Thursday, 12 October 2017

GUERLAIN'S RUSSIA

Guerlain has always enjoyed an unparalleled affection amongst perfume fans and part of this is the continuing transparency that they are displaying in their current releases, and also in the rewriting of parts of its history. Over time a "good story" can cover up the true facts and it is refreshing to see these being peeled away piece by piece. As part of this openness, Guerlain allowed Thierry Wasser and Frédéric Sacone’s vintage recreations to be made available to smell at the Champs Elysees boutique and this means that we can travel to Russia, via France, and discover Impérial Russe and Cuir de Russie.

It seems obvious to say that the world has changed immeasurably since the nineteenth century but, in a world of instant communication and worldwide travel, we often forget that perfume and fashion used to display cultural inspiration and mirror change in society. Those who were lucky enough to travel could bring back ideas from "far flung" locations and translate them, with varying degrees of success, into any medium. One of these was Aimé Guerlain's 1880 Impérial Russe. In February of that year Tsar Alexander II of Russia survived an assassination attempt and, whether that had anything to do with the inspiration, it did result in a fascinating scent.

Impérial Russe opens brightly, and I mean brightly! You are hit by a beautifully refreshing cologne structure that, according to Françoise who runs the recreation workshop, owes a lot to the fact that Eau du Cologne Impériale is used as an ingredient within the formula. This pre-IFRA cologne has more tenacity than the current version, and it's this that keeps the orange blossom and jasmine floral heart buoyant and bright. The animalic and sweetened leather accord that follows is gentle and provides delicate sensuality on the skin.

We’re going to jump forward now to 1935 and Cuir de Russie by Jacques Guerlain. Now this isn’t the first time that the name appears in the catalogue because Aimé Guerlain used it in 1872, but the fragrance was reworked/reformulated in 1935 and it’s this version that has been recreated. The fashion for Russian Leather style fragrances really hit a pinnacle with the release of Ernest Beaux’s beautiful creation for Chanel in 1924 but Jacques Guerlain took the style in a much bolder and daring direction.

From the very beginning of this fragrance you get a rich leather that contains a heavily accentuated birch tar note. It gives a piercing smokey aroma that has an almost petrol quality, and is addictive. The scent opens up to hint at a floral heart but the leather always dominates. Add in the patchouli, the vetiver, the oak moss, and you have a beast of a fragrance. Interestingly, within Cuir de Russie you also have two previous Jacques Guerlain fragrances that are used here as ingredients. These are Chypre de Paris (1909) and Mitsouko (1919) which both add to the strikingly smokey leather aspect.

All of the recreations are available to smell at the Guerlain boutique in Paris. The session costs €130 and you can book by email at champs-elysees@guerlain.fr or by telephone on +33 1456 25257. Please remember to ask for Françoise.

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