Jean-Louis Scherrer is one of the hidden classical gems. In the US, you might have to search for it at the discount shops, but the Europeans can easily find it at most perfumeries where it sits someplace between Ralph Lauren and Stella McCartney on the alphabetically organized shelves. The tall oblong bottle filled with pale green liquid is not flashy, and the first whiff of the perfume doesn’t reveal anything extraordinary–leafy and peppery, with an unmistakable wet earth note that you find in many classical green perfumes. It takes a few moments for Scherrer to weave its spell.
Classical is the best way to describe Jean-Louis Scherrer, because it’s a perfumed time capsule. Taking a deep breath of this green, earthy perfume is like stepping back three or even four decades. They don’t make them like this anymore. Scherrer was launched in 1979 by a French couturier who dressed women like Françoise Sagan, Jackie Kennedy, and Claudia Cardinale. Shortly thereafter, he added Scherrer 2 and Nuits Indiennes (now discontinued) to the collection.
I wonder if the ever chic Jackie O loved Scherrer’s perfumes. All of his fragrances are impeccably elegant, but the original Scherrer is even more so. It was created by IFF perfumer Josette Ramisse whose only other fragrance I know is Paradigm by Shiseido. Scherrer takes cues from Chanel No 19 and Estée Lauder Private Collection. While at the time of its launch, it may not have been groundbreaking, today it stands out because rich green perfumes are hard to find, and rich green chypres are even more rare.
If you’re new to green mossy scents (also called chypres)–the brut champagnes of the fragrance world, then I encourage you to first try milder examples like Balenciaga Paris or Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y. before working your way to Annick Goutal Heure Exquise and Chanel No 19. It’s definitely an acquired taste. After the intense green opening, Scherrer reveals a graceful heart of hyacinth and iris. The modern Eau de Parfum is even more transparent than the vintage formula. The dewy floral notes draped over the dark backdrops seem even brighter and more delicate.
The earthy richness that you glimpse in the top notes unfolds fully in the drydown. The vintage version is leathery and mossy, but the modern one is clean, with a stronger accent on woods. The moss is still there smelling of damp leaves and wet bark, but everything is toned down. Either way, Scherrer retains its polished, elegant aura, and whether you try the new or reformulated version, you will find it well-balanced and distinctive. To some people its green moss trail might seem old-fashioned, but nothing about it is dated.
I enjoy Jean-Louis Scherrer for its polish, and for its glamour without too much glitz. It’s the kind of fragrance I would wear for myself, when I sit down with a book or plan a solitary walk. I love its introverted character and its understated presence. It also inspires me to re-read Sagan’s Bonjour tristesse and look for clips of Cardinale dancing the famous waltz in The Leopard. A perfume for daydreaming, in other words.
Jean-Louis Scherrer Original includes notes of bergamot, tangerine, galbanum, blackcurrant buds, iris, jasmine, rose, patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, and vetiver. Available from Ebay, discount shops (in the US), or at Ici Paris XL, Planet Parfum, Sephora, and other perfumeries in Europe and the Middle East. 25, 50, 100ml Eau de Toilette retails for 33, 63, 84 euros; 100ml Eau de Parfum–74 euros.
Sample: my bottles of the EDT and parfum from the 1980s compared to a modern sample of the EDP