A few weeks ago, I was surprised to sniff on a friend a fragrance that had a very distinct Guerlain feel to it – except that it wasn’t any Guerlain I knew. It reminded me somewhat of Guet-Apens/ Attrape-Coeur, then of Shalimar…
Of course, I had to ask. She replied that the scent was called 180 ans, had been created for the celebration of Guerlain’s 180th anniversary in June 2008, and had been distributed to guests at that occasion. I quickly rooted out the bottle – identical in shape to the L’Art et la Matière – in my friend’s bathroom.
There’s something almost funny in the way the fragrance does what it sets out to do: sum up the history of the house in a quasi-didactic way.
It’s got the aromatic Provençal garden notes you find in most of the classic Guerlains, Mitsouko’s peach, L’Heure Bleue’s heliotropin, Shalimar’s candied bergamot/vanilla combo and the sweet amber base of what I consider to be the last of the truly great Guerlains, Mathilde Laurent’s Guet-Apens. There’s a sprinkle of pink pepper on top and a rather hefty patchouli base. And, of course, the tonka bean without which no Guerlinade exists.
Unsurprisingly, I like this much better than the house’s latest offerings, La Petite Robe Noire and the Elixirs Charnels trio: at least, it doesn’t feel like a vat of ethyl maltol was poured in. It has the trademark Guerlain edible quality, but it’s not a dessert. In fact, it feels like it may be a modification of a trial for a Shalimar flanker that was scooped off the shelves for the occasion. I wouldn’t be surprised if it appeared in some form in the future, possibly in the Les Parisiennes collection – the conservatory of semi-extinct Jean-Paul Guerlain compositions (with the exception of Liu). The fragrance is attributed to him.
I hope it does appear, and in an affordable form. At least I’d feel like I’m wearing a new Guerlain that actually respects the house’s heritage. In the meantime, I’ll eke out the few drops my friend spares me. Then I’ll turn her on to Attrape-Coeur.
Image: Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, duchesse de Berry (1825), by Sir Thomas Lawrence (source : Wikimedia Commons).