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The Parfum and EdP versions of Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue are back, after being reformulated due to a problem with one of their shared ingredients.

When the suspension was announced, Guerlain explained that while olfactive variations from year to year in raw materials are normal, the lab had detected a change that was too radical to justify further sale of L'Heure Bleue and Mitsouko. As a consequence, the brand decided to suspend the production of these fragrances for several months, while Thierry Wasser "puts all his talent and passion into readjusting the formulas of L'Heure Bleue and Mitsouko.”

Thierry Wasser has taught us that suppliers of raw materials changing their products is just as frequent a reason to reformulate or discontinue a Guerlain fragrance as are IFRA restrictions. Most of Guerlain’s old formulas contain ingredients that can be difficult to obtain nowadays. What a terrible waste that Thierry Wasser’s award-winning 2013 reformulation of Mitsouko EdP wasn’t granted a longer life.

From the fact that Guerlain chose to downright suspend the fragrances for months, we can deduce three things: 1) the ingredient in question played a significant role in the compositions, 2) there exists no readily available substitute for this ingredient, i.e. it wasn’t a natural, 3) there's a limit to how much Guerlain wants to compromise on its olfactive patrimony.

So what do the new Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue smell like? The following description (which doesn't include the basics about Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue, presuming you already know them) is based on EdP bottles batch coded July 2016. What you also may know is that comparing freshly blended and older juices essentially is a questionable endeavour that has caused a lot of confusion and misunderstanding in the fragrance blogosphere. Already within one year from the production date, a fragrance can have changed so much that comparing it to a new bottle doesn’t bring any real valid information. However, Guerlain’s statement of the formulas being "readjusted" almost begs for a comparative review.

Straight from the bottles, whatever is missing or has been substituted is remarkably well camouflaged. You can't mistake these fragrances for anything but Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue, and possibly no one would have paid attention to anything being different if we hadn’t been notified.

On the other hand, in perfumery, the devil is in the drydown, where something does appear slightly changed. The overall impression is of brighter, lighter and softer fragrances, somewhat flatter and less diffusive, and with less density and power in the base.

If I were to guess about what kind of ingredient the whole thing is about, I'd say some leathery material that made Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue glow with smoky, resinous heat for hours on end and gave them their unique balance between pharmaceutics and Viennese pastries.

It seems evident, though, that Thierry Wasser did the best he could to heal the integrity of these fragrances, and we're very grateful that Guerlain didn't choose the other alternative, namely to discontinue them altogether. Guerlain without Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleue, Jacques Guerlain's most classic of his classics, seems inconceivable.

An unintended effect of the change may be that Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue, with their lighter feel, are now more palatable to the general public. Tastes have changed since Jacques Guerlain was around, and today only a small group of perfume aficionados prefer scents that are “dark”, “smoky” or “vintage”. Let’s hope for a bright new future for Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue!
(September 2016)

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