Jacques Guerlain 1904
[muʃwa:r də məsjø]
Family: fougère, musky
Perfumery without gender
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.
In Jacques Guerlain's enormous portfolio, Mouchoir de Monsieur ("gentleman’s handkerchief") remained the only fragrance intended for a man. It was created together with Voilette de Madame ("lady's little veil") as a perfume pair in 1904, a wedding gift for one of Jacques Guerlain's personal friends. Both perfumes came in the exquisite snail bottle, a design typical of Art Nouveau. The snail bottle duo was reissued in a limited edition in 2005, containing norm-conforming Eaux de Toilette.
Thierry Wasser's revival of the original Mouchoir de Monsieur is doubly exceptional, since this version is the more concentrated Parfum, never released commercially. Jacques Guerlain always worked and wrote his formulas in the rich Parfum medium, and the idea of "perfume for women, cologne for men" wasn't invented yet. In fact, masculine perfumery as a separate entity did not exist in his time; there were just perfumes.
When, in the late 1980s, Guerlain finally decided to put Mouchoir de Monsieur on the general market, it was released as a lighter Eau de Toilette. Frédéric Sacone tells us that lowering the overall concentration is one way of getting a fragrance to comply with ingredient restrictions, which had already taken effect by then. Also, for the men of the 1980s, the freshness of an EdT may have been considered a more suitable choice than the sensual, musky fragrance of Mouchoir de Monsieur Parfum. Mouchoir de Monsieur, as we know it from the Guerlain boutiques, is a classic, gentlemanly fougère EdT. Concentration drastically changes the olfactive impression however, even if the formula is the same. Due to its high concentrate percentage and lower alcohol volume, a Parfum is less diffusive and has a longer evaporation curve than an EdT, thus appearing with less evident freshness from the top notes and with more long-lasting base notes. According to Thierry Wasser, that is the reason why vintage Mouchoir de Monsieur, the Parfum, has a clearly more oriental character compared to the EdT.
We agree that vintage Mouchoir de Monsieur smells quite different from the one available for sale. Like most of the Jacques Guerlain perfumes in the vintage sample set, it's an extremely compact fragrance, without much air between the notes and therefore not easy to dissect. Up top, we get the strong bite of aromatics that we also know from Jicky. Then there is a warm nuttiness, delineated as almond in the scent diagram, together with an equally warm, and quite spicy, scent of wood and cinnamon. Speaking of the scent diagram, we're amazed to read how floral Mouchoir de Monsieur actually is. It lists jasmine, rose and tuberose. Especially tuberose is completely unique in a men's scent. Although the perfume doesn't strike us as intensely floral, we sense the opulence and almost aristocratic elegance that these flower absolutes provide. This, combined with vanilla and tonka bean, is maybe what accounts for the oriental spirit of vintage Mouchoir de Monsieur, offering a very obvious link to Jicky. Habit Rouge wasn't the world's first oriental for men after all!
Thierry Wasser explains that the raw bergamot oil employed in the time of Jacques Guerlain, with its rounded, fruity and deep fragrance, serves to penetrate and temper the base notes, while the norm-conforming bergamot doesn't have the same power and depth. Therefore, despite its high level of animal ingredients, counting both civet and deer musk, vintage Mouchoir de Monsieur smells less sharply animalic than the modern version. Of course, natural animal tinctures aren't used in commercial perfumery any more, but have been replaced by norm-conforming products. Without the enveloping effect of the former, today's Mouchoir de Monsieur is a leaner, crisper, and significantly less tenacious fragrance. Read more about Mouchoir de Monsieur
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