Perfumers on Perfume : Jacques Guerlain

Jacques Guerlain needs no introduction. Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko–these words say it all. The fragrances created by Guerlain in the first decades of the 20th century continue influencing perfumers and fragrance lovers. The trends are still set by them, and most perfume collections have at least one Guerlain inspired creation. Born in 1874, he entered the family business run by his uncle Aimé Guerlain and before long, he established the house’s reputation for creativity and quality.

jacques guerlain

Much has been written about Jacques Guerlain’s creations, but the man himself remains in the shadows. He preferred working at the perfumer’s organ to speaking at public gatherings, and he left behind few articles and interviews. He let the perfume do the talking.

In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from The Perfumer’s Chronicle, a 1964 magazine article by Marcel Billot (a Houbigant perfumer of Chantilly fame). Billot was also the founding president of the French Society of Perfumers, and The Perfumer’s Chronicle was his regular beat. With the exception of L’Heure Bleue, all the Guerlain perfumes Billot mentions were recently reconstituted for the Osmothèque by the current Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser.

For other articles from the Perfumers on Perfume series, please see perfumers-on-perfume tag.

“As for Jacques Guerlain, whose recent passing we regret and who continued to create until the last moment, or to at least provide counsel, I find that we have not sufficiently spoken of his oeuvre, of that which it represented so far as influence and impulsion in grand French Perfumery, owing no doubt to the great simplicity that he gave off.

“But this does not mean that one should not discuss his work or mention a perfumer’s modest praises for his creations.

“And here are the most outstanding.

“First of all, L’Heure Bleue (1912), a remarkable perfume in which balsams such as opopanax, myrrh, incense, etc. form with sandalwood a base of oriental allure, with a floral start, lavender and orange blossom supported by a synthetic, methyl anthranilate. Shalimar (1925), a perfume of oriental style: a rebirth of the traditions of certain violent synthetics that began to appear at the time: a sort of chypre of expert, ‘noble’, animalic tinctures (musk, castoreum, ambergris, civet, etc.), heady balsams (Balsam of Peru, benzoin, etc.) as a base, coupled with the classic mixture of rose, orange, bergamot, oakmoss, and forming a character so warm, so human, that it remains inimitable. It is a model in the art of composition, as was at its time Le Parfum Idéal by Paul Parquet.

vol de nuitshalimar-ads

Mitsouko (1919), a fruity chypre that is incontestably the earliest of the perfectly balanced fruity chypres, the ancestor of a modern perfume enjoying great success. Vol de Nuit (1933), a joining of the classic Guerlain quality and the modern aldehydic trend, all the while escaping the excesses of overly aldehydic perfumes.

Sous le Vent (1933), in my opinion, at that time, was an avant-garde perfume, as it symbolizes nature. It evokes for me all the smells of a field in the morning, of a hunting day with the fragrance of the autumn foliage released at the same time as that of the humus of the neighboring forest. The impression of a gust of fresh air that hits one in the face, a somewhat sharp morning breeze, under a rather pale sun that rises amid a light brume at the edge of a wood. Certain dour souls will say, “It is hardly ‘a perfume’, but rather ‘a smell.’” What an error! It is a delicious perfume that is of our time, as it never tires. And who can say that in future years this will not be the type of perfume that is wanted to distance us from robots and the smells of the hot oil of machinery, all while avoiding the heavy atmosphere of the parlors, which now we seldom experience.

“That which is prodigious in his creations is that, all while evoking the smells of nature’s pageantry, thereby displaying an avant-garde spirit, these are nonetheless perfumes and not simply smells. This marks the genius of Jacques Guerlain. A genius who knew to be of his time while living nonetheless in keeping with tradition. From this vantage point, he defended true French Perfumery, in exemplifying good taste, the proper tone of our profession, all the while remaining modern, countering the ‘violence’ and ‘stereotypes’ of perfume. Let us be grateful to him for having so well defended true, beautiful French Perfumery. As to his genius, his simplicity hardly acknowledged it, when he would say: “Perfumery? It is a matter of patience.”

mitsoukol'heure bleue

“These are the modest reflections of a perfumer who recommends the work of Jacques Guerlain, citing but several perfumes among the many others he created. Reflections born of my observations, without my seeking to obtain information from his entourage, believing to insure thereby a certain freshness to my impartial, personal impressions.

“It would have been interesting to know his way of working, to know if his formulae were long with many components, or rather very simple with few components. From the look of his creations it seems to me his formulae must have been, for the most part, rather long.”

Billot, Marcel. “La chronique du parfumeur.” Parfumerie, Cosmétique, Savons. 7.4 Apr. 1964. Print. Translated from French by Will Inrig. 29 Mar. 2014. COPYRIGHT The Osmothèque 2014.

Image: Jacques Guerlain, vintage perfume ads via the Osmothèque.

Osmothèque, the International Perfume Conservatory and Museum
36 rue du Parc de Clagny
78100 Versailles, France
Tel : 01.39.55.46.99
email: osmotheque at wanadoo dot fr
www.osmotheque.fr (click on the Conférences et Visites tab)

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87 Comments

  • Gentiana: Jaques Guerlain… a true Artist! April 7, 2014 at 7:21am Reply

    • Victoria: He was, although he probably wouldn’t call himself that. April 7, 2014 at 11:59am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I smelled and owned many perfumes over the years, and have favourites like Joy and No 5, but I always return to Guerlain, and specially the ones by Jacques Guerlain. He was a genius. I am surprised that Jicky is missing, but the others are there and described, and there are beautiful pictures….thank you so much for this, Victoria! April 7, 2014 at 7:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Jicky was created by Aime Guerlain, Jacques’s uncle. One story is that Jicky was Jacques’s nickname, although another story is that it was a nickname of Aime’s English girlfriend. April 7, 2014 at 12:00pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Oh yes, of course! Thank you for reminding. April 7, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

        • Victoria: I should have mentioned it in the article, since it wasn’t obvious. Aime Guerlain created a few other perfumes too, but Jicky and Eau de Cologne du Coq have survived to this day. Another perfume he created, Rococo a la Parisienne, sounds like it would have been a lot of fun. April 7, 2014 at 3:32pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: Some guerlain perfumes had intriguing names. Somebody told me her grandmother was wearing Oublions L’Heure. Unfortunately she had no remembrance of the smell.
            Eau du Coq and Jicky are rather austere, such a pity we cannot know the other aspect of Aime’s art, like that frivolous Rococo! April 7, 2014 at 4:47pm Reply

            • Victoria: I have one precursor to L’Heure Bleue, Fol Arome, and it’s such a big and voluptuous fragrance. But L’Heure Bleue stands heads and shoulders above it. April 7, 2014 at 5:08pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Ah, names of perfumes, stories. This one is less interestjng than a love for Liù, the Puccini heroïne, maybe. Matter of taste. Anyhow, the perfume is the most important, for sure. April 10, 2014 at 12:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s a beautiful name that matches the elegant perfume. I like Liu very much. April 10, 2014 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Michaela: Excellent article, thank you again!

    “Perfumery? It is a matter of patience.” I can glimpse the fantastic person behind this modest but impressive statement, coming from the man who gave us a new sense of perfume. April 7, 2014 at 7:33am Reply

    • Jenny: I posted the same quote in my comment! :) April 7, 2014 at 9:26am Reply

      • Michaela: :) no surprise, the remark is simply striking! April 7, 2014 at 10:01am Reply

        • Victoria: Jenny, Michaela, I highlighted that quote when I first read the article. I loved how modest and matter-of-fact he came across. April 7, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: You said it so well, Michaela. I also zeroed in on that sentence the first time I read the article. April 7, 2014 at 12:01pm Reply

  • George: I always find when perfumers or critics describe the notes of which a perfume is composed interesting, because the grouping and so forth of them often reveals what they perceive the “structure” of that perfume to be, and opinions often differ; it’s also why it would be be so nice to see in the case of the above Guerlain’s (and other perfumers) the exact formulas as written by the perfumers because they would most likely reveal the structure as originally conceived, and what the perfumer was trying to say with that perfume. I think your recent review of a Jo Malone fragrance underscored that often modern niche perfumers are saying with the structure of what they create little more than “this is our tuberose perfume.” If only perfume companies focussed more on figuring out what they wanted to say with their latest launch and made sure that it is not an equivalently banal statement, I’m sure perfumery overall would benefit. I for one certainly don’t believe that any of the J Guerlain perfumes listed above can be viewed as saying anything so shortsighted. April 7, 2014 at 8:19am Reply

    • Solanace: Good point. April 7, 2014 at 11:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, perfumers see fragrances not as notes but as accords, which makes sense, because the same materials in different combinations can create completely different effects. As far as the communication and advertising messages, the perfume industry is among the most backward ones. The conventional ad with the sexy woman in some risque pose is not just trite, it’s ridiculous. And the copy is likewise lacking, for the most part. April 7, 2014 at 12:05pm Reply

      • Jillie: I so agree with you on these two points, V!

        Perfumers are like composers creating a piece of music, and while they all use the same notes, they come out with very different sounds when put together as accords.

        Most advertising is dreadful – hackneyed, irrelevant and sexist; worse still, you can’t even begin to work out what the fragrance is going to smell like. I guess this appeals to people who just want the latest perfume from a certain house, or fronted by a favourite celebrity. The juice itself is almost irrelevant! April 8, 2014 at 1:57am Reply

        • Victoria: Hackneyed and sexist is right. I can’t believe how so much of perfume advertising is based on the same tired, banal ideas. It’s as if the marketeers aren’t even considering to take risks. There are, of course, some notable examples, like Thierry Mugler’s Angel ads. April 8, 2014 at 8:17am Reply

  • Jenny: This quote says it all. ‘As to his genius, his simplicity hardly acknowledged it, when he would say: “Perfumery? It is a matter of patience.”’ Thank you and the Osmotheque for a great article. April 7, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it, Jenny. April 7, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Celine: Merci! I’m wearing Shalimar to remember Monsieur Guerlain today. April 7, 2014 at 9:43am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! I might wear Vol de Nuit tonight, since all of this Guerlain talk is making me crave something Jacques Guerlain created. April 7, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Zazie: Jacques Guerlain is the most represented perfumer in my collection, both in number of bottles and in variety of perfumes.
    Sous le vent, l’heure bleue, vol de nuit, shalimar and mitsouko might belong to different perfume families, but to me they are all skin loving, skin smelling wonders, if it makes sense.
    They really are “mine”.
    They link somehow to my own smell, which explains why I was not impressed in thoery (smelling them on blotter or on other people), but was blown away in practice, upon first contact!!!!
    I am sorry Jacques Guerlain decided that his perfume formulas would speak for themselves (they do, in a way): I would have loved to know more about the man and the perfumer, about the smells he cherished… which of his many perfumes was his favorite? which one did he consider his masterpiece? What about his relations with Francois Coty? So many questions!!!! April 7, 2014 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I also wish there were more written materials or interviews with him, but perhaps, some got lost. Will and I searched high and low, and we didn’t manage to turn up that much. Of course, if anyone has any clues or any materials, I and the Osmotheque would be grateful.

      As for the perfumes themselves, I completely agree with you. They love skin, and smelling Shalimar on skin vs on a blotter is incredible, because the fragrance changes so much and it really blossoms. April 7, 2014 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Carter: Thank you for another interesting series. I’m a man but I’ve been wearing Mitsouko for the past 20 years. Gents, try it! I get lots of compliments on it. April 7, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

    • Victoria: I love the idea of men and women wearing anything they like, regardless of the marketing claims. And Mitsouko is wonderful on anyone, and I’ve smelled it on men before and really like it. April 7, 2014 at 12:16pm Reply

  • Alicia: Thank you, Victoria. A more than due homage to a genius in his art. I have always loved L’Heure Bleue (my private persona, while #5 is the public one), and I learned to admire Mitsouko. I find Vol de Nuit marvelous. I understand Jocky’s art, but it is not for me. Our mothers and grand mothers grew with Guerlain; truly we can’t do much better. I don’t know what the art of French perfumerie would have been without him, because in many senses it is his heir. April 7, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Guerlain’s contribution to perfumery can’t overstated, and while it’s true that he was inspired by Coty’s Emeraude for Shalimar and Chypre for Mitsouko, he took them on another level. I wish that Coty treated its classics better and we still had Chypre, Emeraude and other gems to enjoy. April 7, 2014 at 12:18pm Reply

      • Alicia: I never smelled the originals of Coty’s Emeraude ( I smelled the current one which I dislik) and Chypre, some day when in Versailles I certainly will. But, Victoria, the first perfume I want to smell there is Fath’s Iris Gris. I am sure you have, what did you feel? April 7, 2014 at 1:14pm Reply

        • Victoria: I liked Iris Gris for its unusual and very modern feel. It smelled like iris and peach skin, plus dark musk, but unlike many fragrances from its period, it wasn’t at all thick or heavy or overly animalic. Not sure if I’d pick it over Iris Silver Mist or No 19, though. April 7, 2014 at 3:38pm Reply

  • Alicia: Pardon me, Jicky, of course. April 7, 2014 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: I should have mentioned in the article that the famous Jicky is Aime Guerlain’s creation, rather than Jacques. But Jacques was definitely inspired by it a lot, and he built up on Jicky with Shalimar. April 7, 2014 at 12:19pm Reply

  • OperaFan: Thank you for sharing this article, Victoria. I find more depth and character in perfumes by Jacques Guerlain than most of the other fragrances I own. Like Cornelia above, I have many favorites but the classic Guerlains, are the ones that anchor my collection. Also like Zazie, I wish he published more. April 7, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Which Guerlains do you wear the most? April 7, 2014 at 12:19pm Reply

      • OperaFan: Probably Apres l’Ondee and Jicky both in edt (which have surprising depth for their format). I’ve never experienced the perfume of either. I tend to reserve L’Heure Bleue (either pdt or extrait) for special occasions, and Chamade was my first purchase from Guerlain – I was drawn by its spectacular opening, but I wore it in such quantity and frequency in my 30s I now can only wear occasionally. My collection was extremely limited in those days so it was an obvious go-to. April 7, 2014 at 1:20pm Reply

        • Victoria: You covered such a range! You make me wish I had some Jicky on hand, but I recently finished my decant and the rest of my bottle is in storage. I might have to replenish it, but in the meantime, Apres L’Ondee is my elixir (although tonight it’s Vol de Nuit). April 7, 2014 at 3:40pm Reply

          • OperaFan: You know, I had trouble appreciating both of these at first but now I can’t imagine being without them. L’HB I didn’t really love but selected on instinct and learned to appreciate over several years of wearing. Reading in-depth analytical essays have helped me appreciate its beauty and complexity further. Of course, it also helped that this was one of a small handful of perfumes my husband ever complimented me on! April 7, 2014 at 8:14pm Reply

            • Victoria: True! Mitsouko, Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, and Vol de Nuit really took me while to appreciate, let alone wear and enjoy. But they’re so complex and interesting that courting them and trying to figure them out was a pleasure in itself. April 8, 2014 at 8:15am Reply

              • OperaFan: I never understood the “peach” note since I don’t smell peach in Mitsouko. Nevertheless I always found it fascinating and enjoy wearing it very much. I only recently smelled the pdt (from the ’90s) and love it so much I wish I’d gotten some while it was still available. I remember thinking Vol de Nuit was a direct descendant of Mitsy the first time I smelled it at the Guerlain counter, and am just beginning to appreciate Shalimar after it has eluded me for decades. I was able to acquire some 60+yr old extrait (purchased for the bottle, of course!) and am amazed at how fresh and bright the vanilla still smells. April 8, 2014 at 8:10pm Reply

                • Victoria: It’s just that the perfumery “peach” is different from what the rest of us think of as peach. But if you think of the smell as that of peach skin, you’ll notice it in Mitsouko. It’s right on top, and it smells creamy, milky, like the fuzzy peach skin, rather than the sweet, juicy peach flesh. Rochas Femme is another one with a similar note.

                  I’m also amazed how well Shalimar keeps. I have a bottle which is at least 70 years old, according to one of the Osmotheque curators, and it’s still wearable. April 9, 2014 at 6:17am Reply

  • Solanace: Thank you for this glimpse of the guy who gave us Shalimar, Victoria! April 7, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

    • Victoria: The Osmotheque has so much fascinating stuff, and it’s a pleasure to go through its archives. April 7, 2014 at 12:20pm Reply

      • Gentiana: Is the Osmoteque accesible for any usual mortal? Can I simply make a call for an appointment, pay an entrance fee and smell around (maybe guided by someone) ? Or is it reserved for professionals only?

        I am since about 1 1/2 years subscribed to Societe des Amis del”Osmoteque and I receive newsletters and the program of conferences… Of course never went to Paris, but oh, My Lord, how I wish to… April 9, 2014 at 4:55am Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I would love to know more about Jacques Guerlain. Part of me (a VERY big part) is just being driven crazy that we don’t know more about this man. But I also kind of like the mystery surrounding him. I feel like we know so much about so many people nowadays, it’s kind of fun to have something left to the imagination. Thanks for the beautiful article, Victoria! April 7, 2014 at 12:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s the tricky part researching the information on perfumers, especially perfumers from that time. Some simply didn’t leave any written archives, and of course, so much was lost during the Second World War. But I’m glad that you enjoyed this glimpse. April 7, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I’m so happy to have these little snapshots. Zazie makes me laugh because I think I know how she feels. We’re just left with so many questions!

    My favorite was Billot’s description of Sous le Vent, which I have never smelled, but sounds absolutely incredible. I like his thought that it is not just a smell, it is a perfume, and someday it will be a form of escapism that will “…distance us from the robots and the smells of the hot oil of machinery…” What an interesting thought. April 7, 2014 at 12:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: “A smell, not a perfume” is such a common accusation of fragrances that don’t follow the established or expected structures, and I like how Billot highlights it. Today, for instance, some perfumers say it about Serge Lutens’s creations or those of Jean-Claude Ellena, whereas for me, it all has to with an emotional response. That matters far more. April 7, 2014 at 3:35pm Reply

  • ferris Égoïste: Jacques Guerlain was a genius! i wish I could learn more about how he worked in creating his perfume formulas. April 7, 2014 at 2:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have the same wish. As part of my perfumery work (as an extracurricular activity), I’ve composed Shalimar, Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue, and I have to say that they’re tricky formulas. Every element is there for a reason. April 7, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

  • Lauren B: It’s amazing to think that one could have a perfume wardrobe of only Jacques Guerlain’s creations, and still have such a well-rounded, well-made collection of perfumes, so many of which are classics to this day. I can’t think of anyone else who has accomplished that. April 7, 2014 at 2:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I agree, and it’s also impressive how timeless many of his perfumes feel.

      Another perfumer who worked with a whole range of effects and sensations was Ernest Daltroff of Caron. You have everything from simple florals to symphonic orientals and mossy chypres in his collection. April 7, 2014 at 3:44pm Reply

  • Lindsay: Well said Lauren B. What a body of work, a genius. Nothing smells like Shalimar on warm skin. For my birthday I will be ordering Vol de Nuit (via some New York warehouse apparently), a reformulation in a refill bottle but who cares, have never smelled it before at all and these creations not easy to get in Cape Town. No-one else gets how very excited I am! April 7, 2014 at 3:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m wearing Vol de Nuit right now, and I’m having difficulty typing, as I keep the wrist glued to my nose. :) Smells dark, rich, and yet transparent, with lots of ambers, mosses, woods, and tendrils of jasmine and narcissus running through it all. April 7, 2014 at 3:46pm Reply

      • Lindsay: I can’t wait to have my nose joined at the wrist! :-) Sounds like a brooding navy sky with moonbeams lighting the clouds. (I think the next pal going to Paris is going to be bribed to pick up Sous Le Vent, another scent I have never experienced… My niece went in December but I just didn’t have enough in my Guerlain fund!) Wore Jicky today for the first time in ages, it has been following me around like an old friend. PS. Didn’t know about the ivory!… April 7, 2014 at 4:17pm Reply

        • Victoria: I hope that Vol de Nuit won’t disappoint you, but I should mention that it’s also a challenging perfume. You need some appreciation for dark, non-sweet orientals (and moss!) to enjoy it. It’s very different from Shalimar or even Mitsouko, although you might recognize some similar touches.

          Just this past February France was the only European country taking a stance against the ivory trade by destroying several tons of ivory stocks. So, I find it hard to believe that LVMH, a parent of Guerlain, would allow ivory on its bottles. Ivory trade concerns me very much, but I can’t find any references to Guerlain using real ivory. Anyway, more info would be good. April 7, 2014 at 4:42pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: I am asking myself where the manufacturers of pianofortes find their ivory. The destroying of elephants is such a shame.
            I hope Guerlain is not involved.

            Vol de Nuit was my signature scent for many years, but I am not so happy with the reformulation. Same with Jicky (I switched to Heritage).
            Sorry I joined in! April 7, 2014 at 4:55pm Reply

            • Victoria: The legal use of ivory for piano keys ended in the 1950s, so they’re made from a special “Ivorine” plastic these days. April 7, 2014 at 5:07pm Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Glad to hear it! April 7, 2014 at 5:15pm Reply

                • Victoria: My mom played piano, so I remember some of these discussions. April 7, 2014 at 5:20pm Reply

          • Lindsay: Thank you Victoria, I will remember that and take my time to get to know it. It sounds very interesting so let’s see how the relationship ends! PS. Glad to know you’ve not heard of the ivory, hoping that’s a good sign… April 7, 2014 at 4:56pm Reply

            • Victoria: Please let me know what you think, Lindsay! The best way to enjoy these classics is to put yourself in the mood by reading something from the period or watching a film and imagining what the heroine might be wearing. But of course, if you fall love with Vol de Nuit, you’ll find that it suits all occasions and all moods. April 7, 2014 at 5:14pm Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: I googled Vol de Nuit on Fragrantica, and yes: violets. Very dry violets–as Victoria pointed out, Vol de Nuit is non-sweet. But it is so balanced! There is also a hint of vanilla, but this vanilla is not overly sweet. Austerity and softness are perfectly together in this intriguing perfume. I am sure you will love it, Lindsay! Please let us know! If you don’t, I will eat my shoes. April 9, 2014 at 4:35am Reply

                • Victoria: I love how you put it by mentioning austerity and softness. That’s how I see Vol de Nuit as well. April 9, 2014 at 6:23am Reply

  • Sandra: Great Article!
    I adore Nahema, though it was not mentioned.
    Shalimar is beautiful, there is nothing like Guerlain vanilla, which is what the dry down smells like on me.
    Unrelated to the article, the only problem I have with the house is that some of their special “bee bottles” that they make contain ivory. I am a huge elephant lover, so I tend judge them for that. April 7, 2014 at 3:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: Nahema is Jean-Paul Guerlain’s creation, and yes, I love it too. The last perfume I bought was Nahema parfum.

      Ivory from elephant tusks on the currently manufactured perfume bottles? I thought that the trade in ivory has been illegal for some time, and I’d be really shocked if Guerlain used this prohibited material. The only reference to ivory and Guerlain’s bee bottles I could find only was “ivory colored shadgreen,” which is a type of sharkskin, nothing to do with elephants. April 7, 2014 at 4:09pm Reply

      • Suki: Nahema is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve only ever tried it in the EdP concentration, can only imagine how wonderful the parfum must be.

        Thank you for this interesting article. Guerlain really is perfumery in the grand style; it made me realize that perfumery can add to the general culture, which seems remarkable.

        My favourites are many, but I particularly love Vol de Nuit, l’Heure Bleue, Chamade, Nahema, Attrape Coeur, Metalys and, of the more recent releases, Bois d’Armenie. Too much beauty, really. April 7, 2014 at 6:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: I agree with you. Guerlain’s fragrance, even before I started wearing them, made me realize that perfume can be an art form. It wasn’t the first house I’ve discovered, but it was the first that made me change my ideas of what an interesting fragrance might smell like. April 8, 2014 at 8:14am Reply

    • George: The bee bottle stand Victoria is referring to was described as being made out of Rosewood and Ivory on the firms youtube channel, but I think this is a mistake: there is no way guerlain would use ivory. April 8, 2014 at 5:10am Reply

      • Victoria: Yes, they are missing “shadgreen” after ivory. And when you see the bottle and its stand in the video, it’s clear that they’ve used ivory colored sharkskin, not ivory tusks. But seriously, what a stupid mistake! April 8, 2014 at 5:46am Reply

        • Sandra: Thanks for clearing that up! Phew… I feel better now! April 8, 2014 at 7:20am Reply

          • Victoria: :) Now you can wear Nahema for your wedding with no sense of guilt. April 8, 2014 at 8:23am Reply

            • Sandra: Exactly! April 8, 2014 at 11:19am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: This article has a strong effect on the rest of my perfumed week! I was wearing Arpège these days, but now I took out my whole collection of the Guerlain classics.
    Today: vintage Vol de Nuit Edt,
    What strikes me in this one: that delicious note of a very dry violet.
    You did not mention this, Victoria, am I wrong?
    And is the extrait still worth sampling (they have testers only of the edt)? April 8, 2014 at 5:30am Reply

    • Victoria: The extrait is worth sampling. When I tried Vol de Nuit in 2010, I wasn’t impressed, because the drydown was thin and raspy. My bottle is not that old, maybe 5 years old, but it was still better. On the other hand, when I smelled Vol de Nuit at the boutique last month, I noticed more richness, more fullness.

      I don’t remember mentioning the dry violets, but smelling Vol de Nuit, I can see exactly what you mean. April 8, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: more richness, more fullness….good news! Thank you! April 8, 2014 at 9:34am Reply

  • loledinburgh: Fantastic article as usual ,Victoria ! Thank you!
    I love L’Heure Bleue and although I don’t wear it,(it makes me very sad) I think is the one perfume that is perfectly named ,it really smells blue to me. April 8, 2014 at 6:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Isn’t that the best perfume story and name! I have a feeling that the story was made up after the fact, but still, it matches the mood and sensation of L’Heure Bleue perfectly. April 8, 2014 at 8:22am Reply

  • Nicola: Aside from Jicky these perfumes are the building blocks of both the Guerlain heritage and arguably French perfumery (at least some of them). Mitsouko was instant fascination and love for me and I have come to love Vol de Nuit too. I am getting there with L’Heure Bleue but remain perplexed by Shalimar (though never unmoved or uninterested!) Sous le Vent constantly moves, I like to smell it but not to wear it. What a great and modest man beautifully realised in these comments. Thanks for passing this on, Victoria! Nicola April 8, 2014 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, Nicola. I also thin that these perfumes have influenced perfumery to a large degree. Even today, so many houses have Shalimar type and L’Heure Bleue type fragrances. April 8, 2014 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Little Red: Great article! Guerlain Samsara was my first perfume love and started my long-term relationship with the house. Even the newer stuff like Spiriteuse Double Vanille and Cuir Beluga is gorgeous and are worthy of being added to my collection. April 8, 2014 at 10:10pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s so beautiful! Some experts say that Samsara is the least Guerlainesque of all Guerlain perfumes, but I don’t agree, because to me Samsara captures the qualities that make Guerlain such an outstanding house, including its trendsetting potential. April 9, 2014 at 6:22am Reply

  • Austenfan: Thanks for this little insight into the person that created such masterpieces.
    I like the fact that he saw himself more as a craftsman than as an artist. He probably was both.
    Out of his creations I’m fondest of L’Heure Bleue. It’s the one Guerlain that I actually wear quite frequently. I love Shalimar and Mitsouko as well, but LHB is somehow easier to wear. April 13, 2014 at 1:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I heard one of Guerlains (might have been Jean-Paul) say that people like either L’Heure Bleue or Shalimar. I’m also a L’Heure Bleue fan, although I’ve learned to love Shalimar as well. April 14, 2014 at 8:03am Reply

      • Austenfan: I also really enjoy and admire Shalimar. But there is something about L’Heure Bleue that makes it such a joy to wear. It must be that perfect sillage. April 14, 2014 at 3:11pm Reply

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