Family: floral, chypre
Notes: mandarin, bergamot, plum, gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, ylang-ylang, Provence rose, sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, vetiver, heliotrope, humus, vanilla, incense
Period: The début years
Chant d'Arômes collection
Chant d'Arômes ("song of scents") was Jean-Paul Guerlain's first solo feminine creation. Before 1962, he had only made Ode in collaboration with his grandfather, and for men the instant success, Vetiver. As the latter was a response to Carven's Vétiver (1957), Chant d'Arômes countered the youthful bestseller Ma Griffe (1946), apparently until then the favourite perfume of Jean-Paul Guerlain's fiancée. Her image as a young débutante provided the motif, and, advertised as "the new fresh note in perfume", Chant d'Arômes gave the impression that Jean-Paul Guerlain wanted to rejuvenate the brand and make something bright and uplifting for his own generation. "You always create perfumes for the women you love, whom you admire, and with whom you live," 80-year-old Jacques Guerlain lectured his grandson — and with a sad smile added: "Unfortunately for me, I no longer create perfumes for other than old ladies." In Jacques' defense, we must remember that several of his discontinued fragrances were really no less “youthful” or “fresh” than Chant d’Arômes, such as Jasmiralda, Liu, Sous le Vent and Fleur de Feu.
Fortunately for Jacques Guerlain, though, he got to smell Chant d'Arômes just before he died, literally on his deathbed, and approved of it. The young Jean-Paul Guerlain was proudly proclaimed to be the perfectionist his predecessors were, "preferring to spend seven years, make 450 experiments and consult five Guerlain noses in the making of Chant d'Arômes." The perfume opened with aldehydic cheers of crisp mandarin and gardenia that smelled like the spring tide of new love, luminous, floral and feminine. You could almost hear the "song of scents", a choir of perfectly tuned, clear voices, sparkling like champagne. In addition, there was a fruity facet of plum mixed with spicy-sweet honeysuckle. As the scent evolved the floral notes grew more rounded, with the richness of jasmine, ylang-ylang, and a gentle, powdery and very refined Provence rose. At the base, a more autumnal mood took over: a chypre mixture of oakmoss, vetiver and humid earth that contradicted any floral naiveté. Finally, the composition was softened with musk and a dash of amber. Chant d'Arômes was one of the catalogue's few "quiet perfumes", sober and introverted, maybe worn mainly to please oneself, rather than attract a lover.
Bottle. In order to give each perfume a unique visual identity, Guerlain had by this time stopped reusing bottles for different fragrances. The Chant d'Arômes bottle was inspired by the design of a Florentine vase. It came with a green velvet ribbon, like the ones young girls used to wear around their necks — a romantic nod to youth and innocence. The Parfum version of Chant d'Arômes was retired in 1989 when Samsara entered the scene, but had a comeback, first in 1995, then among all the celebratory reissues that marked the opening of Maison Guerlain in 2005, this time in the standard quadrilobe bottle. However, it was soon discontinued again, probably due to increasing IFRA restrictions. Guerlain obviously didn't find it worthwhile to invest in a painstaking reformulation, like the one of Mitsouko, for this less well-known perfume. As a historical footnote, Chant d'Arômes was the first feminine Guerlain with a ready-to-use atomizer option, as the refillable canister system was launched in 1965. Today, Chant d'Arômes EdT comes in the bee atomizer.
Parfum, EdT. Despite the hushed character of Chant d'Arômes, its now rather rare Parfum version had a good deal of chypre potency: the robustness of oakmoss, vetiver and humid earth down below, a distinct white-flower heart, and a brilliantly fruity mandarin note up top. In comparison, the EdT is airier, greener, and with the flowers more spring-like, fleeting, pretty and discreet.
Reformulation. The Chant d'Arômes EdT has been allowed to live on despite the IFRA restrictions, probably because its oakmoss concentration is lower than that of the Parfum. It has undoubtedly been adjusted and diluted, but the current juice smells acceptably close to the original EdT, albeit drier and less full and long-lasting. Read more
We love: the Parfum, although it's long gone
Old-fashioned and youthful at once
A floral Vetiver
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