Guerlain Djedi is right there along with Dawamesk as a perfume holy grail. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1926, it was only available during the rest of the 1920's. It was then reissued in 1996 to celebrate its 70th anniversary and then only in an issue of 1,000 bottles. It is a chypre leather fragrance that was inspired by Egypt. It was created a bit after Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun's tomb and ancient Egypt became a worldwide obsession. Most experts agree that Djedi was directly inspired by Egypt because of its departure from Guerlain's usual style, particularly in terms of the fragrance's dryness. Djedi was created to celebrate 100 years of business for the house of Guerlain. The result was touted as “the perfume of a century” and the name Djedi was taken from a mythical magician/prophet in Egyptian folklore.
Djedi features notes of bergamot, aldehydes, lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, orris, vetiver, civet, musk, oakmoss and amber.
The bottle we are decanting from is from 1927. Djedi is a pure parfum extrait.
Djedi is one of the most reviewed fragrances and everyone pretty much has the same overall feeling about the fragrance - "there are no words to describe it". It has been referred to as "the driest perfume of all time" according to Roja Dove and a "tremendous animalic vetiver" by Luca Turin. There are a lot of reviews and I included quite a number because I find it fascinating to hear what people have to say about Djedi.
From Mark Benkhe
Even the great perfume houses have their versions of unicorns. When it comes to Guerlain that rarest of rarities is 1926’s Djedi. Everything about Djedi is an outlier to the rest of Guerlain. Even so it is one of Jacques Guerlain’s greatest perfumes because it breaks most of the “rules” perfumes from Guerlain follow. Djedi is one of the driest leather chypres I have ever tried. It is that dryness which sets it apart. Finding a bottle is complicated by the beautiful Art Deco bottle designed by Baccarat’s Georges Chevalier which is a unicorn to bottle collectors as well.
From Perfume Posse (March)
English is a rich language, but I think I need a whole new vocabulary to describe this fragrance. My initial reaction was: this is unlike anything else I have ever smelled. Guerlain Djedi is not leather, but it is chypre, of the darkest, most severe sort. It is almost mineral in its austerity. It is the smell of hot gravel in the sun. It is the smell of smoke in the desert. It is the smell of dry sticks, or sunbleached bones, baking in the sand. There is a short burst of vetiver but it is carried past you on a hot wind from a long way off, and it does nothing to relieve your thirst. There is a brief, bizarre twist where it smells faintly like some sort of spiced savory food.
All this sits on a base of some mysterious reverse-image Guerlain – someone took the powder, civet and oakmoss of the Guerlinade and beamed it back and forth a few times to an alternate universe that contained nothing sweet at all. By the following day (this is some tenacious juice) it has regained a little of the vetiver and the quite attractive savory-spice-stew smell (cinnamon, cardamom, maybe nutmeg or clove?) on top of the moon rocks.
In the end what fascinates me about this composition is not the presence of anything – there is no gentle rose, no healing rain, no worn leather. Instead, it is defined by the absence of the familiar roots and flowers and any of the velvety vanilla whisper of the Guerlinade, leaving me stranded in a desolate place where nothing is familiar, and yet I am not afraid.
From Perfume Shrine
Djedi by Guerlain is an analogous example in perfumery. It is as magical, as soulful and as strange a perfume as entering an ancient burial place hidden behind rocks in a far away desert.
The perfume itself is a strange and perfume-y mineral affair of dry leather and ambery, animalic decomposition that almost defies description. Its opening is jolting, disturbing, the weirdest thing; yet it beckons you to continue smelling till the end of the prolonged journey into the night. There is deep grief manifesting itself through bitter herbs, artemisia-like, and copious amounts of earthy vetiver with cold air. Those elements fan out into feminine, yet dusty, almost musty rose and a powdery base. This is no opulent rose for a bourgeois eager to show off her wealth or powdery sweetness for an aristocrat who wants to keep her man in difficult times. This is a regal lament for the loss of a favorite son, perhaps lost forever in the cold waters of the battle of Salamis or the trenches of the World War I, no matter; this grief transcends cultures. This is unmistakenly Guerlain, unmistakably animalic with a rather fecal warmth at the end, exuding the grandeur of another, elegant era.
The pyramid for Djedi to me is as complex as it is simple. While I understand it is meant to be a chypre, it is definitely not what one would consider a textbook example of what the genre came to represent. The perfume begins with quick blast of muguet and aldehydes which don’t come off floral at all – it’s quite masterful – well blended and hidden. This simple fact could have been deliberate; a prospect I find very interesting. Might Jacques have taken this into account? I would not be one bit surprised if that were the case. That said, the choice of muguet is interesting in that it symbolizes rebirth in some lines of thinking. That in turn goes right in line of everlasting life – a tenant of Egyptian belief. While its presence is made vaguely apparent, it is certainly not the focus. It’s just the beginning of the story…
Right from the initial application there are a couple things that are completely obvious. There are animals and there is grass. The animalic carnality here is represented by civet, musk, and castoreum. It is very interestingly done. Frankly, I have never come across something that even remotely matches the way this is put together. The civet is not all the stinkfest that many associate with the note. The musk here is sweet and not real apparent. I can find no other way of describing the dichotomy, so I’ll just leave it at that. Yes, it has left me darn near speechless.
Of all the animalic aspects it’s the castoreum that is the most evident to me. Here it used for its leathery aspects, but I also dare say that it’s aspects as used in food are apparent. There is a certain buttery effect (almost gourmand) thing going on here that I was not expecting in the least. In the background there is the ever so crafty vanilla note which adds to the depth and gives a syrupy effect. In a way I am not surprised at this as castoreum is used for a vanilla substitute in food and in flavoring in cigarettes. So, we do have vanilla ala Guerlain in there in a very clever way.
Now, there is the grass. Here it is represented by the interesting subdued greenness that I mentioned earlier. It reminds me of the smell of a stem – like that of muguet immediately after being picked. It also reminds me of reeds. Yes, reeds, like the sort that grow beside a pond on a creek/river bank. As in the kind that would be used to makes boats in ancient Egypt. The same boats used in funeral activities AND to transport one to the afterlife. Again, I think this was deliberate and quite brilliant. Here it is married to vetiver that is presented with its more woody attributes in the forefront accompanied by oak moss and patchouli.
The final stages of the perfume are where it gets the most interesting. It brings to mind the glorious spices and rarities that may have been included in the treasures left in the tomb. I’ve heard it be said that the perfumes in the urns of the tomb retained their fragrance and when unearthed came back to life. There are balsams, resins, and spices that weave through the perfume in the most marvelous of ways. There is also a musty smokiness in the air, but not freshly burned smokiness. No, it’s like the remnant of incense that was burned long ago, but still present in the dust from thousands of years – no longer like a incense, but simply an integral part of all that was.
Still, the thing that strikes me the most is the syrupy effect. Yes, it’s still there in the dry down. In fact, it never ever left. It has prevailed from the second I put this precious liquid on my pulse points. It’s not overbearing, but it’s deep, dark, and lusciously decadent. It’s difficult to describe as anything more than “syrupy”. What I have heard and agree with is….it reminded people of candy. The expansion of “syrupy” into candy was very helpful and did nothing more than make Djedi that much more interesting to me. Whereas it historically went down as not fitting in with Guerlain at the time, it really actually did – in the future! It smells like it’s coming into its own NOW. Djedi is truly like an enigma that can be explained, but in all actuality cannot be accurately interpreted. Thinking about it…it’s much less a perfume as it is a work of art! It really is masterful in a way of complete deception.
–Aaron Potterman, Contributor and Vintage Perfume Expert
From Yesterday's Perfumes
Djedi was an ancient Egyptian soothsayer and magician famed for being able to make the dead come back to life. Quite a name for a perfume, but then again, Djedi isn't just any perfume. The balsamy spiciness of vetiver is attended by a hint of clove and vanilla (not in the official list of notes), after which the comforting rank of civet darts around in the back like the actual animal. The rest of the Djedi rests on a chypre leather base.
The magic in Djedi is its ability to be both dramatic and quiet about it. We don't see Djedi performing his magic rituals, but we note the curling smoke, the burning incense, the fragrant oils, the portent of something heavy and dark. Adjectives I've read that describe Djedi: medicinal, smooth, earthy, oriental, mysterious. I loved this Basenotes reader's comment: "It seems to tap into the limbics more than most, and work on a deeper level where the true power of perfume lies." I like the idea that there are certain perfumes that get stuck in our craws a little bit deeper than others, that leave an imprint and truly make an impression. Djedi is one of those perfumes.
From Perfume Nerd
Djedi is one of the most rare fragrances from the house of Guerlain. On me Djedi starts with a cloud of smoke and it is a strange, greenish kind of smoke. The top note is so dry and jagged I feel all dry in the back of my mouth when smelling it up close, still it smells strangely good at the same time. Dry, rough, different and really good. When the smoke has settled down a little I can feel the civet very clearly. This is a comforting civet, as soft and warm as a cats fur. I have never encountered such a perfect civet note in any other perfume.
Djedi is also grassy, aromatic and with a light and subdued tart element. Apart from the opening I don't really agree with Roja Dove that says that Djedi probably is the dryest fragrance of them all. My skin manages to find a soft, powdery sweetness even in Djedi, and in my opinion this is partly what makes Djedi such a great fragrance. The sweetness and powder comes from a muted rose. And the rose makes all the difference in Djedi. On me, the leather is hardly noticeable.
Djedi feels like a scent that is half a great classic; a typical, rich, animalic chypre vintage from the house of Guerlain. But half of it managed to be (and this is a fragrance created 85 years ago!) like something created today in some edgy and beyond modern niche perfume house. One part aging, faded beauty and one part thrilling, modern and on the edge. With only one of these parts, Djedi would have been either hard to wear or slightly dated, but combined they create a timeless masterpiece.
From Monsieur Guerlain
In 1928, Djedi was presented in New York as "the parfum of a century" to commemorate Guerlain's one hundred years of perfume making. However, taken as a women's perfume, Djedi was one of the most unusual of all Guerlains, being extremely dry and based largely on dark woody and animal notes. Those who have tried it agree that Djedi was a striking departure from Jacques Guerlain's usual style, maybe matched only by his 1935 Cuir de Russie.
The unusual character of Djedi was evident right from the top notes, devoid of Jacques Guerlain's aromatic bouquet garni. Instead, there was a spiky aldehyde, together with the fierce, fecal note of civet, quite shocking for today's tastes; in fact, Djedi immediately came across as Jacques Guerlain's most animalic perfume. However, the "dirty" facet soon faded and mixed with the smoky scent of vetiver. The rose, jasmine and orris didn't qualify the perfume as very floral, merely giving a certain sense of colour and femininity to this otherwise sombre composition. The base notes were very long-lasting, a mix of oakmoss, musk and spicy-resinous amber.
The perfume itself is an accord of dry leather and ambery, animalic decomposition that almost defies description. Its opening is jolting, disturbing, the weirdest thing, and yet it beckons you to continue smelling till the end of the prolonged journey into the night. There is deep grief manifesting itself through bitter herbs, artemisia-like, and copious amounts of earthy vetiver with cold air. Those elements fan out into feminine, yet dusty, almost musty rose and a powdery base. This is unmistakenly Guerlain, unmistakebly animalic with a rather fecal warmth at the end, exuding the grandeur of another more elegant era.