The extreme rarity of Jacques Guerlain's 1942 perfume Kriss is due to the fact that it existed only for a very brief period. The perfume had some controversy attached to it, as it has been suggested that it was created for the Nazis and named after a stabbing weapon called "kris", a dagger with a wavy blade originating from Southeast Asia. This kind of dagger, in a modified form which incorporated several examples of Nazi symbolism, was a standard accessory issued to all members of the greatly-feared SS. European colonists often used the spelling "kriss" for this weapon. Spelled with “ss", we get some very sinister and malevolent associations, considering the time in which this perfume debuted. According to research by Will Inrig from the Osmothèque, unfounded rumours spread of Jacques Guerlain being a collaborationist as the war drew to a close, and Kriss was quickly withdrawn. Guerlain explains that its short lifespan may also be due to the scarcity of raw materials during the war.

The perfume was relaunched at the end of the war under the new name Dawamesk, but the fragrance formula remained unchanged, a fougère with floral and oriental notes. Dawamesk came in the same bottle as Coque d'Or (which Guerlain reissued in 2014), as well as in the quadrilobe bottle and also the so-called war bottle. The name Dawamesk refers to a hashish "jam", a greenish preserve made of hashish, pistachio, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sugar, orange juice and butter. In the 1840s, lots of dawamesk was eaten at the Club des Hashischins, a Parisian group dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced experiences. Members included famous French writers like Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire and Honoré de Balzac. According to Will Inrig's findings, it is thought that Jacques Guerlain himself used hashish, at the time when the collaboration rumours spread and he fell into a depression. He was already devastated by the fact that his youngest son had been fatally wounded in combat. Whether he took hashish in the form of dawamesk is unknown, as is the eventual link to calling his perfume Dawamesk. It's not unthinkable, though, that the fragrance was inspired by what the dawamesk mixture tasted like.
(August 2014)

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