If you can olfactorily envision an amalgam of Mitsouko's spicy peach-jasmine-oakmoss harmony and the baroque and burning sandalwood-amber of Samsara, you get the feel of Attrape Cœur. Behind this touching name ("heart catcher") you find one of Guerlain's most lavish and layered perfumes — one that quickly gained neoclassical status. Originally conceived in 1999 as a limited edition Eau de Parfum by the talented Mathilde Laurent, it was at that time called Guet-Apens which means "ambush", a surprisingly violent name for a perfume. For a short period, it made part of Guerlain's Fragrance Collection duo as "No.68", before it finally was featured as the centrepiece for the reopening of the Guerlain House in July 2005, presented to media and industry people in a quadrilobe bottle just labelled "Maison Guerlain 7 Juillet 2005". For the commercial reissue, it was poetically named after J.D. Salinger's 1951 cult-novel "The catcher in the rye" (translated as "L'attrape-cœurs" in French) and placed in the Parisiennes line. Salinger tells the story about a young man who, faced with a hostile adult world, develops a fantasy of catching children and saving them from falling into alienation, phoniness and superficiality. This is the perfume's aim: to catch us with its playful and rich scent and bring us back to our senses. And the perfume is indeed the antidote of superficiality. As perfume expert Luca Turin notes, it's "an essay on amber" of the most delectable and opaque kind, with an intoxicating, wealthy aroma of spiced Swedish glögg, burning hot and prepared with all sorts of luxurious ingredients: a huge jasmine heart garnished with violet, peach, rose, orris, cinnamon, amber, vanilla, and lots of shining sandalwood. Any flimsy sweetness from amber and fruit is contrasted by oakmoss, dry and dark. And all these things are put together, not in a messy way but on the contrary layered intelligently like a Babette's Feast: caramelized indolic jasmine buds flambéed with fiery oak-aged peach brandy. To many Guerlain lovers' regret, Attrape Cœur was taken out of production after 2009.
The ultimate celebratory act of Guerlain's 180th anniversary year was Jean-Paul Guerlain's creation of a non-commercial perfume gift offered to loyal customers and people within the industry. Simply called 180 Ans de Créations 1828-2008, this Eau de Parfum composition is quite simple: It represents what is perhaps the purest and most stripped down form of the famous Guerlinade accord ever produced by Guerlain: bergamot, jasmine, orange blossom, vetiver, tonka bean, amber and vanilla. The only "modern notes" are grapefruit, pink pepper and musk - respectively adding a bitter-sweet, spicy and soft skin-like touch to the otherwise very powdery fragrance. It's presented in the square Elixirs Charnels bottle decorated with an elegant strip of metal bearing the perfume's name.
Guerlain is by most people known for its rich perfumes, but the house also has a line of 'eaux' - lighter and fresher fragrances made in cologne strength from citrus and herbs. Each of the perfumers from within the Guerlain family has composed an eau: Eau de Cologne Impériale (Pierre François Pascal Guerlain in 1853), Eau de Cologne du Coq (Aimé Guerlain in 1894), Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat (Jacques Guerlain in 1920) - and finally Jean-Paul Guerlain's simply named Eau de Guerlain from 1974. Actually, Eau de Guerlain is - rightfully - labelled as an Eau de Toilette: It's definitely the most complex and long-lasting of the four, and is has a remarkably long list of notes for a cologne. The balance of lemon and bergamot on one side and an aromatic bunch of herbs like basil, petitgrain and the anise-like caraway on the other is held in perfect check all the way through the scent in the most convincing and nostalgic way. It plays on the aromatic accord of dark Vol de Nuit, breezy Sous le Vent and dandified Mouchoir de Monsieur, but with basil to make it cool-uplifting, 'masculine' flowers like carnation and rose to make it tender, and stripped of any 'dirtiness'. Eau de Guerlain puts most of the Aqua Allegoria line's aromatic-fresh scents, like Herba Fresca, Lemon Fresca and Mandarine-Basilic, to shame.
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Until 2004, Guerlain's only true vetiver-scent - the widely acclaimed, simply named Vetiver - was reserved for men. Women loved it, though, and they often asked Jean-Paul Guerlain to create a feminine version. Forty-five years after Vetiver, he finally accepted the task and made Vetiver pour Elle. He kept the characteristic notes of vetiver root, nutmeg and bergamot, but replaced the sweet tobacco with flowers like jasmine, lily of the valley and orange blossom. At first, its availability was limited to French airport shops, presented in a bottle that was a strange compound of Robert Granai's masculine Vetiver bottle and the romantic 'heart shaped stopper' bottle. The scent soon proved so successful that it was incorporated into the 'Les Parisiennes' line in 2007. With Vetiver pour Elle, Jean-Paul Guerlain managed to unite the smell of the earthy vetiver-root and bitter nutmeg with rich notes of white flowers. While the added tarragon in Vetiver Extrême tends to drown the wonderful vetiver in a prolonged soapy-herbal vapour, in Vetiver pour Elle, vetiver and flowers complement each other perfectly in a poised dance. The fragrance evolves and alternates beautifully between the flowery and earthy notes, and the wearer gives up deciding whether it's the white petals or the soil beneath the flower that he smells - or simply both. It's worth mentioning that perfume expert Luca Turin in his 2008 perfume-guide describes it as possibly the best woody fragrance currently - also for men.
A name like Philtre d'Amour ('love potion') for a perfume makes you think of one of Guerlain's big oriental seducers. But Philtre d'Amour - a limited edition from 1999 - is a Jean-Paul Guerlain creation, and his focus on romantic rather than erotic love also shines through here: Philtre d'Amour is a romantic, slightly wistful and timid seducer. We're in the sunny, lemony world of Eau de Guerlain, but here more bitter and dry and also darkened with a sophisticated, nostalgic-green and unmistakably Guerlainish chypre-bouquet of herbs, like petitgrain and myrtle. Its herbal bouquet is not unlike the one found in Jacques Guerlain's magnificent breezy-dry Sous le Vent from 1933. A dusty-powdery, musky base - still with the nostalgic-green streak running through it - is perhaps what mostly justifies the designation as love potion. According to perfume expert Luca Turin, it would make 'a great masculine'. The uniqueness and sophistication of this fragrance qualified it for entering the prestigious 'Les Parisiennes' line in 2005.
Leather scents are strong, dry, dark and mineral scents, invented in the mid-1920s, and their characteristic smell of machine oil suited perfectly man's fascination with machines, factories and futurism at the time. As always, Jacques Guerlain wasn't late to grasp modernity's signs, and already in 1926 he had created Djedi, Guerlain's first and only real leather chypre. The name was not borrowed from its contemporaries, but from an ancient Egyptian magician who reputedly was able to bring back the dead to life. And the perfume is indeed as strange and mystic as a magician. It mixes rose, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, leathery notes and civet into a dark-green, earthy-cold and heroic-tragic scent, and as such, it's considered to be the first, and most unusual, of Jacques Guerlain's dark '1930's style'-perfumes, despite it being closer to Shalimar in time. It's sensual, but it's a very different sensuality than Shalimar's deep, playful and generous orientalism. It's a restrained, austere, mystic sensuality. The closest sister to Djedi is perhaps Liu that is equally dry, not a mossy, leathery dryness, but one that comes from dusty rose and aldehyde. Djedi's next-nearest sister must be Vol de Nuit, created with the same dark-austere spiciness as Djedi, but laid on a sweeter, oriental background, not a dry leather one. Perfume experts Roja Dove and Luca Turin have described it as 'the driest perfume of all time' and 'a tremendous animalic vetiver', respectively. The bottle for Djedi is rectangular and severe, inspired by architectural functionalism, with a ground glass stopper covered with gilded metal, and placed in a dark-green leather box with a roof-shaped lid. The Djedi bottle is actually a modified version of the 'biscuit shaped' bottle from 1916. Djedi didn't enter Guerlain's classic range, but its 70th anniversary in 1996 was celebrated with a true copy of the original 60 ml model.
Véga is perhaps the most radiant of Jacques Guerlain's '1930's style' perfumes. Therefore, it's no surprise that it's named after one of the most luminous stars in the Sun's neighbourhood. Vega, the star, - also called Alpha Lyrae - is the brightest one in the Lyra-constellation, so immensely bright that it has served as the baseline for calibrating the photometric brightness scale. The perfume Véga was released in 1936 in the so-called 'inkwell bottle'. It never entered the classic range, but seventy years later, it was the first to be reissued in the 'Il Était Une Fois Guerlain' collection. Like Liu, it finds some inspiration in Chanel no. 5, but with a less conventionally feminine and flowery, and more oriental and woody, focus, and it also starts out brighter and more conspicuous with a shining citrus note. Compared to Liu, Vega feels more sharp, soapy and also sweet with a mix of ylang-ylang, rose and aldehyde, and one can sense how Vega might have inspired Jean-Paul Guerlain to make Chamade some thirty three years later - although the latter is a much greener scent. Véga's flower accords persist all the way through the perfume's evolution, but the sharpness is soon overtaken by a powdery oriental base of vanilla, sandalwood and rosewood. Like almost all of Jacques Guerlain's '1930's style' perfumes, it has an 'austere' aura - but like the star, it's the brightest of its sisters.
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After the Japan-inspired Mitsouko, Liu from 1929 was the next in line to unite Jacques Guerlain's enthusiasm about the oriental world and the European arts. Liu is the name of the heroine in Puccini's last opera 'Turandot' from 1926, based on a story from a Persian collection of stories called 'The Book of One Thousand and One Days', and set in ancient China near the walls of the Imperial City in Peking. This opera is about the battle between dangerous obsessions and the need for life, love and sanity, and Liu's character is a slave girl so devoted to her master that she kills herself in order to save him from his fateful yearnings. Together with Sous le Vent, Coque d'Or, Véga and Djedi, Liu is one of Guerlain's very '1930's style' perfumes that were momentary successes, and Liu was perhaps the most missed when it disappeared. It was reissued in 1994 in its original and extremely decorative 'snuffbox bottle', and it now exists again as an Eau de Parfum in the exclusive 'Les Parisiennes' collection. Liu was created for Rose Kennedy, mother of John F. Kennedy, but an unconfirmed story goes that Jacques Guerlain once caught his wife wearing the iconic Chanel no. 5 and then immediately felt inspired to create a competitor. Its top notes includes aldehydes, but Liu bears the true Jacques Guerlain-signature: It's dry, dark and not fruity-floral like Chanel no. 5.
A little known and quite rare fragrance dating back to 1906, Après l'Ondée - meaning 'after the rain shower' - is an oddity known only to the perfume loving elite. A soft, discreet and contemplative scent, quite aloof, even unemotional - it's said to be a 'thinker's classic'. It is a cold scent, from the cold rain water doused on the hawthorn and violet, hence the name, with a stern top note caused by the aniseed and bergamot, but it warms as one wears it. Après L'Ondée is the shivering feeling of summer rain, but behind the chill one senses the glow that will come back when the sun has warmed up the wet garden again. The Parfum-version is less cold - the Eau de Toilette is minutes after the rain, while the Parfum is half an hour later when the raindrops have damped away. Sadly, its Parfum-version is no longer in production due to European health regulations against some of its ingredients.
Sous le Vent was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1933 for Josephine Baker, the famous dancer who often performed nude except for her brief banana skirt and strode the streets of Paris with a pet leopard. Sous le Vent followed the times' chypre trend designed for the new self-confident, short-haired and trouser-clad "garçonnes" of Paris. Josephine Baker was from St. Louis, but the French always seemed to forget she was American, instead associating her with the tropicália of her costumes, so Guerlain named this scent after the exotic Leeward Islands of the lesser Antilles. Jacques Guerlain was very excited by green notes during those years, and he found a perfect illustrative setting in this French overseas colony ("greener than one can imagine," as said Guerlain, quoting the Guadeloupe-born poet Saint-John Perse). Sous le Vent is classified as an aromatic chypre, principally smelling like what could be Jacques Guerlain's last instalment of experiments with Coty's legendary Chypre. While Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit complied with the house policy of sweetness, solving the bitterness problem by inclusion of respectively peach and amber, Sous le Vent remained as bare and dry as tobacco leaves, laden with oakmoss, only mellowed and spiced a bit by lavender, herbs, orris, jasmine, carnation and the banana-like warmth of ylang-ylang. In terms of comparison, it tended mostly towards a tweed-green, alfresco version of Vol de Nuit, and it surely had a breezy feel to it that fitted its name (although geographically one needn't travel any further than to the French island Corsica's fragrant subshrubs to sense the inspiration). Sous le Vent didn't survive as one of the classics, but it was recreated in 2006 by Jean-Paul Guerlain, one of its biggest admirers who made his first fragrance Vetiver in its spirit, as part of the "Il Était Une Fois Guerlain" collection in which relics from the back catalogue are being reissued in limited editions. Given the high age of any remaining bottles of Sous le Vent Parfum, it's impossible to know how it smelled originally. But to judge from what is left, its mossy chypre aspect was very much pronounced, bordering on an animalic Vol de Nuit feel. The EdT is greener, airier and milder. European regulations has hindered the original composition's level of oakmoss which leaves the reedition a fraction nearer to a fougère than to a chypre, less dry and animalic, brighter and more aromatic. Still, remarkably close to what it should have been.
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Parure has been called a Mitsouko on plum instead of peach, and it's not wide of the mark. Jean-Paul Guerlain had for years dreamt of devising a new chypre of his grandfather's towering dimensions, and he strived to accomplish this in 1975 with Parure. He clearly borrowed elements from both Mitsouko (fruity chypre) and Vol de Nuit (green leather chypre), but discharged any of the melancholy orris powder, and what he got could be called a very shining floral chypre. While Chamade signalled playful sensuality, Parure was all self-determined adult luxury, and its name indeed means "adornment" or "jewellery". The idea for the perfume came from the glorious 1922 discovery of the riches of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, its abundance of gold, precious stones and perfume vases, and the captivating mysticism of the site. Indeed, Parure is also a bit of a jewel: no other perfume has this kind of contradictory fragrance, at once feminine and pungent, freshly spring-like and antiquated, fruity and bitter, tangy-green and leathery. To call it a bestseller would be an exaggeration. It didn't have Mitsouko's simple harmony, and maybe it smelled too tangled to many people. Still, it's inscrutably Guerlain, aristocratic and stately. Like Chamade, it opens with a brilliant blast of floral citrus and spicy galbanum. But after that, it gets profoundly different. First the clary sage herb's masculine soapy-fruity-resinous greenness followed by pure and cool rich notes from lilac and rose, somewhat peppery, then plum, an intense scent of leatherlike dried prunes, and finally a base of vetiver, patchouli and oakmoss, the latter in large amounts, which gives the whole scent a serious and noble, almost arrogant feel. There is something at once very dark and very profuse about Parure, like lofty oak-panelled rooms, or the smell of a great forest. Or the inside of an ancient Egyptian king's tomb. Jean-Paul Guerlain later explained that he made it for his mother out of childhood fantasies of elegance, but Parure has all the striking and murky qualities of a leather chypre, making it equally terrific as a masculine.
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Five years after his retirement, Jean-Paul Guerlain continues to put his fingerprints on the image of the house. With Spiritueuse Double Vanille, a high quality, limited edition Eau de Parfum from 2007, he once again dwells on the famous guerlinade's indispensable ingredient vanilla. This time it's not Metallica's bright, shining vanilla, but a sombre, Shalimarish gourmand vanilla. And it's a state-of-the-art Jean-Paul-Guerlain! Unlike most other fragrances, its opening is not dominated by citrus. Instead it starts with tingling alcoholic notes of matured dark rum and continues through vanilla, moisty pipe tobacco, cedar wood, frankincense, dry spices and the tiniest bit of rose. It makes you travel to colorful, sexy Havana, then to stringent Pierre Hermé's deluxe cake shop in Paris. This fragrance is fat, deep and delicious, its sillage is velvet soft and detectable twenty hours after application, and it's not wrongly marketed as an aphrodisiac. The bottle is a simple, sharp and tasteful block of thick glass, embellished with the famous bee-symbol in red sealing wax. The label on the bottle's back tells this small erotic story about vanilla: 'Vanilla belongs to the Orchid family and was discovered by Cortez [Spanish explorer born in 1485]. Considering that vanilla in the 17th Century was acclimatized in royal gardens, its infertility was surprising. The botanists had not understood that the bees were actually flirting with the vanilla plants. It was Charles Albius, a slave from Reunion Island, that in 1841 discovered the 'gesture' that ensured the vanilla plant's line of descent: With the aid of a sharp point of bamboo he picked out the pollen and transferred it to the flower's stigma. Today, the hands of professional 'matchmakers' can fertilize, one by one, up to 2000 flowers per day. Vanilla is mainly cultivated in Madagascar, Java, Tahiti, Reunion Island and Seychelles. In time of harvest, each vanilla bean is picked when it has reached a precise level of ripening. That's when the ritual of preparation begins.'
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Jean-Paul Guerlain was the first (and last) family member to create several fragrances for men, and Vetiver was his first masculine creation. Ever since the company's great cologne period, Guerlain hadn't created another men's fragrance except Mouchoir de Monsieur and Jicky. Vetiver filled this gap. In fact, Vetiver was first created for Mexico, one of the biggest consumers of Guerlain's 'Vetiver extract', but in 1958, Carven's vetiver scent became a threatening presence on the market, and director Jean-Pierre Guerlain wanted it modernized. It became a job for his 22 year old nephew Jean-Paul, who let himself be inspired by 'the smell of a gardener' - tobacco and earth. It was launched in 1959, and its spicy earthy-freshness deriving from the Indian vetiver grass root proved to be an instant success. The fragrance is from the outset dominated by a distinctive, slightly bitter nutmeg note that is considered uniquely delightful by fans, a bit harsh and 'medicinal' by some others, but the scent rounds itself upon wearing and ends in a surprising, sweet tobacco note. Although Guerlain maintains that the composition of Vetiver has not been changed during the years, most Vetiver-lovers are convinced that it has been made brighter, fresher and less 'earthy' in the current edition. It's still up for debate, though, if the oldest edition's earthiness and darkness is only due to ageing of the fragrant juice. In 2000, Vetiver was launched with a modern bottle, juice color, packaging and advertising, and it's still a favorite among many men. Recently, several modern variations on the Vetiver-theme has been launched, like the spiced up Vetiver Extrême with added vetiver root, tarragon, licorice and smoky frankincense, and the more tender and flowery Vetiver pour Elle.
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Mouchoir de Monsieur ('gentleman's handkerchief') was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1904 and still has a loyal fan base. It's from an epoch where well-to-do, hat-wearing ladies promenaded with their gloved hand under the arm of elegant monsieurs. In the gentleman's breast pocket sat a small handkerchief, and it was 'bon ton' to offer this handkerchief lightly perfumed with cologne to the lady as a romantic souvenir. According to Guerlain, Jacques initially conceived this perfume along with its female counterpart Voilette de Madame as a gift set for a friend's wedding. Heavy perfumes were not in fashion at the turn of the century, so this fragrance is a delicate, aromatic fougère. Some argue that Mouchoir de Monsieur is basically a more straightforward version of Jicky, i.e. Jicky without the balsamic opoponax base note.
26th October, 2007 (last edited: 12th April, 2008)
Created in 1889 by Aimé Guerlain, Jicky is one of the greatest of all the classic perfumes and yet probably the first of the modern 'abstract' fragrances at the same time, a semi-oriental fougère. It used what were considered to be very modern notes for the time - coumarin was only isolated from the tonka bean in 1868 - and is the antidote to all the earlier scented waters that consisted of easily defined flower essences. In Jicky, the formulation is complex and difficult to strip down. It marks the beginning of modern art where the work must display hidden meanings and impressions rather than just pure imitation. When it first appeared, many women did not accept or understand it. The hint of animal scent was too brutal and unexpected for women in 1889. In fact, men were the first to appreciate it, and it wasn't until 1912 that women's magazines finally began to sing its praises. Today, Jicky is considered by many as being the 'ultimate' fougère. The perfume bottle is inspired by medicine jars but with a surprising 'champagne bottle stopper', symbolizing joy and celebration. Now sold in the standard 'quadrilobe' bottle. Its name has been told to be that of an English girl Aimé once proposed - but it's most of all also the nickname of Aimé's nephew Jacques.
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Héritage bears its name because Jean-Paul Guerlain's vision with this rich, woody fragrance from 1992 was to synthesize the immense olfactory heritage of Guerlain's past creations into one masculine scent. And it certainly plays on the whole famous Guerlain scent repertoire: Vanilla, fine wood, flower and spices. Some people find this perfume to be introvert and reserved, and it's true that it's very formal and elegant. This is particularly true of the dense Eau de Parfum-version, while the Eau de Toilette has a more 'open', transparent and flowery feel from the outset. In each case, the deep warmth of its woody base notes equalizes its initial buttoned up-expression. Héritage is one of Guerlain's most refined and 'clean' fragrances for men, not sharing the sensuality and 'dirtiness' that is such a characteristic of many Guerlain perfumes. Its bottle is as elegant and stringent as the scent itself.
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Jean-Paul Guerlain has been quoted to say that 'perfume is the most intense form of memory', and he proved this and the extent of his talent when he in 1965 launched Habit Rouge on the world market. Habit Rouge means 'red jacket' or 'hunting coat' and refers to professional equestrians' dark red jacket. Jean-Paul Guerlain is himself an excellent equestrian, and this woody, citrusy and leathery fragrance is a vivid reminder of the leather saddle on the horse back and all the smells of the horse rider. It's the most distinctive and recognisable of all the Guerlain perfumes for men and regarded as the world's first masculine oriental. The balance between the dry citrus top notes and its sweet vanilla base is known to be one of the finest and most skilfully made in perfume history. When asked if it will ever be discontinued, Guerlain replies: 'Non, Habit Rouge c'est comme les petits pains' – it's that classic! Together with Mitsouko and Shalimar, Habit Rouge is among the ten perfumes that perfume expert Luca Turin would save in Noah's Perfume Ark. The now indispensable Eau de Toilette-version of both Habit Rouge and Vetiver wasn't invented until 1988 to meet the eighties' demand for longer lasting scents and stronger sillage - a trend that also gave birth to Eau de Parfum (or, in Guerlain's terms, Parfum de Toilette) versions of Shalimar, Jicky, Mitsouko, L'Heure Bleue and Chamade in 1986 and 1987. In 2003, Jean-Paul Guerlain created a new 'Eau de Parfum' version of Habit Rouge, in which agarwood has been added to the base, giving the scent a more formal feel. Though still recognisably Habit Rouge, it's more a reformulation than a mere concentrated version of the original. With the newest Habit Rouge derivative, Eau de Toilette Légère from 2005, Jean-Paul Guerlain added a fizzy lime-lemony accord to the top notes and thereby modulated the whole Habit Rouge 'tune' into a bright, joyful key.
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Jean Paul Guerlain envisioned this perfume when he was standing in front of the grand Roman amphitheatre of El Djem in Tunesia. And surely this delicately fougèrish, yet leathery and spicy chypre evokes images of cool, tuxedo-clad colonial masters in hot Arabic surroundings. It's known to be one of the most well balanced leather-chypres for men, and its spiciness equals that of L'Heure Bleue both in terms of strength, quality and emotional effect. Launched in 1985, it was abandoned after some years on the market, but then taken up again as part of 'Les Parisiennes' collection, exclusively sold in the Paris-store. Sadly, also this edition has been discontinued because of health regulations against certain ingredients. Its original bottle is referred to as 'the eagle bottle' because of the inspiration from an eagle's outspread wings seen from above or below. The stopper imitates the eagle's head shape, giving the whole bottle an aggressive yet noble air, perfectly in tune with the scent and its motto: 'Barbare et très civilisé'.
Family: woody, spicy, leather. Top notes: bergamot, lemon, artemisia, peppermint. Middle notes: pimento, rose, pepper, mace, jasmin. Base notes: leather, vetiver, sandal, patchouli, moss.
The name Metallica may at first glance seem odd for a perfume who is said to be, according to Guerlain's own promotional information, 'one of the most beautiful interpretations of vanilla in a perfume'. It was a limited edition release from 2000 and drew some attention, not least because of its packaging in an unusually decorated version of the classic 'bee bottle' – flacon abeilles – and the fact that it was soon pulled from the shelves following a trademark lawsuit with the heavy rock band Metallica. Now it's sold under the name Metalys in the 'Les Parisiennes' collection. This floral oriental emanates from Jean-Paul Guerlain's wish to create a metallic odour, though some reviewers have found the fragrance to be too sweet and creamy to meet this goal. While surely being light years away from rockish black metal, this Eau de Toilette actually manages to evoke a sweet-metallic scent of old, unpolished metal coins, mainly by a contrasting blend of spicy-sharp carnation and bright, soft vanilla.
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In 1969, Jean-Paul Guerlain continued the new romantic, sensual inspiration from Habit Rouge into Chamade, generally regarded as his best feminine creation. Like Habit Rouge, Chamade is a citrusy oriental, but the animalic note is replaced by hyacinth, heavy and green, and — probably used here for the first time in perfumery — blackcurrant bud. The mix of bergamot, hyacinth and blackcurrant has resulted in a crisp, rich and almost leathery note of new-mown hay on a burning hot summer day — thus we are still in Jean-Paul Guerlain's beloved equestrian countryside-world! From beginning to end this scent gradually moves through different phases, each one displaying the supreme blackcurrant note in a new, charming light. The idea for this perfume was inspired by Françoise Sagan's heartbreaking 1965 novel "La chamade" about a woman's difficult search for wholeness and understanding what happiness really is. In the time of Napoléon, "chamade" signified a very fast drumbeat that called to retreat of the troops during war, and the novel introduces this word as a metaphor, both for the surrendering heartbeat of a person in love, and, more tragically, for love's defeat in the end. "Perfume is made mainly so that one remembers the woman who wears it. I like to call it the elevator effect," Jean-Paul Guerlain said when Chamade was released. "This is the man who goes to meet his lover — whether it be his fiancee, his wife, or his mistress — who has entered a building before him. She is wearing perfume, and he smells it. Suddenly his heart beats faster and the blood rushes to his head." Chamade's fragrant love story is rounded by a bottle in shape of a heart turned upside down and pierced by an arrow – a symbol of emotional surrender. The current edition of Chamade has lost some of its famous crispiness because of slightly more bitter, thin top notes, but the beautiful, oily drydown is luckily preserved. In 1999, Jean-Paul Guerlain created a masculine chypre version, Chamade pour Homme, also containing hyacinth.
26th October, 2007 (last edited: 27th July, 2009)
Guerlain's most famous perfume is named after the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, modern day Pakistan, built by Mughal emporor Shah Jahan in 1641-1642, where he then walked with his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Sadly, Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth three years after the emporor's accession to the throne, and in her memory he built the mausoleum Taj Mahal at Agra in modern day India. In 1981, Shalimar Gardens was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shalimar is one of the first perfumes to successfully incorporate large amounts of vanillin in its composition. The fragrance is said to be an accidental derivative of Jicky. The story goes that on receipt of the newly developed synthetic ingredient 'ethyl vanilla', Jaques Guerlain dropped some into a bottle of Jicky for no good reason and so the foundation of Shalimar was born. The scent of Shalimar is deep and velvetly black with notes of lemon hinted medicinal vanilla. Interestingly enough, Shalimar was actually created in 1921 despite only being launched in 1925. Raymond Guerlain designed the original 'fan-shaped bottle' for Shalimar for the Decorative Arts Exhibition in Paris in 1925, imitating an urn on a pedestal. Shalimar is still the flagship perfume of the House of Guerlain. In recent years, the bergamot top note has been made more dominating than in earlier formulations, giving the fragrance a less balsamic, more 'perfumey' initial impression. In 2007, Shalimar was redressed in a limited edition black glass bottle to celebrate the dark character of the fragrance.
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This fragrance was launched in 1933, the same year as Air France, which is not as tenuous a link as it might at first appear. In French, Vol de Nuit means 'night flight' which is also the name of a novel from 1931 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, famous pilot during the war. Saint-Exupéry was killed in action over France in 1944 and his body was never recovered. The French Air Force College cadets still give out Vol de Nuit with their emblem on official foreign visits. The perfume bottle's design imitates a propeller in motion. Together, L'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit are often referred to as 'sister fragrances’ because of their shared powdery spicy-floral qualities. Yet, Vol de Nuit is the darkest, most subtly spiced of the three, and consequently some people find it to be a 'unisex' fragrance, just like Jicky.
Family: oriental, woody, spicy. Top notes: bergamot, galbanum, petitgrain. Middle notes: jasmine, daffodil, spices. Base notes: wood, iris, vanilla, amber notes, earthy forest note.
A very early and innovative floral-oriental style fragrance that has become a truly distinctive classic. The fragrance was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1912 as a tribute to the painters of the impressionist paintings he was a keen collector of. In fact, L'Heure Bleue (meaning 'the blue hour') is a reference to the special hour at dusk when the light seems blue and the smell of the flowers in and around the city of Grasse reaches its peak. The phrase is also used to refer to the city of Paris immediately prior to World War I, which was considered to be a time of relative innocence before the horrors that were to follow. Although much akin to Après l'Ondée in its gourmand pastry and almond core, L'Heure Bleue is much less bright and more spicy. Especially the Parfum-version is dominated by the spice-world of ancient Persia. The bottle, often called 'flacon bouchon coeur' for its heart-shaped stopper, were designed by Jacques' nephew Raymond Guerlain as a reference to the romantic pre-war time. Still, L'Heure Bleue is primarily known to be a melancholic scent.
26th October, 2007 (last edited: 12th April, 2008)
Mitsouko - meaning 'mystery' in Japanese - was the first of the chypre fragrances after the original 'Chypre' by Coty. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1919, Mitsouko is still today recognized as the quintessential chypre, exemplary because its formula is short, simple and refined. It boasted the very first use of synthetic peach fragrance - aldehyde C14 - in a perfume, which harmonizes the lurid, dry chypre-base with a powdery, fleshy and luminous feel. 'The best perfume ever made', says perfume expert Luca Turin. The name was derived from the heroine Mitsouko of Claude Farrere's novel 'La Bataille' about the love affair between a British naval officer and the wife of a Japanese admiral. The fragrance itself can be said to live up to its name since it's extremely abstract: Its notes are some of the hardest to decipher among all the Guerlain perfumes. Mitsouko is in a different world than the flowery orientals, at least as strange as it is sensual, as peculiar as it is pretty, both violent and wonderful - some even call the scent 'disturbing'. Fans will die for it, while others are downright put off by it. Due to a bottle shortage after the First World War, Mitsouko shares its design with L'Heure Bleue, and it's said that the two identical bottles mark, respectively, the beginning and ending of World War I, like a parenthesis. Recent European health regulations have banned the use of oakmoss in perfumes and led to a reformulation of Mitsouko, leaving the new Mitsouko somewhat brighter and 'younger' - but no less enigmatic.
26th October, 2007 (last edited: 25th April, 2008)
With the newest Habit Rouge derivative, Eau de Toilette Légère from 2005, Jean-Paul Guerlain added a fizzy lime-lemony accord to the top notes and thereby modulated the whole Habit Rouge 'tune' into a bright, joyful key. While the classic Habit Rouge lives in a forest where smartly dressed haunters on horseback are garthered, Habit Rouge Eau de Toilette Légère lives in the city. Though still recognisably Habit Rouge, it's a brighter, sunnier, gayer scent. Very well constructed.
21st May, 2007 (last edited: 12th April, 2008)
Coriolan (or more properly Gaius Marcius Coriolanus) is the name of a legendary 5th century BC Roman general who was said to be an anti-democratic aristocrat, but also a relenting man. Coriolanus has inspired both Shakespeare and Beethoven, and his personality is also what inspired Jean-Paul Guerlain to create this chypre from 1998. It actually manages to express both coldness, stemming from the green, sharp top and middle notes, and sensitivity, thanks to its warm base. The bottle itself, though sadly made of plastic, symbolizes Roman warrior dress. In spite of the sophisticated mix of cold and warm notes of lemon leaves, juniper berries and everlasting flower, Coriolan wasn't a big commercial succes. Consequently, it was soon discontinued, to some men's disappointment. It can be viewed as one of the most underestimated of the Guerlain compositions, but has now been given a second chance under the name 'L'Âme d'un Héros' ('the spirit of a hero') in 'Les Parisiennes' collection.
16th May, 2007 (last edited: 12th April, 2008)
According to Guerlain, the inspiration for L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme was a chocolate pastilla combined with a Mediterranean drink. And it's true that this is a 'foody' scent, heavy on chocolate note and, yes perhaps, an exotic lemony-sweet long drink. Especially in the EdP-version the chocolate is so dense that it has notes of liquorice. L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme is definitely a Guerlain - their signature gourmand-oriental style (quite daring for their fragrances for men) is evident, even though this is their first pour Homme not made by Jean-Paul Guerlain. It's well a well constructed, fascinating scent, not unlike the fabulous Héritage from 1992, but heavier, less refined, more in-your-face and, therefore, perhaps also less interesting - even tiring? - in the long run.
19th April, 2007 (last edited: 12th April, 2008)
Chamade pour Homme was composed by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1999 as a masculine version of Chamade from 1969 and originally sold as a romantic pair for Valentine's Day. Given that Guerlain is famous for the oriental scents, also for men, it's surprising that he with Chamade pour Homme chose to completely abandon the vanilla that is such a decisive characteristic of Chamade. He kept the central hyacinth theme but added bergamot, pepper, nutmeg and leather to end up with a spicy, leathery and almost bitter chypre. Not unlike the warmer part of the almost concurrent Coriolan, but far away from Chamade's sweet hay and blackcurrant. In short, this pair is an example of how very differently one can interpret hyacinth. It's said that women and men live on different planets – maybe this was what Jean-Paul Guerlain had in mind while creating Chamade pour Homme. It's more likely, however, that he simply wanted to stress the difference between man and woman to let them unite in a so much more exciting love affair. Now Chamade pour Homme is made part of the collection 'Les Parisiennes'.
18th April, 2007 (last edited: 12th April, 2008)