Jacques Guerlain 1907
Family: floral, musky
Prelude to L'Heure Bleue
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.
Throughout time men and women have admired the durability and versatility of Jacques Guerlain's classics. The fullness of his compositions and the breadth of choice of notes afforded by the perfume organ was a major factor in the enduring popularity of his perfumes. Not only was he fond of the freshness of citrus and herbs and the femininity of flower bouquets but his compositions always sought a balance with darker, dirtier and heavier notes — the smoky, resinous, balsamic and animal materials. This is what Luca Turin hinted at when he quipped that "the trick of the old Guerlain gourmands was to smell like the sum total of a large household." The most famous of Jacques Guerlain's perfumes — L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, Shalimar and Vol de Nuit — are those that had the balance just right. The rest were either too floral, too sweet, too sombre or too complex to gain universal appeal.
Like any artist or artisan, Jacques Guerlain had to gain experience and skill before he discovered the format for which his oeuvre and the entire Guerlain fragrance catalogue is admired: the rich, sensual oriental. Until then, while he was still in his twenties, his creations were more modest and streamlined, like small chamber pieces (see Fleur Qui Meurt and Voilà Pourquoi J'Aimais Rosine). Sillage, a musky, leathery floral from 1907, is the earliest example of Jacques Guerlain's floral oriental style, and in many ways his prelude to L’Heure Bleue. It has all the warmth and opulence of jasmine, rose, tuberose and clove, as well as citrus oils, aromatics, wood smoke, strong musk, and the suaveness of tonka bean. In fact, if we mix Sillage with Après l’Ondée from the year before, we almost get the scent of L’Heure Bleue. Add to that a generous dose of ripe ylang-ylang, and what we get is a smooth and liqueur-like floral gourmand fragrance, of the kind that Guerlain hasn't stopped making since then (see La Petite Robe Noire for the latest example).
Sillage — in French pronounced as [sija:ʒ] — means "trail", referring to the waft of fragrance carried through the air around and after a perfume wearer. Although the word "sillage" is French, many English-speaking perfume bloggers use it when discussing a perfume’s capability to be smelled from a distance. We get the impression that many perfume aficionados want their fragrance to be very noticeable. The quest for strong diffusiveness began in the 1980s, something unheard of in Jacques Guerlain's time. He always worked in the concentrated Parfum medium, and due to the lower alcohol volume, a Parfum develops sedately and intimately, an experience which demands time and attention. Modern tastes are perhaps more inclined towards the effervescent and forthright effect of an Eau de Parfum. That said, the name Sillage does make sense to us, as this heady mixture of flowers, spices and musk equals L'Heure Bleue in terms of being able to fill a room entirely. However, in terms of elegance, Sillage is not in the same league as L'Heure Bleue.
Sillage came in the so-called Empire bottle, which was first made for Bon Vieux Temps ("good old days”), and later also used for Après l’Ondée, as well as other early Jacques Guerlain perfumes.
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