I enjoy cooking with hot peppers. The hotter the better but not these whacky hybrids which just go for high concentrations of heat with dumb names like Carolina Reaper. Just go buy some capsaicin and put it on your food and be done with it. When I cook I don’t get hotter than the habanero or scotch bonnet. It can be tricky to find the right balance with those peppers where they provide heat but not only that. I’ve learned over the years less is more. I wouldn’t have thought to find a fragrance parallel but Guerlain L’Homme Ideal L’Intense is one.
The main source of hot pepper in perfumery has been the recent use by many new releases of Szechuan pepper. Through the new extraction techniques there emerges a versatile fragrance ingredient which can be used for piquancy or as a replacement for other spices providing a kind of desiccated quality especially to top accords. I was curious what it would be like if used in higher concentrations. When I received my sample of L’Homme Ideal L’Intense I got an answer.
L’Homme Ideal has been one of the men’s pillar lines for Guerlain since the 2014 release of L’Homme Ideal Eau de Toilette. Since then there has been a Cologne version, an Eau de Parfum, and a Sport. They were all instantly forgettable. To write this review I had to remind myself of all of them; it wasn’t fun. The good news is L’Homme Ideal L’Intense is different enough in a good way I could forget about them again.
In-house perfumer Thierry Wasser uses the Szechuan pepper as the contrast for the keynote of all of the L’Homme Ideal line; almond. In the past he has taken that ingredient towards a sweeter destination. In L’Homme Ideal L’Intense it is the exact opposite heading to a darker Oriental destination I greatly preferred.
L’Homme Ideal L’Intense opens with that hot pepper at an equal volume of bitter almond. The almond brings a woody nuance out of the spicy core. The pepper acts like a flame roasting the almond into something warmer while still retaining some of the nutty character. Cardamom provides a cooling effect for a moment. A full-on spicy Bulgarian rose comes next. The pepper continues to simmer right into the rose. It was here I sort of wanted it to die down, just a little. It was living on past what should have been its expiration date. A refined leather accord helps achieve the purpose of sweeping away the pepper. From here on L’Homme Ideal L’Intense follows a predictable rose to leather to sandalwood and patchouli base.
L’Homme Ideal L’Intense has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
My overall impression of this perfume is similar to when people come over to visit and see my pile of hot peppers chopped up. They ask me to hold the hot pepper please. I wish M. Wasser had done the same here. For all that the Szechuan pepper is an interesting ingredient it is out of balance here especially as the transition from top to heart takes place. It is hard to level that criticism because this is one of the more interesting male releases from Guerlain in years. It just doesn’t fully get it right. Guerlain has become such a shadow of itself that I’m applauding a good attempt at originality says something. Maybe you like a little more hot pepper in your perfume than I do which means L’Homme Ideal L’Intense might work for you.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Guerlain.