Isn’t perfume the most intense form of memory? – Jean-Paul Guerlain

In our first explorations of the world around us, we are guided by different scents. Perfumes have, as Baudelaire says, “The power to extend to infinity.” It is possible that he spoke about our inner sense of the infinity of consciousness, bringing to life excitement, hope, and memories. We all had that moment in our lives when we smelled something and were momentarily overwhelmed with memories and emotions from the distant past, childhood, presence of a loved one or a forgotten landscape. The reality fades in the face of these memories. Perfumes have an uncanny ability to point us to moments of true happiness, to the very essence of happiness that is so difficult to define or express. Just as a melody can decorate a song, so can perfume color and be the most faithful witness to our first emotions, our true feelings. We never forget the smell of special meetings, especially when it comes to love at first sight. These scents remain etched in our memory like love messages carved on an old oak tree. A drop of perfume on the neck, wrists, breasts will reflect our mood, invigorate or comfort us with its chords. Perfume creates an invisible bond between us and the other person. Wearing perfume also puts us on stage, and on the other hand, protects us from bad influences.

Guerlain perfume makers have a very deep, perhaps deepest insight into the power of perfume. Since 1828, they have produced about 760 perfumes that have been a secret weapon for generations of men and women. There are not many people in Europe who have never owned at least one Guerlain perfume during their lifetime. The seductiveness of these fragrances owes a great deal to a family resemblance that makes them very recognizable. The key to this enigma, the famous chord – Guerlinade, is found in each of the perfumes. The jealously guarded, secret of the true composition of Gerlinade has never been revealed, but it is known to contain jasmine, rose, vanilla, and tonka, among other substances… but part of the perfume trade is the skillful keeping of secrets.

Five generations of perfumers, the poets of the intangible, created the best perfumes for Guerlain in the history of perfumes, which have passed all the tests of time, fashion and quality. Sometimes inspired by human experiences, sometimes transient feelings or intense emotions, but always created with love and commitment. In this article, we will discover the secrets of the most famous and the best Guerlain perfumes of the XX century…

Mouchoir de Monsieur – 1904

At the very beginning of the twentieth century, dandies started the fashion of wearing scented handkerchiefs in their pockets, while the ladies hid their eyes under black veils. Jacques Guerlain made Mouchoir de Monsieur and Violette de Madame for his best friends’ wedding. Mouchoir is a blend of citrusy freshness and aromatic, herbal notes with the silent presence of a fougere chord that carries powdery woody notes. This perfume is still the choice of sophisticated men across the old continent.

Mouchoir de Monsieur

Après l’Ondee – 1906

For those who love fine arts, this romantic, powdery perfume could be the perfect illustration of Boubat’s paintings. It can depict the figure of a dreamy, passionate woman who romantically walks the metropolis from the beginning of the 20th century, or at the same time captures the spirit of Isidora Duncan, dancing barefoot, free from all shackles, eagerly dancing in a transparent veil. The floral note of Apres l’Ondee is orchestrated around violet, iris, and vanilla. This sweet-smelling perfume, though old-fashioned for most, still catches the imagination of modern women. Time can not damage the grace and poetry of Apres l’Ondee.

L’Heure Bleue – 1912

A bouquet of roses, enriched with iris, violet, and vanilla, evokes the favorite time of day for its creator, Jacques Guerlain, “when the night has not yet found its star.” This perfume is inspired by the Impressionist paintings that the perfumer collected. The sweetness of the sweet flowers, spiced with oriental notes, makes L’Heure Bleue a beacon of simple charms of life and romantic pursuits.

Heure Blueu

Mitsouko – 1919

After 4 years of terrible warfare and difficult life that marked Europe forever, women wanted to make up for the lost time and live life to the fullest. They cut their hair short, reduced their clothes to simpler cuts, and became an unstoppable force and equals to men in all fields. At that time, Europe was fascinated by Japan and the Far East. Jacques Guerlain made Mitsouko, an androgynous chypre perfume that honors the heroine of Claude Farrere’s megapopular La Bataille novel. Mitsouko, a beautiful Japanese bride, was secretly in love with a British officer. When war broke out in 1905, she patiently waited for her beloved to return, nobly suppressing her emotions. A story like this resonated in post-war Europe, as did Mitsouko’s perfume itself.


Vol de Nuit – 1933

Another fantastic creation by Jacques Guerlain with dominant green and woody notes enriched with vanilla and iris. As the duration of the perfume progresses, so are the beautiful bouquets rounded off with oriental tones. It is inspired by the novel Vol de Nuit by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, in which a woman of action, such as Helena Boucher, can cultivate her passion for adventure and danger, making a name for herself, without ever losing her femininity.

vol de nuit

Vetiver – 1959

Jean-Paul Guerlain almost did not become a perfumer for the Guerlain house, because at that time the right belonged to the oldest son. Destiny decided otherwise and he began his career with this exclusive men’s perfume. Competition among the male classics was fierce in those years, and Jean-Paul, just 18 at the time, was able to create a true perfume masterpiece that evokes the rhizomes of this exotic plant and its scent at the first rays of the morning. The notes of vetiver are enriched with woody and spicy notes that make this especially elegant and masculine perfume classic.

Chant d’Aromes – 1962

This youthful creation is the first feminine perfume that Jean-Paul Guerlain has made for his wife. Chant d’Aromes is a bouquet of spring flowers, gardenia, and honeysuckle. Tangerine and bergamot give a dose of mischief to a base made of jasmine and ylang-ylang. Perhaps most of all, this perfume reflects Jean Paul’s love for completely natural ingredients.

chant d aromes

Habit Rouge – 1965

Some families have passions so deeply rooted in their familial unconscious that they appear to be genetic markers. In the case of the Guerlain family, it is a love for horses. Jean-Paul rode a pony even before he learned how to walk. Of course, it is no wonder, then, that one of his finest perfume creations ever was devoted to the passion for horses and riding. Named for the jackets worn by the tamers and riders of the horses, this perfume combines an unusual and distinctive mix of patchouli and spices on one side, and on the other, oranges, lemons and bergamot. However, what distinguished Habit Rouge from other perfume hits of the time was the abundant amount of vanilla, atypical of the men’s perfumes of the time. At first a shock to the Puritan spirit of the time, it liberated the new and gentler side of the modern man.

Chamade – 1969

Women in those years more than anything else wanted equality with men. The La Chamade novel written by Francois Sagan has had a profound and pervasive impact on generations of young women who wanted a new way of life. Jean-Paul Guerlain made this perfume for these young ladies, which was, like the period, quite revolutionary. It is the first time a perfumer has combined green, fruity notes of blueberries in harmony with hyacinth, roses, and galbanum. The perfume composition was harmoniously harmonized with Gerlinado, a blend of tonka, rose, jasmine and vanilla.


Nahema – 1979

The most beautiful portrait of roses ever dedicated to women, Nahema is Jean-Paul Guerlain’s favorite perfume. There are over 80 species in his garden in Les Mesnuls that he knows to the point, to the soul. He found inspiration for Nahema in the emotional reaction to Catherine Deneuve’s appearance in the movie Benjamin. Dressed in white, surrounded by rosebuds, she captivated him and created a vision for the future Nahema. Nahema is a highly sophisticated perfume whose perfume composition matches the musical composition of Ravel’s Bolero. The main olfactory note soon becomes obsessively present. The essence of the Nahema is a rose absolute, skilfully resting on a woody fruity base with a sandalwood note. This rich, opulent and ultra-feminine perfume is the work of Jean Paul’s dedicated four years of work and over 500 attempts to create a masterpiece, which he eventually did.

A little note: I have omitted Guerlain fragrances that I have already written about, which belong to this timeframe: Shalimar from 1925, Samsara from 1989 and Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune from 1999.

Literature: Guerlain, Portraits throughout the years.