iconic perfumes: 24 posts

Perfumers on Perfume : Ernest Beaux on Fragrance Masterpieces

Today we know Ernest Beaux first and foremost as the creator of Chanel No. 5, but he was also responsible for Bois des Îles, Cuir de Russie, No. 22, and many other early Chanel perfumes. His style is elegant and graceful, but with a strong character. Soir de Paris, a fragrance he created for Bourjois, doesn’t just skip from one note to another; it shimmers, revealing in one moment a peppery citrus and green leaves, and in another a velvety rose and wood shavings. As it turns out, Beaux was not only a great perfumer; he was also a good writer, and his candid observations remain relevant today. In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from Memories of a perfumer (Souvenirs d’un parfumeur), a 1946 magazine article by Ernest Beaux published in Industrie de la Parfumerie.   


The article gives a glimpse into what Beaux considered to be the greatest perfumes of his time and his thoughts on the art of perfumery in general. “If our thoughts are but fantasies, such fantasy finds, thanks to the talent of the perfumer, a possibility of fulfillment,” he writes, and I cannot agree more.

The article comes from the archives of the Osmothèque, a French non-profit institution whose mission is to preserve fragrances in their original formulations. The current regulations make it impossible for Chanel to offer No.5 as Beaux intended it to be, but the Osmothèque features it in its collection, which is open to the public. You can also discover there the fragrance masterpieces Beaux mentions in the article:  Houbigant Cœur de Jeannette, Houbigant Fougère Royale, Houbigant Le Parfum Idéal, Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, Piver Le Trèfle Incarnat, Roger & Gallet Vera Violetta, Guerlain Jicky, Guerlain Après l’Ondée, Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, Coty La Rose Jacqueminot, Coty L’Origan, Caron Le Narcisse Noir, Lanvin Scandal, and Lanvin Arpège.

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Estee Lauder Youth Dew : Perfume Review (New and Vintage)


This year Estée Lauder’s first fragrance, Youth Dew, will celebrate its 60th anniversary.  Originally conceived as perfumed bath oil, it is the dowager empress of the Lauder fragrance counter, still selling briskly despite its late middle age. So formidable is it that if you only try it once every ten years, you will recognize it.


Youth Dew has always been a thick and nearly viscous brew. Lauder perfumes contain sumptuous amounts of perfume oil and nowhere is this illustrated as plainly as in Youth Dew, whose 30% dosage leaves a sheen on the skin.  In today’s terms, Youth Dew is retro in the same way Opium is retro; they are both heavily spiced and heavy-lidded Orientals of a type no longer in trend. As with Opium, Youth Dew is crazily ripe with orange top notes and aldehydes bursting over its clove and cinnamon heart.

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Fragrances That Influenced Perfume History : 100 Great Perfumes Series 4 / 10


Series 1 :: Series 2 :: Series 3 :: Series 4 :: Series 5 :: Series 6 :: Series 7 :: Series 8 :: Series 9 :: Series 10

I am continuing the 100 Great Perfumes series that originated from the perfumery training course I designed. The next ten fragrances display a trend that would peak in the 1980s—increasingly louder fragrances. This was an American phenomenon that first was explored by Estée Lauder in her Youth Dew fragrance and that subsequently received a new interpretation with fragrances like Lagerfeld Chloé, Giorgio Beverly Hills and Christian Dior Poison. The fragrances below also highlight a new trend that would mark the 1970s—green chypres, a vibrant combination of exhilarating green notes and the earthy darkness of moss and patchouli. Where would we be today without fragrances like Chanel No 19, Estée Lauder Alliage and Clinique Aromatics Elixir?

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Fragrances That Influenced Perfume History : 100 Great Perfumes Series 3 / 10


Series 1 :: Series 2 :: Series 3 :: Series 4 :: Series 5 :: Series 6 :: Series 7 :: Series 8 :: Series 9 :: Series 10

The next 10 fragrances in my 100 Great Perfumes Series encompass the launches from the 1950-60s, the decades of relative prosperity on the one hand, and of great geopolitical shifts on the other. The fragrance fashion of the time leaned towards warm, sultry blends, against which perfumer Edmond Roudnitska started to rebel by creating radiant, sheer compositions. The woody-leathery chypres became more common in both the feminine and the masculine markets, setting a trend for an austere elegance. Those were the decades that set some of the strongest trends for the future, many of which persist even today.

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Fragrances That Influenced Perfume History : 100 Great Perfumes Series 2 / 10


Series 1 :: Series 2 :: Series 3 :: Series 4 :: Series 5 :: Series 6 :: Series 7 :: Series 8 :: Series 9 :: Series 10

I am continuing my 100 Fragrances That Influenced Perfume History Series with a look at the next 10 great trendsetting perfumes. In this series I would also like to focus on the creators. In some cases, I want to highlight perfumers who were fascinating and flamboyant; in others, I wish to pay homage to those who not only influenced perfume trends with their work, but also broke set stereotypes, mentored a new generation of stellar perfumers or introduced new ways to think about fragrance creation. In many ways, their fragrances were also a fascinating reflection of their personalities and their predilections.

The list is in a chronological order. M indicates a fragrance intended for the masculine market.

11. Joy (Jean Patou, perfumer Henri Alméras, 1930)

Sometimes more than the perfumes themselves, it is the perfumers who are fascinating. This is definitely the case with Henri Alméras, the creator of Joy, who by all accounts was quite a character: very creative, brilliant and dashingly handsome to top it all off! Another great perfumer, Guy Robert, tells that one day he went into Alméras’ lab and found him in some distress. He showed Robert a new perfume he had made which was quite interesting. “I made a perfume to impress a beautiful blonde, and now she is gone, but I do not know how to recreate it. I did not take any notes!” exclaimed Alméras.

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  • Andy in The Memory of a Mulberry Tree: I love mulberries, and grew up with the trees around me, but didn’t realize what they were or how delicious I would find them until somewhat recently. They’re now one… July 17, 2018 at 12:51pm

  • Nina in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: Thank you! I’ll sample those for sure, especially Santal Noir seems nice! Also thanks for the rec about the website you mentioned, it was great fun looking up fragrances! July 17, 2018 at 12:45pm

  • Devon Rubin in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: Thanks! I’ll give them a try. Devon July 17, 2018 at 12:42pm

  • limegreen in Recommend Me a Perfume : July 2018: An idea: Tom Ford has come out with a limited line of body sprays that are quite nice, muted versions of the eau de parfum. Makes it office friendly and… July 17, 2018 at 12:38pm

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