Stepsisters – Guerlain Mahora (2000) and Jardins de Bagatelle (1983)

Luca Turin’s most hated Guerlain until Champs Elyssees and Mahora came along was apparently Jardins de Bagatelle (1983). Whilst calling Mayotte (renamed 2nd version of Mahora) ‘dreadful’ and a ‘nasty floral’, by the time he came around to writing The Guide, he deemed Jardins de Bagatelle ‘the best of a lousy lot’.

It might look like it’s hard being Cinderella, but if we turn our attention to the stepsisters for a moment; they clearly have a terrible mother, the ultimate anti-role model, telling them that only materialistic things are worth pursuing, playing them out against each other to get the prince (not for love but for the mother’s ambition of social-climbing), even letting them self-harm, self-mutilate in fact, to reach that goal. How misunderstood these sisters are…

Take our two stepsisters, white florals Mahora and Jardins de Bagatelle. They have heard it all, been shamed and despised but they are still here* (one went to the numerologist, but if it helps?)

Mahora, the younger of the two, is a loudish, creamy white floral. And although you won’t find the famed guerlinade here, the vanilla/ ylang combo still feels so trés Guerlain. Created in 2000 by Jean-Paul Guerlain, Mahora was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The anorexic juices of the 90s still casting their goth-like shadows, Mahora was just not trendy. It’s a big bold sunny perfume with an easy digestible tuberose at its heart, a tropical ylang-ylang with a touch of coconut. The added sugarcane sweetness from a triumvirate of orange blossom, vanilla and sandalwood, makes Mahora a sweet hedonistic dream under a tropical sun.

Given as an option to wear for a night out, a friend (who would normally wear Hermessence, and who didn’t know Mahora in advance) chose this one, and called it sunny and sexy. Just saying…

Donatella Versace, as sported by J. Lo, gets loud and glamour on us, 2000 with a hint of 80s?

Jardins de Bagatelles EdT (Jean-Paul Guerlain) opens on a mixture of bright pearly aldehydes and neroli, giving it an edgy vintage vibe. After that there’s an ‘every white flower under the sky’ with a wink at the 80’s perfume feeling, which ingeniously is actually almost subtle, certainly if compared to its ‘death by silliage’- contemporaries. It never stings your nose, or delights in indoles or rubber, but stays a glamour filter photo as it folds out its fan of flowers; gardenia, rose, orange blossom, tuberose, magnolia, ylang-ylang, orchid, lily-of-the-valley and narcissus. The flowers are kept in check by bits of metallic sheen. Surprisingly the woody base shows signs of nectar and adds extra depth at the end. Although both Mahora and JdB share the parentage and the white florals, they are two completely different characters. I would call JdB sunny too, but there’s no tropical heat, JdB is a temperate day with little bursts of sunshine. JdB has a mixture of retro and wannabe 80s pop idol about it. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

1960s phenomenon goes 80s in the Screwball Comedy in Desperately Seeking Susan

If you are into retro or white florals in general don’t miss out on these too, in my opinion they are both more innovative and have more heart than many new ones in the genre even if they might at the time of their release not have lived up to the expectations of the Guerlain classics; L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, Mitzy etc.

In the end, I believe that little by little perfumistas who have perhaps never read Mr Turin’s damning review, or who smell them by chance, open their hearts to their beauty, perhaps after all these years of misunderstanding, finally the sisters know themselves, and are happy with themselves, they are not trying to be their amazing stepsister Cinderella in the castle, they just want to be loved for what they are, and guess what? I for one am ready to embrace them.

Do you have a secret stepsister love? How do you rate the two Guerlains, if you know them?

Winners of my little birthday draw: I chose to do two drawings as you can see from my Random lists; and the winners are Esperanza who chose decants and Tara a print. Thank you very much all for taking part 🙂







*At least they were when I started writing, according to M Guerlain blog, Mayotte is now DCed, if you, like me, happen to like it, grab a bottle while you can.

15 thoughts on “Stepsisters – Guerlain Mahora (2000) and Jardins de Bagatelle (1983)

  1. Wow. What a wonderful post. I love the analogy. I must admit I’ve never tried either as I’m not a white floral lover but your appreciation of them is very affecting. It’s easy for perfumes that go against the tide at the time of release to get passed over or shunned.

    So excited to be getting a print from you!

    • 🙂 Thank you Tara. As you know I’m no huge fan of BWFs as a category. I remember trying Mahora for the first time in Germany with a fellow Guerlainista. We had both previously rejected Mahora partly because of Turin and partly because of the tuberose and were both surprised that a tuberose could be so smooth and un-dangerous. It’s a bit of a grown up (in your face) lys soleia. You were actually 2nd on the first random list too, so actually more than fair that you get the print, and I’m looking much forward to doing it.

  2. Uh, can’t actually remember the smell of Jardins de Bagatelle, but I do love Mahora. 🙂 Then again, how wouldn’t I with my love of tuberose.. 😉

    • You know, the more I think about it, the more JdB feels really retro-modern, like it wouldn’t be out of place if it was coming from a fancy niche brand today. It feels everyday elegant. Of course you love Mahora <3

  3. Congratulations to the winners – the print is a particularly special prize!

    Now I have tried both of these, which is unusual – indeed I owned a mini of Bagatelles which I have sold on to a blog reader. It was too heady and read a bit plasticky on me, which saddened me no end as I loved the idea of it and the notes in it and wanted it to work. It wasn’t as huge as Amarige, say, but it was potent stuff.

    Mahora I should like as I love ylang and can take quite a bit of sweetness, but found it too much altogether at the time. However, this was years ago and I would definitely give it another spin, whereas my last sniff of Bagatelles was only last year.

    I loved your review of both, mind you, especially “The anorexic juices of the 90s still casting their goth-like shadows, Mahora was just not trendy” – what a great line!

    I guess you and I are carrying on the time honoured trend of being *mostly* evil scent twins…;) But I enjoy getting your take on things – written and visual – regardless!

    • Heady, plasticy and potent? I didn’t get that at all. I wonder if you had edp or edt? To be fair I don’t own Jardins de Bagatelle, I don’t think I’d wear it enough, it’s the floral thing; after all it’s the iris, the woody, spicy, orientals which truly have my heart.
      Mahora however I own in the edp and parfum, and love both. I’m not a tuberose lover, but this one is as smooth as they come.
      Glad you liked the metaphors, I had fun creating them, thank you my best *mostly* evil scent twin ever! 🙂

  4. hehe i haven’t tried either of these, but what a fun review to read. 🙂 also – congrats to the lucky winners!

  5. I really enjoyed this post and made me laugh out loud here and there! “Casting goth like shadow…”, so true! But I must admit, I actually like these step sisters, especially Mahora. 🙂 I enjoy white floras from time to time.

    • 😀 Thank you Magpie, I’m glad you had fun reading.
      I took me some time to start enjoying white florals, and tuberose is still a dangerous thing for me, but Mahora really is lovely. Glad to see I’m not alone in appreciating these two 🙂

  6. I tried Jardins de Bagatelle (I didn’t like it) and haven’t tried Mayotte/Mahora but I suspect that they “not have lived up to the expectations of the Guerlain classics” to the extent where I’d like them while I don’t like the classics. But I still enjoyed the review on its own – loved the Cinderella parallels! 🙂

    • Interesting Undina, I would have thought JdB *might* have worked for you. Mahora on the other hand, I’m sceptical about for you, but if you get the chance I’d be interested to hear how you find it.
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading along anyway 🙂

  7. I almost like JdB, because it reminds me of my Plus Que jamais. Needless to say, really prefer that one, but JdB is not bad. if you like a dry floral, you might prefer Le De, but it is the same sort of idea. Mahora I just couldn’t wear, though heaven knows, I tried. Your’s is a nice analogy, but are these two related to Cinderella or the Jenners? That is, if we’re talking sisters 🙂

    Did you try Teo Cabanel’s Lace Garden? That is just to die for pretty.

    • Interesting with PQJ, I didn’t think of that, but I see what you mean. I didn’t have much luck with Givenchy so far, so I can’t remember trying Le De, but thanks for the thumbs up, I will look out for it now.
      I’m so behind on the celebrity front, that had to look up the Jenners (I know, GAH!) I would say that to me the two Guerlain step sisters are not scary monsters, just wrong time and place.
      I wonder, is it that Mohora is too loud for you?

  8. Oh probably Mahora is a bit too much for me. They were pushing it at a Guerlain trunk show and Mahora made me recoil and reek. So sad 🙁

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