*FIFTY SHADES OF GUERLAIN
#1) Eau de Cologne Impèriale
(1853, Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain)
It does my perfumed heart good and gives me hope that today, in the early years of the twenty-first century, I can still purchase and am currently wearing Guerlain's EAU DE COLOGNE IMPERIALE. First crafted by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain in the mid-nineteenth century for the Empress Eugenie (wife of Napoleon) to ease her "migraine" suffering, this perfume has stood the test of time. Guerlain showed a thing or two to those snooty Parisian perfumers who, in 1828 when he opened his first shoppe on rue de la Paix in Paris, proceeded to tell him his perfumes were "worthless".
With worthy 1853 marketplace contemporaries like FLORIS London, Acqua di Genova, Meulhens, Roger & Gallet, Penhaligon's, Borsari, Houbigant, CREED and Grossmith to name just a handful-M. Guerlain had his work cut out for him. Taking and tweaking the original "Farina" 1709 citrus/cologne framework, he added subtle florality of neroli and limette and deftly threaded herbal nuances of verbena and rosemary throughout. After the Imperatrice tried this, Guerlain was promptly named as "royal supplier" to the court. Specializing in making personalized formulae for his clients, Guerlain created roughly 30 fragrances for which he is still remembered. EAU DE COLOGNE IMPERIALE is, at least from my point of view, what began a legacy of nearly 300 fragrances and ushered in an empire dedicated to beauty, luxury and art that has survived almost 200 years to remain one of the oldest fragrances still in production today.
This fragrance bursts from the atomizer lively and revitalizing as cold lemon collides with bright bergamot. A healthy twist of zesty orange warms these, keeping them from waxing overly sour or bitter. Within moments, the herbal facets of verbena add a decidedly green smoothness to the citric edge wafting truly tonic, becoming neither medicinal nor astringent before fading into a creamy lavender note that straddles floral and soapy deftly. The result is a creamy pristine aura radiating freshness while leaving one "feeling" just showered and clean. The sublime simplicity of the fragrance (created and, no doubt, applied lavishly and often considering there was no indoor plumbing at the time and baths were a WEEKLY ritual, even for the aristocracy) is that it doesn't just smell like soap; or even all that much like perfume, for that matter. It possesses a lather-like quality, dense but airy, that clings to skin like a foamy veil; rather than a cloud of "perfume".
Those with "perfume sensitivity" that I know and have worn it around say they find this to be not only something they like...but would actually WEAR! Monsieur P-F-P Guerlain is still wowing *non-parfumisti* people 161 years later!! THAT is what true unadulterated beauty can do and its that transcendent and sublime quality that has made this a piece of history and work of timelessness. Innocent, yet elegant EAU DE COLOGNE IMPERIALE does not say much, or say it very loudly, but what it does say is really fun, even uplifting and makes you feel renewed and refreshed-even if only for a few hours.
I am sure I do not need to talk at length about the poor longevity and soft sillage of this scent; being that this is (by name even) an EDC. I own 2 ounces (sent to me by a dear member who bought the 8 oz/240 ml "bee bottle" decanter) of this evanescent elixir. Worn twice before (and then only to bed), I wore it and it exclusively over the last three days. I applied it heavily and my supply is only down by about 1/3 total volume. I generally apply two sprays to each wrist *touching them to inner forearms*, one to each side of my neck two to the chest, one to the back of my neck and THEN walk through a dense mist, after dressing, to coat my clothing & hair. All this gets you a wee bit more citric heaven. Layering a hemp-based citric essence & blossom lotion over a verbena body wash (Yves Rocher) helped it shine a tad longer, as well. I am not worried by these so-called concerns and am quick to just follow my dear friend's advice and just apply more; and NOT just because it is "weak" or "fleeting" (which it is!) but mainly because it smells so amazing, crisp and real!
As far as the base notes and a fixative go, they are (as Sherapop so astutely observed) virtually non-existent-thus the poor longevity. I did, however, notice (after at least three more refreshing re-applications of jus) that what was on my (freshly showered and unadulterated) skin began to build up a gentle, almost chiffon-like, spiciness permeated with a savory sweetness, after the giggling of the neroli and linden flowers had finally quieted. I have worn, researched, dissected, spritzed and even tasted this scent, accidentally, as I was eventually splashing it on (with the wild abandon of the lady in the Jean Nate commercial) and actually had one of the most productive days I have had in months.
Aromatherapy? Most definitely. Perfume? Indeed. EAU DE COLOGNE IMPERIALE is similar to the perfect tones and hues of a pastel landscape of a crisp & bright spring morning sunrise. You look at it, you SEE it but...until you look INTO it, you do not realize what a truly masterful rendering you are experiencing. This Eau is the first in a wonderful line of Les Eaux (one "cologne" composed by each generation's Master Perfumer) that could and may one day stand in a perfume museum to illustrate the evolution of citrus scents and eaux de cologne throughout the Modern Age.
May you rest in peace, Pierre-Francois Guerlain. Your brilliance and beauty's spirit live on today. In addition to smelling divine your perfumes and story serve as an ever inspiring example to those who may be plagued by naysayers and detractors that if you follow your vision and never compromise your art you might render a classic work and eventually be recognized, even celebrated, and know that others love and embrace your creations. There is no greater gift one can give to posterity than that.
I am both humbled and exalted when I sport this. Humbled to be able to experience a moment in time, the scent of an era. I am equally uplifted by both the fantastic aroma hovering close to my skin and the stories of the real people behind the legends. An Empress a perfumer nineteenth century Paris...it's all there...
...if you inhale deeply enough.