Jacques Guerlain 1937
[kaʃɛ ʒo:n]
Family: oriental, floral
Rum, spices and vanilla
Period: The flight years

Thierry Wasser and 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.

The vintage sample set includes the Parfum version of Jacques Guerlain's Cachet Jaune from 1937, a more exceptional perfume than we could have imagined. Cachet Jaune was never released in this more concentrated form, but only as an Eau de Cologne; however, Thierry Wasser has chosen to show us the Parfum as prescribed by Jacques Guerlain's handwritten formula. Maison Guerlain exhibits the watch-shaped Eau de Cologne bottle with Cachet Jaune inside, appropriate enough since this bottle was born with Cachet Jaune. Aside from the early fresh colognes of founder Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, Cachet Jaune was indeed the first Guerlain fragrance to be sold as an EdC. After that came Shalimar EdC and Mitsouko EdC (also in 1937), Jicky EdC and L’Heure Bleue EdC (1945), and Vol de Nuit EdC (1963), all housed in the watch-shaped cologne bottle. The diluted EdC format was introduced in order to give less affluent people — of which there were probably quite a few in the 1930s — the opportunity to allow themselves the luxury of buying a Guerlain fragrance.

Cachet Jaune means "yellow seal". Thierry Wasser tells us that Jacques Guerlain used to seal his letters with yellow wax, and that this perfume was made for his wife as a souvenir of his love letters to her. Cachet Jaune was also the perfume of Jean-Paul Guerlain's mother, until she received Parure many years later. Thierry Wasser asked Jean-Paul Guerlain (who was born the same year as Cachet Jaune, by the way) to smell the re-created perfume, and it literally made him cry. "Cachet Jaune was the scent of Jean-Paul Guerlain's childhood," Wasser recounts. "His parents were often out, and the trail of his mother's perfume after she had put him to bed and kissed him goodnight was a big comfort to him."

The two Mrs. Guerlain wore the luxurious Parfum version, but why wasn't it available for sale in the shop? Perhaps the ladies had asked Jacques Guerlain to keep it as their private and personal exclusive. Cachet Jaune EdC is an extremely light fragrance, leaving merely a fleeting and indistinct impression of freshness, some spices, and a pale sweetness. Cachet Jaune Parfum, on the other hand, is all floriental opulence. "It's the vintage answer to Spiritueuse Double Vanille," as one perfume blogger commented.

The perfume is dominated by a luscious, rum-like swell of vanilla right from the start. We are told that Cachet Jaune has natural vanilla tincture, whose aroma is much darker and woodier than that of the sweet, creamy ethylvanillin used in Shalimar — much like opening a pouch of plump, moist vanilla pods. It's the vanilla tincture that causes the intense amber colour of the juice. Thierry Wasser explains that vanilla tincture is actually less rich and deep than the oily vanilla absolute, however, the advantage of a tincture is that the diffusive, volatile property of alcohol, in which the raw material is dissolved, allows the fragrant molecules to penetrate the entire perfume, from the top notes to the drydown. An absolute, by contrast, is much heavier and is mainly perceived as a background note. The tincture is what gives Cachet Jaune its thoroughly vanillic profile.

Up top we also find rosemary, with its dry, camphoric prickle, as well as a strong carnation note. The latter derives from a reconstructed fragrance base which is the only way to get the spicy-floral, medicinal scent we know from carnation, and it's to be found in many of Jacques Guerlain's compositions, like L'Heure Bleue and Mitsouko. The vanilla-carnation accord follows the perfume from start to finish (this is really Metallica more than Spiritueuse Double Vanille). On the way we get the typical Jacques Guerlain palette of jasmine, rose, orris and musk, until it all ends in a delicious, gourmand overdose of Ambre 83.

No wonder it brought Jean-Paul Guerlain to tears: smelling Cachet Jaune Parfum is like being a Guerlain-loving kid in a candy store.

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