guerlain: 76 posts

On the Japanese Incense Trail with a Paris Detour

I’m sitting in front of smoldering joss sticks trying to determine whether they smell of the milky sweetness of sandalwood or the raspy sharpness of cedar. A young woman with a glossy black bob lights one stick after another, blowing each out with a gentle wave of her hand. I’m unused to kneeling for so long, and I feel the crunch of tatami mats through my thin wool trousers. The back of my head throbs slightly from jet lag, and I am being overwhelmed by the size of Tokyo and the strain of trying to remember Japanese covered by layers of other languages I’ve learned since my university days. I also feel anxious that I may not be able to guess the scents correctly, but then I remember my perfumery teacher’s words “don’t think, just smell,” and I let myself go.

I’m inside a Shoyeido incense store hidden in the elegant Aoyama district of Tokyo. Nearby are the glittering avenues of Harajuku, lined with fashion boutiques and populated by some of the most stylish people on the planet, but inside the earth toned store, there is only serenity and incense.

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Frida Kahlo and Shalimar

“They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality,” Frida Kahlo once said. An artist is inseparable from their art, and this idea is particularly dramatic in the case of Kahlo, whose body of work is based on the explorations of self. Of the 143 paintings Kahlo left behind, 55 are self-portraits, brutal, honest, startling. What’s more, Kahlo was conscious of the power of the image, and she also fashioned self through her choice of clothes, colors and accessories.

I admit that I didn’t appreciate the importance that Kahlo assigned to her clothes, jewelry and perfume until I saw the exhibit of the artist’s possessions at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The image of the Mexican artist—the colorful skirts, the flower-decorated braids, the unibrow—entered pop culture to the point that we risk forgetting the artist behind a fashion icon. In order to understand her art, is it necessary to know that Frida Kahlo wore Guerlain’s Shalimar and Schiaparelli’s Shocking and draped herself in Mexican dresses and Chinese silk?

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My Article about The Shalimar Gardens in Oh Comely

Paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, meaning ‘an enclosed garden,’ and in arid land, the idea of an orchard filled with the sound of water, the glow of ripening fruit and the perfume of flowers was indeed a vision from the celestial realm. Persians perfected the art of gardening and their ideas influenced the way orchards were designed around the world. To see one such garden, I traveled to Karachi, a bustling port city in the south of Pakistan, continued my journey along the Indus River, and navigated the mad traffic of Lahore. An orchard may not be worth such an effort, but the Shalimar Gardens were no ordinary place.

I have a new article in the magazine Oh Comely. It follows me on my travels through southern Pakistan to reach the fabled Shalimar Gardens. They were created in the 17th century by the emperor Shah Jahan and while many changes have befallen them, they’re still one of the reasons to visit Lahore, the city that was the jewel of the Mughal Empire. My article is in Issue 48. The spring issue has fruit as its leitmotif, and if you read my article, you’ll see what the Shalimar Gardens, the founder of the Mughal Empire, emperor Babur, and fragrant mangoes have in common. And the Shalimar perfume, of course.

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Guerlain Mon Guerlain : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to be dismissive of a perfume like Mon Guerlain. It checks off all of the contemporary cliches–fruity-floral, sweet, and pretty. One can almost guess what it would smell like by looking at its adorable pink bottle. And it first, Mon Guerlain indeed smells predictable, a fruit compote accented with citrus and spiced with patchouli. Yet, in perfume, as in life, it pays to be open-minded.

Those who are willing to give Mon Guerlain a chance will find an upbeat, easy to wear fragrance with a solid Guerlinade imprint. How it gets there is the most interesting part.

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7 Rare Vintage Perfumes : The Perfume and Wine Class

As preparation for the Art of Perfume and Wine class that I’m teaching in April in France (more details here), I thought I would write about 7 vintage perfumes that have been influential for the evolution of perfumery and that we will smell in their original versions. There will be over 50 different perfumes in this course, but these 7 are among the most essential to learn.

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue 1912

Many perfumers will name Guerlain as the most influential perfume house, especially in its period when Jacques Guerlain was the head creator. L’Heure Bleue is a textbook example of a classic as well as of a symphonic perfume.

We will, of course, smell other Guerlain classics, from Après L’Ondée and Mitsouko to Chamade and Chant d’Arômes.

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Latest Comments

  • aad de gids in Givenchy L’Interdit 2018 : Fragrance Review: I immediately loved the new ‘l’Interdit’. I still come from the time of these older perfumes which I also love (born 1957). as a homosexual man always wearing womens perfumes… June 20, 2019 at 9:02am

  • Fazal in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: When I think of my childhood, I realize perfumes did not really penetrate the sub-continent and might still have not. Any perfumed smell I remember from childhood comes from anything… June 19, 2019 at 6:12pm

  • OnWingsofSaffron in Scent of Cherries: A post on Scent of Cherries. Isn’t it funny no one asked about Guerlain’s new Aqua Allegoria “Flora Cherrysia”? Is it the cheesy name, the scent mix (watermelon and cherry… June 19, 2019 at 5:01pm

  • eudora in Scent Diary : In Search of Lost Time: My grandmother passed 30 years ago when I was a child. Last week I smelled Chanel n22 for the first time and it transported me all straight to her. Suddenly… June 19, 2019 at 3:52pm

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