Guerlain Mandarine Basilic vs Marc Jacobs Orange Splash: battle of the oranges

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic perfume

I've written before about my search for the perfect orange fragrance for summer (I already have 2 for cold weather: Fendi Theorema and i Profumi di Firenze Spezie de Medici). There are any number of contenders (L'Occitane Ruban d'Orange, L'Artisan Mandarine Tout Simplement, Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Sanguine Muskissime, Guerlain Orange Magnifica, Hermès Eau d'Orange Verte, Calypso Tangerine, among others), but so far, nothing is exactly right for orange. I do like several on that list (and love the Hermès) but they aren't quite the bright, juicy orange I'm looking for. I'd love it to stay juicy (and orange-y) for a few hours, but I know that isn't likely, so my requirements are just that it be at least interesting and a bit orange-ish after an hour or so, and that it isn't gone altogether by the end of two hours.

Today's match pits Guerlain's recent Aqua Allegoria Mandarine Basilic (shown, with orange blossom, white peony, green tea, ivy, Roman camomile, mandarin, basil, amber and sandalwood) against Orange Splash by Marc Jacobs (bergamot, mandarin, neroli, tamarind, water mint, freesia, white rose, moss, tonka bean amber, musk and blonde woods). And they're off...

Just out of the gate: I gave each fragrance 3 sprays, Mandarine Basilic on my left arm, Orange Splash on my right. Mandarine Basilic opens very nearly perfect. It is juicy and bright, with lots of citrus (I'm smelling nearly as much grapefruit as orange). It is perhaps a wee bit sweeter than I'd like, but it isn't candied. Orange Splash smells like orange without being exactly juicy — it is bit tart, almost fizzy, and rather high pitched but also extremely "fresh". It has a more synthetic edge than the Guerlain, but isn't unpleasant.

After 5 minutes: On the Guerlain side, the basil is really kicking in. The orange is still going strong as well. It smells sort of like an orange and basil salad with a bit of fruit syrup drizzled over the top. It has a nice sparkle to it, and the sweetness levels are now about perfect. Nice. The Marc Jacobs still retains a bit of orange, but it is already getting flatter, more woody-mossy. Next to the Guerlain, it smells rather dull.

After 15 minutes: The Mandarine Basilic is still rolling along, with orange and basil both strong. It has changed only minimally in the last 10 minutes, although now I'm catching some indistinct florals as well. The Marc Jacobs is fading rapidly. It is still very "fresh", but if it wasn't for the name, I'd never have guessed it was about orange.

After 30 minutes: Mandarine Basilic is now very herbal and green, and the tea notes are more obvious. The orange is still hanging on quite nicely, although it isn't quite as juicy as it was in the opening. I'm not catching any citrus at all in the Orange Splash, nor has it been replaced with anything else worth talking about. Whatever personality it had at the start is very nearly gone. Perhaps 3 sprays wasn't enough.

After 1 hour: Mandarine Basilic handily passes the 1 hour test. It smells like a lovely citrus basil tea with light florals and pale woody undertones. It is still bright and sparkling and summery. If you don't love basil though, I'd guess it isn't going to work for you. Orange Splash, on the other hand (arm?) is just sitting there dull and lifeless, with nothing to say for itself. It smells like the vague leftovers of some perfume you might have applied 8 hours ago.

After 2 hours: Mandarine Basilic has clearly won this match. There isn't quite as much orange as there was earlier, but nor is the orange entirely gone, and overall, it still smells good. The Orange Splash is basically dead.

After 3 hours: I am very surprised at how well the Mandarine Basilic is holding up. It is fading, but it is far from gone, and I can still make out some orange. On a normal day, I'd probably be re-applying about now just to get the nice juicy orange burst of the opening again. I'm going to hold off and see how long it lasts.

After 6 hours: Guerlain Mandarine Basilic seems to have one of those woody musk bases that go on forever. My left arm still smells good, although the orange and basil have long since faded away.

Conclusions: It is too soon to say whether Mandarine Basilic will get holy grail status for a summer orange, but I like it very much and it is easily my favorite Aqua Allegoria since Anisia Bella. That means it will probably get discontinued, right? Anyway, I'd like a bottle but there simply isn't any way I'd pay full price for an Aqua Allegoria ($50 for 75 ml) when I know I can get it at discount if I wait. So I'll wait. Maybe I'll get lucky and find it at TJ Maxx.

Orange Splash ($65 for 300 ml) did nothing for me at all. It is cheaper than the Aqua Allegoria, but even at a much smaller size and price it wouldn't interest me.

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58 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Whooot!! I was expecting another uninspiring Aqua Allegoria addition, but this just sounds very appealing. I'm not much of a fan of orange blossom (it sounds like it is not very prominent here?) but everything else suits me down to the ground. Tea, camomile, greeness, light/indistinct florals, woody musk base… and basil! I love basil! Virgilio is one of my summer staples and it's basically just a big basil salad. Sigh – now I will have to wait for this to make it's slow and winding way to Canada.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Don't know if it's still there, but I saw 125ml testers for £19 at fragrancedirect – I know they ship int'l too (not affiliated!)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love orange blossom but I've never really had an orange fragrance. I liked DKNY, it's a bit orangey. I love basil though! Jo Malone Lime, Basil and Mandarin is my fave.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that while I really like it, the few mentions I've seen on the forums have been less than inspiring — so I might be alone!

    I have an on-again-off-again relationship with Virgilio, which is way greener and less citrusy than this, and more obviously a niche scent, you know what I mean? Sometimes I love it, sometimes it is too literally like wearing salad.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, I'll check it out! Some of the US discounters only got Tutti Kiwi & Grosellina fairly recently.

  6. Anonymous says:

    This is much softer and juicier than the Jo Malone, I think. Let me know what you think if you try it!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Like you, Robin, I've searched for an orange forever… I'm glad the Mandarine Basilic both lasts and is sufficiently orangey–because the earlier Orange Magnifica didn't smell orangey enough to me. Will have to go sniff. Thanks for the review!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hilarious reviews! I *love* basii and now I can hear MB calling out my name and gripping at my wallet. Which, btw, is nearly empty due to a recent purchase, a fragrant one, if there was any doubt about it. :-)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I don't know why but it made me happy that Guerlain bit up Jacobs :-) I will have to try this one. Have you reviewed Angelique Lilas? I will go look.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Orange Magnifica didn't do much for me either. This one is way better, IMHO, assuming you don't mind loads of basil.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hope it was a worthwhile purchase, whatever it was!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Well, it would be rather sad the other way around, wouldn't it? But seriously, I don't much get the appeal of the MJ Splash series. Not a one of them has captivated me.

    Angelique Lilas was better than many of the recent AAs, probably, but not my sort of thing.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I love Theorema for the winter–that sweet luscious orange-chocolate combination is just amazing.
    Have you tried CSP's Vanille Orange? I reviewed it on my blog (http://1000scents.blogspot.com/2006/05/creamsicle-comptoir-sud-pacifique.html); it has a slightly artificial edge like orange Kool-Aid but otherwise is lovely, very bright and fresh. I know it's discontinued but I bet you could find some, somehow, somewhere.
    Clinique's Happy for Men and Hugo Boss' Boss in Motion (the one in the grey Death Star orb with the orange band around the middle) are both extremely orangey. Unfortunately, they also both have a vanilla-sherbety drydown that I loved at first but soon found cloying, so I ditched the Happy with a (female) friend who loved it and am still hanging onto the Boss until someone wants it.
    I can probably send you samples of all three of these if you would like. You can drop me a line at my blog if you're interested; all comments get e-mailed to me so I don't miss them.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Am slowly crossing perfumes out from my 'to-buy' list I mentioned to you the other day, LOL! Guerlain Héritage was the first to go…

  15. Anonymous says:

    I wasn't impressed by the Marc Jacobs Orange either. I was comparing it to Blu Mediterraneo Arancia di Capri, Little Italy, and Mandarine Tout Simplement, and it easily came in fourth place. I still haven't found a perfect orange scent, but now I'm curious to try the Mandarine Basilic.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Well, I can't stand it. You made the Mandarine sound so wonderful I'm going to have to go right back over there to Sephora and retry it (I hope it's still there.) I only gave it one go and got too much basil for my taste — I mean, it was nice, I just wanted it to be more about the orange. But you go slipping that word “tea” in there and my head whips around ;-) you could probably write “skunk tea” and I'd be jotting the name down.
    That Mark Jacobs was just wretched. IMHO. And your description was perfect — it was weirdly off from the get-go, almost more Orange Crush (maybe supposed to be like the orange blossom?) and downhill from there. The cucumber's not bad, but big deal? You can get one I like better from Caswell & Massey for 1/3 the price, I think.
    Okay, screed over.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Wow. Must go check out that AA. I'm a big fan of basil, so it sounds like it really should work for me. I don't usually enter into an orange mood till July, but it's come early this year and have been mainlining AdP's Arancia and TDC's DIvine Bergamote. Tried the MJ and it was immediately added to my list of brilliant soporifics (ie, seriously yawn inducing).

  18. Anonymous says:

    Definitely a worthwhile buy then, enjoy it! I *still* haven't bought anything this year. Expecting a flurry of purchases any day now…

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the nice offer, I'll take a dig through my samples to see which of those I already have. I know I have the Happy, and do like the men's version much, much more than the women's.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Well, it might really be too much basil for you. It has lots of basil, no doubt about it, but I adore basil! As I said above, I just don't get the MJ Splash series. Even those that are better done than the Orange just smell much cheaper than they are — you could do as well in any chain store for $15.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Let me know what you think of the MB then, sounds like it might suit you!

    My poor Divine Bergamote seems to have turned this year, I am extremely upset about it and can't decide if it is worth replacing or not :-(

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, I plan to enjoy it as soon as it gets below 70. So you like Héritage? Yey!

    Don't you still want that Kelly Calèche? I could have sworn I heard you mention buying it unsniffed… ;-)

    I know I'm a pain, but did you try Emporio White over the w/end?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Oh, just a fun read. No need to say “thanks” or anything, Robin. I just think “that's a fun read” so often, that I have to actually type the words now and again so you know those are the thoughts floating out here in cyberspace.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Someone is kindly sending me a sample of Kelly Caleche so I won't have to take the risk — and just as well. So far, the reviews are not so laudatory as I'd hoped.

    And no — but swear I will! You know I'm not that quick ;-)

  25. Anonymous says:

    So glad you liked it! (see, i didn't say thanks)

  26. Anonymous says:

    I was just going to mention Blu Mediterraneo Arancia–than more orangey, they do not come! I've just ordered the Guerlain you mention, on your recommendation. It sounds right up my alley. The only new thing I've bought in eons is Angelique Lilas, which I, unlike most of your readers, really like for summer.

    And i've just re-ordered a bottle of Miss Rocaille, my third in the four years since it first came out. It's such a fab summer scent and for $25, why not?

    Alas, the new Chanels didn't stick in my affection. Have we reached the end of the perfume world??? I could really like being wowed again by a fragrance. It's been a long time.

  27. Anonymous says:

    What!? Say it ain't so! Did you just get a decant of 125ml last year? I have splurged and bought the estagnon, and like someone else here said, have been pretty much been slathered in it. It would break my poor heart (not to mention my piggy bank) if I couldn't keep it for a year!

    Divine Bergamote is such an interesting creature, it's not so much the opening that I love, the magic is in the elusive sweetness somewhere in the dry-down.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I think it was the year before, and the decant is in a big aluminum spray bottle (not the original TDC) that may have just been too large for the amoung (e.g., too much air in there). It is not absolutely destroyed yet, but the top notes don't smell nearly as nice as it did. Now I wish I'd sprung for the travel sized bottles instead :-(

  29. Anonymous says:

    Hey you! Just saw the wedding pictures — lovely, lovely wedding, seriously. The lights hanging from the trees were spectacular.

    $25 is a bargain for Miss Rocaille, agree, why not? Hope you'll like the MB too.

    And good question. Trying to think of the last fragrance that absolutely knocked my socks off, and coming up blank.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Adding — just checked, it was actually in September 2004.

  31. Anonymous says:

    This is why I don't have more than 4 bottles at any time. I am one of those people that actually buy the 50ml bottle and use it all up. The down side: boredom, and perfume lust and envy when I spy something new and can't take home. The up side, my life is perfume-coded. :) A whiff of Eternity or Escape and I'm instantly back in college (roomie and I had one of each and we traded). I also take one bottle with me on long vacation, and leave the bottle there at the end and never use it again. Every time I smell the fragrance I'm instantly back in that place.

  32. Anonymous says:

    How does the basil in this one compare to Manifesto? I used to love that, but there was just a tad too much black pepper, in the end, for the love to last.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Can't imagine living on 4 bottles, but it does make sense. I would guess that most of my perfume is going to spoil long before I manage to use it up :-(

  34. Anonymous says:

    I would say way more basil than Manifesto, which only smells strongly herbal on me for a rather short time before going mostly aquatic-fresh.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Mandarine Basilic sounds wonderful – I hated Marc Jacobs also (WTF?).
    Arancia does NOT last on my skin, for some reason. Although when it does last, its nice. Also Concentree Bigarade by Frederic Malle is a wonderful (expensive) orange scent for summer. Do you like CB?

  36. Anonymous says:

    Well, that was my original objection to Arancia — nice for 5 minutes, then gone. But everyone else seems to love it. Maybe I tried it from a vial and not a spray?

    CB is fabulous — really — for literally nanoseconds on me, then smells absolutely horrid, like sweat tinged fruit that has been spoiling in the sun for days. It is the most amazing transformation you can imagine. I have smelled it on others and it is wonderful, so can only assume there is some chemical in there that just HATES my skin.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I tried both of the new AA's at Sephora last week, and this was too much basil for me. I did, however, fall in love with the Angelique Lilas. Every now and then I get sucked in by “pretty.” :)

    Have you ever tried Eau de Caron Forte? I almost used up my bottle a couple of summers ago; loved it in the heat. It was just pure, refreshing orange on me. And dirt cheap. It's usually hidden away on the men's side at the (online) stores.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I can completely see why it will have too much basil for some people! Glad you liked the Angelique, anyway. Have not tried EdC Forte and will look for it!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Robin, Hello from another fragrance-loving Robin! This is my first comment ever on your site, so first let me say I LOVE YOU!! Thanks for all your hard work and dedication; you make life so much more interesting for all of us. Just wanted to mention, now that I have Mandarine Basilic on my wrist from my luch-hour sprtizing, that you might also really enjoy DKNY. Oodles of orange juice and zest, a twist of tomato leaf and, if memory serves, gin — yes, gin; I guess it's the juniper? — it's quite something. Discontinued, I think, but still out there. Thanks again! — Robin from Vancouver

  40. Anonymous says:

    Hi R, and welcome! Thanks very much for the nice words. Am at the beach at the moment so can't check my notes, but I do know I've tried DKNY and liked it. Did not know it had been discontinued! I know they still make DKNY Summer limited editions every year.

  41. Anonymous says:

    The beach? How lovely. Wish I could drop off a decant of DKNY for you right there; it would be just the place to try it. Perhaps its just no longer available up here in Canada. Hope so, because it's a very bright, crisp-juicy rendition of citrus with some interesting daffodil/birch accents that might just tickle your brain and your fancy. It may not be as purely orange as you're looking for, but emotionally it's got that same “Well, good MORNING!!!!” zestiness to it. Thanks for replying; I have a feeling this site could become as compelling as my love of fragrance. — Robin from Vancouver

  42. Anonymous says:

    Just checked, and they did do a “DKNY Summer 2007″ scent this year, so guessing the original DKNY scent is still around. Don't know for sure though!

  43. Anonymous says:

    If it's orange you're looking for, you might want to check out L'eau Par Kenzo pour homme. I love it for summer, and it's easily unisex.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, have only tried the feminine L'Eau, will look for the masculine!

  45. Anonymous says:

    I am currently searching for the perfect men's summer orange scent, any suggestions? I am trying to find something really orange-y, and juicy, but still masculine. Thanks!

  46. Anonymous says:

    You might want to try the Guerlain, since many people find basil masculine to begin with. Can't think of a really perfect men's orange. Hermes Eau d'Orange Vert is closest, but it isn't exactly juicy, or at least, not for long.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Earlier today I was at the mall and stopped in Sephora to try Mandarine Basilic and I really liked it. So, I'll probably go with that. Thanks by the way, your review of it was spot on!

  48. Anonymous says:

    Glad you liked it! I am definitely going to pick up a bottle once I find a good price.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I smelled Mandarine Basilic today for the first time, only on a test stripe, and it's smells great. I'm following its development and I'm pleasantly surprised. Will definitley give it a skin-test. But none of the notes seemed overpowering, there is a balance there as well as interesting undertones. Thanks for the thorough review and comparison! (Can't comment on Orange Splash as I haven't got any near it but now that I've read your comments I probably won't even bother).

  50. Anonymous says:

    Hope you will like it on skin too. I've gone through 2 large samples from Sephora and it is definitely a winner for me.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Hello! I'm quite an avid reader of your blog though this is my first post. I was thinking of getting the marc jacobs orange but this stopped me. I think thats the thing with splashes. They're a bit flat-ish and die after like 1-2 hours. Am wondering how you feel about the rain, grass and cucumber…

    think i'd want to try the guerlain one. pity they don't sell or give samples of the mandarine basilic in SIngapore. sigh. After your wonderful review about anisa bella, i bought a bottle but sadly, the anise is not for me though i love the drydown….

    oh would you like my bottle instead? you can email me if you do at sweet_yanling@yahoo.com :)

    Tanya

  52. Anonymous says:

    Hello Tanya and welcome! I have not loved any of the Splashes so far, although I know many people do. If you love it, I would not worry about my opinion at all :-)

    The Mandarine Basilic I certainly wouldn't buy unsniffed, I know many people did not care for the basil part. And you are terribly kind to offer me your bottle, but I'm afraid it would not be worth the cost to ship it from Singapore. You could perhaps swap it away to someone locally?

  53. Anonymous says:

    Well. I personally haven't seen any of the splashes. But there's a guerlain counter so i'm quite happy!

    haha i guess you're right about the shipping. It must cost about $8-10. unfortunately we don't really have a perfume community here… at least not that i'm aware of. Its ok.. i get to keep the bottle! or use it as a room spray haha.

  54. Anonymous says:

    The other day I gave my arm a spritz of the Mandarine-Basilic. I really enjoy it, so I went to put a second spritz on. As I reached for the bottle, something distracted me and instead I ended up spritzing Herba-Fresca directly over the M-B. (The two bottles stand side by side in my press.) What a surprise! Instead of the cacophony I expected, it turns out the two scents layer exceptionally well and become quite three dimensional when paired.

    Have you layered any of the AAs? If so, which ones?

  55. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I'll have to try that! I really haven't layered any of the AAs that I can think of.

  56. Anonymous says:

    i bouthg mandarien basilic AND pamplelune today and plan on combining them… they are wonderful

  57. Blimunda says:

    i was in a Dept.Store yesterday and sampled two Marc Jacobs splashes…..one was cucumber, I forget what the other was……within 15 minutes, I couldn’t distinguish one from the other, they smelled so similar. I am, so far, unimpressed with the MJ splashes.

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