Monday, January 9th, 2012

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.


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32 thoughts on “Guerlain Jicky: A Life-Changing Scent

  1. This has made me want to smell it for myself! I like unusual perfumes. I recently purchased Pomegranate Noir by Jo Malone and I hate and love it at the same time. There is something about it which I dislike, but it’s so well balanced and smells so intriguing I love wearing it. I know it sounds odd, but sometimes you just want to wear a striking perfume. Next time I’m near a Guerlain perfume counter, I will check out this one :) thanks for an interesting review!

    • Caitlin

      I know what you mean about Pomegranate Noir! It’s not something I wear everyday but I’ve saved a sample of it and sometimes I take it out just to experience it.

      • if you ever have the chance, try layering it with English Pear and Freesia, changes the smell so much, but it smells divine! Another great layering combo is Black Vetyver Café, it accent the berry notes. I sound like a Jo Malone advert hahaha but it definitely is an interesting scent :)

  2. lilly

    How do you pronounce it? Is it Jicky… like sticky? No matter how great the scent, all sexiness would be undone due to the unfortunate name.

    • Caitlin

      Personally I think it’s a cute name but I can see why others wouldn’t think so. You can try to pronounce it with a French accent to make it sound a little more chic, haha!

  3. Marian

    Very nice review! I love Jicky. I’ve worn it forever…along with many others. I also love the civet in Jicky and civet in general. That’s a note that is getting hard to find.

  4. i have the EdP version which was a blind buy after i once tested the pure extrait and really enjoyed it. but i just cant seem to handle it, so i understand what you mean with beautiful strangeness.

    i actually wrote a “review” on this one on, enjoy :))

    Jicky smells strange and nice, warm and cold at the same time. its a great composition, very interesting, bold, a masterpiece but quite a difficult one. For me the 3 notes stand out the most: lavender, citrus and vanilla. And it has a slightly animalic note to it. Also it is very unisex.
    Its like the daughter of Shalimar…. a little edgier and bolder, younger and crazier :))
    Awesome, but I just cant get to love it, it is too difficult for me, and I just cant figure the situation/outfit and weather I could wear this to. So I have to say goodbye… you was just to complicated to understand and handle… like a very difficult teenage kid. Im sorry, I so wanted to love you…

  5. Charlene

    Caitlin..Did you used to live in Greenville? I’m Cory’s mom. Very nice article!

  6. Cynthia

    Very interesting. You describe it as puzzling, frustrating, and seducing. it’s cool to think (though maybe this is just my overactive imagination) that maybe, if the story is true, this is the effect Guerlain intended the fragrance to have? After all unrequited love is often like that – you tend to wonder “what is it about this person?”

    • Caitlin

      I hadn’t thought of this before, but what a cool insight! Yes, wearing Jicky is like experiencing a difficult or unrequited love.

  7. I’m a big Mitsouko fan – Do you think I’d like Jicky?

    • Caitlin

      I’m crazy about Mitsouko too so, yes, you might like it! The only thing I would say is that Jicky can come off as a little harsh in comparison to Mitsouko because of the lavender note.

  8. Avril

    A perfume that smells like sex and dirt is my kind of perfume…

  9. Ryan

    I have heard civet smells somewhat fecal… interesting!

  10. Janet

    I’ve never met Jicky but I can’t tell you how much I love, love, love Mitsouko! I discovered it about a month ago and it’s odd pairing of chrypre, peach and cinammon gave me a heady feeling. She’s strong at first but the dry down is a mysterious powdery scent on me. I find myself captivated by the scent when I catch an unexpected whiff of it. I definitely found my signature scent. Can’t wait to try L’heure Blue and Jicky. I also love Shalimar.

  11. Gena

    Civet as in…the little animal that carried the SARS virus? Interesting! I must confess, I’m kind of uninformed sometimes, but I can’t think of another kind of “civet”. If it is the animal kind, what part do they get the “essence” from?

    • Caitlin

      Yes, exactly! Civet is referred to as an animalic note because it’s an oil that comes from the civet animal. I’m not sure where they extract the oil from though. Possibly the tail?

      • I read that it’s taken from it’s perineal gland… I also read that synthetic civet is used in fragrances though, because the process of getting it is very cruel and they are an endangerade species or something like that. I dunno…

  12. Carissa

    That is exactly how I feel about Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. I find it so intoxicating, yet there’s something about it, some underlying note that I find so utterly CREEPY and similar to the smell of moth balls. Yet for some reason, I reach for it all the time and just get even more confused. I’m so torn between loving it, yet I hate it at the same time. Every time I wear it I get compliments so it must not be so off-putting to others when I wear it (I hope!). I didn’t think it would be possible to be creeped out by a particular fragrance yet in love with it at the same time until I read this post. I might just have to try Jicky now.

    • Stephanie S.

      If you aren’t a big patchouli fan, you’re probably going WTF at that. Before I wore Coco Mlle. I wasn’t too familiar with patch, but I tended to avoid it due to the “dirty hippie” and “head shop” connotations. However, it is really nice in Coco Mademoiselle, giving it a nice funky edge. It was a total gateway for me, I love patchouli so much now. I guess notes that are less common or less in vogue probably do leave us scratching our heads.

  13. Stephanie S.

    The newer formulations use synthetic civet, right? I was under the impression that real civet wasn’t used any longer due to EU regulations and animal rights issues.

    • Caitlin

      You’re right, Guerlain has had to reformulate almost all of their fragrances to comply with the new regulations. Civet is still officially listed as a note in Jicky but it is most likely a synthetic civet rather than actual civet oil. Sadly I’ve never tried vintage Jicky so I can’t say whether or not there’s a difference!

  14. zainab

    I wonder what ‘Jicky’ herself thought of the fragrance. I suppose it would have been odd to know that people were wearing someone’s unrequited love of you.

  15. Donna Cooper

    I love Jicky, I have stockpiled the pdt version. Also have the parfum as well the edt is very light. For some reason I don’t get the lavender but a animal oriental woody fragrance from Jicky.

  16. Erica

    I was born without a sense of smell…. So when I hear such interesting things about a perfume like this I would kill to be able to experience it LOL.

  17. Caitlin, Your review of Jicky was excellent and it is a perfume I have read much about and have wanted to try. I know that the fragrance of Jicky is primarily based on civet. I have read in the A-Z Guide by Luca Turin that animal ingredients in perfume are now synthetic. Before I bought any perfume containing civet I would want to know if it is synthetic as I don’t like thinking an animal has been harmed so I can smell nice. Do you have any further information on how Guerlain sources their civet? Thanks.

    • Caitlin

      I don’t have a definitive answer for you about how Guerlain sources their civet these days but I will definitely look into it now that you and a couple of other have brought it up. It’s most likely a synthetic approximation to comply with EU regulations but, again, I can’t say for sure right now.

  18. Brittany

    Should of picked a different name for the perfume, I just cant take it seriously. How weird would it be to tell someone who asked you what perfume your is called Jinky? mm I dont know it might be a go perfume.

    • Ursula

      I think the best sign of a truly memorable five star fragrance is that it divides people, it makes you think and want to “solve” it, your brain reacts to it and you start breaking it down, associating, comparing and you may be divided at first and seduced but unsure, which would be the sign of a true love at first sight, no? If so, Jicky captured what it was supposed to and the mere fact that it has survived for this long means something, I may not love all or any Guerlain fragrances but at the very least I have great respect for them. Fragrance is an awesome way to induce emotions, memories, which may be positive or negative but in no case a fragrance made right will leave you indifferent.

  19. Avril

    I can’t try it out in store anywhere around here :( I don’t want to spend $100-$300 on a perfume i haven’t smelled.