Jean-Paul Guerlain 2009, reissue Le Bolshoï 2011, Le Bolshoï Saison 2012 La Traviata 2012
[le səkrɛ də sɔfi]
Family: floral, oriental
Notes: petit grain, bitter orange, neroli, bergamot, jasmine, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, violet leaf, tonka bean, vanilla, frankincense, white musk
Classical jasmine
Period: The recapitulation years
Les Secrets de Sophie collection

Until he left Guerlain for good in 2010, Jean-Paul Guerlain was considered responsible for the brand's "most intimate perfumes". His 2009 fragrance was as intimate as could be, unadvertised, produced in limited numbers, quiet, and even called "secret". He revisited French perfumery's classic virtues and created what in the floral genre is deemed the crème de la crème, an abstract, balanced composition with all high-end materials, majestic flower essences that retain the heady, narcotic indoles: jasmine (stern-narcotic), ylang-ylang (creamy-narcotic), and orange blossom (romantic-narcotic). Indole is an organic compound with a rich, warm, sensual, animal smell that is also quite severe, even a bit metallic. To counteract the narcotic buzz, bitter orange was used up top for its dry and charismatic citrus scent, together with the earthy greenness of violet leaf. Both of these notes added a cool, androgynous touch to the floral accord of Les Secrets de Sophie.

There was a timeless elegance to the fragrance, as appealing today as it would have been in the 1950s, silvery clear and smoothly concise, never heavy or stodgy, and only secretive in the sense of being an unusually luxurious perfume for today's tastes, its exclusivity making it unattainable for most. Guerlain's signature sweetness was not very pronounced in this perfume but it was there, showing up slowly through the drydown — a balsamic roundness of frankincense, tonka bean and vanilla.

Except being less intensely sweet, Les Secrets de Sophie otherwise bore a striking resemblance to Ode (1955), the last perfume Jacques Guerlain created, assisted by his then 18-year-old grandson, Jean-Paul. Speaking of which, in 2009 Guerlain was planning to launch an exclusive vintage reissue of Ode when the project was suddenly abandoned for undisclosed reasons. Maybe there were unforeseen copyright or marketing issues, or new IFRA restrictions. It's not entirely inconceivable that Les Secrets de Sophie was offered instead, as a by-product of the efforts.

Bottle. The name "Les Secrets de Sophie" derived from French jewellery designer Sophie Levy's decoration of the quadrilobe bottle with a small polished stone ornament in shape of a bow, and a padlock with its key "as a symbol of love." According to legend, three keys worn together were said to unlock the secret doors of wealth, health and love. Therefore, the fragrance is presented in three different colours: pink (Les Secrets Poudrés), white (Les Secrets Nacrés) and black (Les Secrets Noirs). In 2011 and 2012, the fragrance briefly reappeared in a special-edition bottle, limited to Moscow, under the name Le Bolshoï to commemorate the reopening of the Bolshoi theatre after its lengthy restoration.

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