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Guerlain - Sniff Fest

Guerlain - Sniff Fest 7 years ago


Maybe it was something about the year, but in 1828 a department store lacking vision refused Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain space to “set up under his own name.” Undaunted, he opened his own store at 42, rue de Rivoli, Paris. It was the Paris of Honoré de Balzac and Victor Hugo. In two years, formerly exiled Louis-Phillipe would usurp his young cousin and be king. In four years, cholera would strike. Swiftly, Pierre-François was designing bespoke perfumes for those who were not miserable and he flourished despite the cholera that beset Paris for 17 years. He even designed a scent at Balzac’s request, for wearing as he wrote César Birotteau (1838). Having devoured both Hugo and Balzac as a child, I desperately want it. Imagine wearing the same scent Balzac wore as he wrote! Tragically, it seems lost to history.

Across the Atlantic also in 1828, Noah Webster published his first “American Dictionary of the English Language." Today, one can’t intelligently discuss dictionaries in America or perfume in France without in the first case mentioning Webster and in the latter case, Guerlain. Like Webster’s, the House of Guerlain and its products became a reference--to which other perfumes would be compared. In 1914 the family commissioned Charles Mewès, designer of the iconic Ritz Hotel London, to build them a new home at 68, Champs-Elysees from which Guerlain continues to reign sans family ownership or participation, sadly. When the last Guerlain “nose,” Jean-Paul Guerlain, made a faux pas on TV in 2010 the new owners, LVMH Group, asked him to leave. Many thought Patricia de Nicolai, Jean-Pauls’s niece, should have already become the in-house perfumer, but no. Instead she formed her own company, as we know, with wonderful results.

A Guerlain sniff fest is a daunting undertaking. Our database lists 388 of them. Before I begin I could use some help. Which should be included/excluded to experience the scope and depth of Guerlain? Wikipedia is of the opinion that the following are the greatest. Do you agree? See a second list below.
Eau de Cologne Impériale, 1853
Jicky, 1889
Eau de Cologne du coq, 1894
Mouchoir de Monsieur, 1904
Voilette de Madame, 1904
Parfum des Champs-Élysées, 1904
Après l'ondée, 1906
Kadine, 1911
L'Heure bleue, 1912
Mitsouko, 1919
Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat, 1920
Shalimar, 1925
Liù, 1929
Sous le Vent, 1933
Vol de Nuit, 1933
Vega, 1936
Coque d'or, 1937
Ode, 1955
Vetiver, 1956
Chant d'Arômes, 1962
Habit Rouge, 1965
Chamade, 1969
Eau de Guerlain, 1974
Parure, 1975
Nahéma, 1979
Jardins de Bagatelle, 1983
Derby, 1985
Samsara, 1989
Héritage, 1992
Champs-Élysées, 1996
Coriolan / L'Âme d'un Héros, 1998
Cherry Blossom, 1999
Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune, 1999
Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca, 1999
Philtre d'Amour, 1999
Mahora / Mayotte, 2000
L'Instant de Guerlain, 2003
Insolence, 2006
Guerlain Homme, 2008
Idylle, 2010
Shalimar Parfum Initial, 2011
La Petite Robe Noire, 2012
L'Homme Idéal, 2014

I compiled another list from our database by arranging the Guerlains in descending order by rating. Then I picked those given at least 80% (79% in a couple of cases) by 100 members or more. Here are the ones not on the list above. Should I add them? Have I missed important ones? Thanks in advance.

Angélique Noire
Arsène Lupin Dandy / Arsène Lupin
Bois d'Arménie
Cuir Beluga
Eau de Shalimar
Gourmand Coquin
L'Heure de Nuit
L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Eau Extrême
L’Instant Magic
Mon Précieux Nectar
Nahema
Rose Barbare
Shalimar Ode à la Vanille - Sur la route du Mexique
Shalimar Ode à la Vanille - Sur la route de Madagascar
Songe d'un Bois d’Été
Spiritueuse Double Vanille
Tonka Impériale
Vetiver Extreme
7 years ago
Thank you for starting such a nice thread, a feast for the mind and the soul.
7 years ago
Thanks. It's fun for me already, Pipette. Here's that Wikipedia list in alpha order for ease of comment:

*Après l'ondée, 1906
Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca, 1999
Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune, 1999
*Chamade, 1969
Champs-Élysées, 1996
Chant d'Arômes, 1962
Cherry Blossom, 1999
Coriolan / L'Âme d'un Héros, 1998
Coque d'or, 1937
*Derby, 1985
Eau de Cologne du coq, 1894
Eau de Cologne Impériale, 1853
Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat, 1920
Eau de Guerlain, 1974
Guerlain Homme, 2008
*Habit Rouge, 1965
Héritage, 1992
Idylle, 2010
Insolence, 2006
Jardins de Bagatelle, 1983
*Jicky, 1889
Kadine, 1911
La Petite Robe Noire, 2012
L'Homme Idéal, 2014
*L'Heure bleue, 1912
*L'Instant de Guerlain, 2003
Liù, 1929
Mahora / Mayotte, 2000
*Mitsouko, 1919
Mouchoir de Monsieur, 1904
*Nahéma, 1979
Ode, 1955
Parfum des Champs-Élysées, 1904
Parure, 1975
Philtre d'Amour, 1999
*Samsara, 1989
*Shalimar, 1925
Shalimar Parfum Initial, 2011
*Sous le Vent, 1933
Vega, 1936
Vetiver, 1956
Voilette de Madame, 1904
*Vol de Nuit, 1933
7 years ago
Update: Can't find decants of:

Coque d'or, 1937
Kadine, 1911
Ode, 1955

No surprise, I guess. The rest are on the way.
and from 2000 Metalys/Metallica 7 years ago
what about the beautiful Metalys/ Metallica????? from 2000!!!!
7 years ago
What a fantastic thread Smile Well, I will certainly follow your journey to find the perfect Guerlain fragrance, and maybe I can contribute as well.

Have you checked out www.monsieurguerlain.com/ yet? Not only can you find a much more complete list of all released Guerlain fragrances over there, but also lots of history and reviews of the most important fragrances, as well as reviews of the discontinued ones Monsieur Wasser recreated for the vintage workshop.

From what I have read on Monsieur Guerlains blog, most fragrances before Jicky where light citrus based cologne like scents, with just minor differences from one to the other. Part of the reason why, is because no synthetics where invented yet, and so Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain could only use more fleeting naturals. So, if you know what Eau de Cologne Impériale smells like, you can get an idea what most scents from the pre Jicky era where like. That's why I would start the search from Jicky onwards. Most of Pierre-Francois Pascal's scents are not available anyway.

Personally, I think your to try list is already good as it is, but scents such as Parure, Kadine, Ode, Coque d'Or, Parfum de Champs-Elysees, Voilette de Madame, Djedi, Vega and Sous Le Vent are long discontinued, and the only way to try them is to participate in one of the vintage workshops in Paris.
7 years ago
Thanks, Kankuro. Participation is very welcome. Luckily, I've located all the scents you mention, three of them with the help of Monsier Guerlain. His site is splendid, isn't it? A real contribution to perfumery.

Kankuro:
What a fantastic thread Smile Well, I will certainly follow your journey to find the perfect Guerlain fragrance, and maybe I can contribute as well.

Have you checked out www.monsieurguerlain.com/ yet? Not only can you find a much more complete list of all released Guerlain fragrances over there, but also lots of history and reviews of the most important fragrances, as well as reviews of the discontinued ones Monsieur Wasser recreated for the vintage workshop.

From what I have read on Monsieur Guerlains blog, most fragrances before Jicky where light citrus based cologne like scents, with just minor differences from one to the other. Part of the reason why, is because no synthetics where invented yet, and so Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain could only use more fleeting naturals. So, if you know what Eau de Cologne Impériale smells like, you can get an idea what most scents from the pre Jicky era where like. That's why I would start the search from Jicky onwards. Most of Pierre-Francois Pascal's scents are not available anyway.

Personally, I think your to try list is already good as it is, but scents such as Parure, Kadine, Ode, Coque d'Or, Parfum de Champs-Elysees, Voilette de Madame, Djedi, Vega and Sous Le Vent are long discontinued, and the only way to try them is to participate in one of the vintage workshops in Paris.
Re: and from 2000 Metalys/Metallica 7 years ago
Thanks for the suggestion, Shanice. I'll order it.

Shanice118:
what about the beautiful Metalys/ Metallica????? from 2000!!!!
7 years ago
Almost there...

Here are the 65 Guerlains that have arrived. I'm awaiting two more. I'll sniff them in order by date of release.

To be continued...
7 years ago
At least you're working, I mean, contributing to this Forum. I am guilty of only reading as my real life took over. See photos.
7 years ago
Continuing the Guerlain Sniff Fest ...

Most of my life, I haven’t been a big wanter of things, just travel and books. In my later years that has changed to some extent. Among other things, I’ve concluded that since we have noses that can appreciate scent, delighting our noses while we have them is a good thing.

Guerlain is prepared to help with this to the maximum. Make an appointment, gather approximately €40,000, get on a plane if you don’t live in Europe, fly to Paris, go to a Guerlain boutique, and designers in the house that created Shalimar and L’Heure Blueu will personally consult with you. The result will be a total of 1790 ml of a “perfume, created to reflect your desires and aspirations throughout your life” and it will belong to “only one person”—you! I learned this by asking Guerlain as background for this sniff fest.

So tempted, I found myself thinking along now familiar lines: Gee, that’s not much more than a car—this year’s Audi Q5, for instance. It’s just a car! I buy cars. True, I tend to keep them 20 years, but I do buy them. No, I can’t drive a scent, but theoretically I certainly can wear it for twenty years … great incentive to stay alive, really.

Such has been the allure of Guerlain for 187 years since its founder, Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain opened shop. There are 203 mentions of Guerlain in Luca Turin’s classic, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Roja Dove in his The Essence of Perfume calls Guerlain, “the greatest perfumery house in the world.”



Initially, I was smitten, too but the Guerlain landscape has changed for me since I began collecting decants for this sniff fest a good two years ago. I bought Aqua Allegoria Flora Rosa blind last year and when, sad to say, it underwhelmed me, I tried to ignore that as a fluke. Gradually, I became unsure of this grand house as, over and over, I saw the same question asked: did the best of Guerlain depart with the ultimately ill-starred Jean-Paul Guerlain, fourth generation master perfumer from this famous family?

Then one day I found myself at Neiman's Guerlain counter, sniffing then buying like mad, not having actually smelled the decants I'd been collecting. On the spot, I became a Guerlain addict and gathered more willy-nilly from online discounters. Fingers crossed that at least some of the newer perfumes maintain the tradition.

[Come this fall, Jean-Paul will reportedly resurrect his perfume genius for a startup called My Exclusive Collection. Be still my beating heart!]

Meanwhile in this topic I’ll sniff through time, from the earliest Guerlain I could get my hands on to the latest. In the process, I’ll try to answer the question of whether Guerlain is still Guerlain. I'll try to discover who its noses were and are. My mind is open, my nose unbiased (in fact, it’s proven incapable of reporting anything but the bald if unavoidably subjective truth of its own sniffings), so let’s begin.

At first I found little about the Founder, Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, born in the small town of Abbeville on April 3, 1798. To have risen from a rural life into the height of the new middle class and achieved the patronage of royalty was no small achievement, yet there was virtually nothing about him in the sources I consulted: Guerlain, by Colette Fellous, and The Essence of Perfume by Roja Dove, former Guerlain “ambassador.” Both books are too physically huge to hold in my hands for reading, yet neither contain more than a single sentence about the forces that shaped Pierre-Francois. I also have Guerlain, by Elisabeth Barille, biographer, novelist and fashion writer. According to her, Pierre’s father was “a humble pewtersmith..and a distributor of English toiletries.” By the time Pierre-François reached Paris, he had somehow become, “a former chemical engineer.” No info on how that occurred. I was tempted to buy Jean-Paul's book and struggle through the French to see if it shed light, but it seems to be about his personal perfume journey.

A digression: the Wikipedia page for Abbeville, was no help. There, Pierre-François is a mere footnote. Pride of place is held by the 19 year old Chevalier de la Barre who died in 1766. Turns out Abbeville is famous for having tortured, cut off the hand, pulled out the tongue, and roasted this young nobleman (along with Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary found in the boy’s room) for the sin of not having removed his cap before a passing line of capuchin monks. Good grief. All done with approval of Paris authorities. He is the cause of France’s July 1 Chevalier de la Barre Day, which marks opposition to religious persecution. Poor Pierre-Francois, born there 32 years later and destined to create one of France’s great cultural hallmarks, will forever be usurped in his home town by le Barre’s martyrdom. Enormous good and mind-boggling evil arising from the same small place? Such is human nature. (Must visit le Barre’s statue outside Sacre Couer.)

What forces shaped Pierre-Francois? The first was surely geographical. Abbevile sits on the Somme River, 12 miles from the English Channel. London, a mere day’s ride from the opposite shore, was the center of perfumery, such as it was, at the time—also of soaps, lotions, candles and such. Many a ship or ferry must have set sail for France from England (and vice versa), and perhaps some arrived in Abbeville via the Somme, carrying such products. We know English perfumes were exported because the wreck of the Mary Celeste, found abandoned and adrift in 1872 and later sunk in 1880, was found in 2001 with what is probably the first oriental aboard, "Bouquet Opoponax", made by London perfumers Piesse and Lubin. Known for its good champagne, Abbeville was also a carriage stop on the post road to Paris from Calais, where most English boats landed.

The Plot thickens. More to come …
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