Guerlain Jicky: A Life-Changing Scent

By Caitlin, Fragrance Contributor

Caitlin recently completed her master’s degree in British Literature at St. Andrews in Scotland. She’s just moved back to the U.S., currently residing in Pennsylvania, and now works for a local non-profit. She studed French during her undergraduate years and even lived in Paris for a years. She loves traveling, but now that she has to hold down a “real job” now, she travels by way of new perfumes. She says fragrance has a way of transporting you to a new place, which is one of the reasons she loves perfume! You can follow her on Twitter!

Guerlain Jicky: A Life-Changing Scent

Confusion is not an emotion I expect to feel when sampling a fragrance, but that was exactly my experience the first time I came across Guerlain Jicky (Eau de Toilette, $98; Eau de Parfum, $122; Pure Parfum, $317). I had never before experienced such enticing notes mixed with something a little strange, something a little off-putting. The thing is, that jarring note wasn’t quite off-putting enough. It was off-putting in an interesting way, in a good way, if that’s possible! Jicky was the first fragrance I found to be truly compelling precisely because of its oddness.

Making its debut in 1889, Jicky is the oldest fragrance in continuous production. Guerlain attaches a romantic history to it: Aimé Guerlain fell in love with a girl while studying in England. Her nickname was Jicky. It was an unrequited love, and Aimé was obligated to return to his family in France. Still, he wanted to memorialize his first love, and thus he created Jicky. Who can say if this is the true story? But if it is the truth, Jicky must have been a unique woman because her namesake fragrance is anything but typical.

Containing notes of bergamot, lavender, civet, and vanilla, Jicky is famously divisive. It was initially a complete flop with women. Jicky was much more successful with men during its early years, and Guerlain now classifies it as unisex. Jicky’s contentiousness comes from the sense that it smells ‘dirty’ both in the sense that people find it too reminiscent of sex and too much like actual dirt. The animalic civet note is the troublemaker here, but I actually love this note in Jicky!

To me, the civet brings much needed balance to the fragrance. Jicky’s opening is a whirlwind of lemon, bergamot, and lavender. It’s intoxicating, but it teeters on the brink of smelling too medicinal. When the civet kicks in, it anchors the fragrance with more warmth and depth. There is an undeniably ‘dirty’ aspect to the civet but, again, balance is the key to Jicky. The cool lavender top note persists well into wear time and blends effortlessly with the warmth of the civet.

The Jicky Eau de Toilette is a bright and sparkling composition that focuses more on the citrus top notes, while the Eau de Parfum is more civet-heavy, and the extrait of pure parfum emphasizes the herbal lavender note. I have worn and enjoyed all three concentrations at different times; it simply depends on your mood as to which one you would prefer.

Any and all of Guerlain’s classic fragrances are worthy of the life-changer moniker but Jicky is the one that speaks to me. Jicky is not straight-forward or easy to love. I have returned to this fragrance again and again, and each time I feel simultaneously puzzled, pleased, frustrated, and seduced. But I love Jicky in all its beautiful strangeness. Worn at the right moment, there is nothing like it.