Pierre Guerlain 1908
[ry də la pɛ]
Family: floral
Vague violet
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.

Several sources have mentioned it for a long time: the perfume Rue de la Paix (1908) was not created by Jacques Guerlain, but by his older brother Pierre. Now, for the first time, Guerlain openly states that the formula for Rue de la Paix was indeed signed by Pierre Guerlain.

For a Guerlain aficionado, this whole construct is quite intriguing, in more than one way. First of all, Guerlain has been known as one of the few perfume houses that has only one nose at a time. The practice of having the creation of perfumes firmly assigned to one single family member was implemented to concentrate the development of know-how as well as to maintain a consistent and recognizable olfactive signature. However, Thierry Wasser reveals that not only Pierre Guerlain, but also Aimé Guerlain’s brother Gabriel, and Jean Paul Guerlain’s father Jean-Jacques, eventually created perfumes that ended up in the sales catalogue. It suggests that the olfactive creativity of the Guerlain family was not restricted to the appointed master nose. Moreover, it gives new meaning to how Guerlain organizes its creative forces today, with Thierry Wasser working in a tandem with perfumers Frédéric Sacone and Delphine Jelk.

Secondly, the resurrection of a Pierre Guerlain perfume reminds us that he, in fact, ought to have been the master nose in the first place. Guerlain annals recount that the eldest son inherited the title as master perfumer, while his younger brother managed the company. We can only speculate that Pierre Guerlain, two years Jacques' senior, simply didn’t posses the talent to be the nose.

Hence we’re eager to discover what this only one known perfume by Pierre Guerlain smells like. The question is: without knowing the nose, would we have guessed that this is not a Jacques Guerlain perfume? Probably not. Rue de la Paix is by no means a Guerlain masterpiece gone unnoticed, but we would assume that not every one of Jacques' four hundred scents could be equally marvellous.

At least in the beginning we recognize the Guerlain style of the era. There we find the mildly sweet, powdery violet scent of ionone, one of the most popular materials among perfumers back then, and used extensively by Jacques Guerlain, from Fleur Qui Meurt to Après l'Ondée and L’Heure Bleue. The sweetness of violet comes with a honeyed note, which is contrasted with a bracing cologne mixture, typical of Guerlain, of bergamot, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary and thyme.

A Guerlain connoisseur would then argue that Rue de la Paix was obviously not created by the great master Jacques Guerlain. The top note stays too lemony for too long to let the other ingredients shine, and the whole thing appears rather flat and colourless. It feels as if the violet is suppressed by the lemon scent, as is the otherwise very odorous lavender, and after that we mainly sense a citrusy rose note. There are jasmine and ylang-ylang to round off the rose, but they're too vague to count as sensual.

For someone who has fallen in love with Jacques Guerlain's high-calorie, spicy and animalic drydowns, the base notes of Rue de la Paix don't really stack up. The blend of balsamic, musky and woody ingredients, with violet leaf and cinnamon-like styrax, feels pleasant, especially if you need a break from Jacques’ almost too rich compositions, but some might argue it’s on the conservative side for Guerlain's standards.

The perfume Rue de la Paix was named after the street where Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain opened a new shop in 1839, after moving from the rue de Rivoli. At that time, the rue de la Paix was the epitome of Parisian elegance. Jean-Jacques recounts how in 1925 Guerlain lost the lease of the rue de la Paix shop, because the owner was furious to have lost a horse race to one of Guerlain's horses and therefore refused to renew the lease! By that time, Guerlain had already inaugurated its new premises on avenue des Champs-Elysées. In 1935, a second place of business was opened on Place Vendôme.

Rue de la Paix was the first perfume to be issued in the quadrilobe bottle, which eventually became a standard bottle used for several new perfumes that followed. The bottle was designed by Aimé Guerlain's brother Gabriel. Seen from above, the stopper looks like a quatrefoil ("quadrilobe" in French). It has also been noted that the stopper is suggestive of a champagne cork. During the Art Nouveau period, designers often united curving, organic forms with more angular and geometric contours, and the quadrilobe bottle is an illustrative example of this, as is L'Heure Bleue's heart-shaped stopper bottle (1912). The quadrilobe bottle's original velvet box, with its flowing, plant-like decoration, was distinctly Art Nouveau too.

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