PERFUMES BY JEAN-PAUL GUERLAIN




© 2006-2018 MONSIEUR GUERLAIN  

REVIEWS ETC.

SEARCH RESULTS


GUERLAINOPHILES


For everyone who is passionate or curious about Guerlain, I have created the closed Facebook group Honey Bees and Guerlainophiles. In this group, you will meet some of the most enthusiastic, knowing and attentive Guerlain lovers in the world, and find an explosion of information about Guerlain that is not available anywhere else on the vast internet. Join Honey Bees and Guerlainophiles

The group occasionally conducts surveys to get a clearer picture of how Guerlainophiles relate to certain oft-discussed topics. You can find the results of these surveys below.



Gender in perfumery
Gender is among the most debated topics in every society around the world, and it has entered perfumery too. Guerlain’s latest pillar fragrances, L’Homme Idéal and Mon Guerlain, distinctly use gender as a marketing tool.

Guerlain has actively referred to gender, more specifically women, since the Jacques Guerlain era. Think of Mitsouko, which was described as "the imaginary scent of a woman's skin." According to Jean-Paul Guerlain, his grandfather told him that "you always create perfumes for the women you love, whom you admire, and with whom you live." Scents targeted at men didn’t appear until the 1950s, with "Pour Homme" written on the label to make sure that men understood it wasn’t a "woman thing".

Although gender stereotypes have been questioned by artists and intellectuals since the Roaring Twenties, the gender division in beauty marketing peaked in the 1980s’ yuppie culture, after which there was a backlash in the 1990s, when girls and boys should look, behave, and smell alike. The debate was still very much focused on the sex, though. It was just called "unisex".

We recently asked the Guerlainophile members the following question: "To what extent is the marketed gender of a perfume a factor you think about when picking a perfume?" Here’s the result:

• I’m oblivious to the marketed gender of a fragrance, as I don't ascribe gender to smells: 60 %

• I’m open to trying fragrances intended for the opposite gender, but I generally find that they’re unsuitable for my own gender: 38 %

• I won't try a fragrance intended for the opposite gender: 2 %

Some comments suggested that the relatively high percentage of respondents who are oblivious to the marketed gender of a perfume (60 %), and that only 2 % say they will never try a fragrance intended for the opposite gender, reflects that Honey Bees and Guerlainophiles is a group of highly specialized fragrance aficionados, and that average consumers of mainstream fragrances may be much more concerned with the marketed gender of a fragrance.

When we split the respondents into women and men, we notice an interesting difference between the answers from our female and male members, namely that the percentage of men who say they don’t care about the marketed gender of a fragrance is significantly higher (73 %) than the percentage of women who say the same (51 %). We wonder why this is so. There’s nothing that suggests that men are more free-thinking individuals than women are. However, some commentators speculated that more men than women who are fragrance aficionados are gay and therefore have spent their lives thinking outside the "gender box". Facebook doesn’t reveal people’s sexual orientation, so we’re unable to test the hypothesis about a correlation between sexual orientation and perception of the marketed gender of perfumes.

Another hypothesis would be that men who are fragrance aficionados would be unable to fully enjoy their hobby if they were limited to only buying fragrances marketed to men, because not only are there vastly fewer fragrances intended for men than for women on the fragrance market, but some experts also note that fragrances marketed to men are generally much less varied and exciting than are fragrances marketed to women. "In perfume, the male species is always smaller than the female," observes Luca Turin, indicating that perfumers will deliberately suppress their creativity when following the marketing brief for a new men’s scent. We can therefore imagine that fragrance loving men have developed a habit of crossing the marketed gender barrier in order to expand their scent horizons, while women, maybe rightfully, believe that it’s not worthwhile to visit the men’s department.

If this theory is true, our survey actually proves a whole different thing than what we thought: that fragrances marketed to women are more exciting than fragrances marketed to men.
(May 2018)



Exclusivity
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Guerlain's first official use of the word "exclusive". Back then, in the late 1990s, Guerlain struggled hard to maintain its aura of uniqueness amidst a sea of competing fragrance brands.

Guerlain's original usage of the word "exclusive" pointed to the fact that a fragrance was produced as a limited edition, like Guerlinade, Muguet, and Cherry Blossom (1998), Philtre d'Amour and Guet-Apens (1999), and Metallica (2000). "One of my dreams, which I couldn't live out, was to renew the 'haute parfumerie', to copy the universe of haute couture, where each woman could be proud to own a perfume created for her alone," said Jean-Paul Guerlain. "Utopia, of course, because the structures of today's society and the fierce competition cannot sustain it. Still, we have begun this play of exclusivity by launching perfumes in limited edition."

Today, when we look up the Exclusive Collections on Guerlain's website, we find a mixed bag of items, from the brand's most affordable fragrances (Les Eaux de Rituel) to 16,000 € crystal bottles. Guerlain explains that the Exclusives are for "aficionados of rare scents", featuring "noble raw materials and refinement down to the last detail."

We asked the Guerlainophile members to reply to the following question: "Do you find that Guerlain’s Exclusive Collections overall represent a higher level of uniqueness and/or quality in terms of raw materials, composition, and/or packaging, than what you find in the other lines? If you're unsure about what is defined as "Exclusive Collections", you can find it at guerlain.com." Here's the result:

• No: 77 %

• Yes: 16 %

• I don’t know: 7 %

In conclusion, more than three quarters of the respondents find that Guerlain’s Exclusive Collections do not represent a higher level of uniqueness or quality than what one finds in the brand’s other lines. Commenters argued that the Exclusive Collections are too disorganized and inconsistent, that they contain reissues of former non-exclusive scents, that many of the Exclusives are made up of very simplistic fragrance accords that don’t immediately justify an elevated price, and that Guerlain’s classic Parfums are superior to the Exclusives in terms of uniqueness and olfactive beauty. Some respondents mentioned that when a brand’s offerings are divided into exclusive and non-exclusive, it can have a negative impact on the perception of the latter, even though this may not be justified artistically or technically.

Among the 16 % who find that Guerlain’s Exclusive Collections do in fact represent a higher level of quality, it was noted that at least some of the exclusive fragrances seem more refined in terms of raw materials and composition. Others said that it’s mainly the packaging of the Exclusives, and not the fragrances themselves, that is more refined than what we find in Guerlain’s other lines.

It should be noted that this survey result suffers from a high non-response bias, as the response rate was only 15 % of group members.
(May 2018)



Professional perfume critics: do we need them?
The Pulitzer Prize for Criticism has been presented since 1970 to a newspaper writer who has demonstrated "distinguished criticism". The prize has gone to critics of music, books, television, painting, film, dance, theatre, architecture, news media, photography, cars, fashion, and restaurants.

With so many fields of criticism covered, we can’t help noticing the absence of perfume critics. After all, some think that perfumery is an art form, so doesn’t it deserve "distinguished criticism" as well? Maybe the lack of Pulitzer Prize-winning perfume critics is simply due to the fact that few newspaper writers have expertise or interest in perfumery. The topic is just too, well, limited in scope. Instead, almost all published content about perfume comes in the form of magazine advertorials (advertisements in editorial disguise), fragrance sites sponsored by brands or retail, webshop consumer reviews, hobby blogs and fan pages, and comments in fragrance forums and social media groups.

The question is, of course, if we really need professional critics to help us navigate the fragrance market. Some say no, claiming that the assessment of a creative work is only a question about whether one likes it or not, which a critic certainly can’t help us decide. On the other hand, chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, Terry Durack, believes that from a critic "you hope for a thorough, objective and legitimate discussion" that puts "opera, art or book into context, so that it adds to your own body of knowledge". In other words, the job of a critic is to bring perspective and enrich our perception, thinking, and understanding, not to tell us what’s good or bad, as if we would blindly follow someone else's taste. Picture above is perfume critic Luca Turin.

We asked the Guerlainophile members how they relate to this question, and here’s the result:

• I think that the perfume discourse is fine as it is, centred around debates about subjective likes and dislikes: 48 %

• I think that the perfume discourse can benefit from the presence of professional-analytical critics: 41 %

• I think that neither like/dislike debates nor critics play any meaningful role when it comes to perfumes: 11 %

In conclusion, opinions on fragrance reviewing are almost equally divided between a preference for subjective like/dislike debates versus a request for more expert-analytical criticism. Interestingly, one of the arguments expressed against expert critics says that the problem is not the critics themselves, but rather their readers. According to this argument, which appears as a form of anti-intellectualism, most people are too easily swayed by experts, and experts should therefore be avoided altogether. Fragrance talk is best left to common folk, the argument concludes.

Only 11 % of the respondents think that neither like/dislike debates nor expert critics play any meaningful role when it comes to perfumes. This small number is probably not very surprising, as the respondents of this survey all belong to a fragrance discussion group, and therefore may be assumed to be interested in opinions and analyses. However, since Facebook surveys are not anonymous, it was possible to ascertain that more than half of the respondents who are against any kind of fragrance reviewing actually post fragrance reviews themselves. It’s a common finding that people respond differently in surveys than they do in real life.

It should be noted that this survey result suffers from a high non-response bias, as the response rate was only 12 % of group members.
(May 2018)



Guerlain getting into high gear
Guerlain has never been busier than it is today. In just four months, the brand has launched twelve fragrances and inaugurated two new international boutiques, and much more is about to come. According to Guerlain’s CEO, Laurent Boillot, while Guerlain is currently only known to an elite group, "every woman and man in the world should have access to Guerlain." He plans to open 100 Guerlain Parfumeur boutiques worldwide within ten years. "I find it hard that we are leaving room for other niche brands to pretend that they are the Guerlain of the modern time," says Boillot. "In that regard, we just want to take our seat back." He also explains that Guerlain is fighting against the big houses with the same weapons. "We sometimes use the cinema term 'blockbuster'. Mon Guerlain is certainly designed as a blockbuster," he says. Boillot’s stated ambition is to make Guerlain the leading perfume brand in Paris, above Dior and Chanel.

Paris-based American journalist Dana Thomas comments in her book, "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster," that the radical acceleration in creation, production, and marketing of high-end brands represents a "McDonaldization" of something that formerly had an exclusive and artistic aura. However, LVMH president Bernard Arnault asserts that, "people do not understand that success stems from the cohabitation of two contradictory spirits: the artist's vision and the logic of worldwide marketing."

We asked the Guerlainophile members how they relate to this issue, and more than 200 members replied to the survey. Here’s the result:

• I believe Guerlain’s acceleration and global expansion will have a negative effect on the brand’s image: 54 %

• I believe Guerlain’s acceleration and global expansion will have a positive effect on the brand’s image: 27 %

• I believe Guerlain’s acceleration and global expansion will have no effect on the brand’s image: 19 %

While more than half believe that Guerlain’s rapid expansion will have a negative effect on the brand’s image, opinions are more divided on this topic than we typically find in the Guerlainophile community. In addition, the comments indicate that it’s difficult to explain rationally why expansion should mean a debased brand image. Instead, most people commented what Guerlain ought to do instead, like beginning to advertise its old classics. It seems that the image of Guerlain is about being French, historical, and small. “You can't be mass, global and exclusive,” one respondent said. However, many people argued that Guerlain should open its webshop to international sales, i.e., that easy access from all corners of the world is perceived as a good thing.

Among the 46 % who believe that Guerlain’s radical expansion will have a positive or neutral effect on the brand’s image, most people comment that Guerlain deserves to be known to a wider public, although some worry that transferring the “Guerlain spirit” to so many new sales assistants around the planet could prove difficult.
(May 2018)



Flankers
The launch of a new fragrance is cause for excitement in the perfume community, however, flankers receive less than enthusiastic responses. Guerlain is quite open about the fact that producing flankers doesn’t come out of a creative urge, but because retail chains will refuse to carry a brand if it doesn't deliver several new products every year. Thierry Wasser has even said that "the sickness of making flankers every five minutes is very upsetting."

We asked the Guerlainophile members what they think about flankers, which today constitute a significant part of Guerlain’s ten yearly fragrance releases. To answer, members could choose one or more options from a list of possible viewpoints. There were 355 votes in total, and here’s the result:

• I think flankers represent commercialism and a mass-market logic that degrades a prestigious brand image: 31 %

• I generally embrace flankers as necessary tools for brands to stay visible and viable on today’s market: 23 %

• It generally makes no difference to me whether a fragrance release is marketed as a flanker or a whole new fragrance: 16 %

• I feel mainly negative about flankers, as I think they represent a lack of real creativity in the fragrance industry: 10 %

• I feel mainly negative about flankers, as I think they “pollute” the image of the original fragrance: 9 %

• I’m generally very excited about flankers, as I think they add an extra element to a scent that I already like: 8 %

• I generally think that Guerlain should avoid making flankers, even when it will reduce the brand’s visibility and market share: 3 %

In conclusion, 47 % of the votes supported a positive or neutral view on flankers, while 53 % were negative. However, only 8 % of the votes expressed genuine enthusiasm about the release of flankers. Among the negative opinions, the main one cited was that flankers represent a mass-market logic that degrades a prestigious brand image. Surprisingly, a vanishingly small number of voters seem to think that Guerlain should avoid making flankers. This survey suggests that many Guerlainophiles have accepted the fact that flankers are necessary tools for fragrance brands to stay visible and viable on today’s market.
(April 2018)



If you were the Guerlain boss in 1994
One of the most debated topics among Guerlainophiles is the LVMH takeover of Guerlain in 1994 and how it has affected the brand. During the 1980s and 1990s, when competition within the fragrance industry intensified, Guerlain’s market share reached a catastrophic low, therefore Jean-Pierre Guerlain decided to sell his treasured heirloom to LVMH, arguing that the future in a more and more competitive industry would be best assured within a financially fit group.

Faced with a reduced market share due to stronger competition, companies are generally left with two choices: work to reach a larger demographic in order to regain the market share (the “mainstream” approach), or downsize the budget in order to reduce costs (the “niche” approach). A more drastic move would be to simply close the business. Guerlain chose the first option, i.e. to develop a larger reach. The task of getting more people interested in your brand all the while maintaining an exclusive image is very expensive, as it involves a facelift of all parts of the business (marketing, products, staff, shops, etc.), hence it’s a risky strategy when your funds are limited and it’s uncertain how the market will develop and respond to your strategy. Many brands have lost it all and died this way. Jean-Pierre Guerlain may have wished to be on the safe side by joining the wealthy LVMH group.

We asked the Guerlainophile members what they believe would be the wisest choice for Guerlain back in 1994. Here’s the result:

• I would do what it takes to attune to the new world order and become a big, international player again: 83 %

• I would quietly observe that times are changing, slash the budget, and keep cultivating my diminishing group of fans: 15 %

• I would close the business in order to avoid further downsizing and humiliation: 2 %

In conclusion, the vast majority of Guerlainophiles agree with Guerlain’s choice of trying to keep up its market share, budget size, and level of activity by reaching a larger demographic when confronted with stronger competition. Only 15 % would have liked to see Guerlain downsized into a small, family-driven niche firm, and very few people think that Guerlain should have closed. However, some commenters note that they think Guerlain should have taken the risky path, spending the rest of the company’s funds in 1994 to try to reinvigorate the brand without involving LVMH. According to them, LVMH is guilty of a "McDonaldization" of former heritage brands. Some even believe that Guerlain’s old belle-époque classics could be turned into international bestsellers equal to La Petite Robe Noire and Mon Guerlain if marketed the right way. Sadly, we will never know if that is true, as no one will ever have the nerves to invest their money in such an experiment. Picture above are some of the earliest Guerlain releases after the sale to LVMH: Liu reissue (1994), Champs-Elysées (1996), and Guerlinade (1998).
(April 2018)



What is the Guerlinade?
In perfumery, there are several words whose definition experts don’t agree about, like "vintage", "reformulation", "natural", "synthetic", "art", "exclusive", and "commercial". But at Guerlain, one word in particular has proved challenging, namely the word "Guerlinade", commonly found in Guerlain’s glossary.

For instance, we don’t know exactly when this word was invented, but it’s believed that it was first used by Jacques Guerlain, who even named one of his perfumes Guerlinade (1924). He must have realized that almost all of his perfumes were built around the same set of notes, hence sharing a certain "family resemblance". Experts have also observed that this specific set of notes can be traced back to Aimé Guerlain’s Jicky (1889). Although there are no written documents to confirm this theory, it does seem plausible, yet interestingly, the perfume called Guerlinade smelled markedly different from Jacques Guerlain’s most iconic perfumes, like L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar. Confusingly, one of Guerlain’s 190th anniversary videos claims that the Guerlinade was "composed by Jacques Guerlain in 1921", nine years after L’Heure Bleue. No evidence exists to support a claim that the Guerlinade was intentionally "composed" in 1921.

In French, the suffix "-ade" is often used to indicate a dish or a drink, like "grillade" and "orangeade". The nasal final vowel in "Guerlain" means that omitting the "a" renders "Guerlinade" easier on the ear than "Guerlainade".

What we do know, though, is when the word Guerlinade was officially mentioned for the first time, namely in the press material for Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Héritage in 1992. This was thanks to Guerlain’s former artistic director, Sylvaine Delacourte, who had been appointed as Jean-Paul Guerlain’s fragrance evaluator a few years before. One of her ambitions was to educate people about the Guerlain brand, back then mainly known to a small group of loyal customers and fragrance aficionados. The fierce competition from numerous fragrance brands that emerged during the 1980s and 1990s forced Guerlain to communicate what is unique about the brand more clearly. Delacourte had noticed that other professionals within the fragrance industry often talked about Guerlain’s characteristic style, yet no one from Guerlain’s own ranks seemed to be aware of that. From then on, she was determined to promote the Guerlinade, which she also called the “Guerlain DNA”, as a distinctive olfactive signature that links all modern creations with the past. "In the same way that you recognize the origin of a great wine, or the composer of a symphony, you perceive the Guerlain stamp," Jean-Paul Guerlain concurred.

After doing some research and analyzing Guerlain’s vast back catalogue, Delacourte concluded that the Guerlinade should be defined as a blend of eight different raw materials: bergamot, jasmine, rose, orris, tonka bean, gum resins, animal notes, and vanilla. This definition probably captured mainly the Jacques Guerlain catalogue, therefore Delacourte broadened the definition to include a special style of dosage, in which fragrance accords are concentrated, pushed and overdosed with contrasting synthetic and natural materials in order to create fragrances that are striking and easily recognizable. "At Guerlain, we have no weak, bland or very tidy formulas," she said. This broader definition could embrace most Guerlain perfumes from Jicky to Mahora.

Later on, gum resins and animal notes were subtracted from the definition of the Guerlinade. Animal notes especially are now regarded as being not only archaic, but also unethical. When Thierry Wasser entered as Guerlain’s new master perfumer, he added orange blossom and sandalwood to the Guerlinade list, as he found that both of these ingredients play a prominent role in the Guerlain patrimony. As of lately, though, these two have been removed again, leaving six notes (bergamot, jasmine, rose, orris, tonka bean, and vanilla) to define the Guerlinade. The part of the definition that relates to dosage style has been abandoned as well, maybe because, except for fragrances that are designed for the Middle Eastern market, the style of Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk is not characterized by overdosing. Thierry Wasser has even questioned the whole idea of the Guerlinade, saying that it is stereotypical and reductionist, like "a thing, plop, plop, that we more or less put into every bottle." He offers a loose and pragmatic interpretation of the Guerlain style that appeals more broadly to customers from all corners of the world, integrating contemporary fragrance trends, like caramel, cotton candy, white musk, and powerful fresh-woody aroma chemicals.

Maybe Luca Turin’s proposal of a definition of the Guerlain signature is the most comprehensive, because it’s so abstract. "Guerlain never starts with a blank sheet of paper, but with a blurred filigree of everything they ever built," he said. "Then they stretch it this way and that, removing old and adding new features as taste evolves, before bringing it all into soft focus."

We asked the Guerlainophile members what they think about the definition of the Guerlinade. Here's the result:

• I agree with Delacourte’s first definition of the Guerlinade, saying that it’s a specific set of notes combined with a special dosage style: 60 %

• I agree with Turin’s short definition of the Guerlain style, saying that there is one without saying what it is: 33 %

• I agree with Wasser’s pragmatic interpretation of the Guerlain style, which is open to contemporary fragrance trends: 4 %

• I don’t think that it makes sense to talk about a "Guerlinade", a "Guerlain DNA", or any everlasting, all-encompassing Guerlain style: 2 %

• I agree with the newest official definition of the Guerlinade, narrowing it down to a specific set of notes: 1 %

This survey had a relatively low response rate, which is probably quite understandable, as Guerlain’s own communication about the Guerlinade is confusing. Also, the comments indicate that people generally responded to what the Guerlain signature "once was" as opposed to what it "is today". The most popular definition of the Guerlinade is Sylvaine Delacourte’s original definition from 1992, followed by Luca Turin’s more abstract definition. Only 4 % agree with Thierry Wasser’s pragmatic interpretation of the Guerlain style, which is open to contemporary fragrance trends, as exemplified in Mon Guerlain and L’Homme Idéal (pictured above). It’s interesting to observe that just 1 % of the respondents agree with Guerlain’s newest official definition, which narrows the Guerlain signature down to a mix of six different notes. In conclusion, this survey could indicate that many Guerlainophiles are critical of Guerlain’s current olfactive style.
(March 2018)



Natural vs. synthetic ingredients
Guerlain's former artistic director, Sylvaine Delacourte, recently published an article about natural and synthetic ingredients in fragrances, as she thinks that perfume aficionados are still lacking knowledge about this subject.

Natural ingredients are defined as products that are obtained through extraction of aromatic compounds from raw materials found in nature (herbs, spices, flowers, wood, citrus fruits, etc.), using methods such as distillation, solvent extraction, expression, sieving, or enfleurage. Synthetic ingredients are divided into two subcategories, namely isolates (like indole, geraniol, linalool, and linalyl acetate), and full synthetics obtained through a chemical reaction (like limbanol, ambroxan, ethyl maltol, and macrocyclic musks).

Delacourte explains that synthetic ingredients have been a cornerstone in Guerlain's olfactive creativity at least since 1889, saying that perfumes like Jicky, L'Heure Bleue, Mitsouko, and Shalimar would never have existed without them. She also notes that several synthetic ingredients are very expensive, while many ingredients obtained through extraction are very cheap.

We asked the Guerlainophile members what they think about Guerlain's use of synthetics. Here's the result:

• I believe that Guerlain now uses a higher proportion of synthetic ingredients than fifty years ago, which I feel neutral or positive about: 77 %

• I believe that Guerlain now uses a higher proportion of synthetic ingredients than fifty years ago, which I feel negative about: 18 %

• I believe that Guerlain now uses the same proportion of synthetic ingredients as fifty years ago, only new kinds invented since then: 5 %

• I believe that Guerlain now uses a lower proportion of synthetic ingredients than fifty years ago: 0 %

It's interesting to note that Guerlainophiles don't seem to question the fact that synthetics play a significant role in Guerlain's olfactive art, and that less than one in five reports feeling negative about thinking that Guerlain now uses a higher proportion of synthetic ingredients than fifty years ago. Usually, fragrance lovers are very critical of the use of synthetics in perfumery. Pictured above is Shalimar, which never contained a single drop of natural vanilla.
(March 2018)



Uniform bottles
Guerlain has discontinued most of its individual bottle designs, replacing them with uniform bottles, for which the reasons may be among the following: 1) Uniform bottles are in vogue among niche perfume aficionados, while individual bottle designs are associated with low-end mainstream brands. 2) Uniform bottles grouped like a coherent collection make the catalogue well-structured and easy to understand for the customer, while dozens of individual bottle designs can seem confusing. 3) Uniform packaging is cheaper to produce, pack, store and display than are individualized designs.

We asked the Guerlainophile members about their opinion of Guerlain's new uniform bottles. Here's the result:

• It's not a good idea that Guerlain adopts the trend of uniform bottles: 86 %

• It's a good idea that Guerlain adopts the trend of uniform bottles, but I don't think the new designs are well chosen: 10 %

• It's a good idea that Guerlain adopts the trend of uniform bottles, and I think the new designs are well chosen: 4 %

Among those who opt for uniform packaging but dislike the design that Guerlain has chosen, a common complaint is the look of the frosted bee atomizer (pictured above). Some members commented that while uniform packaging is a good idea for EdT and EdP, the original Parfum bottle design should be preserved. It's possible that the distribution of answers would be slightly different if there were a fourth option addressing this specific opinion. However, it seems safe to conclude that while niche fragrance aficionados generally regard uniform packaging as chic, Guerlainophiles are strongly against it.
(March 2018)



What is vintage?
Many perfume collectors prefer "vintage" perfumes, and the term is often used in fragrance discussions. We asked the Guerlainophiles members how they understand the term "vintage" and what they think about its use. Here's the result:

• It's generally agreed that there seems to be an analogy between wine vintages and fragrances produced at different points in time: wine vintages differ due to climatic variations from year to year, while fragrance batches differ due to continual reformulations and variations in the availability and quality of raw materials. In addition, fragrances change as they age in a way that has a least some resemblance to wine ageing. Therefore, the term "vintage" has a certain appeal in discussions about perfumes.

• However, while wine producers advertise the yearly variations in taste and quality, fragrance brands are mostly secretive about olfactive changes in their products, therefore it's not possible to obtain any reliable, objective information about the difference between, say, "a Shalimar 1967 vintage" and "a Shalimar 1998 vintage", other than anecdotal and personal reports. In addition, it's difficult to date very old perfume bottles, as fragrance brands, unlike wine producers, didn't use to mark their bottles with a production year.

• As a consequence, the term "vintage" cannot be applied as a noun for fragrances like it is in wine production (for example "a Château Cantemerle 2010 vintage"), but instead as an adjective (for example "a vintage Shalimar"), indicating that the fragrance is somewhat old, or at least not produced very recently.

• Lacking any authoritative criteria that everyone adheres to when discussing vintage perfumes, perfume collectors don't agree on whether to use the vintage term for differences that are assumed to stem from changes in the fragrance formula or ingredients, differences that are assumed to stem from juice ageing, or a bewildering mix of the two. Some collectors even limit the definition of vintage to fragrances that have been discontinued, alternatively the very first version of fragrances that are still in production, which would make it easy to obtain a vintage Insolence Parfum, but impossible to find a vintage Jicky. Other collectors prefer a very simple definition of a vintage fragrance based solely on its age, but don't agree on whether it should be 15, 20, 25, or 30 years old in order to earn the vintage stamp. Lastly, some collectors apply the term vintage to variations in the packaging design instead of (or together with) the juice.

• As a consequence of the complexity and lack of consensus described above, some members suggest that in serious discussions about fragrances, we replace the vintage term with more precise notions, like "a bottle of Shalimar PdT from 1989", or "a bottle of Shalimar Parfum from around the 1950s".
(February 2018)


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