Few perfume houses in the world have left such a profound and lasting mark, not just in the craftsmanship and art of perfume creation, but also in the lives of those for whom their fragrances have been a staple of daily life and landmark moments, as has Guerlain. Should anyone, be they inspired or compelled, decide to methodically, objectively, and passionately compile a list of the 100 best perfumes of the 20th century, they would, aside from possibly going gray in the attempt, conclude that at least a third of those fragrances belong to the protagonist of this review. And Apres L’Ondee would undoubtedly top that list.
Every Guerlain perfume is infused with poetry. Whether it’s the legacy of the Guerlain name or perhaps the extraordinary talent for creating perfumes woven into the Guerlain family’s DNA, starting from Pierre Francois Pascal Guerlain through Jean-Paul Guerlain and even to Patricia de Nicolai, who established her own brand (one of my favorites – Parfums de Nicolai), the reason remains elusive. Nonetheless, appreciating the poetry in Guerlain’s perfumes seems to require a degree in literature, given descriptions that talk of notes of freedom and childish joy with undercurrents of melancholy and existential angst. Yet, jesting aside, to relish this poetic essence, all one needs is what we all possess – a nose and a curious mind.
Apres L’Ondee, meaning “After the Rain,” suggests through its very name an atmospheric fragrance designed to evoke not an object but an experience and emotional state, unlike those with more literal olfactory references like Prada’s Candy.
Many interpret this perfume as an ode to melancholy, but my perspective diverges sharply despite my own tendencies toward melancholy. Perhaps it’s because I was born in October, and my first brush with the world was an autumn downpour. However, I perceive abundance, life, and joy in this fragrance. Yes, there are rainy clouds, but they are pierced by rays of sunshine.
At the heart of the perfume lies a magnificent accord of iris and violet. These two flowers set the tone for the entire (artistic) work, if we draw parallels with literature and poetry, while Guerlinade—a blend of iris, rose, tonka, vanilla, and jasmine—provides the rhythm that flows from the opening lines of Apres L’Ondee to its conclusion. Heliotrope, one of my favorite fragrance notes, also graces this perfume but in a gentle, understated manner, lending a certain gourmand and almost edible quality to the fragrance. Not in the overtly simplistic manner of many modern perfumes that aim to mimic desserts outright, but in a way that makes you want to nibble on the neck of the person wearing it. Who could argue that the people of the early 20th century didn’t know how to have fun?
What elevates and brightens the composition further is the inclusion of Mediterranean aromatic herbs, providing a counterbalance to the dense floral and vanilla notes. This is the ray of sunshine I mentioned, breaking through the rain clouds. That, and the fact that masterpieces of perfumery don’t need to be overpoweringly strong to make an impact. Quite the contrary. Apres L’Ondee gently wraps around the skin, and with each new verse, each new note, it becomes increasingly beautiful—akin to Rimbaud’s “The Drunken Boat,” as opposed to contemporary perfumes which, even if they are poems, are more like haikus, unfinished.
POSSIBLY OF INTEREST: TOP 10 – The Best Guerlain perfumes of the 20th century.[Fragrance notes] Top notes: bergamot, neroli, lemon, anise; middle notes: violet, iris, rose, jasmine, carnation, mimosa, ylang-ylang, heliotrope; base notes: sandalwood, vanilla, musk, benzoin, styrax, ambergris. [Fragrance group] oriental floral.
The creator of the perfume is Jacques Guerlain.