Jacques Guerlain 1930
Period: The flight years
Thierry Wasser and his assistant perfumer Frédéric Sacone have re-created a large number of historic Guerlain perfumes, using the exact same ingredients as when they saw the light for the first time. Thanks to their research, we now know a great deal more about Guerlain's olfactive history and previously well-kept secrets. One of the more fascinating discoveries is that not only Pierre-Francois-Pascal, Aimé, Jacques, and Jean-Paul Guerlain created perfumes, but that also Jacques’ father (Gabriel), brother (Pierre), and son (Jean-Jacques, eventually father to Jean-Paul Guerlain) briefly ventured into the creative field and signed a few of the brand’s fragrances.
In the 1930s, Guerlain released two floral fragrances by Jean-Jacques Guerlain, called Guerlilas and Guerlarose. These names, like Guerlinade, were a nod to the Guerlain name itself, denoting that there is a special “Guerlain way” of doing things. This does make sense to most Guerlain aficionados, who indeed believe that Guerlain distinguishes itself by a unique and matchless style. Therefore it’s so much the more surprising to learn that Guerlilas and Guerlarose were made by a perfumer who until recently was unknown as their author.
Unlike rose, lilac was never included in the Guerlain signature. The Guerlinade accord is defined by only the most "classic" raw materials, whereas lilac, a synthetically derived note, was rarely used. Lilac has an intensely floral fragrance, at once citrusy and honeyed, that can add a sensation of spring and purity to a composition. Jacques Guerlain used it in Candide Effluve (1922) for exactly this effect, as the perfume’s name "innocent fragrance" implied.
Guerlilas has, in addition to lilac, several other notes in common with Candide Effluve: violet, lily of the valley, jasmine and heliotrope, all of them utterly sweet and feminine. Smelling Guerlilas, and Guerlarose too, we quickly ascertain that they must be some of Guerlain’s most stridently floral and sweet perfumes. Even La Petite Robe Noire feels refreshing in comparison. Yet no connoisseur would dare to claim that the grand master Jacques couldn't have made them. Thierry Wasser’s long list of re-created vintages has taught us that not all of Jacques’ perfumes had the exquisite grace and balance that we find in Après l’Ondée, L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Shalimar, Liu and Vol de Nuit.
Jean-Jacques Guerlain tried to give a certain lightness and lift to Guerlilas with a sparkling aldehyde top note. The mix of aldehyde and lilac results in a distinct scent of hairspray, the sort used by ladies to achieve a firm hold for voluminous hair styles. This aspect reminds us of the criticisms about Insolence. As the aldehyde fades, the fragrance grows gradually more and more sweetly floral, with especially heliotrope and lily of the valley being prominent.
Like Jacques, Jean-Jacques used animal ingredients to make the perfume appear smooth, rich and sensual. In the case of a sweet floral like Guerlilas, it's a bit like adding whipped cream on top of an already high-calorie fruit pie. This kind of perfume, almost too heady to assimilate, is probably unmarketable today. Modern tastes require lighter and more transparent scents, which is one of Thierry Wasser’s hallmarks. We actually don't know if the increasing health and ethical restrictions on perfumery's "heavier" materials have helped shape our tastes, or if they would've changed regardless. According to Guerlain's assistant perfumer, Frédéric Sacone, perfumes from before the 1960s were much more dense, powerful and animalic, to match the overall more odorous environment back then. Today, as the Western world has embraced more fastidious personal hygiene, perfumes have evolved a lighter touch too.
Guerlilas and Guerlarose came in the same bottle. Typical of Art Deco, the design was squat and geometric, with horizontal bars that seemed to foreshadow the amended Vetiver bottle of 2000, and the glass stopper resembled an octagonal metal bolt. Read about Guerlarose
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