Guerlain L’Heure Bleue : Fragrance Review (New and Vintage)

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Lheure bleue

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue is the embodiment of refinement. When I read that Catherine Deneuve wore it for many years as her signature fragrance, I was not at all surprised. Its luminous orange blossom is beautifully contrasted with the rich plushness of vanilla, iris and incense.  L’Heure Bleue’s sillage is among the most beautiful of great classics—bright, radiant, enveloping. It was also the first Guerlain perfume to use aldehydes (distinctive starchy-metallic notes) to give a lift to the rich floral accord.  The carnation, ylang-ylang and anise introduce L’Heure Bleue, but then you become aware of its velvety layers–iris, vanilla, incense, musk, tonka bean. The leitmotif of anise persists through the layers of L’Heure Bleue.   The eau de parfum concentration is plusher and warmer than the musk inflected eau de toilette. The extrait de parfum is even more memorable, a mouthwatering confection of orange blossom, iris, and vanilla with a touch of licorice.

L’Heure Bleue has set many trends in its day and it continues to do so. It is one of legendary perfumer Sophia Grojsman’s favorite fragrances, and her Kenzo Kashaya, Lagerfeld Sun, Moon, Stars and Laura Biagotti Sotto Voce were inspired by its structure of plush richness and opulent floral notes. Recent launches like Costume National Scent, Iris Ganache, Insolence and Kenzo Flower pay tribute to L’Heure Bleue.

On Reformulation (added 12/17/10):

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The big dose of vanilla and coumarin without a strong animalic note renders the drydown of L’Heure Bleue somewhat unbalanced. For the extrait de parfum, it seemed rather soft spoken. Also missing is the lush, heavy powderiness as well as the striking brightness and anisic sparkle. Overall, though it is still a very lovely, plush blend, it has lost some of its character. Interestingly enough, minus the heavier animalic notes, it evokes the cleaner American take on the floral oriental genre of which L’Heure Bleue is a forerunner (Oscar, Gloria Vanderbilt.) The sillage is good, but the fragrance is not as radiant as it used to be. Still, better this version of L’Heure Bleue than none at all.

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41 Comments

  • N aka parislondres: This is a real beauty. It took me while to appreciate this but now I have the parfum – I love wearing this when I want to feel special. Summer evenings in Paris is a perfect time for me to wear this. May 25, 2005 at 4:56pm Reply

  • Diane: I agree, this is a remarkable and classical beauty. And N, my first encounter with it was not exactly love. :) I tried it in the EDT and I was sent into a sneezing fit. Later, when I tried the EDP and parfum concentrations, I was taken to a state of wonderment. It is one of the most evocative and atmospheric fragrances ever created. And I love the story behind it. May 25, 2005 at 9:42pm Reply

  • Tania: I wore this exclusively for a couple of years. Still a stunner. The parfum is worth shelling out for. June 14, 2005 at 2:00pm Reply

  • julien: Yes…Even though i am a man,i love this scent and wear it.
    It is so sweet,like a mother’s caress…
    One of my favorite scent ever…sometimes,when i feel blue,i smell it and everything’s as if time and space stood still…only sweetness with this fragance.
    It is also quite spiced and generous and powdery…
    EDP is great for the “sillage”,but parfum(i find it in paris where i live),is truly an olfactive dream…

    Kisses.
    J. June 25, 2005 at 7:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dear Julien,
    Thank you for the comparison. I also find L’Heure Bleue warm and comforting. Exceptional fragrance! June 25, 2005 at 9:55pm Reply

  • julien: The pleasure is mine…
    I am a great fan of perfumes.
    Sharing experiences is very important to me…it’s the only way to learn…
    So,the pleasure is really all mine.
    Thanks.
    kiss.
    J. June 26, 2005 at 8:24am Reply

  • Linda: I’ve just bought my first bottle of the parfum which I shall cherish all my life. I’m so happy that other people think this is a truly great creation. I started wearing it(as a student so I could only afford a tiny bottle of Eau de Cologne) in 1973, and I return to it again and again. The memories it evokes are both melancholy and joyful: it seems to sum up life itself. December 30, 2006 at 9:29am Reply

  • dawn: i read your lovely review and the following poem was inspired by your poetic turns of phrase. i hope you like it.

    ~

    l’heure bleue

    the scent of bittersweet anise
    melds slowly into heart of rose,
    like the way the blue hour spirals
    imperceptibly into night,
    like the way I once fell into you.

    but love’s first blush is transient –
    like the fleeting rose accord,
    and it is the leitmotif of anise,
    like a veil of melancholy haunting my skin,
    that drifts on the winds of my passage
    leaving a sillage of unspoken goodbyes,
    inner journeys that lead ever further,
    a distance – of elusive dreams.

    if scent is evocative of memory,
    like the elusive jasmine note that gradually blooms,
    perhaps one day when my absence no longer lingers
    and echoes of our love no longer resound,
    you will breathe in fragments of anise
    and remember the hour blue. December 5, 2007 at 11:16am Reply

  • angelyn: What a lovely poem by Dawn sums it up exactly so poetically.
    Very beautiful poem to match an evocative perfume. Angelyn January 21, 2008 at 9:43pm Reply

  • Erry: i tried the edt this afternoon when i bought mitsouko. i didn’t like it, i found it too strong, very brash. it was nothing like you mentioned in the review. maybe too much vanilla. October 17, 2011 at 5:16pm Reply

  • Valerie: Oh, how lovely, the poem from Dawn …. yes, it is a truly delicious perfume. Someone introduced me to it several years ago, I have the body lotion too … it is sensuous. Different to Shalimar, which I adore, and again different entirely to Mitsouko … it is a night perfume really, I feel, although I do use it at other times. But it really is a perfume to spray on the sheets!! Long may my lover remember …. July 7, 2012 at 7:12am Reply

  • Karen: L’heure bleue is to perfume what Norwegian Charlotte is to dessert. The Charlotte, with its sponge cake, almond paste, coconut, rose water, orange flower water, & whipping cream, which all eventually blend into a heavenly delight after painstaking preparation & overnight refrigeration, is an adventure to make, but so wonderful that you can still taste it years afterward. Similarly, the perfume’s ‘flavor’ gets imprinted on your senses & you can still smell it even after years’ absence. I first fell in love with both in my early 20′s & still love them 40 years later. Just putting on the perfume makes a day special. July 14, 2012 at 2:01am Reply

  • Dominic: If the only way to express the feeling by Jaques Guerlain easto create that perfume, my expression for love to the fragrance will be buying and wearing it. I asked for the extract for this Christmas and i can’t wait till i open the box and see it myself. This is gonna be my first extract. That composition is in my head for minimum 2 years and this time i definitely couldn’t resist temptation. December 10, 2012 at 10:03am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: I’m sad for the extrait.
    I’ve bought some cubic testers on ebay.
    There is a big gap in the perfume : nice orange blossom with sillage on one hand, cosy tonka honey and vanilla on the other hand.

    Strange how old classique like l’heure bleue, narcisse noir, and one other extrait I forgot end up smelling the same orange flower.

    There were IFRA issues, but there is also an issue with the artistic direction.
    Are the greasy jasmine, the misty white powdery fantasy, the whip of aromatic thym, the density of blurred woods, and animalic ground all gone?
    And the rosy bergamotte, and the dollop of rose, and much more of horsy amber and basalm all gone.
    And the anisic counterpart.
    And even the iris goddammit.

    Thierry Wasser can’t be serious. Such a lack of audacity. Who’s the numb one who claimed the old complexity wasn’t trendy anymore. Who decided to screw all the fans of the old, who reduced l’heure bleue to its vane gourmandy side : yummi tonka and sweet orange flowee, almost offputting without counterparts.

    Is there a budget issue also?!?
    I rely on the review of the last booklet of Tania and Turin, the actual l’heure bleue is a pretty imposteur.

    Budget again : fucking mitsouko can’t have oakmoss and bergamotte anymore, ok.
    But who decided to remove the iris? the costly jasmine and rose? Mitsouko is today an offputing patchouli in edt and edp, and a clear lean green chypre in extrait.
    Guerlain makes thing cheap. December 15, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

  • breezy: For Christmas I received L’Heure Bleue from my 15 grandson. What have they done? this is a crime what has been done to a beautiful parfum. I would take this back if it were not a gift. One last Note I will not be wearing this scent. January 1, 2013 at 1:40am Reply

  • breezy: Oh they are selling it in Target in the USA! January 1, 2013 at 1:44am Reply

  • Frosty: Hello, just wanted to express my appreciation and thanks for your site, I love it and read often.

    I just opened a small vintage bottle of extrait that I’d hemmed and hawed about opening — sometimes buying “vintage” is quite “disappointing” haha — but not in this case. My god, what a gorgeous scent. The old Guerlain scents are truly in a class of their own… January 5, 2013 at 10:04pm Reply

    • Sarah: May I ask, how you decided to sever the cord? I just spent a good amount on the vintage in the Baccarat bottle. It’s unsealed and nervous about undoing it. May 25, 2013 at 9:39am Reply

  • Ceci: This was my first fragrance, at the age of 15. That was 48 years ago. I close my eyes and the scent is burned in my memory. Beautiful. So sad that timeless perfumes such as these are being “bastardized”. February 4, 2013 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Larisa: Hi Victoria, I’m wondering what concentration you prefer and would recommend after the reformulation? April 14, 2013 at 7:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I liked the EDP and the parfum. Those are my favorites. April 15, 2013 at 8:35am Reply

  • Anna: Hi Victoria, I’ve been reading your reviews and love them. unfortunately, LHB doesn’t work well on my skin. I got only a wisp of flowery note and then loads of medicinal powdery note exactly like antiseptic soap. :-( only after 30 minutes or so did I get the sweet vanilla which I love. May 11, 2013 at 11:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Unfortunately, that’s how the reformulated version behaves. The drydown is very heavy on vanilla. May 12, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

      • Karen: Then I might as well just wear Shalimar! The whole reason I fell in love with L’Heure Bleue is because it WASN’T Shalimar! The news of a reformulation is so disappointing! I guess the folks at Guerlain finally read the old survey of men, in which they reported their favorite “fragrances”: Number one was roast beef, followed closely by vanilla. I’m just glad my husband doesn’t want me to wear “roast beef” scent behind my ears! May 12, 2013 at 10:28am Reply

        • Robert: When OXO brings out designer atomizers for their stock, then I’ll give these pop-surveys more credence. May 21, 2013 at 1:29am Reply

  • Suzy: I’ve been studying up a bit on L’Heure Bleue and came across this wonderful review. Is it too late to ask a question/make a comment since this was written in 2005? Anyway, here goes in case someone gets this.

    I just reveived a sample of vintage LHB and was blown away by it. For me nothing comes close to this lush scent. I kept smelling my wrist all through the day. So it got me wondering what vintage means: Is everything that’s considered “vintage” what came before reformulation? And can’t there be many reformulations through the years making many different vintages? How do I know which “vintage” I am buying then? Which vintage would you be writing about, Victoria, in this review? When was the reformulation you write about? Just sorting issues out in my mind that have me perplexed.
    Thanks for the cool reading on Sunday morning. September 15, 2013 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: In my review, I was comparing it to the original L’Heure Bleue. I have this Guerlain dating to every decade starting around late 40s, and I have studied the original formulation at the Osmotheque perfume conservatory. So, the term vintage on its own is a bit vague, but it’s usually used to mean older versions. You’re right, there has not been the one and only reformulation, especially since we’re talking about a fragrance from the turn of the last century. It has been reformulated many many times. September 16, 2013 at 5:07pm Reply

      • Suzy: Thanks Victoria. Studying formulations at the Osmotheque–is that something anyone can do? Do you actually get to smell the original formulas? What a rush that would be. Or do you have special credentials that allow you admittance? Sounds like a fascinating thing to put on my bucket list. Suzy September 16, 2013 at 5:35pm Reply

        • Victoria: Here is an article on the Osmotheque with some information on visiting there:
          http://boisdejasmin.com/2012/12/visit-to-the-osmotheque-perfume-museum-in-versailles.html

          Anyone can book an appointment for a group class or a private session with one of the Osmotheque trainers and experience many extraordinary fragrances in their original form. In the group classes the list of fragrances is preset, but L’Heure Bleue is on it. September 16, 2013 at 5:52pm Reply

          • Suzy: You’re a gem. Thanks so much Victoria. Now I only have to work on my husband to take me there.
            Suzy September 16, 2013 at 6:12pm Reply

  • Julia: Is there any way in the world (besides eBay or similar) to buy or commission this scent pre- the most recent drastic IFRA reformulation? I am not myself without it. October 10, 2013 at 6:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: You could try looking for an older bottle on EBay, but it is an expensive task. And the chances of finding fresh perfume are low at this point. I don’t think that L’Heure Bleue was all that defaced and I personally love and wear the most current version (from 2012). October 11, 2013 at 8:10am Reply

      • Julia: Thank you. I love this site and your writing. October 11, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

  • Andreea: I bought the extrait just to have it – it smelled a lot like sweat and pwoder on me. I did not give it away though – after pregnancy I tried this again. I know my non perfumista friends around me deeply dislike this kind of classic scents, but it turned waerable on me now. I get the vanilla, even some iris and definitv love the dusty patchouli (is ist patchouli?! that’s why I fell in love with it…)
    I deeply dislike Shalimar, but I love Nahema – L’Heure Bleue is barely wearable I think, but I love it. I wear only occasionally.

    May I ask – How do I know if this is a “new” version?
    I bought mine at a time it was nearly not on the market as an extrait anymore. (So that’s why I bought it without looking on the price tag…). It was the last one they had in store, a quite exclusive one. October 25, 2013 at 4:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: The drydown–once you start liking that sort of thing–is addictive!
      What year did you buy it? October 26, 2013 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Ella: I am very curious about L’heure Bleue but have never tested it. I haven’t been able to get “into” Mitsouko (apologies to its fans) BUT I LOVE Apres L’ondee (although I find it waaaaay too fleeting). Is L’heure Bleue closer to Mitsouko or AL? February 16, 2014 at 10:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: No need to apologize, Ella! It can be such a difficult perfume, and it took me a long while to appreciate it.

      As for L’heure Bleue, it’s a cousin of Apres L’Ondee (not at all like Mitsouko), but I should warn you that it’s much harder to wear. It’s quite heavy and powdery, whereas Apres L’Ondee is ethereal and delicate. L’heure Bleue is gorgeous, but like Mitsouko and some other classics, it’s an acquired taste. February 17, 2014 at 5:57am Reply

      • Ella: Thank you Victoria! Much appreciated. Btw, I love your site. Everything you write is a joy to read :) February 17, 2014 at 2:35pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you for your nice words! :) I’m very glad you’re enjoying it. February 17, 2014 at 2:55pm Reply

  • James: Do you find the latest version (2014) better than previous reformulations? April 7, 2014 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried it yet, but I plan to as soon as it becomes available here. April 7, 2014 at 3:32pm Reply

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