Family: floral, chypre
Undiluted floral caress
Period: The début 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.
After he made Ode in collaboration with his grandfather, Jacques, Chant d’Arômes (1962) was Jean-Paul Guerlain’s first solo feminine creation. Jean-Paul Guerlain tells us that Chant d’Arômes was finished in time to have his grandfather smell and approve it before he died the following year.
An aldehydic floral chypre, Chant d’Arômes is often described as Jean-Paul Guerlain's wish to make a youthful and fresh fragrance that would demarcate his style as being new and different from his grandfather's. Yet it's easily forgotten that many of Jacques' discontinued fragrances really were no less "youthful" or "fresh" than Chant d’Arômes, especially his very early fragrances, but also later ones like Jasmiralda, Jasmin, Liu, Sous le Vent, and Fleur de Feu. Jean-Paul Guerlain recounts that as a child, he was deeply fascinated with the green chypre scent of Sous le Vent, and we can't help thinking that it played a role in the development of Chant d'Arômes.
Chant d’Arômes is the only Guerlain perfume to have been discontinued not once, not twice, but three times! It was removed from the catalogue in 1989 when Samsara was launched, but Guerlain chose to reintroduce it in 1995. We speculate that loyal customers had expressed their discontent with it being unavailable. In 2002, it was discontinued again, until 2005, when Guerlain reissued it as part of the new Parisienne collection. Confusingly, it didn't come in the Parisienne bee bottle, but in the 30 ml quadrilobe bottle, as it wasn't an EdP or EdT like the other Parisiennes, but a Parfum. Soon after, though, it was put to rest for the last time, presumably due to IFRA restrictions on some of its ingredients. However, Chant d’Arômes is still available as EdT in the 100 ml bee atomizer, so we're interested to discover how Thierry Wasser's re-created 1962 Parfum version compares to the scent that is sold today.
Thierry Wasser has stated that some of the most unwelcome restrictions of the IFRA guidelines are on nitro-musk and raw bergamot oil. Both of these materials, serving as a base and a top note respectively, provide much of the richness, roundness and depth that we know from vintage Guerlain. In comparison, the "purified" substitutes that are allowed today smell dry, flat and one-dimensional.
Other than substitution, a second method to make a formula meet the IFRA criteria is by diluting the fragrance until the concentration of the most problematic ingredient falls below the acceptable threshold. That's the reason why nothing but very light EdT versions of Après l’Ondée and Chant d’Arômes exist today. Only by ingenious and painstaking work in the laboratory has Wasser been able to preserve the more concentrated Parfum versions of the Guerlain catalogue's remaining classics, although these too appear lighter and less tenacious than they used to. (Update: Nahéma Parfum is discontinued as of January 2016.) Thierry Wasser explains that dilution can radically change the olfactive impression of a fragrance, even when the formula itself is unaltered: a diluted fragrance doesn't just smell less intense, it smells different. That's because dilution affects some notes more than others, hence tipping the balance of the composition.
Most often, the methods of substitution and dilution are used in combination when reformulating a fragrance. We therefore understand the mechanisms that make today's Chant d’Arômes feel like a "rather non-descript floral-aldehydic," as Luca Turin puts it. The original Parfum version, made with the banned ingredients, is quite a different story, unfolding the fragrance in all its delicate beauty like a long, feminine caress. Up top, it has a mellow, juicy mandarin note, mixed with champagne-like aldehyde, plum, spicy-sweet honeysuckle, and the sheer, silky headiness of gardenia. The mixture feels at once tender, luminous, and crisply fresh and floral. Then richer notes of jasmine and ylang-ylang appear, but probably the formula's most beautiful note is its rose, a gentle, powdery Provence rose. It reminds us of the rose that we find in Mitsouko and Liu, "tout en douceur," as the French say when describing something that is soft and caressing. The Provence rose is far less lemony and penetrating than the Bulgarian variant, which is the most common in Guerlain perfumes. The base of Chant d'Arômes is a pleasant and very natural chypre accord of oakmoss, vetiver, and a note of humid earth, together with lightly-dosed balsams. Finally, the nitro-musk provides a soft, tenacious cloud around the entire composition, making the scent of rose and humid earth linger for several hours.
In this vintage Parfum version of Chant d'Arômes, with its fruity citrus, plum, rose and chypre accord, we sense a hint of what would become the scent of Parure in the following decade. This noteworthy historical link is lost in the EdT version of Chant d’Arômes that is sold today. Read more about Chant d'Arômes
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