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À TRAVERS CHAMPS

Aimé Guerlain 1898
[a travɛ:r ʃɑ̃]
Family: floral, amber, leather
Sun, hay and lily of the valley
Period: The Belle Époque years


Thierry Wasser and his assistant perfumer Frédéric Sacone have re-created an extensive list of historic Guerlain perfumes, using the exact same ingredients as when they saw the light for the first time.

Originally composed by Aimé Guerlain in 1898, À Travers Champs didn’t reach a wider audience until 1924 when Jacques Guerlain reworked his uncle's formula. À Travers Champs means "through fields", to evoke the idea of walking through a wildflower meadow with the mingling scents of grasses, flowers and earth. Guerlain's roots were in the countryside. Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain came from the Somme in the northern part of France, known for its open water, marshes, dunes and meadows. The Parisian bourgeoisie liked to see the countryside as idyllic and peaceful, and Guerlain came up with perfume names which, when translated, become romantic appellations such as "The Good Old Days", "April In Bloom", "My Vicar's Garden", "Dying Flower", "Ten Rose Petals", "Lily Of The Valley", "Autumn Meadow", "After The Rain Shower", and "The Blue Hour". After 1914, when Guerlain moved to its new, posh address on the Champs-Elysées boulevard, a more cosmopolitan and exotic sensibility emerged, with perfume names inspired by faraway places — Mitsouko, Shalimar, Djedi, Liu, Sous le Vent, Véga, Atuana, and "Night Flight".

It's Jacques Guerlain's 1924 version of À Travers Champs that Thierry Wasser has re-created for the vintage set, he explains, even though the sample bottle says 1898. Wasser suggests that Jacques Guerlain chose to reformulate À Travers Champs because he had found a better lily of the valley base than what was available to Aimé Guerlain. The perfume is just one example of the importance of lily of the valley in Jacques Guerlain's oeuvre. Today, only the annual Muguet fragrance allows us to experience how Guerlain interprets the lily of the valley theme. None of the surviving Guerlain classics feature this distinctive floral note, however, Jacques Guerlain often used lily of the valley to add freshness and air to his compositions.

À Travers Champs starts out with a bright, tingling lily of the valley accord, mixed with violet and petitgrain, at once a floral-tinged and crisply citrusy and green essential oil extracted from the leaves, buds and twigs of the bigarade orange tree. There's a certain breeziness to the scent, like hay and spring flowers covered with dew, until a heady floral heart takes over with rose and spicy carnation, and, not least, the voluptuous, sunny sweetness of ylang-ylang. Very characteristic of Jacques Guerlain, the base notes aren't exactly light either, yet far less vanillic, powdery and musky than the Shalimar accord which he released the following year. Combining a rich sandalwood with vetiver, balsam, animal notes, and a touch of smoky birch tar, the drydown is exceptionally long and reminds us of the strong, creamy scent of a newly opened shoebox. In that respect, À Travers Champs is definitely more bourgeoisie than country bumpkin. Although it's a type of floral that feels somewhat dated to modern tastes, you can still find its mode in Guerlain's catalogue, filed under Jean-Paul Guerlain's ravishing salute to the liberated woman, Chamade.

Bottle. Initially, Jacques Guerlain's À Travers Champs came in the lyre bottle, which had originally been made for Candide Effluve (1922). Subsequently, in 1933, both À Travers Champs and Candide Effluve were poured into the angular, brown-smoked bottle, a geometric design typical of the Art Deco period.


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