Thursday 19 November 2015

Guerlain's Vintage Recreations

The Champs-Elysées boutique reopened in 2013, after major renovations, with the upstairs transformed into a beautiful hall of mirrors. Display areas showcasing historic perfume bottles from Guerlain's history gave Thierry Wasser and Frédéric Sacone and idea, what if you could smell the perfume that was on display? So, back to the original formula books they went and recreated twenty-seven vintage perfumes. These were originally the "secret" of the boutique, and only available to smell if you knew they existed! As the news leaked out, and demand increased, Guerlain introduced a structured workshop in January 2015.

July 2015 saw the arrival of another twenty-three recreations, which took the final total to fifty. However, as much as the first set were fascinating and showcased the artistry of Guerlain, it was the second set which contained the surprise. Within the follow up we got the chance to discover fragrances by Pierre, Gabriel and Jean-Jacques, the “secret” perfumers from the famous family. Their creations had always been attributed to the main perfumer of the time, so they never got the credit. Let's take a look at these four perfumes and see how they fit into the accepted Guerlain style.

EXCELLENCE de Fleurs Ambrées by Gabriel Guerlain
Gabriel was Aimé’s brother and this was his only recorded attempt at a fragrance. We have amber, a bit more amber, and let’s throw in some more amber just to be sure! It is simple, but remember that this is 1890. There is a wonderful smoothness provided by the tonka and oakmoss, and a well constructed leather. It fits in the Guerlain cannon.

RUE DE LA PAIX by Pierre Guerlain
Pierre was Jaques brother and in 1908 he also attempted a fragrance. Opening with a fresh honeyed effect it seems typical of the time, but unfortunately it is then left to drift. It passes through some beautiful florals but never quite seems to land. It’s interesting to note that Pierre, as the elder brother, should have inherited the title of perfumer. On this occasion however, I think his talents were better served behind a desk.

GUERLILAS by Jean-Jacques Guerlain
Jean-Jacques was Jean-Paul’s father, and he actually created two fragrances. This one was from 1930. From the name you can see that we’re looking at Lilac, but what he was thinking is beyond me. You get a mash up of synthetic lilac, lily of the valley and violet. The animalic base, one can assume, was to add a roundness to the structure, but with a bright aldehyde also poking you in the eye I would say that this, while interesting, is best left to history.

GUERLAROSE by Jean-Jacques Guerlain
Now, this fragrance from 1934 is a different story. No, it’s not typical of Guerlain, but it would make a nice Aqua Allegoria. You have a beautifully fresh may rose which along with lemon and bergamot make this beyond fresh. There is some support from an interesting violet and heliotrope before it gracefully falls onto a delicate base. I love rose, so I’m in love with this one from the outset.

If you are in Paris then you simply must make a reservation. The session costs €130 and you can book by email at or by telephone on +33 1456 25257. Please ask for Françoise.

[Image of fifty bottles courtesy of Monsieur Guerlain]


  1. Hi Stephen,
    We just asked to book the Guerlain Recreations. If you ask for a particular date and time it costs €170. We thought that a bit steep when a Masterclass booking at the Osmotheque with Jean Kerleo or Patricia de Nicolai is only €150.
    Needless to say, we passed.
    Portia x

    1. Hello Portia, I'm sorry that the price seems to have changed. I would still recommend it though, because the final twenty-three will not be going to the Osmotheque and can only be smelled at the Champs-Elysees. Stephan

  2. I did it and it was worth every penny. Would do it again.
    Herve husson

    1. Hello Herve, I'm glad that you enjoyed the session. It's a lot to get through in one go so I would definitely say to go again. Thankyou for reading and have a wonderful holiday season. Stephan