Jacques Guerlain 1908
Family: floral, powdery
Nivea cream
Period: The Belle Époque 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.

It's difficult to think of a flower that evokes the purity and freshness of nature as lily of the valley does. Ironically, in perfumery, the lily of the valley note is anything but natural. This tender little spring flower doesn't yield any essential oil, so the scent is reconstructed in the laboratory by a combination of numerous other ingredients, called a perfume base.

We don't automatically associate the innocent fresh-floral scent of lily of the valley with Guerlain, yet Jacques Guerlain used it in a substantial number of his formulas to give delicacy, lightness and air to his rich compositions. Thierry Wasser tells us that Jacques was, in fact, very fond of this note.

In 1908, he created a soliflore lily of the valley perfume, and called it simply "Muguet", the French name of the flower. It was presented in the "flowered bottle", so-called because it came with a bouquet of silk flowers fixed by a collar around the bottle's neck. (Originally, the bottle was created for Voila Pourquoi J'Aimais Rosine.) Jacques Guerlain's Muguet disappeared from the market in 1960, but as a stroke of both nostalgia and luxury, in 1998 Guerlain began to issue a yearly limited edition of an Eau de Toilette called Muguet. Maybe Guerlain thought it was time to have a proper lily of the valley fragrance in their catalogue to compete with Dior's Diorissimo. Guerlain's Muguet is sold on the 1st of May in different artisan bottles from year to year. It's launched with the motto "Un jour, un parfum" ("one day, one perfume"), as it is a French tradition to give one's beloved sprigs of lily of the valley on May Day.

We may have thought that Guerlain's May Day Muguet, a cheerful floral fragrance of bergamot, lily of the valley, lilac, jasmine and Bulgarian rose, was a true resurrection of the historical perfume, but we did become suspicious when we found out that Aqua Allegoria Lilia Bella (2001) smelled just the same as the modern version. Thierry Wasser's re-created vintage Muguet reveals that although both the modern and the historic version are all lily of the valley from top to base, the two are entirely different. First of all, vintage Muguet is a Parfum concentration, making for a less sparkling and more intimate feel than the new EdT version. Also, the historic version is what could be described as an "old-fashioned" powdery floral, with a very short formula that includes freesia, rose, orris, ylang-ylang and a soft, but distinct note of Nivea cream, faithful to the tastes of the Belle Époque, but unlikely to be popular nowadays. Read about Guerlain's new Muguet

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