Friday 28 August 2015

Guerlain's 1904 Vintage

In 1996 Olivier Cresp was chosen over Jean-Paul Guerlain to create the fragrance Champs-Élysées. Described as the essence of a chic woman, it couldn't have been more different to the 1904 version by Jacques Guerlain. It was never intended to be compared with the original Parfum des Champs-Élysées, and until Thierry Wasser recreated the "vintage" as part his curatorship of the Guerlain legacy it wasn't even possible. So, leaving the current "Radiant Floral" rose petal and almond wood edition, let's travel back to a time when the Champs-Élysées was a very different place.

The concept of the 1904 version was to create an impression of the famous street. Now you have to remember that outside the famous Guerlain windows of No68 used to be fields, and the traffic wasn't the now incessant motorcar, it was the gentle rhythm of the horse and carriage. Life was very different in the early twentieth century. The pace was slower, your place in society was everything, and some of the scents around you would be questionable today.

Jacques took these surroundings and managed to create a time capsule in a bottle. By modern standards it is described as a Floral Chypre Woody fragrance, although we are actually eleven years off the launch of the first recognised Chypre, which was by Coty. What hits you straight away is a hay like quality which instantly mixes with a glorious violet. It is this violet that travels with you right through the fragrance, and touches every ingredient on the journey. Lavender hints at a delicate aromatic quality and willingly gives way to a subtle clove in the heart of the perfume, but there is so much more to come.

As a highly fashionable street, the Champs-Élysées attracted the most wealthy and beautiful ladies in Paris. As a nod to them Jaques includes heavy flavours of jasmine, rose and tuberose but lightens them with the freshness of the orange blossom. Perfumes were notoriously heavy during this period, because they had to counteract poor sanitation and questionable hygiene, but in this fragrance there is a strength which is tempered with a gentleness.

No perfume of the period would be complete without the animalic ingredients, and this one doesn't disappoint. A fusion of civet and musk hint at the other aromas that would have been on the fashionable street, and again with the violet they take the fragrance from a floral dominance to one of sensual earth. Simply breathtaking.

I am lucky enough to have one of the famous turtle perfume bottles that originally housed Parfum des Champs-Élysées, and even after all these years the time machine is still working. If you want to experience this fragrance, but can't get to Paris and Thierry Wasser's recreation, then I suggest you smell the Cire Trudon candle called Solis Rex. Whilst it doesn't have the animalic depth of the perfume, it does give a good impression of the hay-like quality mixed with the Chypre Woody base, and an unexpected floral aspect.

Soli Rex by Cire Trudon is available from Bloom Perfumery and Selfridges or to experience the full selection of Thierry Wasser's recreations in Paris you can contact François at 68 Champs-Élysées on +33 (1) 45 62 52 57. There is a charge for the workshop.


  1. Thanks so much for including the information on the Soli Rex candle.

    1. It's my favorite candle ... Which reminds me I need to get a new one

  2. Just wondering how much it cost today?

    1. Hello, thank you for your comment. I'm afraid that it isn't available any more, although there are lots of other Guerlain fragrances to choose from. Best, Stephan