Terracotta Voile d’été can still be had online for a fairly reasonable price and has, as such, become one of those little perfumista secrets that aren’t much blogged about, but have wound their way into many a collection. Launched in 1999 as a limited edition, it was based on a pre-existing Jacques Guerlain formula from 1910 called Quand vient l’été (“When Summer Comes”). That’s the name Terracotta took on when it popped up in the Les Parisiennes collection, a purgatory for Jean-Paul Guerlain’s limited editions and discontinued compositions, and then again in a “Four Seasons” coffret.
The original Quand vient l’été is described by Octavian Coifan as “a solar expression with strong notes pointing [to] all the flowers inside: ylang-ylang, carnation (very spicy with clove-dianthine), lilac-hyacinth, rose Wardia on a very sweet balsamic base (coumarine, heliotropine).” It was this formula that Mathilde Laurent, then Jean-Paul Guerlain’s assistant, was asked to modernize to accompany the Terracotta makeup collection. With no way of comparing the 1910 original with its 1999 reinterpretation, I can’t tell just what Mathilde Laurent did to it, but Terracotta does evince some of her characteristic boldness, and could well have been sold with her other Aqua Allegorias under the name Ylang Oeillet. Ylang-ylang and carnation were already at the core of Quand vient l’été. Here, they are welded by their common eugenol (clove) and salicylic (“solar”) facets and subjected to a radical slimming cure where the ylang loses most of its tropical lushness and the carnation, its old-fashioned powder puff. The result, though couched in a soft bed of heliotropine and vanilla, is essentially spicy and oddly combustible, which may sound counterintuitive for what was sold as a “summer veil”. But wearing it over the dog days makes sense: fighting fire with fire, as it were, before spreading that fire in a soft, spicy-floral, balsamic base that hovers over the skin like a miniature heat mirage.
Illustration: Saint-Tropez, Pier, by Pierre Bonnard.