Jacques Guerlain 1906
[aprɛ lɔ̃'de]
Family: floral, powdery
Perfect pastel
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.

The Parfum version of Après l’Ondée disappeared years ago, a wound that for Guerlain lovers has never healed. Jacques Guerlain's tender, utterly poetic capture of quiet summer rain in the countryside is universally regarded as one of the most exquisite examples of when perfumery is art and not just an accessory. Sadly, the composition contains so many materials restricted by safety norms or inaccessibility, that Guerlain has given up trying to reformulate it. A norm-conforming reworking of Après l'Ondée Parfum would distort its beauty badly, says Guerlain. We really appreciate the sense of idealism that the Guerlain perfumers radiate and their wish to do their very best in an imperfect world.

Jacques Guerlain worked only in the Parfum medium, while the less concentrated Eau de Toilette was a derivation, a secondary product. The Parfum version of Après l'Ondée has the unique cool-warm floral sensation that is its hallmark, with the anise-like, fresh-rosy top note of hawthorn, but it's overall a much warmer, spicier, more powdery, and more long-lasting rendition than the EdT. That the EdT version still has the right to survive is only because the overall concentration is so low that each material falls within the allowed safety limit. Many people complain that the EdT available today feels disappointingly transparent and fleeting, and doesn't do justice to how they remember Après l'Ondée to be. The fact is that a perfume concentrate diluted at a high versus low percentage can smell nearly like two different fragrances, because concentration critically changes the olfactive impression. We suspect that the light and bright feel of the Après l'Ondée EdT may in fact be more suitable for today's tastes than the Parfum, which smells quite, well, "vintage".

From vintage Shalimar we know now that not only concentration counts, but also, and most importantly, what kind of bergamot and musk is used. Vintage Après l'Ondée of course uses raw bergamot oil, with its rich and animated effect, as well as natural deer musk tincture. The latter is for ethical reasons unthinkable today, but we must admit it smells wonderful in a perfume, where it adds saturation, sensuality, and a dense, animalic earthiness that seems perfect for Après l'Ondée's damp garden portrait.

To complicate matters even more, Thierry Wasser explains that the classic Guerlain compositions, such as Après l'Ondée, were created with a variety of perfume bases bought from external suppliers (a base is a mini-formula made of several materials to produce a desired note that can't be extracted from nature, such as lily, lily of the valley, and hawthorn). If suddenly a supplier decides to reformulate or even discontinue a base, or if the quality changes for this or that reason, Guerlain can't do much about it, and is not even always informed. This, too, might influence how Après l'Ondée smells today.

The scent pyramid of Après l'Ondée doesn't include mimosa, as is otherwise widely mentioned. Instead, the mimosa scent can be a construct of the listed notes of hawthorn, bouvardia and orchid.

Après l'Ondée is all about dosage and balance. The legendary pastel character of this fragrance wouldn't have been possible without the meticulous and composed hand of Jacques Guerlain. Thierry Wasser notes that Jacques Guerlain had a prudent, conformist, intellectual personality, and in his compositions he aimed at balance, harmony and completeness. As a consequence, we sense a certain uniformity in his collected works, an intense smoothness, devoid of edges, that is almost exhausting to the nose when smelling them all together. In comparison, the style of his successor, Jean-Paul Guerlain, was much more impulsive, contrasted, bold, and occasionally even caricatural.

Tastes and manners evolve, but many of us still miss Après l'Ondée Parfum. Read more about Après l'Ondée

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