Family: chypre, floral, fruity
Notes: bergamot, peach, plum, lilac, rose, jasmine, black pepper, oakmoss, leather accord, patchouli, sandalwood, styrax
Period: The equality years
Parure has been called a Mitsouko on plum instead of peach, and it's not wide off the mark. Jean-Paul Guerlain had for years dreamt of devising a new chypre of his grandfather's towering dimensions, and he strived to accomplish this in 1975 with Parure. He clearly borrowed elements from both Mitsouko (fruity chypre) and Vol de Nuit (green balsamic chypre), but discharged any of the melancholy orris powder, and what he got could be called a shining floral chypre. While Chamade signalled playful sensuality, Parure was all self-determined adult luxury, and its name indeed means "adornment", "finery" or "jewellery", or anything that makes a woman well-dressed and elegant. The idea for the perfume came from the glorious 1922 discovery of the riches of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, its abundance of gold, precious stones and perfume vases, and the captivating mysticism of the site.
Indeed, Parure is also a bit of a jewel. No other perfume resembles it, simultaneously feminine and pungent, freshly spring-like and antiquated, fruity and bitter, tangy and leathery. To call it a bestseller would be an exaggeration. It didn't have Mitsouko's simple harmony, and maybe it smelled too tangled to many people. Still, it was inscrutably Guerlain, aristocratic and stately. Like Chamade, it opened with a brilliant blast of floral citrus. But after that, it got profoundly different, mixing pure and rich notes of lilac, jasmine and rose, somewhat peppery, with peach and plum, a glowing scent of leather-like dried fruit. The base of resin, leather and oakmoss, the latter in large amounts, gave the whole scent a serious and noble, almost arrogant feel. There was something at once very dark and very profuse about Parure, like lofty oak-panelled rooms, or the air of a great forest. Or, the inside of an ancient Egyptian king's tomb. Jean-Paul Guerlain later revealed he made it for his mother, who loved jewellery, referencing childhood fantasies of her elegance. Parure had all the striking qualities of a leather chypre, which could work on a man too.
Bottle. The Parure bottle, sculpted by Robert Granai after a flaming sea view sunset, was among the most adventurous and complex of the Guerlain presentations, "with a slightly outrageous stopper," as Jean-Paul Guerlain put it, a three-dimensional, wavy volume almost dwarfing the bottle by its size. It was only produced during a six-year period after which the standard quadrilobe bottle took over. The original atomizer canisters' lattice look of gold and turquoise was taken from Tutankhamun's memorable burial mask. As of lately, Parure EdT was available in the bee atomizer, but the fragrance had to be taken out of production due to European health restrictions on certain materials.
Parfum, EdT. The Parure Parfum was discontinued in 1989 when Samsara was launched, so any existing juice is now more than twenty-five years old, making it difficult to judge whether ageing has a share in its relatively stronger leather base. It's a fact that leather chypres and all resins in general grow smokier and blacker with age, but it seems logical no matter what that the Parure Parfum smells even darker than the EdT. The latter, by contrast, is greener, bitterer, more botanical.
Reformulation. Did newer bottles of Parure EdT smell a bit brighter than we remembered it to do? Maybe. Was there a change in the formula? Best guess is it was laid to rest precisely to avoid a bad reformulation. "We sell perfumes of which the oldest is over 150 years old. If some day Brussels doesn't want rose essence any longer, what am I to do? There is rose in almost all our perfumes... It is a heritage we need to defend," says Thierry Wasser, declaring a war on the industry's bureaucratic regulations of raw materials. "Jean-Paul Guerlain had created Parure for his mother. We had to discontinue it because we could no longer use the ingredients necessary to make it. It's a heartbreak." Read more
We love: the impossible-to-find Parfum
For the stern diva look
Contrast this unconventional leather scent with your most casual clothes
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