Jean-Paul Guerlain on Classical Fragrances


Talking about his favorite classical fragrance, Jean-Paul Guerlain, the perfumer for the house until his retirement in 2002, mentions “Lanvin Arpège under its original formula, Fahrenheit and Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior, Chanel No. 5, Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps and Pleasures by Estée Lauder.” “A classic perfume is determined by the quality of the raw materials you put in it and by its elegance, distinction and originality,” Guerlain says. “Above all it has to be memorable.”  An excerpt from a Reuters article (03/27/01).

My favorite Guerlain fragrance has always been Après l’Ondée, a beautiful melancholy composition of iris and bitter almond note of heliotropin, ornamented by a dusky Guerlainade accord of tonka bean and vanilla. I would love to hear what is your favorite Guerlain fragrance.

Photo from Grasse Perfume Museum.



  • MC: Probably Vol de Nuit. Unlike Serge Lutens’ oriental scents (which I love) and Ormonde Jayne’s Tolu (which is like Vol de Nuit’s saucy younger sister) it gives its eastern exoticism a very Parisian diffidence. It’s like looking at the Maghreb from above, like Saint-Ex in his little biplane, rather than from ground level in the Medina. It has the best flacon of any scent in my opinion.

    L’Heure Bleu is another sweetly poetic Guerlain: I remember Julie Burchill dedicating a page in the Modern Review to a love song to this scent.

    I also rate Vetiver as one of the best men’s scents around: Subtle (or it should be when applied properly), grown-up, with a Havana-and-mineral edge that it instantly recognisable. Lately Derby, too. September 29, 2005 at 4:16am Reply

  • parislondres: I love/admire too many from Guerlain as you know – tinkered with or not – Jicky (my first grown up fragrance), Apres L’Ondee extrait, Mitsy extrait, Vol de Nuit extrait, Shalimar extrait (now can only bear the alcohol free deo), L’Heure Bleu extrait, Chant d’Aromes, Jardins des Bagatelles (quite unlike the others yet pretty), Vetiver, Quand Vient d’Ete, Plus Que Jamais, Angelique Noire, Violette Madame, (wish I could buy this and it lasted on me – it is 15 mins kind on me). My relatively recent love for Nahema extrait (after dissing it for years) and Chamade extrait makes me think that my appreciation for this house for about two decades will possibly last another few. At least one must hope.

    I am not a fan from AA line btw.
    One thing I must point out is that much as I love them, I do not seem to reach for as many Guerlains as I used to in the past but I do like to have them around.

    I really enjoy visiting the Champs Elysees boutique as it is the closest to my place. September 29, 2005 at 5:21am Reply

  • Christina H.: I just recieved my very first Guerlain fragrance, Nahema parfum yesterday and bought it unsniffed because I had heard many wonderful reviews for it being a rose fragrance.I absolutely love it!! I do think that extraits have that certain something that you just can’t get in EDP or EDT form. Lately, I have been searching for just about every rose based fragrance out there and Nahema is at the top now!! By the way , I love your blog and look forward to it every week day and wished it was on the weekends too!! September 29, 2005 at 9:53am Reply

  • karin: I’d like to know why when I do love so many Guerlains, that I cannot wear Apres L’Ondee well. Is it because it must be in the parfum? I don’t wear the parfums in all the fragrances by any means.

    My favorites: Chamade, Chant d’aromes, Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit.

    I don’t care for the AA’s either. September 29, 2005 at 11:15am Reply

  • mreenymo: Hmmm, my favorite Guerlain? Well, darling V, even though I seem to have a love-hate relationship with Guerlain/LVHM as of late, I do have precious memories. LOL!

    Apres L’Ondee is my first love. Violets and irises-you can’t beat that combination when it’s done so sublimely.

    I also love Parure and Mitsouko, VdN, too.

    Hugs! September 29, 2005 at 11:17am Reply

  • carole: Samsara was my first introdution to Guerlain, and I loved it for years, until a friend of mine sprayed way too much on one miserable night. Whether it was the way it smelled on her, or the events of the night(did I ention it was MISERABLE?) I do not enjoy it as much as I once did. I also like Jardins de Bagetelle. Wish I could wear Mitsuko, but I experience a headache every time I try. September 29, 2005 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Marina: My only favorite used to be L’Heure Bleue, but now thanks to you, it is joined by Apres l’Ondee. Both are smooth soft feminine perfection. September 29, 2005 at 10:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, your description of Vol de Nuit is just perfect. I agree about Guerlain oriental fragrances having a very distinct French aesthetic.

    Vol de Nuit flacon is absolutely stunning. I also love the flacon for Chamade and the vintage Jicky apothecary bottle.

    One question about Vetiver, I understand that it was reformulated at one point. Do you know what is the difference in the composition (vintage vs. modern)? September 29, 2005 at 11:46am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: N, you are my Guerlain inspiration! I really understand what you mean about not reaching for Guerlains too often. To me, these fragrances are like couture gowns. On the other hand, I do not reach for anything repeatedly, given the fact that everything is on a slow rotation process.

    I recently tried and enjoyed Jardins des Bagatelles, which in the past struck me as very un-Guerlain. I suppose that it is not, but it is very nicely done, and I enjoy returning to it. September 29, 2005 at 11:50am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, thank you very much! I wish I could write about perfume every day, but work gets in the way. 🙂

    Nahema is one of the most beautiful rose fragrance, dark and sultry. You are absolutely right–the extrait is much interesting than the other concentrations. It is richer, smoother and more radiant. In the article about Jean-Paul Guerlain, it says, “Each of his women’s perfumes was created for a woman he has loved, including those he admired from afar like French screen idol Catherine Deneuve, who inspired his rose-scented “Nahema”.” September 29, 2005 at 11:54am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, L’Heure Bleue was my first Guerlain fragrance. I love its richness and “violet folded into anise cream” element. Such a perfect composition! September 29, 2005 at 11:55am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, Après l’Ondée extrait de parfum was amazing, blending delicacy and richness in a perfect way. The EDT strikes me as rather thin by comparison, however I love the fragrance so much that I will wear it. In general, Guerlain parfum concentrations are always preferable to the EDTs. Chamade is one such example. Had I not tried extrait de parfum, I would never have given it a chance based on the EDT alone. September 29, 2005 at 11:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, being part of a large corporation is not easy. However, the newest Guerlain fragrances are very beautifully done, with the high quality ingredients. I do not even want to think about the reformulation of their classics. It breaks my heart.

    Thanks to you, I have grown to like Parure more and more. In general, I seem to have fallen in love with chypre recently. September 29, 2005 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Tania: I used to wear L’Heure Bleue exclusively, for a couple of years in college, when I was in my maudlin poet phase. Then I went through an aggressively punkish, Japanese-influenced urban style of dress for a while, which I paired with Shalimar, aiming for a disconnect between the way I looked and the way I smelled. Now the Guerlains I wear are Mitsouko and AA Pamplelune. I’ve been flirting with Vol de Nuit for a long time (yet to consummate it with a bottle) and am starting to think I was unfair to Jicky by saying it smelled like lavender spray in a bathroom. I mean, maybe it does, but is that necessarily bad? September 29, 2005 at 1:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, if you wore Shalimar, I would imagine that Jicky might be a perfect fragrance. It has some of the same elements, but made crisper and fresher. Lavender is a welcome addition.

    I cannot forget about AA Pamplelune. Another AA I like is Ylang et Vanille (the element I notice in new Plus Que Jamais).

    As for lavender spray in bathroom, it depends both on the type of spray and the type of bathroom. 🙂 Anything that smells of Glade cannot be good! September 29, 2005 at 1:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, another thing–did you notice that JPG indicates original Arpege formula as the classic? I wore the vintage Arpege you gave me, and it is fantastic. Granted, I still like the modernized one, but the original seems like a true grand parfum. September 29, 2005 at 1:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Carole, I had a very similar experience with Samsara. It is such a potent and memorable fragrance that it simply got hooked someplace in my memory, and I cannot fully disassociate it from the negative recollections. Still, I like its rich sandalwood note as well as its dark composition. September 29, 2005 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Ayala: Vol de Nuit is one of my most favourite Guerlains, as well as Mitsouko and Shalimar. I will never be without any of those three. But Vol de Nuit holds for me also sentimental family history.

    It is adventurous, sophisticated and enigmatic, and is essentially the best of both worlds – Oriental and Chypre.

    In my mind, Vol de Nuit is associated with the heroic women of the WWII era, namely my dearest grandmother (Vol de Nuit was the romantic gift my beloved grandfather has given her after taking her to the Guerlain boutique in Champs Elysee where she received a personal fragrance consultation and it remained her signature perfume till this very present day). I also associate it (I admit it – a lot of elements in the movie reminded me of “The Little Prince” by the same author of “Vol de Nuit”) – the airplane crashing in the desert) the desert-dwelling British heroine from “The English Patient”.

    Vol de Nuit is refined and elegant and also subtley sensual.

    Top notes: Galbanum, Bergamot, Sage
    Heart notes: Jonquil, Jasmine, Orris Root, Cedarwood, Musk
    Base notes: Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Oakmoos, Cedarwood, Agarwood, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Vetiver

    One important note to end: the Parfum Extrait is the only way to wear Vol de Nuit. Not easy to obtain but well worth it! September 29, 2005 at 2:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ayala, thank you for sharing this wonderful story! The fragrances that have a personal connection (Diorissimo which was worn by my mother or Climat, my grandmother’s fragrance) have a special place in my heart.

    Vol de Nuit has always seemed brave and confident to me, while retaining an aura of mystery. The name being derived from the title of Saint-Exupery’s story only adds to its allure for me.

    You are absolutely right that the extrait de parfum is the best way of wearing Vol de Nuit. It showcases the beauty of the fragrance perfectly. September 29, 2005 at 2:53pm Reply

  • Tania: V, when I say lavender in a bathroom, I mean it actually smells like the bathroom! Maybe that’s civet? Whatever it is, it smells, you know, bathroomy. I didn’t notice it as much in Shalimar, but maybe the vanilla tempered it.

    I did notice the inclusion of original Arpège in JPG’s list. Glad you liked what little I could coax out of my poorly designed vintage bottle. Funny, I used to think the modern Arpège was pretty good, but now that I have the original, the new version seems in contrast suddenly hollow, tawdry, over sweetened, improperly effervescent. In fact, I’m trying to swap it away! September 29, 2005 at 2:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yes, you ruined me with the vintage Arpège. The modernized version is just too easy to comprehend. I am hunting for a vintage bottle, needless to say.

    Hmmm, civet will definitely give that quality. Will retest both Shalimar and Jicky later to compare the animalic note. September 29, 2005 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Tara: I love Chamade and Apres l’Ondee best. I also recently acquired a bottle of Cherry Blossom extrait which is lovely, but ephemeral. September 29, 2005 at 7:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, I was always curious about Cherry Blossom extrait. I tried the EDT (or was it the EDP) once, but it just did not impress me. I hoped that extrait could be longer lasting. September 29, 2005 at 8:05pm Reply

  • MC: Hi Victoria,

    Yes I think Guerlain has changed the formula for Vetiver, at least once. It has certainly changed in the past decade: I had a bottle of the previous formulation in the mid-90s and it was deeper, more traditionally masculine than the current version. I would say it had more tobacco with perhaps less emphasis on the top notes.

    The current version has a very effervescent lemon-grapefruit top note and the heavy bass of tobacco and cedar has been turned down a little. It’s still good but it isn’t the same scent. Even people who aren’t particularly scent fanatics but who have been wearing Guerlain’s Vetiver for years (like my father-in-law) have noticed this.

    I believe Guerlain denies any change in the formula.

    Conspiracy theory ahoy: Apparently Mouchoir de Monsieur was saved from the discontinued pile because it continued to be produced exclusively for the dandyish actor Jean-Claude Brialy. It later became commercially available but only through selected Guerlain boutiques – no samples, no tester bottles, just 250ml flacons selling for around 1500 Francs. Maybe Guerlain continues to produce tiny, exclusive quantities of its classics in their original formula for demanding lifetime customers?

    As I am unlikely to attain such levels of power and influence I suppose I will just have to hope that Guerlain re-releases original formulae as a feature of the Champs-Elysee boutique! September 30, 2005 at 4:37am Reply

  • linda: I love L’Heure Bleu and Shalimar. Ok, confession time. I don’t like Apres L’Ondee. It doesn’t last on me at all. September 30, 2005 at 11:31am Reply

  • julien: Hi…
    Forever and ever,as a everlasting love, my favorite Guerlain is the sister of your favorite one:l’HEURE BLEUE.
    It is the perfect representation of an impressionist paint.
    When i smell it,it make me feel as if time and space were standing still.
    Try the extrait de parfum…it is simply a marvel,once smelled,nothing can be the same.
    Kisses dear. September 30, 2005 at 1:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, thank you! I thought that there were differences between the original and the current versions of Vetiver. It is still a great fragrance, and I like its crisp feel, paired with an austere elegance.

    Mouchoir de Monsieur is another fascinating fragrance. Look at these notes:
    Top: lavender, bergamot, verbena
    Middle: rose, jasmine, neroli, cinnamon, tonka bean
    Base: vanilla, iris, oak moss, amber

    Sounds rather interesting. I know that it is currently available as a limited edition for 800 euros. Not exactly mass market! September 30, 2005 at 10:49am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, it is a fleeting fragrance. The parfum was so much better, including the tenacity, however what can one do… I only wish that it will be brought back. September 30, 2005 at 11:43am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, you are so right, dear J! Extrait de parfum is stunning. I have a .25oz bottle, and I treasure it. And I agree with you–it is a beautiful sister of Après l’Ondée. 🙂 September 30, 2005 at 4:53pm Reply

  • julien: I should add that i love Après l’Ondée too.
    What a pity it doesn’t exist in extrait anymore…
    I am so excited because i have won a 30ml extrait de parfum in ebay for less than the middle of the price needed in a Guerlain store.

    You know what?i Have only a few perfumes to buy and i will have all the ones i worship…

    Kisses dear,i hope everything ‘s fine in your life.
    Take care…
    with all my love.
    Julien. October 2, 2005 at 7:36am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear Julien, congratulations! What a great find indeed. I cannot agree more with your philosophy. Sounds very sensible and very true. Hope that your new work is going well. Best of luck with everything!
    xoxo October 2, 2005 at 11:09pm Reply

  • MC: Hi Victoria,

    I like Mouchoir de Monsieur a lot – it’s a lighter Jicky in many respects, with more tobacco and vanilla. Very sparkling top notes too – something about those top notes reminds me of Musc Ravageur (maybe the cinnamon?).

    Definitely worth a try but it does feel thin set beside Jicky. I don’t know what formula MdeM comes in and I’ve only ever come across Jicky in Eau de Parfum form so perhaps the comparison is unfair. October 3, 2005 at 4:04am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, thank you once again. Curious that you shoul say that you saw the connection between Mouchoir de Monsieur and Musc Ravageur, because it is exactly what I identified in my review of MR–the relationship between this fragrance with the classical Guerlains, like Shalimar. Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur share the same elements that later were enchanced in Shalimar. October 3, 2005 at 1:45pm Reply

  • MC: That’s very interesting Victoria, thanks! It will be fun to compare them again in light of your notes! October 5, 2005 at 4:27am Reply

  • Antoinette Fels-Lavalle: Apres l’ondee est mon parfum prefere- December 8, 2006 at 10:18pm Reply

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