guerlain: 87 posts

Scent Diary : Chamade and Ice

I like when I wake up in the morning expecting another grey winter day and find everything touched with ice. Belgian skies are grey, fog has a grey tint, but seen through the arabesques of ice on the window, the world looks enchanted–and the grey becomes pearly. I selected Chamade today, one of my favorites from Guerlain. I’ve been revisiting Guerlain classics lately, and Chamade, along with Mitsouko, have kept me company. Chamade is a green floral, with notes of hyacinth, blackcurrant, and galbanum offset by amber and woods. Impeccably crafted, it develops in waves as it were. First, there is a wave of lemon yellow, then green, then pale purple. But Chamade’s radiance persists throughout. It lingers so well that I’m sure that when I wake up on the Christmas morning, its soft glow will remain on my scarf.

What about you? What are you wearing today?

Scent Diary is a place to write your observations about the scents around you. Whether you write down 1 recollection or 10 matters less than simply reminding yourself to smell. You can add as many comments as you wish. You can comment today or over the course of the week; this thread will always be open. Of course, do share what perfume you’re wearing or what particularly good scented products you’ve discovered.

While looking through my articles, I found this article that I wrote a few years ago but that still remains popular and often-read: A to Z Tips for Enjoyable, Affordable and Rewarding Perfume Hobby. If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them.

I wish all of you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for your reading, visiting, and for joining my classes. It’s been such a pleasure meeting many of you face to face.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

What Makes A Perfume Great

“The art of fortunate proportions” is how Edmond Roudnitska described perfumery. According to the legendary perfumer, a good fragrance has balance and an original form, a simple idea that is far from easy to realize. Roudnitska spent his career creating fragrances that exemplify perfumery at its most artistic—Christian Dior Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage, Diorella, and Rochas Femme. His compositions have elegance and character, but one of the distinctive trademarks of Roudnitska’s style is balance.

When I speak of balance in perfumery, I mean both the aesthetics and the technique. Consider Guerlain’s Chamade, one of the most perfectly balanced fragrances. From the bright green top notes to the rose and hyacinth heart and the velvety woody notes, the perfume unfolds like a silk scroll.  Similarly modulated is Dior’s Diorissimo, where the musky and spicy notes balance out the floral and green accords.

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Fascinating Perfumery: How Violets and Ionones Made History

It’s not an understatement to say that without the humble violet we wouldn’t have perfumery as we know it today. At the end of the 19th century when the fashion for violet perfumes was all the rage, several German chemists set out to isolate the aroma-material that gives this flower its delicate and yet persistent scent. Until then violet essence was distilled from the flowers of Viola odorata, a process that required more than 33,000 kg of flowers to obtain a kilogram of violet oil. The search for Veilchenduft, the scent of violet, led to the discovery and isolation of ionones, a class of materials that are sweet and powdery.

In today’s film, I describe how this violet-scented revolution happened and compare different types of ionones. The term ionone is derived from the Greek word “iona,” which means violet, and “ketone” referring to its chemical structure. Several isomeric ionones occur naturally in flowers like rose and violet as well as in different fruit and berries. Fine grades of Japanese green tea are rich in ionones as is milk–if a cow eats ionone-rich alfalfa, ionones will then be found in its milk.

I mention several violet gold standards such as

Coty L’Origan

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue

Chanel No 19

Chanel Coco

Rochas Femme

Yves Saint Laurent Paris

Lancôme Trésor

This episode focuses more on the classics, and in the next film I will discuss modern fragrances featuring ionones. Ionones: Sweet and Powdery includes even more perfumes and information on these fascinating materials.

Of course, I would love to hear about your favorite violets, vintage or modern. 

How to Smell Peaches in Guerlain Mitsouko

When I wrote my article about lactones, I explained that Guerlain Mitsouko was one of the first perfumes to use these compounds redolent of peach skin and cream. Many of you then commented that you found it difficult to detect lactones in Mitsouko. This difficulty is not surprising, since the peach skin note in Mitsouko is not intended to be a dominant one. Instead, it offsets the darkness of moss and woods and harmonizes the warm drydown and the floral heart of the perfume.

In general, none of the Guerlain classics are easy to take apart note by note; this is not like modern niche perfumery where you can tell the percentage of Iso E Super at first sniff. The idea of the grand parfums like Mitsouko wasn’t to recreate a smell of peach or moss, but to evoke a mood, to tell a story and to tease the senses. I like the streamlined modern perfumes for other reasons, but if I want baroque complexity, Guerlain classics are my first port of call.

Like other perfumers, I spent months of my training recreating important classics without recourse to gas chromatography–with only my nose to guide me. So here I propose a technique that will help you identify the peach note in Mitsouko.

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Guerlain Eau de Cologne du Coq, Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat and Eau de Guerlain

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With the start of summer it seems natural to reach for a cologne. This style of fragrances based on citrus is uplifting and bright, and wearing a cologne is a low-commitment affair since it lasts on skin for only a few hours, leaving behind a memory of freshness. Of course, these days there are many different colognes, some promising an all-day citrus blast and others treating the most un-cologne-like notes like sandalwood, roses and musk in the style’s gossamer lightness. For my part, I recommend visiting three classics from Guerlain: Eau de Cologne du Coq, Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat and Eau de Guerlain.

Not only does the trio offer a range of styles, it gives a great overview of the house’s signature and the way it evolved over time. The fragrances were created by three perfumers representing different generations of the Guerlain family–Aimé Guerlain with his fin-de-siecle sensibilities, Jacques Guerlain renowned for his technical mastery and Jean-Paul Guerlain, the renegade. One need not have all three colognes in one’s wardrobe, but each is distinctive enough to be worth comparing.

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