Jean-Paul Guerlain 1975
Family: chypre, floral, fruity
Notes: bergamot, peach, plum, lilac, rose, jasmine, black pepper, oakmoss, leather accord, patchouli, sandalwood, styrax
Shining chypre
Period: The equality years

Parure has been called a Mitsouko on plum instead of peach, and it's not wide off the mark. For years, Jean-Paul Guerlain had dreamt of devising a new chypre of his grandfather's towering dimensions, and he strived to accomplish this in 1975 with Parure, the first perfume he made in collaboration with his co-perfumer until 1989, Anne-Marie Saget. The two clearly borrowed elements from both Mitsouko (fruity chypre) and Vol de Nuit (green balsamic chypre), but discharged any of the melancholy orris powder, and what they got could be called a shining floral chypre. While Chamade signalled playful sensuality, Parure was all self-determined adult luxury, and its name indeed describes a matched set of jewellery like a necklace, bracelet, ring, and earrings, or anything that makes a woman well-dressed and elegant. The idea for the perfume came from the glorious 1922 discovery of the riches of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, its abundance of gold, precious stones and perfume vases, and the captivating mysticism of the site.

Parure was a very particular scent, simultaneously feminine and pungent, freshly spring-like and antiquated, fruity and bitter, tangy and leathery. To call it a bestseller would be an exaggeration. It didn't have Mitsouko's simple harmony, and maybe it smelled too tangled to many people. Still, it was inscrutably Guerlain, aristocratic and stately. Like Chamade, it opened with a brilliant blast of floral citrus. But after that, it got profoundly different, mixing pure and rich notes of lilac, jasmine and rose, somewhat peppery, with peach and plum, a glowing scent of leather-like dried fruit. The base of balsam, leather and oakmoss, the latter in large amounts, gave the whole scent a serious and noble feel, made for ladies in fur coats. There was something at once very dark and very profuse about Parure, like lofty oak-panelled rooms, the air of a great forest or the inside of an ancient Egyptian king's tomb. Jean-Paul Guerlain later revealed he made it for his mother, who loved jewellery, referencing childhood fantasies of her elegance. Parure had all the striking qualities of a leather chypre, which would appropriately scent a man too.

The Parure bottle, sculpted by Robert Granai after a flaming sea view sunset, was among the most adventurous and complex of the Guerlain presentations, "with a slightly outrageous stopper," as Jean-Paul Guerlain put it, a three-dimensional, wavy volume almost dwarfing the bottle by its size. The bottle was only produced during a six-year period after which the standard quadrilobe bottle took over. There was also an atomizer canister with a lattice look of gold and turquoise taken from Tutankhamun's memorable burial mask. Later, Parure EdT was available in the bee atomizer, but the fragrance had to be taken out of production in 2006 due to European health restrictions on certain raw materials.

Parfum, EdT
The Parure Parfum was discontinued in 1989 when Samsara was launched, so any existing juice is now more than twenty-eight years old, making it difficult to judge whether ageing has a share in its relatively stronger leather base. It's a fact that leather chypres and all resins in general grow smokier and blacker with age, but regardless Parure Parfum logically smells even darker than the EdT. The latter, by contrast, is greener, more bitter, more botanical.

Did newer bottles of Parure EdT smell a bit brighter than we remembered it to do? Maybe. Was there a change in the formula? Best guess is it was laid to rest precisely to avoid a bad reformulation. "We sell perfumes of which the oldest is over 150 years old. If some day Brussels doesn't want rose essence any longer, what am I to do? There is rose in almost all our perfumes... It is a heritage we need to defend," says Thierry Wasser, declaring a war on the industry's bureaucratic regulations of raw materials. "Jean-Paul Guerlain had created Parure for his mother. We had to discontinue it because we could no longer use the ingredients necessary to make it. It's a heartbreak." Read more

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