apens reminds me of both SL Bois et Fruits and Miller et Bertaux #1. They all have that same woody-fruity thing going on, the fruit notes being more astringent than sweet. Love them all.

  35. Anonymous says:

    K, Have only tried the GA once, briefly — really need to try it again. Have been afraid in case I fall in love with it, but sounds like our taste is very different (don't love the SL or the MB) so perhaps I am safe :-)

  36. nathanthomas says:

    i know this is an ooooooooooold thread, but these L’ART ET LA MATIÈRE lines are now available in Harrods as a Harrods exclusive in the UK- seems that they plan to keep them as a Harrods exclusive in the UK rather than just for a month or two as they usually do with exclusives. Harrods were making a big thing of it with 3 big stands in the perfume hall (which isnt huge to start with!) with staff spraying the frags onto fans & wafting them at you!

    • nathanthomas says:

      PS inflation seems to have struck & they are now selling for £145 a bottle!

    • Robin says:

      Thanks, I didn’t know. That is a price hike!

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