Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum ~ fragrance review

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum brand visual

Last month, Guerlain launched Terracotta Le Parfum, a limited edition fragrance celebrating the 30th anniversary of the brand's Terracotta bronzing cosmetic products. Terracotta Le Parfum was developed by Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser and has a composition of bergamot, coconut, tiaré flower, orange blossom, jasmine, ylang ylang, vanilla and musk. It's described as a "sun-soaked invitation to explore faraway lands," complete with a sun-embossed label on its circular bottle.

In case you were wondering (as I was), this fragrance is unrelated to Terracotta Voile d'Eté (1999), other than the fact that both were inspired by the Terracotta beauty collection and both were (are) limited editions. Voile d'Eté was a spicy-soft blend of clove-y carnation and ylang ylang; it was lovely, and I wish I could remember where I put the splash bottle that I used to own. Terracotta Le Parfum, on the other hand, is a summery "solar floral," and although it's not my usual style, I've fallen hard for it. (And that's not always the case for new Guerlain releases, as you might recall if you read my reviews of La Petite Robe Noire or La Petite Robe Noire Couture.)

Terracotta Le Parfum opens on a slightly bitter orange blossom note. This introduction feels like a "classic French perfume" flourish, just to remind us that this fragrance is a Guerlain, after all; and it's followed by something that's salty and mossy and musky all at once, before the sun really comes out and we're on a beach on the Riviera, or maybe even somewhere more tropical (albeit still a French colony?). Even though I'm not typically a white floral lover, I can't help but swoon a little over Terracotta's buttery tiaré heart. There's a more indolic jasmine peeking out from behind the tiaré from time to time, but the lusher floral note still dominates and a creamy ylang ylang note plays a supporting role. The vanilla base is subtle; what I really notice in the dry down is more of that salty musk under the white flowers. And, last but not least, Terracotta Le Parfum (an Eau de Toilette) has surprised me with its excellent staying power, especially when I apply it to my hairline at the nape of my neck.

If you already have a favorite beachy fragrance, you may be wondering how Terracotta Le Parfum compares to it. I recently visited an Estee Lauder counter just to sniff and spritz Bronze Goddess, which I haven't smelled since last summer; to my nose, Bronze Goddess has much more milky coconut, whereas Terracotta emphasizes its florals instead. Terracotta feels more sophisticated than Bond no. 9 Fire Island (which I happen to like, just for its fancy-suntan-oil linearity) and more abstract (and definitely more floral) than CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 (which I happen to love, because it brings back my own childhood beach memories).

I'm coveting a full bottle of Terracotta Le Parfum, in case you haven't already guessed; I can imagine anointing myself with Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse body oil and then spraying on some Terracotta before I head outside on a warm, sultry day. It's summertime glamour in a bottle, and it's very reasonably priced for what you get. Remember, though — it's a limited edition. I'd suggest that you don't wait too long to try it, because I have a feeling that it's going to be quite popular with its audience.

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum, bottle

Guerlain Terracotta Le Parfum is available as 100 ml Eau de Toilette ($73). 

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  1. bowbat says:

    Great review, Jessica. I *adore* this perfume. When I read the notes, I feared it sounded too good to be true, but it is everything I hoped it would be. Also, this: “Terracotta Le Parfum (an Eau de Toilette) has surprised me with its excellent staying power, especially when I apply it to my hairline at the nape of my neck” — Dead on.

    • Jessica says:

      I really didn’t anticipate liking it so much! but the balance of the while florals and the warmer base notes is so interesting, and it feels sophisticated but wearable, even in warm weather. And since so many fragrances don’t seem to last long on me, the staying power is a delightful bonus!

      • missyl says:

        Jessica, wonderful review! And Bowbat, I agree with you; ‘dead on’!
        I this down last summer after reading your and Victoria’s reviews ( Bois de jasmine). This is summer time and gorgeous flowers warmed by sunshine. It makes me smile every time I put it on. And, its affordable. Many, many thanks!

        • Jessica says:

          So glad you’re enjoying it! I recently pulled out my bottle so that I can wear it again this year.

  2. Omega says:

    For those of us who don’t care for gardenia…could this still be a win-me-over? I just prefer jasmine over gardenia. I am curious about this and the price is good too.

    • Jessica says:

      I think you should try it anyway — I never wear straight gardenia (although I love the scent of the flowers, if I’m in the same room as them), but the composition is balanced and never turns into a big white sillage-monster flower. :)

      • Omega says:

        Oh good, I can do huge orange blossom, jasmine…but like gardenia to stick a cork in it:).

        Heard some ppl compared this to Songes..would you say they are similar?

  3. happy888cat says:

    I actually wore this today!
    I totally agree with you Jessica. This is a very “floral-centric” summer beach scent. The tiaré flower and ylang ylang developed beautifully from the later ⅓ till the end.
    Though it is a wonderful creation, I sort of wished if it was a little heavier on the coconut and vanilla.

    • happy888cat says:

      Oops, I meant later part of the FIRST ⅓. The flowers are too luscious to be tucked away!

      • Jessica says:

        So true!

        And I did get a little more vanilla the first time I wore it… but not as much in subsequent “testings.” Not sure why!

  4. mikeperez23 says:

    Sounds fantastic.

    One question: Does it smell at all like that ‘summer beachy floral’ that Guerlain released several years ago in their cosmetic line called Terracotta Eau Sous le Vent (a confusing name for us perfume enthusiasts) that was in a tall cylindrical bottle & sold right along side those aerosol bronzing powders and such?

    • Jessica says:

      Ooh, I’m going to have to open the floor for responses to this question, since I never had the chance to try it. Thoughts, anyone?

  5. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Hi Jessica. This one was on my must sniff list and your review has totally encouraged this to an absolutely must try! For someone who loves frags like Montale Intense Tiare, CSP Tiare (not Aloha), Songes edp and the like, would you say this is something I’d probably love? Also, who has it available right now? I don’t have much but a Macy’s and Sephora inside JC Penny in my area so am wondering if it’s worth traveling for or if I should just do the dreaded blind buy. ;)

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, AS — I saw it at Saks, and I’m guessing that Bergdorf Goodman (and Neiman Marcus — same owner?) must have it too. For some reason, I don’t think Sephora will be carrying it — but I’m not sure about Macy’s. Definitely stay tuned, since it seems like the roll-out is still happening…?

      I love Songes, but I think Terracotta is more summery and a little bolder, if that makes sense — although it’s not too overwhelming for a warm day.

      • Absolute Scentualist says:

        Thanks, Jessica. Songes is so relaxing and enveloping, isn’t it? Montale Intense Tiare is *gorgeous* and while it had been on my full bottle list for years, I finally bought it last year and haven’t regretted it one bit. It’s beautiful.

        So since I often miss out on LEs, I decided to find and buy a bottle online . At the very least, it will be a nice go-to when I want flowery or I might really end up loving it. If I don’t, I can always put it up for swap. ;)

        Thanks again for the inspiring review. I can’t wait for my bottle to arrive!

  6. sapphire03 says:

    Good questions above: How does it compare to Montale Intense Tiare or Goutal’s Songes (both of which I like a lot?)

    • Jessica says:

      Sapphire, I’ve never tried the Montale, believe it or not! I know and love Songes, but Terracotta feels very different to me, despite some shared notes. It’s more tropical and sunny and golden. Songes feels quieter, to me — even “dreamy.”

      • sapphire03 says:

        Ok, thanks. I am going to give the Terracotta a try.

  7. mals86 says:

    Sounds really wonderful.

    • Jessica says:

      I hope they’ll bring it back every summer, a la Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess!

  8. floragal says:

    I love everything about this and so happy you reviewed it.
    I first got a whiff on a CA trip a few weeks ago and it has stayed with me since then.
    So right for summer.

    • Jessica says:

      Hi, Floragal! It’s one of those fragrances that I look forward to wearing again — something about it has stayed with me, too! I don’t love summer, but this fragrance might help me to deal with the hot weather. (Any excuse, right?!)

  9. Gi says:

    I’ve been trying to resist this one, but then you go throw salty and mossy at me and now I’m drooling to try this!

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, sorry! hah. I really only tried it because Robin asked me to find it and give it a whirl, and I surprised myself by enjoying it so much. I can’t wear big white florals like Carnal Flower — I love them on other women, but I always feel like I’m in costume when I wear them myself. The other notes in this one make is easier for me to pull off!

  10. VeraJayne says:

    Thanks for the great review! Just got this and I love it. To me it does not smell like Songe. I have the Voile and that smells like old school Bain de Soleil to me, which I love. Yves Rocher Monoi vanille is dirt cheap and smells great! The Guerlain is sold out at lots of counters so grab it if you want it as most only got two bottles.

    • Jessica says:

      I love Songes, although I don’t think they’re *too* similar — and I agree, Yves Rocher does some very nice fragrances for a very affordable price point! Thanks for the reminder!

  11. hajusuuri says:

    I tried this on paper blotter at Saks. As the SA was spraying the blotter, he was yapping away at how great it is and rattled off the notes. I took one sniff and immediately said “jasmine” — to me a very distinct jasmine and now it makes sense because it is the indolic type which my nose somehow confuses with mothballs. He snootily said, oh no, no jasmine at all and looked at me like had 3 heads. Can I mention again how much I hate Saks SA’s and in particular, the Guerlain SAs? It sounds like I should re-try this though. It is inexpensive at $73 for 100mLs! Great review!

    • Jessica says:

      How funny—because jasmine *is* listed as one of the “official” notes! and that’s strange, because I actually had a very nice experience on my visit to the flagship Saks—but these things are unpredictable, I suppose! Too bad…

  12. nozknoz says:

    This sounds great, and so reasonably priced!

    Also, I wonder if there has ever been a week before when all of the reviews were so positive. I enjoy it when you all get to review perfumes or other scented products that you really like.

    • floragal says:

      Great point! I also learned a ton!

      • Jessica says:

        Maybe it’s because of the nice weather we’ve had this week!

        Seriously, though, I’m also glad that I ended up writing a less cranky review than last week’s Maison Martin Margiela grumble!

  13. Outlandish says:

    The minute I see coconut as a note I tend to run away but I think I am going to have to give this a try. Awesome review!

    • Jessica says:

      Outlandish, I am *not* a coconut fan, which is why I don’t love EL Bronze Goddess — but it’s very, very subtle here!

  14. Supersmell says:

    When I finally had the opportunity to test this scent, because there had not been a tester bottle for weeks, I thought: Now this smells very much like Le Labo’s Lys 41.

    Funnily, all that was left over that day were a tester bottle and a normal one which had been opened and used as a tester.

    The sales lady would have sold this one to me at a 10 % discount, which I thought to be a bit daring. When I told her I’d like to think about it, she answered: “Could you make up your mind today, as I have so send back the bottle.” My reply berfore I left that place was: “Well, send it back right now.”

    Guerlain really have reached the bottom: entirely inept sales personnel at their retailers (I’ve had another bad experience concerning Le Muguet there), sales policy taken from Lauder, scent taken from a niche firm.

    This used to be my favourite brand, but, alas Jacques Guerlain’s times are long gone.

    • Jessica says:

      I think I’ve heard of the last bottle being opened at a slight discount when it was opened and already tried — but I can’t remember when or where. Interesting to know that some locations are already selling out (?)…

  15. gatorgirl says:

    Hopefully some of the stores still have these in stock. Most of the usual suspect on-line retailers (Nordstrom, Saks, etc.) are already showing it as out of stock. Guerlain doesn’t show it on their website either. Too bad, as it sounded like one I might like.

    • hajusuuri says:

      Perhaps you can call the store…for sure the Saks flagship store had a lot on hand when I popped in and happened to pass by the Guerlain counter.

      • Jessica says:

        Perhaps the actual stores have them, but the websites haven’t been updated yet? The flagship Saks still had a drawer-full when I was there, too.

  16. 100mlEDP says:


    I’m so happy this is brining you enjoyment and swoon worthy moments.
    I’m gifting a bottle to my mother as a belated Mother’s Day gift. I’m hoping she will love the glorious white florals in this.
    I couldn’t resist a bottle for myself as my nose told me ‘this one is special’ and i feel it was the buy of the decade at 100 ml. I wish they were all at that price ;)

    But hey … I just sprayed a little over some worn in Femme Rochas (current formulation) and I’m in heaven . The leftover spice lingers under the floral top and its to die for !
    Give it a try if u want to steer it into a different direction.

    Thanks for your reviews.

  17. Omega says:

    You guys make me want to try this and I hate gardenia with a passion…you guys!

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, no! Well, I hope you’ll be able to sniff it somewhere. And if you don’t like it, then all is well and you’re back to your non-gardenia status quo. ;)

  18. ggs_lancaster says:

    FYI that UK etailer Escentual has 20 or so bottles of Terracotta in stock at the moment & can ship to the US. I am in the US, but couldn’t find this online from a US store, and don’t have time this month to drive to the nearest cities that have a Saks or Nordstroms (plus it seems some counters are sold out, outside of NYC.) So I ordered from the UK!

    I am a fan of Terracotta Voile d’Ete as a summer fragrance, so was disappointed that this isn’t a new version. But all the positive reviews of this new Terracotta (and the relatively reasonable price) made me take the leap to buy it unsniffed before it completely sells out. It’s a risk! But since it ia an LE, at least there will be a perfumista that will take it off my hands if It doesn’t work for me, right?

    • Jessica says:

      Hah, I’m going to feel really guilty if people do blind buys and then dislike it! but I don’t think you’ll have much trouble finding a new home for it if it turns out not to be your thing. ;)

      • alyssa says:

        Aaannnd Escentual is sold out. Geez, Jessica. :-)

        • Jessica says:

          Oh, no… ha hah. Now I feel bad about recommending something that could be hard to find. I don’t remember Terracotta Voile d’Ete being very “limited” as a limited edition — I was seeing it around for years. How many/few bottles of this one did they actually produce?!

          • alyssa says:

            Hahaha…maybe there will be a second wave? Distribution issues are such a nightmare.

    • mayk says:

      now it seems Escentual won’t ship to the US.

  19. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Hi Jessica, I had to drop by and say that I was lucky enough to grab a bottle of Terracotta le Parfum from Escentual while it was in stock and it arrived today! It’s so beautiful. I’m in tropical tiare heaven and will be wearing it generously to bed tonight while a steady rain falls outside. It will be wonderful and I’m so glad I took the plunge after your inspiring review. Thank you for helping me smell like an idealized sultry summer night even if the smells are about the only thing I like about the actual season. ;)

    • Jessica says:

      AS, I’m so glad that you liked it — I’ve been worrying that everyone who purchased it would end up hating it, and I’d feel terribly guilty. For the record: I did end up buying a bottle, and I’m still loving this fragrance. You’re right about it smelling like an idealized summer night — the sun, the flowers, the warm skin, the sand — without the less pleasant aspects of the season!!

  20. missminute says:

    I rarely like beachy scents or gourmands but this, I bought on the spot. I felt literally rooted to the department store counter I tried it at, and could not leave without buying. It’s just lovely. I like Bronze Goddess and the Tom Ford version, too, but this is more sophisticated than both in my mind.

  21. Lauriej says:

    Hello fellow perfume friends! I can not find this fragrance anyway to buy… please help! Thank you.xo

  22. Nile Goddess says:

    Too much jasmine and not enough coconut and no citrus to cut through the sweetness.

    Still, I would wear it if a bottle were to fall from the heavens. It is a lovely casual fragrance, if not a beachy one.

  23. nathanthomas50 says:

    Just to say, as I haven’t seen it mentioned above, that this has now been re-released as part of the mainline guerlain range given its popularity last year as a limited edition.

    They seem to be doing VERY small intermittent drops into stores and many have sold out again (selfridges and Harrods only got 10 bottles each and Johnlewis are only showing as having 9 bottles left online )

    • Jessica says:

      Yes! It’s back, and it seems to be available in greater quantities than we expected. :)

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