La Petite Robe Noire from Guerlain
The back story
Guerlain, among the world's oldest perfume houses, is just 13 years shy of its 200th anniversary. La Petite Robe Noire – let's call her PRN – is the latest fragrance from La Guerlinade, a signature accord that has defined the brand's olfactory icons Jicky, Mitsouko, Shalimar and Samsara.
What it smells like
The brief lists several black notes – black cherry, black rose, licorice and smoked tea – along with bergamot, almond, tonka bean and patchouli. My nose first detected kiwis and cola-bottle gummy candy. Once it dried on the skin (that's the "dry-down," in industry speak), the scent reminded me of the cassisviolet macaron from Ladurée. Outdoors, it was the tea note that dominated.
Before Thierry Wasser became the in-house perfumer of Guerlain in 2008, he spent decades building an impressive c.v., mainly alternating between mega fragrance developers Givaudan and Firmenich, where he created Dior Addict, Fendi Palazzo, Truth by Calvin Klein and Hypnôse by Lancôme.
With those curled bits resembling an ionic column, it's a modern makeover of the old Guerlain bottle design. This time, however, instead of a label, there is simply the perfume's title in script on one side and the sketch of a black dress on the other. Only a small ribbon around the neck reveals the Guerlain name.
Why enlist a person when the star of this scent is a dress? An ad that played in French movie theatres earlier this year consisted of an animated silhouette – no face visible – sauntering through a chic computer-rendered Paris. Clever – except that the accompanying song was Nancy Sinatra's TheseBoots Are Made for Walkin' .
Who it's for
Like an LBD, the scent's strength is that it will transition well from day to night – not too pungent for a morning meeting, alluring enough for a cinq à sept.
You can wear it with anything, really, and anyone can wear it. Cachet? Questionable. Still, PRN upholds the tradition of the best French scents in that it does the flirting for you.
Where to buy it
The Bay, Sears, Ogilvy's, Shoppers Drug Mart and Guerlain counters across the country.
Price $68 for 30 ml; $90 for 50 ml; $122 for 100 ml.