PERFUME THEN AND NOW
Early last year I spent a wonderful afternoon in the Guerlain Store on the Avenue des Champs Élysées, Paris – I was one of a small group of perfume enthusiasts who had been invited through The Perfume Society to explore the fragrance archives at La Maison Guerlain.
Last Saturday we returned to the Guerlain store to continue our exploration of these archive and fascinating scents, their formulas no longer used but meticulously recorded and stored in the Company’s archives.
Once again our host for the afternoon was the lovely Françoise, whom Jo Fairley referred to as The Keeper of the Guerlain Secrets.
After Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain died his sons took over the business, Aimé becoming Master perfumer with Gabriel managing and developing the business.
Our first archive perfume of the afternoon was Pao Rosa, a floral citrus developed by Aimé in 1877. Our reaction to this fragrance was how remarkedly modern and fresh it was and Thierry Wasser’s reconstruction of some of Aimé’s forgotten fragrances demonstrates how contemporary they have remained.
Jicky is perhaps Aimé’s best known fragrance created in 1889; this was the world’s first abstract perfume, it’s herbal balsamic accord, or the Guerlain DNA, known as Guerlinade, has left it’s traces in almost every subsequent Guerlain perfume.
Aimé’s nephew, Jacques was very passionate and dedicated to his art, his creations were rich and enigmatic and included Apres l’Ondee, L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Shalimar and Vol de Nuit.
He worked and styled his fragrances to suit the rich and glamorous bourgeoisie and high society personalities. It is said that his scents were variations and modifications of each other.
Our afternoon became headier and headier as Françoise, continued to pass around each perfumed blotter –
Next came Impérial Russe created by Aimé in 1880 during the Belle Epoque years – this vanilla blend was a much heavier scent than he usually created and initially it was felt a little too loud for the time.
Moving on to 1955, Jacques and his young grandson Jean-Paul Guerlain created the perfume Ode – returning to this blotter 3 days after our afternoon in Guerlain, I could still smell a very distinctive floral, I think many feel this fragrance is very similar to Jean Patou’s Joy.
Moving still further on to 1975 I can still detect on my blotter the powdery notes of Jean Paul Guerlain’s Parure, this elegant Chypre perfume reminded me of a night at the ballet or perhaps it is just a melange of Guerlain – Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar diffusing through the auditorium as the ladies take their seats.
We explored 27 archive scents with Françoise including a little of the history, fashion and well being of Paris during these times –
At the end of the afternoon we were able to sample on our skin one or two of the archive perfumes of our choice, I chose the 1906 Apres L’Ondee, gorgeously divine and one I hoped would stay on my skin forever.
Sadly the perfume version of this fragrance disappeared years ago, Jacques Guerlain captured to perfection the tender quiet summer rain of the countryside, this very romantic floral perfume was dedicated to his wife who became his muse for other fragrances such as L’Heure Bleue.
My few days in Paris last week also included a visit to Le Grand Musée du Parfum –
The anticipation of this new perfume museum has met all expectations and beyond – sophisticated, modern and very beautiful, it is housed in a sumptuous 19th century mansion on rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the 8th Arrondissement.
The Museum appears to have successfully created a place of sensory pleasure, playfulness, a little science, a little history, much interaction, hi-tech graphics, informing videos, a beautiful perfume boutique and a good library of perfume books housed in the small Concept shop – perhaps more importantly this elegant and modern museum places Paris as the rightful centre of scent.
On my visits to Paris I usually have a specific itinerary so I often oversee or lose time to visit the big main stream perfume houses. However over the past two years my two trips venturing into the archives of La Maison Guerlain has confirmed how special this lady is, her history, the prolific creations by decades of family and of course the wonderful and outstanding perfumes – La Maison Guerlain remains and will likely always be the old Grandee of fragrance.
If you were contemplating a new fragrance, Guerlain have recently launched Joyeuse Tubereuse, the latest edition to their L’Art et La Matiere collection.
The perfume has been developed by Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk, it’s fresh green luminous notes also include tuberose, jasmine, sandalwood, vetiver and vanilla –
~.La Maison Guerlain – 68 Avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris
~ Le Grand Musée du Parfum, 73 Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris
~ The Perfume Society – perfumesociety.org