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[UK] Escada Magnetism 100ml (Boxed/1st Formulation) - £65, LIDGE 75ml (1st formulation) - £55

Got a couple of vintages up for grabs here:

  • Escada Magnetism 100ml (approx 50ml remaining) £65 delivered

This one is boxed and is the first formulation that was made in France by Scannon. Fairly priced compared to the insane eBay rates for this hard to find Coca Cola styled gem.

  • Guerlain - LIDGE 75ml (approx 50ml remaining) £55 delivered

This one is an unboxed tester that I bought brand new and unused and its batch code dates it to 07/2011 which makes it the last REAL vintage juice - note that a black rim doesn't indicate vintage as there have been a couple of formula changes, this bottle is the original first formulation before the IFRA regs kicked in. Check here for a detailed write up:


Name: L’instant de Guerlain pour homme eau extrême.
Perfume company: Guerlain.
Perfumer: Béatrice Piquet (1963-2010).
Launched in: 2005.
Concentration: Eau de parfum.
Gender: Male.
Professional fragrance classification:
▪ The Technical Commission of the French Society of Perfumers; E4 - Boisé ambré / Woody amber.
▪ Michael Edwards; Woody Oriental fresh / Oriental Boisé frais.
My rating (on paper and on my skin): 10/10, 2005-2011 edition.
Date of review: July 22nd 2014.

On June 27th 2011 the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) issued amendment 46, which restricted star anise and elemi oil. The higher grade of star anise and elemi in relation to the patchouli and dark cocoa note are exactly the blend that give L’instant de Guerlain pour homme eau extrême its lush, delectable spicy, and powdery temptation. This unique main accord can only be fully detected and appreciated along with the other meticulously integrated notes - a little lemon and bergamot, drops of jasmine oil, hibiscus seeds, lapsang tea, sandalwood etc. - during cold days/ in deep winter. When this perfume is applied during non-cold days, the star anise for instance will appear absent and the stronger base notes will dominate already from the opening. One should also realize that Mrs. Piquet took the classical fragrance pyramid into account when she was skilfully crafting this perfume ten years ago. This pyramid deserves to be unfolded at the right pace, and for this it requires low temperatures. And ultimately, without becoming ‘scentimental’: I kind of imagine that when this perfume is worn on days that make it unfold perfectly, we not only fully enjoy it, but we also pay the perfumer a small form of public homage for leaving the world a masterpiece.

Now, before going into details about the reformulation, I would first like to express the opinion that we, the consumers, shouldn’t judge severely on Guerlain or other perfume companies for reformulating their fragrances. It’s the IFRA that for ridiculous and obscure reasons is pushing the ‘reformulation business’. Still, the perfume companies should be open and honest about reformulations instead of denying everything. For example: I’ve asked the Hèrmes company several times in the past about reformulations and always got a straight answer. Guerlain, my favourite house, most likely doesn’t like this policy of denial but seems to be censored by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), their parent company. It’s sad seeing the beautifully historical Maison Guerlain being ‘cornered’ between the IFRA and LVMH.

During 2012-2013 I tested a total of seven bottles and twelve samples with the content made between January 2012 and March 2013. To be most accurate: I tested them inside as well as outside the house, and only on cold winter days when it was between 0 ºC and 6 ºC / 32 ºF and 43 ºF and the air humidity was above 50%, so that the nose could sense well. I tested every batch at least twice. During the same period I further managed to find a total of six pre-reformulated bottles in mint condition, which I also tested. The batch codes of these bottles were 1R01 (April 2011), 0W01 (September 2010), 0N01 (January 2010), 7L01 (November 2007), and twice 5F01 (June 2005). In the end I kept both 2005 bottles and sold the others to befriended collectors for the purchase price (I’m sorry, I won't sell my last two vintage* bottles). And just as important for the reliability of an investigation: I had always kept the bottles and samples in perfect balance.**
The outcome of my extensive investigation: L’instant de Guerlain pour homme eau extrême had been reformulated. The smell was clearly much less exciting on paper and on my skin. The star anise and elemi were less present, the cocoa smelled airy and only a hint of the intertwined spiciness could still be detected in it. The day that I made my final conclusion was a sad day, the perfume had lost the magic that once made it a 10/10.
Another indication: Perfume manufacturers often make (subtle) changes in the packaging when they reformulate a fragrance. This was also the case here. A difference was that the older boxes had both front sides described with the name of the perfume and company. On one side was written in French ‘Eau Extreme’, and on the other side in English ‘Extreme Fragrance’. The list of notes was available on the side of the box. The boxes after 2011 had only one front side described with the name of the perfume and the company. The French ‘Eau Extreme’ and the English ‘Extreme Fragrance’ had both been placed on the same front side, and the list of ingredients had been moved to the back of the box. A difference that I noticed in the bottles was that the older bottles had heavy caps, made of bakelite. The post 2011 bottles all had lighter caps, made of plastic. One could consider the latter to be the same kind of development as the gold-coloured caps of the original Vetiver, Habit Rouge and Héritage perfumes, which were replaced by silver-coloured caps in the past decade.

There’s one critical remark that I can make at my own research: In the course of 2013 I felt that I had investigated this perfume more than enough, so I didn’t professionally test any bottle/vial bearing a batch code indicating post March 2013. The reason I mention this, is that Guerlain has reformulated some of their fragrances again in the course of 2013-2014 in an attempt to restore them as close to the original versions - ‘Mitsouko’ for example -, and in some cases the second reformulation smells better than their first reformulation.
Also noteworthy: I’ve found just one person on the Internet, an esteemed blogger from Italy, who took the time to smell different batches made between 2005 and October 2013. I quote twice from his conclusions: “There is no appearance of "Reformulation" (source: Raiders of The Lost Scent, Guerlain LIDGE: reformulated? A 5-samples blind test, Sunday November 24th 2013). And: “There are no significant differences in composition” (source: Raiders of The Lost Scent, Guerlain Lidge: the First and the Last (2005-2013), Sunday January 19th 2014). Despite the fact that he tested twice and came to the conclusion that there had been no reformulation, I have no doubt whatsoever***; the perfume of every later batch that I’d tested didn’t smell as good as the perfume of any of the pre-July 2011 batches. Moreover, both tests described at ‘Raiders of the Lost Scent’ are unfamiliar with the IFRA amendment.

A summary of the reformulation:
1. It's LVMH's policy to comply with every IFRA standard. Due to IFRA amendment 46 issued on June 27th 2011, L’instant de Guerlain pour homme eau extrême therefore was reformulated between July 2011 - December 2011.
2. The differences between bottles/vials from 2005-2011 and bottles/vials from 2012 - March 2013 are obvious to my nose. These aren’t batch differences but indicate a reformulation. The star anise and elemi are less present, the cocoa smells much less spicy to even boring. Since I only ‘grant’ the 10/10 status to impeccable perfumes, the post 2011 version loses the 10/10 status.
3. Perhaps L’instant de Guerlain pour homme eau extrême was reformulated again between April 2013-2014 by current Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser in an attempt to restore the smell where possible. I doubt that this happened, but in truth I can’t comment on it since I didn’t professionally test any of the perfume from this period.

My advice to people who are going to try to find the original perfume: check the batch code first. If you want to be 100% sure, buy only bottles from before July 2011. However, it’s possible that Guerlain didn’t immediately effectuate the restrictions. It’s possible that the IFRA set a deadline, which gave perfume companies some time to reformulate. I couldn’t find an exact deadline concerning the 46th amendment, but I do remember that the draconic 43rd amendment issued in July 2008 had a deadline in August 2010. In reality however, the perfume companies reformulated their fragrances before January 2009 to be in compliance as soon as possible and not to get into any trouble. Fact is that the majority of retailers can and only will sell IFRA compliant products. Anyway, there’s a chance that some bottles manufactured between July and December 2011 contain the vintage version.

Another word of advice to ‘perfume hunters’: the chances are quite slim that you’ll still find a sealed vintage bottle in a store that is part of a chain, like Sephora, Planet Parfum, Douglas, ICI Paris XL etc. These stores had to return their stocks, because Guerlain France ordered them back (ask an experienced sales person in the store, and he may still remember that this occurred). Unfortunately I couldn't exactly pinpoint when the vintage stocks were sent back; one person believed that it had happened sometime in 2011, in another store they thought it had been in early 2012. The older stocks were all replaced by reformulated bottles. What happened to the vintage stocks? In the end I found out that they were destroyed...! At least that’s what I was told by Guerlain Netherlands, who were remarkably open about the reformulation in the initial contact. I was told clearly: “This perfume was shipped back some time ago and the stocks were destroyed since they wouldn’t have been allowed to be sold anymore”. I can only imagine that this operation must have been quite costly for Guerlain at the time (Dior did the same thing for example with Eau Sauvage in 2008). I guess this is also the main reason why there are so few vintage bottles around. Specially when compared to older Guerlain perfumes, which weren’t destroyed after their reformulations.
Well, the only vintage bottles you'll probably still find in perfume chain-stores are testers. I came across several vintage testers, not only during my investigation but also after, when I was searching for other fragrances. Most testers were/seemed perfectly in balance, but I also encountered a few bottles in which the perfume notes had shifted to a lesser or greater degree, or the overall smell had become dim. Tester bottles are often displayed in (artificial) light, and the citrus note is especially vulnerable to warmth. So smell before you try to buy a tester bottle.

I had found my vintage bottles in a few perfume stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, which had never been part of a chain. Sadly, such ‘one-man shops’ are close to extinction, since their prices are often (much) higher. Luckily for perfume aficionados, in these stores vintage perfumes can at least still be found! So do try these kinds of stores if you please.
And last but not least, there’s eBay. You will have to ask the seller for every batch code and hopefully he’s willing to provide it. A batch code can be found within a white square at the bottom of the box, directly above the barcode, and must have been pressed into the paper. The batch code at the bottom of the box can also be found underneath the bottle. Both batchcodes should always be identical.

An aside remark: English is not my native language, so there might be mistakes here and there in the text. Anyway, I hope this lengthy review proves helpful and I wish you all good luck in finding a well-preserved vintage bottle.

S. Singh

• Note - July 23rd 2014: I forgot to report when I exactly started to suspect that this fragrance had been reformulated. This was in February 2012 after I’d bought a brand new bottle with batch code 2N01 (January 2012) in Paris. It was very cold that day and the first thing I noticed was that the star anise smelled weak. A few days later I did a side by side comparison with my first bottle from 2005 (batchcode 5K01 - October 2005, bought in 2006), which was still for about 20% full and noticed again that the star anise-difference was obvious, along with less elemi and a cocoa note that smelled airy and boring. After this I compared both bottles with an original vial I’d received from the Guerlain store, also with batch code 2N01 and noticed the same differences. Then, for a few days I attributed the differences in smell to aging of the perfume from 2005, but this felt unsettling since I’d become fairly good in recognizing aged notes. One evening I looked at the bottles and boxes more closely and noticed the differences, like the lighter cap. From there on my investigation began, comparing many batch codes during winter days, discovering the 46th IFRA amendment - Annex I Part II, speaking to a chemist about Methyl eugenol, estragole etc. I finally finished my investigation in April 2013. Since then I’ve smelled a later batch (3U01 - July 2013) just once in a store in early 2014. However, this was too brief to call it a proper test. My impression though, was that it smelled identical to the 2012 and 2013 bottles and vials that I had.

• Final update - July 29th 2014: The graceful art deco styled bottle with the black ‘frame’ has sadly been discontinued. This happened already since April 2014 judging by the batchcode, but it only became clear to me this week when I visited a local perfume store and suddenly noticed a new tester at the Guerlain section. Both the edt and edp now come in the same transparent bottle. I’ve tested a sample of this 2014 eau de parfum version twice in the last few days, and despite the non-optimal circumstances (warmer weather) it was quite easy to analyse. My conclusion: this is another reformulation. In comparison to the original L’instant de Guerlain pour homme eau extrême (2005 - July 2011) it’s much weaker in both longevity and sillage. However, since the stronger basenotes - cacao, patchouli, some sandalwood - have been toned down as well, the remaining star anise and elemi have now become more in line with the rest of the perfume again. To a certain extend I can say with confidence that the 2014 a recalibrated version is of the original perfume; the main accord in this second reformulation approaches the original main accord, but contains overall much less quality. Just to be certain, I will do another test in the winter but will only edit this text if my findings turn out to be any different.

Now, everything in this elaborate review has been well-considered so far, but the following thought may seem a bit farfetched: Perfume companies which decided in the past to distinctly alter the bottle and box at the same time the perfume was reformulated, often had to deal with upset customers and a (temporary) drop in sales. It became quite easy for perfume lovers to recognize a reformulation and stock up the old version. Perhaps Guerlain learned from this. The discontinuation of the bottle with the black frame could suggest once more that Guerlain suddenly had to reformulate the perfume at the end of 2011 due to the IFRA amendment, but decided that an obvious change of the bottle would follow later. It’s possible that the sale of this perfume had to be re-evaluated and the formula to be recalibrated first. This could be the reason why this new version has been launched in a new bottle only now.

Arguably there are three versions. To be clear, these versions are not worlds apart. They all smell alike, but to a fragrance aficionado with an experienced sense of smell the differences will be substantial.
►The original version: 2005 - July 2011. Perhaps even produced until December 2011. This version is the very best, as was intended by the perfumer.
►The first reformulated version: January 2012 - March 2013. This version was either continuously produced until early 2014, or was reformulated sometime between April 2013 - early 2014 in an attempt to restore it as close to the original. This version is ‘the restricted and less balanced version’.
►The second reformulated version: In production since approximately April 2014 to date. This is ‘the recalibrated and lighter version'. Lighter, since it contains much less quality in comparison to the vintage.
__________________________________________________ ___

* In my opinion the word 'vintage' has (attained) a different meaning in the world of perfume than in the world of wine, clothing, books etc. It doesn’t mean that the materials used derive from one specific year (like with wine), that it automatically represents a certain quality, or that is has to have a certain age before it can be labelled as vintage. The first/original release of any perfume becomes a vintage as soon as it’s reformulated!

I’ve invented a system that consists out of just four categories, in which any perfume can be placed. In short:
1. Original/ Classic/ Pre-reformulated/ Vintage fragrances.
2. Reformulated fragrances.
3. Discontinued fragrances.
4. Not reformulated fragrances.

** After extensive research and advice from Mr. Jean Kérleo, former master perfumer at Jean Patou and founder of the Osmothèque in Versailles, I’ve been storing my (vintage) fragrances professionally in a high quality wine fridge since late 2011. The fridge is very reliable, a temperature fluctuation of less than one degree, and it further has specific air humidity control, no internal lamps etc.

I’ve noticed that there has been a growing number of perfume aficionados/collectors since 2010/2011. If you are someone who only rarely spends money on fragrances and finishes a bottle in about two years, there's no need for you to invest in an expensive storage device. On the other hand, what totally baffles me is the fact that there are plenty of people with large and expensive (vintage) perfume collections who have never spent real thought, time, or money on professional storage… Well, I can assure you this: if you want to keep your perfumes in perfect condition -like on the day they were manufactured/the day you acquired them- professional storage is an absolute necessity.

*** I personally have no doubt about a 2011 reformulation, but one should always be cautious when making a public statement without having hard evidence. So, could I still be wrong? This is possible;
▪ I wasn’t able to find a company or person who owned a gas chromatograph. So there is no scientific evidence that this perfume was reformulated.
▪ I’m not a perfumer of course. I can smell quite accurate, but nowhere close to a trained perfumer.
PM if interested, cheers.

This post first appeared on Grant Osborne, please read the originial post: here

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[UK] Escada Magnetism 100ml (Boxed/1st Formulation) - £65, LIDGE 75ml (1st formulation) - £55


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