Jacques Guerlain 1917
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.
L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko are often said to mark the beginning and end of World War I respectively, like a pair of bookends. What Jacques Guerlain made in between seems lost in the mists of time. Now, Thierry Wasser has re-created the 1917 perfume Jasmiralda, Jacques' only perfume from that period, for Maison Guerlain’s vintage workshops. Wasser explains that Jacques, at the age of forty, was called to join the French army to fight in the war. While serving he was wounded in the eye, and so returned home. According to research intern Will Inrig at L'Osmothèque, the injury left Jacques blind in one eye. Luckily, his sense of smell emerged unscathed.
The opulence of the floral oriental that we love from Guerlain is by all means a Jacques Guerlain invention. In 1907 he introduced the style at full blast with Sillage, a rich and musky floral confection exuding a gourmand note of rum. While Sillage could feel a bit plump and heavy, most people regard L’Heure Bleue (1912) as the perfection of the floral oriental structure, at once tender, enveloping and sensual. The extreme beauty and elegance of L’Heure Bleue calls for formal evening dress, and maybe Jacques Guerlain wanted to propose something more casual and lighthearted as his next creation.
In any case, that’s what he did with Jasmiralda. The name is anything but bourgeois, too. Jasmiralda is a contraction of "jasmine" and "Esmeralda", the young, gypsy street dancer who lived among bohemians in Paris in Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. As the name suggests, Jasmiralda is worked around jasmine, the star ingredient in any floral composition. While jasmine is present right from the beginning, it starts out with fresh, but very mild citrus notes of orange, bergamot and neroli. The opening is so light and gentle that the strength and tenacity of what comes after is highly unexpected. Slowly, the jasmine grows in volume and meets with rose and violet, yet it remains light and bright. This may mainly be due to the fact that Jasmiralda contains a remarkably high dose of vetiver whose dry, grassy and warm scent serves to temper the whole composition. In fact, the main theme of the perfume appears as a jasmine-vetiver accord. Had it not been for Jacques Guerlain’s beloved amber and animal musk, which are certainly there, Jasmiralda would probably be classified as a woody floral. Perhaps we could call it Jacques Guerlain’s version of a "Vetiver Pour Elle". On paper, we might therefore read Jasmiralda as a stepping stone to the famous Mitsouko accord. However, Mitsouko is a far more abstract and unfathomable fragrance, with its fascinating mix of peach, earth, floor wax and flowers.
The lightness and ease featured in Jasmiralda, despite its strength and tenacity, is extraordinary. We think of Guy Robert’s characterization of Jacques Guerlain, saying that "by some magic, Jacques Guerlain was able to make rich products seem light and fresh."
Jasmiralda was housed in a clear, wide bottle, first made for the perfume Mi-Mai, with its oval shoulders accented by convex indentations on its edges and ringing its tall neck. The semi-translucent glass stopper, held in place by a pink string, featured tiny carved flowers which echoed the rustic charm of the bottle's red box and label designs.
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