Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain 1840, new version 1917
[pwɑ də sɑ̃tœr]
Family: floral
Orange and orange blossom
Period: The imperial 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.

Pois de Senteur was one of Guerlain's very early fragrances, created in 1840 by founder of the company, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain. In his time, fragrance chemistry was extremely basic compared to the Jacques Guerlain era, offering only simple and fragile extracts from herbs, flowers and citrus fruits. Therefore, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain's perfumes were what we today would call cologne-like: fresh, light and natural. It's interesting to note that the scent of sweet pea, a flowering plant from which Pois de Senteur takes its name, cannot be extracted from nature, but must be replicated by combining various other perfume materials. The sweet pea is celebrated not only for its pretty, very romantic-looking petals, often associated with brides and weddings, but also for its delicate, sweet-fresh floral fragrance.

In truth, we still don't know exactly what Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain's Pois de Senteur smelled like, because Thierry Wasser has chosen to re-create Jacques Guerlain's reworked version from 1917. It wasn't uncommon for Jacques to reformulate some of his ancestors' perfumes as new and improved raw materials came along. For instance, he later reformulated his uncle's À Travers Champs and Cuir de Russie.

Pois de Senteur seems to obtain the sweet pea effect mainly by combining crisp and citrusy notes of lemon and orange with orange blossom, at once honeyed, tender, and a bit spicy. Maybe because Pois de Senteur dates back to Guerlain's cologne era, it's the only one of the re-created vintages, apart from Pao Rosa, that has an overall fresh profile, even a bit soapy, albeit with the heady, metallic facet that is characteristic of orange blossom absolute. Along the way we get touches of jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, and violet. We speculate that the two latter notes, both derived from synthetics, were among the things that changed in Jacques Guerlain's version. From his recomposition of À Travers Champs we learned that he had access to a better lily of the valley ingredient than what was available to his predecessors. Also, violet was probably not included in the original version of Pois de Senteur, as ionones hadn't been invented yet in 1840. Jacques Guerlain used the violet-smelling ionones extensively in his early perfumes. The emphasis in this fragrance, though, is on the orange blossom, pure and prickling. For a valid, modern equivalent of this type of fragrance, try Thierry Wasser's Cologne du Parfumeur.

Bottle. Like all of Guerlain's oldest fragrances, Pois de Senteur was sold in various standard bottles. When Jacques Guerlain reworked the perfume in 1917, it came in the classic quadrilobe bottle.

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