Jicky is not a love-at-first-sniff scent, unless you are blessed with an adventurous nose or cursed with anosmia (the inability to smell). I sampled a modern formulation at Saks Fifth Avenue last year when I just began to get into vintage scents, and I was truly baffled. After spraying it on, I couldn't believe that people said they loved it. Are they faking, I wondered, because they're supposed to love a classic?
Between the blast of citrus and lavender, followed by the stink of (synthetic) civet, Jicky was a fragrance I was horrified that anyone would have worn. I began to wonder if perfume simply meant something different at this time.
I have since developed a more complicated nose, and able to appreciate other perfumes I've loved with enough civet to make them mysteriously erotic (Rumeur, Narcisse Noir, and My Sin), I began to crave the civet-drenched Jicky in a hard-to-explain way. I couldn't find my modern-day vial, so I went and got a sample of vintage, parfum-concentration Jicky. Like a junkie seeking a hit of civet but having to wait for it to kick in, I was a little disappointed that the parfum concentration was so well-blended and rounded! Unlike the modern EDT, which gives you a one-two punch of lavender/civet, the vintage parfum Jicky took its sweet time to take off its underpants, as it were.
Like a horny teenage boy faced with a gorgeous, brilliant woman, I was not inclined to appreciate having to make small talk with Jicky before she showed me her carnal side. But, it had to happen. I got to know Jicky first as lavender, then as bergamot, easing into vanilla, and then, in the afterglow, the civet that hovered over these bright notes like the smell of sex after a romp between two freshly bathed people.
Jicky's notes: bergamot, lavender, basil, bay, rosemary, sandalwood, cinnamon, good ol' urinous civet and two synthetic notes — coumarin (from the tonka bean) and ethyl vanillin. (Roja Dove, The Essence of Perfume.)
Here's what Dove has to say about Jicky in The Essence of Perfume:
"Jicky was launched exactly 100 years after the French Revolution; it too was revolutionary, and shocked in a way that has rarely been equalled. The volume of civet in its base is truly outrageous, and any trained nose would wonder how he got away with it: in true Guerlain style, Aime created something magnificent. No woman in polite society would have dared wear it and only the most audacious man took the risk (perhaps it reminded them of the civet of the earlier part of the century). It was to take many years before women readily adopted it, but adopt it they most certainly did."
The closest I've come to the massive, in-your-face dose of civet that Jicky brings is CB I Hate Perfume's bizarre and wonderful Old Fur Coat. This crazy perfume smells like a ratty old fur coat you'd find at a thrift store with stale traces of yesteryear's perfume petrified into its fibers — the scent a combination of iris, mothballs, urine, fur, and ballroom dances past. Amazing.