Jean-Paul Guerlain 1975
Family: floral, chypre
Resurrection of the power of rose
Period: The equality 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.
A Guerlain aficionado who's passionate enough to travel to Maison Guerlain in Paris to smell these re-created scents, is likely to own at least one bottle of vintage Parure, Jean-Paul Guerlain's stately chypre fragrance from 1975. The Parfum version of Parure was discontinued in 1989, which makes it the most short-lived of Jean-Paul Guerlain's classics. It probably means that it never had to face the vagaries of being reformulated. On the other hand, it also follows that any existing bottle is affected by the damaging consequences of minimum twenty-five years of storage and ageing. In the case of Parure, the most interesting question is therefore not so much how it smelled, as what it smelled like when it was freshly blended.
It's well known that the scent of perfume materials gradually changes as they age, albeit in quite different ways. Citrus notes tend to simply fade with time, while herbal and floral notes turn sour, and resinous ingredients often get deeper and more spicy. As a result, oriental compositions, which are rich in balsams and resins, age more gracefully than all other fragrance categories, while chypre perfumes generally turn bad fairly quickly. However, chypres that are more balsamic in style, like Parure, can be less negatively affected.
While Nahéma is often said to be ahead of its own time when it was released in 1979, Parure seemed, if anything, to be behind the times. Jean-Paul Guerlain composed it around two of his grandfather's veteran chypre types, namely the fruity chypre (famously founded on the use of peach in Mitsouko) and the balsamic chypre (Vol de Nuit, Sous le Vent and, more pronouncedly, Chypre 53). The old oakmoss chypres became broadly unfashionable from the 1960s on, perceived as something only bourgeois ladies would wear, and indeed Jean-Paul Guerlain stated that he created Parure for his mother, who loved jewellery, out of childhood memories of her elegance. The word "parure" refers to the matching set of a necklace and earrings adorning women on formal occasions.
The characteristic scent of balsamic resins, at once velvety like cinnamon and enigmatically smoky-woody, is closely linked to antiquity's perfumes and incense, and Jean-Paul Guerlain further explained that his olfactive vision for Parure was inspired by the riches of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb. Accordingly, Parure's spray canisters were decorated with a lattice look of gold and turquoise, taken from the burial mask of Tutankhamun.
Basically, Parure offers the contrast between a dark styrax-oakmoss-leather accord and a shining fruity-floral accord of peach, plum, lilac, jasmine, narcissus and rose. Smelling the freshly blended Parure, it's striking how much of the overall vigour and strength that the vintage juice has lost over time. Its citrus sparkle fades only a short while after application, and there's a certain sourness in the middle, lacking the bright floral bloom of new Parure. The base of balsam and leather seems to have turned more resinous over the years, which some might find very attractive, but it nonetheless appears somewhat flat and dusty compared to the fresh juice. Maybe the melting effect of nitro-musk has evaporated after being kept for all those years in the bottle. Deep down in the drydown of Thierry Wasser's re-created Parure, there's a burning sensation of spicy, opulent rose that heralds the Nahéma accord that was to come; this part is sadly lost in aged Parure.
It remains a fact, though, that vintage Parure fares better than old bottles of Mitsouko, and it's still well recommended that Guerlain lovers try to hunt down a bottle of Parure. Read more about Parure
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