Women are missing out. Those who pay heed to Guerlain’s ridiculous gender classifications are losing the opportunity to try a very refined fragrance that starts off as crisp and fresh as a glass of sparkling, chilled Perrier with lemon, before turning into a slightly gourmand fragrance centered around cozy, milky tea with jasmine. It is L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, commonly nicknamed LIDG, an eau de toilette that plays with hot and cold, light and dark, cologne and gourmand elements.
It’s elegant and sophisticated, but I think it’s even better in the richer, deeper, spicier, and smokier flanker eau de parfum version called L’Instant pour Homme de Guerlain Eau Extreme in the U.S. (“LIDGE“), but simply L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau de Parfum in Europe. (For the sake of succinctness, I’ll merely refer to the latter as “L’Instant Extreme.”) In fact, L’Instant Extreme may be my favorite thus far out of Guerlain’s modern line-up. In this review, I’ll cover both the original fragrance (which I’ll just call “L’Instant” or “LIDG“) and its eau de parfum Extreme version.
L’INSTANT DE GUERLAIN POUR HOMME (EAU DE TOILETTE):
Contrasts in masculinity and femininity, crispness and warmth, hot and cold — those were the exact goals for L’Instant, an eau de toilette created by Beatrice Piquet, and released in 2004. The fragrance is described by Guerlain as follows:
Fresh, warm, sensual.
This paradoxical fragrance skates between fire and ice, flamboyant virility and discreet femininity. The luminous freshness of citrus crystals and star anise contrasts with the warmth of patchouli, hibiscus seeds and cocoa to offer, through this luminous woody scent, a unique moment after which everything will be different.
With L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme, the Guerlain Perfumer takes a first step towards freshness in 2004, showcasing a hot and cold olfactory contrast. The fresh top notes are inspired by an oriental aniseed drink called arak. The base notes feature the gourmand notes of the dessert by a famous pastry-maker, worked around chocolate and patchouli.
Surrender to Chance provides the succinct list of L’Instant Pour Homme’s ingredients:
top notes of citrus, anise and jasmine; middle notes of patchouli, cedar, Indian sandalwood, Lapsang tea, cocoa beans and lavender; and base notes of hibiscus seeds and musk.
L’Instant pour Homme opens on my skin as a sparkling, zesty, citrus cologne with fougère-like touches of lavender. The lemon is so fresh, clean, and brisk that it reminds me of a glass of chilled Perrier infused with citruses. Within seconds, however, L’Instant turns warm with dusty cocoa powder. It feels initially out-of-place, discordant and too dusky sweet, but it soon melts into the base. There are hints of creamy woods lurking there as well, but, to my nose, it doesn’t smell of real or Mysore sandalwood. Instead, it smells like something generic and, given its later manifestation as something almost cashmere-like in softness, it seems more like Cashmeran than sandalwood. Regardless, it’s still pretty, and serves to create a bridge between the zesty, crisp, cool notes and the warmth lurking in L’Instant’s base.
Other elements are soon noticeable as well. Subtle touches of anise swirl together with smoky, green, slightly sharp cedar. There is also the first whisper of a dark, black, Lapsang Souchong tea that mixes with the creamy elements and the fresher notes to create an unusual cocktail: half warm, milky, sweetened tea; and half cold, Pastis/Ouzo with sparkling lemon. It’s rather fascinating. Lest all this sound like a discordant hodge-podge, lest me assure you that it is not. The cocoa powder’s early whiff of sweetness softened within an instant, losing its distinct, individual identity, and melting into the crisp aromatics, lavender, woods, tea, and anise to create a soft warmth. It’s a strong combination at first, wafting about 3 inches above the skin from 3 very big smears, but it feels almost transparent as well. L’Instant pour Homme is simultaneously both brisk, and languidly mellow, smooth, and creamy.
L’Instant’s brisk, clean, lemon notes soften 25 minutes in, and start to weaken as the warm base rises to the surface. More and more, the perfume smells like warm, creamy, milky tea instead of chilled, brisk, lemon Perrier with ouzo. There are hints of a green jasmine dancing around, along with the soft, smooth “sandalwood” that holds the faintest, merest flicker of something smoky. This feels almost like an intermediary stage, bridging the cool opening phase with the L’Instant’s eventual turn into something warmer, softer, more floral.
Forty minutes in, the floral-woody elements grow stronger, changing L’Instant more and more into something that is primarily a lemony, jasmine, woody musk over a Chai-like base. The flower is green and fresh, not sweet, syrupy, indolic, or over-the-top. Yet, it has a soft creaminess to it, thanks to the equally green “sandalwood.” I refuse to believe the latter comes from India, and it has to be a green tree from Australia — if it is even sandalwood itself as opposed to some synthetic like Cashmeran. I’ll spare you my pet peeves on “sandalwood” in modern perfumery, and simply say that the base works here as a creamy, textural element that perfectly suits the Lapsang Souchong milky tea.
The perfume shifts yet again at the 90-minute mark. L’Instant Pour Homme is a soft blur of notes that overlap each other in a graceful blend of jasmine, creamy woods, and musk. The faintest trace of lemon lingers, but the cocoa is becoming more noticeable, diffusing the occasional greenness that remains around the floral edges. The milky tea accord has temporarily retreated, though it later pops up again with greater visibility. L’Instant is all about the floral woodiness right now. The fragrance has also changed in terms of sillage, dropping to hover right on my skin with no projection at all, though it is still distinct and noticeable if sniffed up close.
I’ve tried L’Instant pour Homme several times, and noticed that it always seems to go through the same stages on my skin. Each time, its primary, main bouquet seems to be:
- 0-20 minutes: sparkling, chilled Perrier dominated by brisk lemon, and a hint of ouzo.
- 20-40 minutes: crisp, milky, lemon tea; a cool fragrance with starting hints of warmth; and the growing significance of jasmine and cocoa;
- 40-90 minutes: jasmine infused with lemony citrus over creamy tea;
- 90-180 minutes: a creamy jasmine, floral, woody musk which turns into a skin scent at 120 minutes.
- 180+ minutes: milky tea and jasmine, lightly sprinkled with dry, sweet cocoa. It is a bouquet that is extremely hard to detect at times.
The last two stages are interesting. Whenever I think that L’Instant has turned into a floral woody musk like something from Chanel (the drydown of 1932 comes to mind), the milky chai element either pops back up or takes over completely. The jasmine really isn’t the main player in L’Instant’s drydown, often hiding behind the creamy, sweetened, milky tea, but it certainly appears more on my skin than the cocoa.
As for the sillage, I have to say that I was pretty sure that L’Instant had died completely on my skin at the end of the second hour, then at the end of the third. By the fourth hour, I was shocked to see L’Instant still hanging on tenacious, though I had to practically attack my arm and inhale like a wild animal to find it. It was a mere blur of creaminess that was vaguely woody and sweetened. Yet, L’Instant is an extremely tenacious little thing, and I was quite stunned to detect thin, wispy bits of it lingering 8.5 hours from the start. There wasn’t much to the scent in terms of notes, but it was there.
L’Instant Pour Homme doesn’t suit my personal tastes, primarily because of its ephemeral quality and sillage, but I think it’s very well-done, refined, and sophisticated. Perhaps more to the point, I find it wholly unisex in nature. The crispness of the opening is no different than any number of fragrances worn by women, from Arquiste‘s L’Etrog, to half a dozen things from Parfums d’Empire, Histoires de Parfums, Santa Maria Novella, or other houses. L’Instant pour Homme certainly feels more feminine than a scent like Azemour from Parfums d’Empire with its arid, pungent, oakmoss citruses. Yes, L’Instant has a cologne-like start, but it lasts about 15 minutes before the fragrance starts the transition into one of its many Lapsang Souchong chai variations. The drydown is certainly plush, warm, and creamy enough to work on both genders.
For me, L’Instant evokes a very specific customer: images of extremely well-heeled men and women in New York’s Upper East Side. Very wealthy, Ralph Lauren-types where the women are cool blondes in long, soft, flowing cashmere wraps with chic riding boots, or dark brunettes with a sleek New York style. The men are in crisp, well-tailored, dark suits, or in discretely expensive, casual attire as they drive their Range Rovers to the Hamptons. It’s all about elegance with discretion, a seemingly haughty, brisk aloofness belied by approachable warmth and coziness. It’s suitable for a variety of occasions, but especially the office given its discrete, unobtrusive sillage.
I don’t think L’Instant Pour Homme is the most distinctive, unusual fragrance on the market, but it’s a very refined one that deserves its cult status amongst men. It’s too well-known a fragrance to warrant comparative assessments or reviews, but you can read the gushing raves on Fragrantica for yourself. I will only point out that others seem to have significantly better luck with L’Instant’s duration than I did, as the vast majority (123) voted for “long lasting” (defined as 7-12 hours), outweighing all other categories by a land-slide.
For me, personally, L’Instant is too thin, sheer, and translucent, too fresh at first before turning into a rather simple floral, woody musk at the end. None of that is really my personal style and, while I found it refined for others, what showed up on my skin was somewhat uninteresting for my tastes (it’s all subjective!), and irritatingly transient. The L’Instant Pour Homme Eau Extreme eau de parfum is a whole other matter, however. I found it lovely, and it is the version that I would personally recommend, especially for women.
L’INSTANT EAU EXTREME:
L’Instant’s second flanker was released in 2005, and its massively long American name is L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme Eau Extreme (with “LIDGE” as a nickname). In Europe, it seems to be entitled merely L’Instant Pour Homme Eau de Parfum. Regardless of name, Beatrice Piquet intended Eau Extreme to be a “more intense, richer, smokier and deeper version of the original fragrance. The perfume opens with notes of crystal citruses, star anise and elemi. Neroli, patchouli flower, Indian jasmine and Lapsang tea are the heart of the composition, laid on the base of cedar, Mysore sandalwood, cocoa, patchouli and hibiscus seed.” As Guerlain adds on its website,
There are no languid half-measures about the composition of this Eau Extrême. The fresh notes of citrus and star anise, embellished by floral notes, embrace the light before melting into a deeply sensual and gourmand woody accord of patchouli and cocoa.
For me, the two fragrances are different for reasons that go beyond mere deepness or concentration. I find them to have completely separate olfactory profiles, due, in part, to the ingredients used. According to Fragrantica, the list of notes for L’Instant Eau Extreme includes:
citrus, star anise, elemi, neroli, patchouli flower, Indian jasmine, lapsang tea, cedar, Mysore sandalwood, cocoa, and hibiscus seed.
L’Instant Eau Extreme opens on my skin with citruses dominated by sharp, fiery spices. It’s a visual of yellow, reds, browns and dark greens, especially once the patchouli kicks in with its slightly pungent, very green feeling leafiness. Sweet, dusty, milk chocolate cocoa powder and smoky dark woods soon follow. L’Instant Eau Extreme’s spiciness is interesting; for me, it goes far beyond star anise and actually verges on a red pimento chili pepper with a definite bite.
Underlying the spiciness are other elements. There is the most minuscule, fleeting whisper of bitter neroli, but the main citric note is that of sun-warmed lemons. It’s a heavier, sweeter, richer note than the crisp, brisk, chilled lemon used in LIDG eau de toilette. There is also smokiness from the elemi which carries a nuance of leaves burning in an autumn bonfire. The whole bouquet is lightly dusted by a cocoa powder that feels soft, dusty and sweet like milk chocolate. Yet, there is also a definite nuttiness to L’Instant Eau Extreme, as if the cocoa and patchouli had combined to produce toasted hazelnuts.
The patchouli lurked about Eau Extreme’s opening, but it becomes really noticeable about 5 minutes in, adding a dusty earthiness to the scent. It’s not a chewy, dense note, and, at first, it’s far from the usual patchouli aroma with its interplay of sweetness and smoky spiciness. Instead, the patchouli is initially evocative of dry, dark, slightly damp soil with a bit of a musky overlay. Its lack of sweetness counters the cocoa, creating a blend that is perfectly balanced and never cloying.
The original LIDG’s milky tea note carries over to Eau Extreme as well. The difference is that it is now infused with the fiery, chili-like star anise, earthy patchouli, smoky woods, and a far greater confluence of sweet cocoa powder. Eau Extreme has a touch of a floral musk at the edges, but it is indistinct on my skin at this stage, and is never as profound or significant a note as it is in LIDG eau de toilette.
Twenty minutes in, L’Instant Eau Extreme turns into a fragrance dominated by patchouli, followed by cocoa, and creamy tea that has been infused with fiery, spicy, star anise and lemon. Regular readers know that (true) patchouli is one of my all-time favorite notes, so it’s probably not surprising that L’Instant Eau Extreme is my favorite out of the two Guerlain siblings. The fragrance soon turns into a powerful but airy, almost transparent cloud that is a beautiful blend of sweet, spicy, woody, earthy and creamy elements dominated by patchouli. It wafts about four inches above the skin, and little tendrils follow in the air as I move.
Yet, at the same time, there is something synthetic in the perfume’s base that consistently gives me faint twinges for the first two hours when I sniff the perfume up close. I didn’t detect anything similar in LIDG, so I have to wonder if it is that slightly acrid, biting star anise that is to blame. When the note fades and L’Instant Eau Extreme turns into a creamier, softer, more vanillic patchouli, so does my occasional headache.
Slowly, very slowly, L’Instant Eau Extreme starts to change. Forty-five minutes, the jasmine appears. There are only hints of it at first, but it remains a lingering trace at the perfume’s edges. Then, the patchouli loses its earthiness, turning sweet, creamy, and soft. The star anise mellows, and that chili pepper, pimento facet starts to fade away. The tea accord becomes increasingly dominant, feeling always creamy and milky, and softening the smokier woodier elements in L’Instant Extreme. As with regular LIDG, the eau de parfum version goes through a phase where it smells like milky tea with a slice of lemon and a light touch of jasmine. This time, however, the tea is dominated by a soft patchouli as well.
At the start of the third hour, L’Instant Extreme is a creamy patchouli with a vanilla undertone. There are varying levels of tea, jasmine, lemon, and woodiness that wax and wane, but they are not the dominant, primary essence of the fragrance on my skin, and they become increasingly muted. L’Instant Eau Extreme turns into a skin scent at the start of the 4th hour, though it is still easily noticeable if sniffed up close. About 6.5 hours in, the perfume is a lovely, cozy, gourmand blur of patchouli with a nutty, cuddly, caramel-vanilla aspect that makes me wonder if L’Instant Eau Extreme also has a touch of tonka bean in it. After all, it is the tonka bean that is partially responsible for Guerlain’s signature Guerlainade note, and base aroma here seems different than mere milk chocolate powder. Whatever the reason for the caramel-vanilla touch, it works wonderfully with the patchouli.
Yet, L’Instant Eau Extreme’s drydown never feels wholly like a gourmand patchouli soliflore, perhaps because of lingering, ghostly traces of the other notes. There are rare moments when the sun-sweetened lemon, delicate jasmine, or milky chai pop their heads back up. There are also the merest suggestions of lingering smokiness and woodiness from time to time. As a whole, though, L’Instant Eau Extreme is a patchouli-dominated fragrance. Like its older, thinner sibling, it turns more and more abstract, and becomes harder to detect, though it is generally a much stronger, richer, deeper scent. In its final moments, 10.5 hours from the start, L’Instant Eau Extreme is merely a blur of sweetness. The fragrance has strong projection at first, which turns softer at the end of the second hour, and discreet after four hours.
For all that cocoa is supposed to be such a big part of L’Instant Eau Extreme, it never dominated as a note that was distinctive in its own right. Rather, it seemed to melt into the base, creating that creamy, milky undertone that was a part of both versions of L’Instant. Only at the start, in the very opening minutes of each fragrance, did I think, “Oh, chocolate powder.” Instead, my skin turned the note into something that merely had an indirect effect on the other notes. Judging by the comments on Fragrantica, it’s merely my skin because plenty of people detected a very distinct, profound cocoa powder accord in L’Instant Extreme.
Since LIDGE (Eau Extreme) is different than LIDG (original), and not as well-known, a few of the Fragrantica reviews may be helpful. Take the comment by “hedward,” who absolutely hates Ouzo and, thus, Eau Extreme’s opening, but who wrote this about the fragrance’s main stage:
As the heart notes began to creep in LIDGE started to make sense after my nose had recovered from the anise attack. During the heart there was a very dry tea note which was incredibly clever – smokey black tea to be precise. It kind of had a chai latteish feeling to it (and I mean real chai latte, not the one from Starbucks)Then the tea died down and patchouli made it’s way to the stage… this is where the magic begins. The drydown is marvelous!! Semi-sweet pure cocoa with shining earthy pathcouli and a slightest hint of vanilla. This smells like a golden Maya temple – reeks of wealth and power but in a very delicate and beautiful way. The scent was so bright and glorious it almost radiated rays of golden light with a jesus choir singing in the backround!! I’m a sucker for dark chocolate as well as for patchouli so this serves my senses just right. The only bad thing about this fragrance is the vile anise in the opening – reminded me of Ouzo which I deeply detest.
Notes I could not detect at all: Neroli, jasmine and surprisingly: citrus.
A few others were also “repulsed” by the first two hours of LIDGE, before falling in love with its subsequent development. In one instance, the person’s main problem seems to be the fragrance’s strength in the opening. As for women, there are quite a few who like L’Instant Eau Extreme, undoubtedly because it lacks the more cologne-like citrus focus of the original LIDG and is a sweeter, richer scent. One female commentator shared the opinion of a few men that Eau Extreme was better with time, but she also wrote that she thinks all Guerlains are generally better experienced after 30-40 minutes.
As with any fragrance that is hugely hyped and a cult legend, there are people who simply don’t see what all the fuss is about. L’Instant Eau Extreme is no different. Some people find it pretty good, but “not remarkable.” A few struggle with weak sillage and longevity, while a handful have the opposite reaction, finding that LIDGE is too strong, too enduring, and too intense. As a whole, I suspect that those who aren’t fans of patchouli will have issues with L’Instant Extreme, no matter how much cocoa may appear on their skin or what the perfume’s strength may be.
I like LIDGE a lot, but I don’t think it’s perfect and I want to emphasize the context for my feelings. For me, personally, I would like that the fragrance have greater weight, heaviness, and nuance on my skin. I would definitely prefer sillage that didn’t veer between slightly synthetic forcefulness, and a sudden gauzy, wispy softness after just two hours, before turning into a skin scent after four. And if I love L’Instant Eau Extreme, it is highly relative to my feelings about Guerlain as a whole.
This is actually my very first positive review for any modern Guerlain. I’ve been utterly unimpressed by all their recent creations thus far, let alone the terrible reformulations of their brilliant, justifiably admired classics. I would absolutely wear L’Instant Eau Extreme if a bottle fell into my lap, but it is not sufficiently breath-taking on an overall, general scale for me to hunt it down. (As you can read below in the Details section, the fragrance seems to be a European exclusive that is not commonly available in the United States, and may require purchase from Canada.) As a result, I would probably get my patchouli fix from fragrances that have deeper body, more depth, and are more noticeable on my perfume-consuming skin.
That said, L’Instant Pour Homme Eau Extreme is perhaps my favorite modern Guerlain thus far. I think it is warm, lovely, creamy, and smooth, and it would be sexy on both a man and a woman. Both versions, LIDG and LIDGE/Extreme are refined, very well-done, elegant fragrances that are offered at a reasonable price. If Guerlain ever took the words “Pour Homme” out of both fragrance’s names, I think women would suddenly realise that Guerlain offers a scent that is not a boring, girly fruity-floral, a simplistic gourmand, an “old lady” powder, or a super-sweet, over-priced, hot mess. There is another option, hiding under an archaic, ridiculous gender classification. Depending on your personal taste, you can go with a crisp, brisk, fresh cologne that turns into a discreet, soft floral woody musk with Chai tea; or you can go with a richer, spicier, smoky, woody oriental that turns into a cozy, patchouli, gourmand-oriental. Both are worth a test sniff, regardless of your gender.
L’INSTANT EDT – Cost & Availability: L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme is an Eau de Toilette that comes in two sizes: a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle that Guerlain has priced at $75 or €62, or a 4.2 oz/120 ml bottle for $100. Like its brother, L’Instant Eau de Toilette is featured on the International Guerlain website, but there is no online store from which you can purchase the fragrance directly. However, French readers can purchase directly from the Guerlain France website. In the U.S.: You can find L’Instant at many department stores, but also at a number of discount retailers. The “small” 2.5 oz bottle is available at Overstock.com for $45.99 and at Target for $56.09, while I found the big 4.2 oz/125 ml size sold on Amazon by a third-party vendor at a discounted rate for $66.77. The perfume is also discounted in both sizes at FragranceX in the $60-range. At the higher, regular retail price, it is sold at Bloomingdale’s and in both sizes by Neiman Marcus. The L’Instant Eau de Toilette is currently sold out at Nordstroms. Outside the U.S.: L’Instant de Guerlain pour Homme is sold at many Sephoras, especially in France. In the UK, you can find it at Harrod’s and all big department stores. The House of Fraser had the fragrance discounted, which is undoubtedly why they are currently sold out. Samples: you can order samples of L’Instant EDT from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial.
L’INSTANT EDP or L’INSTANT EXTREME- Cost & Availability: L’Instant in Eau de Parfum version, or L’Instant Eau Extreme comes in a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle that costs £52.50, or €73. I simply cannot seem to find it in the U.S., whether at established retailers like Saks or Bergdorf Goodman, or at the discount sites. I’m not even sure if it would be available at the Guerlain boutique in Las Vegas. However, I know that it is available at Guerlain’s Toronto store. A poster on Fragrantica, “Aucffan1” posted some incredibly useful, detailed information regarding that affordable, no tax option:
Try buying from Guerlain’s Boutique in Toronto, Canada.. For 75 ml bottle the price is $80.00 US dollars and free shipping to the USA.. In the USA I just dialed area code and number.. [¶] Serious.. And no tax..
Address: 110 Bloor St W Toronto, ON M5S 2W7, Canada
Phone: +1 416-929-6114
The package came within 3 days….And very important you need to sign for the package.