LE TRAIN BLEU ~ L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain

4:45 PM, Paris, Summer, 1985

Slightly frayed but none the less beautiful the upholstery of the luxurious compartment number 6 sighed its familiar welcome to the Comtesse Lamoureux as she eased into it. The porter, nearly as ancient as she and by now an old friend set a Lalique crystal glass half full of Frapin Cuvee 1888 on the table before her.

“Merci Ramon.” She began to pluck off her gloves then delicately placed them on the table next to the cognac one upon the other as always. She looked out the window onto the platform of the Gare de Lyon. “This is a most important trip,” she said softly.  “for both of us.”

“Qui Madame la Comtesse, the last run of this great train.”

She smiled. “I think for a change, tonight I shall take a late supper in the grand salon.”

Ramon bowed and left the Countess looking out the window toward the patch of fading afternoon blue where the iron station opened onto beige Paris and the south.

The coach barley lurched and began to inch into the last journey of Le Train Bleu.

The great iron and glass roof of the station opened as the train picked up speed and Paris slid away, like so many playing cards falling from a gaming table. The countess was transfixed on her reflection in the glass. What she saw there was no longer familiar, it was a young woman, herself sixty years in the past on her way to Nice for the first time.

***

She was not the most beautiful girl on the Côte d’Azur but perhaps the prettiest to arrive in the middle of the années folles. As she stepped down onto the platform of the station in her Chanel summer whites. The fragrance of the south hit her like a new lover’s scent. In fact, she had come south in the mad flush of new love. His name was Pete, he was an American saxophone player who had captivated her one night when she and her boyfriend of the moment René, had stumbled upon the Casanova Club. There he was. The most beautiful black man she had ever seen, playing the most beautiful music, she had ever heard.

Pete never called her by her first name that summer of 1925 as they romped the Côte d’Azur from Marselle to Menton. He simply called her “Countess”.  Sleeping till four in the afternoon after nights of Jazz and cocktails. Romping on the beach at dawn. Caviar and eggs for breakfast. By the last days of September, She was ready to give up everything for him.

He went back to America that winter. Sporting a bruised heart she went home to Pairs on The Blue Train.

***

 

The trip south the winter of 1939 was to escape the cold of the city. But not long after her arrival in Monte Carlo, things began to look grim. People were heading south not to escape winter but to try and outrun the fear of what was coming to Paris, what was devouring Europe. She stayed on to help friends and then soon strangers as well find refuge. After the fall of Pairs that summer of 1940 her villa in the hills above Monaco became a meeting place for young men and women of the Resistance against the German occupation and the Vichy government.

His name was Axel Barre. He was first and foremost a freedom fighter and secondly, perhaps the love of her life. He died in a ditch, executed by a German firing squad.

***

 

At 56 she was the picture of polished, poised, elegance the summer of 1961. The train trip south was marred by nothing except the incessant snoring of the man in compartment number 7. The Countess sat up all night with cotton stuffed in her ears trying to read “Heaven Has No Favorites”. It was useless. Each time he ceased his rumble she closed the book, put out the light and removed the cotton from her ears, he would start up again.

The following morning she went to an early breakfast in the Grand Salon and found herself sitting across the table from a Monsieure Jean Lucien Dubeau. He said good morning and from the timber of his voice she knew at once that he was the cause of her sleepless night. She gave him a scowl, he gave her a dazzling smile, a wink, and ordered a bottle of champagne for both of them. They were married in a miniscule country church near Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat the following Spring.  She never really got a good nights sleep from then on.

***

On this final journey of Le Train Bleu the Countess sat up all night thinking about the journey behind her and what little of it remained before her. It had been a good ride for the most part. There were many things along the way she had enjoyed and much she had endured, wild young love gone wrong, A world torn by war and loss, and finally the love of a good man whose ashes she now carried to the villa in the blue-green hills above Monte Carlo.

As she stepped from the train onto the platform in her black and white Chanel suit the fragrance of the south enveloped her like the warm hug of an old friend.

***********************************************

L’Heure Bleue created by Jacques Guerlian in 1912 has come to symbolize the end of the Belle Epoch in France just before the beginning of World War I. It has been called a farewell to a romantic era, a melancholy remembrance of things lost to time, not to be found ever again. The cap on the bottle is an inverted heart that symbolically captures that past in perfume form from the bottle it encapsulates thus preserving within its transparent heart the memories of lost love and departed friends.

All of this is true. But for me there is more, something deeper in L’Heure Bleue. It is the perfume of a complete lifetime held in memories of youth and the passing of time into maturity. It is not melancholy as one would expect such memories to be, but rather reflective of life, a contented quiet and very personal joy.

Who can wear L’Heure Bleue? Anyone who has the daring to be in a space beyond the ordinary. Someone not only with an appreciation of history by someone who also has a past both intriguing and perhaps slightly tainted with scandal. A past worth writing about in a diary one hopes to be found fascinating by others if found at all.  In short it is suited to both men and women of taste and sophistication.

It opens quite classically as one would expect such a perfume of this vintage and from this particular house to do. Notes of anise, coriander, neroli, bergamot, and lemon spark and fizz but momentarily like the flicker of old movies, a editing of cinematic notes mixed with music, that quickly collapse into the unfolding beauty of the middle composition.

Here we get the classic powder and Guerlainade that was established with Jicky in 1889. The bergamot, rose, tonka, vanilla. Jasmin, and animalic and resinous accords make up this signature, a DNA of the house so to speak. It is a kind of Jicky through the looking glass. Notes in the middle comprised of Rose, cloves, Jasmine, tuberose and Geranium hit my nose with the most power. Undertones of ylang ylang and violet play supporting roles to this old world glamour. This phase lasts about three to four hours.

In the dry down we get the full force of the powder and seduction there in of this fragrance that lingers well into the sixth hour. The animalic accords are here along with the swirling hypnotic benzoin note. This combined with the iris, vanilla, sandalwood, and vetiver create an incense accord that is incensual (if I may create a word that sums up my love of perfumes that are smoky, exotic, and mysterious) This is where the fragrance carries its key to our memories. It is as magical, romantic, and epic as a journey to the Cote Azure on the long lost Le Train Bleu.

Advertisements

PASSPORT TO PERFUME ~ Interview with Fragrance Specialists Hilary Rayvis Randall and Michal Gizinski

H AND M 2

Last Sunday morning I found myself in a sweet smelling spot. Vibrant morning light filled the beautiful little patio behind Antelope on Valencia Street where Tigerlily Parfumerie is located. The mornings in the Mission District of San Francisco always seem the brightest and warmest of all the neighborhoods in The City and never more so than in late Spring when the sleepy fog hangs over Twin Peaks not daring to descend any lower than Upper Market Street.

 

I was there to meet my friends and fragrance specialists extraordinaire Michal Gazinski and Hilary Rayvis Randall for a nosey perfume chat. Under a poppy orange umbrella we sipped on steamy cappuccinos and sampled lovely pastries and fresh nectarines.

 1916067_1151771716365_2374660_n

Looking at this truly beautiful woman I have known for a little over two years I mulled over how we met.  I bumped into Hilary at a Diptyque launch for Volutes. Amidst the swirling notes of that perfume we clicked, over the following weeks we became good friends. Hilary speaks both French and Japaneses, was a teacher of English as a second language, she has even been a chef.  Food, Florals and French!  At all seems to have lead her to fragrance.  Most recently has represented many perfume  lines including L’artisan Parfumeur, Byredo, Arquiste at Barney’s and Dior Fragrances at Neiman Marcus. She also holds top honors as a nationally recognized fragrance specialist. She presently works at Barney’s New York on Stockton Street as well as being a fragrance consultant for Tigerlily. Hilary became my fragrance history teacher, my perfume guide and beautiful ambassadress to the ever blooming garden of fragrance I was discovering.

 Michal Gazinski jpg

Through Hilary I met Michal; she referrers to him as the “Nose of Union Square”. He is the man everyone goes to who is serious about perfume, those who want to know more than what is the hottest thing on the market today. Michal is a fascinating man, an actor, a gentleman, and impeccably stylish and sophisticated. Open, warm and a mesmerizing raconteur he is simply a wonderful guy. He can tell you just about anything about any perfume past of present.

Over the following months I met up with Michal at different events or just popped in to see what was new at Neiman Marcus. Though these meetings with both Michal and Hilary the idea was born to interview both of them.

 

Now at last we were together for the long anticipated interview. This sun was shining on us, our own personal key light. The stage was set and the curtain was rising on a new act for three fragrant friends.

 

 THE ABC’s OF MICHAL AND HILARY

Lanier: “Where were you born?”

Michal: Warsaw Poland

Hilary: Philadelphia Pennsylvania

 

Lanier: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Michal. As a very little boy I wanted to be a classical pianist.

Hilary: up to 10 a Ballerina, from 10- 12- Mortician 14-20 Geisha 20> Chef

Michal: from 10 up and Actor.

 

Lanier:  What opened the door to your life in the perfume industry?

Michal: My grandmother, the smell of her perfumes. Then in the 80’s a friend took me to Dior and introduced me to their perfumes. First in Grenoble then in Paris .

Hilary: My Mother,. She would descend the stairs in a cloud of Diorissimo. She was dramatic. She talked to me about her perfumes and taught me about them. Since she was a gardener and expert flower arranger, she would take me out in the garden and teach me everything about flowers and how they were transformed into fragrance.

 Hilary

 

Lanier:  How do you gauge a client?

Michal: I don’t judge. I never judge a book by its cover. I ask questions and over time I discover the personality, where they live, work, their lifestyle. I use my imagination to put all this together. I engage them in dialogue.

Hilary: You can’t judge a client. I ask questions and look for non verbal clues as well.  It is all about finding solutions. What do they own, what notes to they like. And what part of the world are they from. That plays a very large role in the process. Northern Europeans, Scandinavians generally prefer lighter florals; in the south they like heavier florals or Orientals. I try and see how adventurous they are.

 

 

Lanier: Are there skin palettes as there are color palettes for skin tones?

Hilary: No not by color if that is what you mean. The skin itself, the age of the skin. Older skin that has lost its oils needs a bolder scent. The skin’s natural oils are no longer there to support the fragrance’s diffusion. And self identity is important in choosing a perfume and the skin’s chemistry as it reacts to a perfume is important. Perfume is a form of communication that speaks to the right brain, the limbic system which houses emotion and memory. It is a non verbal way to present a part of yourself that may be the secret you, the part of you that can’t be expressed verbally.  Perfume is the invisible language. Its aura casts a spell !

Michal: Psychology is an important aspect. Why do we wear scent? Attraction plays a role for many clients, Perception of others, or how we want to present ourselves is a part of it.  There was a big change in perfume in the 90’s. People stopped smoking. A woman who smoked could wear Santos and it was beautiful. It might be too much on a non-smoker.

Fragrance involves people and can take them to a place they have never been. You wear a certain perfume that says “ Paris ” to you, and you are IN Paris.

 

 sdc11931

 

Lanier:  What is your favorite type of client and least as well?

Michal: I like people so there are no favorites. My least, never mix perfume with politics. I once had a client from Texas who was looking for a perfume for his wife. When I presented him with a Cartier fragrance and explained it was French he said, “I don’t want anything French!”

One must be a diplomat with clients; we are the ambassadors of fragrance.

Hilary: My favorite clients are thoughtful, open to new ideas, non-judgmental. A person with imagination and who is confident in their choices and in their opinions. I like a good dialogue with a client based on trust. My least favorite would be someone with a closed mind. Also boasters, who come in and talk about how many hundreds of perfumes they have and lists of notes.

 

 

Lanier:  Who was your mentor in the world of perfume?

Hilary: My mother and Michal. Reading every book published on fragrance, all the blogs and being a chef for 15 years have contributed to my scent knowledge.

Michal: Not a person, but books and travel were my mentors. I grew up isolated in Poland . Imagine my wonder when I was first exposed to Yves St. Laurent’s Opium or No.5.

 

 

Lanier:  Where do you want to be in five years?

Hilary: I want to be sharing my passion for aromas, fragrance and food in a global venue.

Michal: I want to have more time, personal time to pursue my interest. I will be in San Francisco and still traveling.

 

 1484271_1430283550541463_1084531180_n

 

20 smelly questions for Monsieur M and Madame H. (inspired by the ten question asked by Bernard Pivot on the French television show “Bouillion de Culture”.   

 

1. Who inspires you?

Michal: Marguerite Yourcenar

Hilary: My daughter , Sasha

 

2. What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

Hilary: The idea of learning something new that day, perhaps meeting someone intriguing!

Michal: Early morning is my favorite time of the day. The fresh air of a new day

 

3. What is your favorite sensation?

Michal: Looking at nature and feeling a part of it. Mendocino!

Hilary: Letting go when I drift off to sleep.

 

4. What is your favorite word to describe a perfume?

Hilary: Intoxicating

Michal: Magic

 sdc12350

5. What is the most over used world to describe a perfume?

Hilary: Fresh

Michal: Sexy

 

6. What is your least favorite perfume note?

Michal: None

Hilary: None

 

7. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hilary: Imagination

Michal: Fate

 

8. What perfume turned you on this month?

 o.2451

Michal: Kouros Sport

Hilary: Muguet by Guerlian (2014)

 Guerlain Muguet 2014

9. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Hilary: Negativity ~ no sense of humor

Michal: Vulgarity ~ no sense of humor

 

10. Who excites you  in the world of perfume?

Michal: Olivia Giacobetti

Hilary: Edmund Roudnitska then, Bertrand Duchaufour now.

 

11. What turns you off about the industry side of perfume?

Michael: Money

Hilary: Focus group generated perfumes

 

12. What natural smell in nature do you love?

Hilary: Violet

Michael: Lilac

 

13. What smell in nature do you hate.

Michael: None

Hilary: Lavender!

 

14. What historical person do you imagine would have smelled Wonderful and why?

 Portrait_of_Murasaki_Shikibu

Hilary: Lady Murasaki ~ because of the beautiful bathing “ofuro/onsen” ritual of the Japanese with wonderful botanicals and incense.

Michael: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette ~ because they appreciated perfume, had their own perfumers. On a side note: Catherine de’ Medici who was a great influence in perfume.

 portrait1

15. What is your favorite language other than your native tongue?

Michal: French

Hilary: French & Japanese

 

16. What is your favorite curse word in that language?

Hilary: Chienne

Michal: I would rather not say

 

17. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Michal: Classical musicianship. Any aspect of classical music; be it conducting or playing an instrument.

Hilary: Shakespearean Actor

 

 

18. What profession would you not like to do?

Hilary: Politician

Michal: Working in a slaughter house, or being a butcher.

 

19. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Michal: Relax honey.

Hilary: My dear, you look and smell fabulous!

 

20. What perfume would you like God to be wearing when he says that to you?

 649759147_o

Hilary: Joy; vintage Joy from fifty years ago because I would know my mother was near and I would be with her once more after so many years.

Michal: En Passant. A heavenly scent.

p1010063

 *** 

I hope you enjoyed this time with Hilary and Michal. They are indeed extraordinary people. As Sales Associates in their stores they go beyond what is expected giving great service to every person who comes to see them. More than that, they are wonderful friends that I am privileged to know.

 

If you come to San Francisco drop by Barney’s for Hilary and Neiman Marcus for Michal and say hello. Bring your open mind and your nose ready for a fabulous journey. Let them be your guides, just as they have been and will continue to be mine. Tell them Lanier sent you.

Gatsby’s Garden ~ Shalimar Parfum by Guerlain

logo-guerlain

“When I was a girl of 17 I went to all of Gatsby’s parties. That’s were I met Bill .”

Gatsbys House Party2

It was just before dawn. Mark Post closed his great grandmother Marie’s ancient diary and put it in his backpack. He looked at the rusted gates of 111 Kings Point Road and took a deep breath. The no trespassing sign hung sideways from one screw and was almost completely covered with ivy. He looked up and down the road. There was no sign of anyone watching. In a scrabble of arms and legs he was over the gate in fifteen seconds. When his feet hit the driveway he could have sworn he heard music coming from the beach beyond the trees.

It was a quarter of a mile though the trees overgrown with ivy along the cracked and buckled drive to where the house once stood.

“I never met Jay Gatsby. No one ever saw him. We just came there every weekend from the city because the word was out that he gave spectacular parties. The place overflowed with free liquor and the best jazz bands from Harlem.”gatsby pool party

A robin’s egg blue predawn sky dimly lit the pit overgrown with weeds where the chateau of dreams Gatsby had built for his Daisy once stood. Three Corinthian columns were all that remained of the portico that opened to the terrace and the formal gardens that stretched from the house to the beach of Manhasset Bay.

Mark hopped up on the low foundation wall and made his way gingerly to the columns. He stood in silence and looked out over the expanse before him. In the distance across the bay twinkled the lights of Sands Point where Daisy’s house stood until just a few years ago. The cloudless sky behind those winking fading lights was turning pale pink. When he walked down the broken steps to the dirty marble terrace once again he heard distant strains of an old tune.

“Bill was an odd duck. He was not a rich boy and had no prospects. But he was handsome and could dance like nobody’s business. He wore Shalimar. All the girls called him sissy to his face because he wore that perfume.  They thought he was “funny that way”.  But I knew he wasn’t and I didn’t care because it smelled wonderful on him. Bill just laughed at those silly women and then swept me onto the dance floor and held me tight as we pivoted into a fox trot.

Mark moved slowly across the terrace and down the last sweeping set of stairs to the haunted remains of the formal garden. There were wildly overgrown roses on ether side of the wide path that lead to the beach. They seemed all to be leaning toward the east in anticipation of the sunrise. Ancient flowers filled with perfumed memories of  past loves long dead. Only the sunlight could make them bloom and bring love to life again.

 Jay-Gatsbys-house-West-Egg-view-of-the-bay

“On the day I married Bill he gave me his bottle of Shalimar and said he would never wear it again. He told me that he only wore it because he knew that it was the perfume that would lead him to the woman he would marry. ‘It is your perfume now’ he told me. And ever since my wedding day, it has been and always will be my perfume.”

Mark reached the place where the garden ended and the beach began. Rotting wooden posts reached out from the shore into the bay where the old dock once stood. They seemed to be forever reaching toward the lights of Sands Point and a long forgotten green light.

Mark opened his backpack and took out a small silver box and a tiny bottle of Shalimar.

“Bill has been gone now for many years.  And now in my 104th year I know I will be joining him soon. I hope that heaven is like those glorious parties at Gatsby’s and that I will meet Bill there and dance forever in his arms enfolded in an eternal cloud of Jazz music and Shalimar.”

1184969_10201844727429801_1193468239_n

(Photo stolen from Mr. and Mrs. David Aylor)

At the edge of the garden where Mark imagined Marie had first met Bill he buried the silver box containing a few mingled ashes of his great grandparents. Then he opened the bottle of Shalimar and dabbed a bit on his wrists and behind each ear. He swore at that moment that he would wear Shalimar until he found the woman it belonged to.

He could hear the music from the past clearly now. The fist ray of sun hit his eyes and blinded him. He turned around and for a shimming moment Gatsby’s house was ablaze with lights, the music roared to life and the party was just beginning.

The-Great-Gatsby-Leonardo-DiCaprio

******* 

Shalimar the classic (and very first) oriental perfume created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain is one of the best selling perfumes in the world. It remains today a perfume of magical and romantic qualities. But in the 1920’s it was a bit of a scandalous fragrance. It was said that there were three things a good girl didn’t do, “Bob her hair, smoke cigarettes and wear Shalimar.” That certainly didn’t stop the new modern women of the age who agreed with Mae West when she said. “Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere!”

 Gatsby_party_620x350

Shalimar is a grownup perfume. Heavy on incense and leather, blooming with rose and jasmine and insolently overflowing with opopanax, civet and sandalwood it is a glamorous sumptuous and sensual perfume. Very French but at the same time very universal.

Shalmar Woman

It opens with blue rhapsody of a jazzy clarinet solo in citrus. This consists of the notes of mandarin orange, bergamot, lemon and a note that usually can be found in the base, Cedar. That Cedar note tells you right off that this is going to be interesting.

The heart of this jazz age symphony is replete with more mixing of high and low notes. There is a rooty iris mixed in with a grassy vetiver. This comes in to lush harmonics with a rose dressed to thrill and all a sparkle is a sexy seductive jasmine.  The low dark and slightly naughty patchouli rushes in to stir the entire center of the fragrance into a pure lush modern jazz ballet.

Finally there comes the boozy slow blues after midnight dry down. From opening to the end of this perfume there is a huge billowing fabulous incense note that pushes out into the room. The body and soul of the perfume is here in its smoky presence as the incense pares up with opopanax and the two get kinky with the dominatrix leather note. This trio is not shy about slapping things into submission as they pull in a scampy civet that plays around adding a dash of danger and bite to the party.  Lush sandalwood is made more creamy and sexy by the arrival of Tonka and vanilla. The jazz age urgent sexy pulse of this perfume is made to last for hours by the ever present support of a beautiful musk.

 ads

This perfume may be a challenge to some for its complexity and adult signature. A signature I might add that is no where to be found in the realm of immature perfumes of this day and age. It is something many have to grow into. Another aspect of the perfume is its sexual ambiguity. The meeting of florals with Cedar, citrus and a snappy leather make it most wearable for men. Not an office scent by any means for a man but something that works well after dark and on formal occasions. But weather for a man or a woman Shalimar is the height of elegant chic confident sexy jazz drenched glamour.

 459352-le-parfum-shalimar-de-guerlain-637x0-1

Shalimar by Guerlain Five Platinum Stars *****

LES DAMES DE GUERLAIN ~ A Special Event at the Guerlain Boutique

logo-guerlain

The last time I saw Paris was in May of 2006. I have wanted to return to the beautiful Parisians and their ville de lumière ever since. Yesterday I discovered that my wish was to be granted for a few hours at least. Paris had come to San Francisco.

sights2

Several weeks ago my friend Hilary Randall, Fragrance Specialist; Trainer at Parfums Christian Dior took me over to the Guerlain counter at Neiman Marcus to smell a hidden treasure. There she introduced me to the very charming and vivacious Guerlain sales associate Irene. I was struck at once by this transplanted Parisian’s impeccable charm. Hilary explained to Irene that she wanted me to smell the two remaining bottles of Le Deserts de Orient Series. Irene bubbled with excitement to share the treasure behind her counter and with a smile she took me by the hand and led the way. Her smile is like a blond halo and so infectious that I was smitten on the spot by this very engaging woman.

Irene explained that a very special client had ordered a bottle of Song d’un Bois d’Ete and by lucky chance Paris had sent all three of the line. With great and tender care Irene dipped a long glass stem into the bottles of each and opened the gates of paradise before me.

During our sampling of the perfumes Hilary told Irene about Scents Memory. Upon hearing this Irene invited me to a very special Guerlain event that would consist of a one on one meeting with the perfume specialist and director of Guerlain for the United States, Marie Line Patry.

Before I left Guerlain in my glimmering middle eastern cloud of blended Encens Mythique D’Orient and Rose Nacree du Desert (my favorite of the two) Irene informed my that my fragrant friend Mary Edington would be having her appointment with Marie Line on the half hour before mine. We agreed that it would be a fun secret if we didn’t tell her and I just popped up at 10:30 to surprise her and maybe even make a day of it.

The MUNI Metro was not feeling well yesterday when I boarded the train that would take me downtown for my appointment at Guerlain. In fits and starts I was finally deposited at the Powell Street Station with only a few minutes to make my appointment and catch Mary before she left.

100170_b

Under the spectacular gold and ivory rotunda of Neiman’s I found Irene and Mary in a perfume huddle. Mary was truly surprised to see me and delighted when I asked her to have lunch with me and my new buddy Mario Gomez, The Perfume Ambassador of the Bay Area and who reps several perfume lines. It turned out that Mario had the appointment after mine and we had agreed to meet up as well.

Irene introduced me to Marie Line. When she spoke I was transported to Paris in l’instant. She has a gorgeous voice that is only surpassed by her charm and indelible blond beauty. What a treat for the ears and the eyes she is. What a font of knowledge about perfume and the house of Guerlain.

 

Marie Line, Lanier, and Irene

Mary asked if she could join us on my olfactory appointment just to see my reaction to the perfumes I was about to smell. Mais bien sûr! Marie Line and I discussed the history of Guerlain and the exceptional quality of the house. We explored the idea that in France it is a right of passage for a young girl to be taken at around age twelve to buy her first perfume. It is a charming ritual that I had witnessed myself just recently when I saw the BBC documentary “Perfume”. At Guerlain the idea is to “get them young and keep them for life.”

Then we moved on to a presentation of some very special limited editions of perfumes by the house, the 100th anniversary bottle of L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, 68, and Reve de Lune among them. There were others but just three were my main focus for the presentation.

 L-Heure-Bleue-100th-anniversary-2

L’Heure Bleue Limited Edition

Each of the perfumes comes in a special bottle that in itself is a work of art. For example Baccarat was commissioned to design the limited edition bottle for L’Heure Bleue. The color had to be a perfect representation of the sky at magic hour. That splendiferous twilight blue that had inspired Jacques Guerlain to create the melancholy beauty. Marie Line told me that John Paul Guerlain was very particular in getting the color just right. Then there was added a “necklace” created by the Parisian jewelers Gripiox. The effect of the presentation was stunning. (The special order bottles were shown to me in photographs as they are lager than life and very limited.)

 Abeille-de-Guerlain-baccarat1

Reve de Lune Limited Edition

Marie Line then introduced me to several perfumes from the Limited Editions presented in modest sample bottles, Reve de Lune and 68 “The Turtle”. As she sprayed 68 on my arm she told me how the perfume came to get the nickname “The Turtle”. It seems that Monsieur John Paul Guerlain made a surprise visit to the boutique at 68 Avenue des Champs Élysées he found the employees to be not up to speed. So when it came time to name the perfume and the address number of 68 was chosen he called it “The Turtle because they are so slow!”

cologne68

“The Turtle” 68 (Originally there were 72 ingredients in the perfume, but to be poetic it was reduced to just 68.)

Then Marie Line applied Reve de Lune to my right arm. The perfume was a bright burst of aldehydic citrus, jasmine and resins that I found gorgeous. On the other arm “The Turtle” was low and earthy and took on the dark rich smell of expensive clay one finds in an elegant spa in Nice or Monte Carlo.

These incredible perfumes were way beyond my pocket book but absolutely a delight to sample. I told Marie Line that I did indeed come to Guerlain with a purchase in mind. I wanted a classic and it was between L’Heure Bleue and Shalimar. At Marie Line’s bidding, Irene brought the two perfumes to our table and Marie Line found a patch of un-perfumed skin on my arms to test. L’Heure Bleue was as beautiful and wistful as I had remembered, but the Shalimar pure parfume met my skin and a love affaire between the two was ignited.  Mary and Marie Line were both amazed at the effect that was unfolding. Mary said that on her skin Shalimar just laid there and never really sparked. I smelled her arm where indeed Shalimar was taking a nap.  But on my skin it was all sparkling spice and smoking incense, it seemed to shimmer like tiny fireworks just above my skin. It was incredible.

 459352-le-parfum-shalimar-de-guerlain-637x0-1

With my appointment drawing to a regrettable end I concluded my sale and thanked Marie Line for a fascinating visit. Mary and I had some time to kill before Mario’s appointment so we went around the perfume counters discussing what we found there of interest. We stumbled upon Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino and took a whiff. We both agreed that it was a very rich interpretation of Maurer & Wirtz 4711.

mary at guerlain

Mary Edington

mario marie line mary irene neemans

Mario Gomez chatting with Marie Line. Irene and Mary share a story about Roja Dove.

We then met up with Mario as his appointment with Marie Line was ending. We bid les dames de Guerlain goodbye and headed out for a late brunch at the very grand Grand Café. As we passed though the rococo rotunda I suddenly recalled that the beautiful old piece of architecture housed within the modern box that is our Neiman Marcus had been preserved from the previous building now gone.  The grand old department store that had stood on that very spot since the 19th Century was in fact called, The City of Paris.

conversation03

The old City of Paris department store San Francisco.

1919 THE RAGE OF PARIS ~ Mitsouko by Guerlain

logo-guerlain

Paris 1915

The wafting breeze of chiffon along with the heavy slid of pearls against each other announces, only to the most attuned ear her arrival at her box at the opera. Young men and not so very young men turn as one animal toward her. How they can hear her approach above the din of the clamoring throng that is the Paris opera crowd is beyond understanding or science. Or is it? Perhaps Mademoiselle Du Chandonnet has a secret weapon which makes her, of all the courtesans of Paris the most desirable of all. She was the fist to bob her hair, but that is not the reason. She wears the latest shockingly short skirts with silk stocking rolled to just above the knee.  These revolutionaries in the new book of fashion have stormed the couturiers and come into vogue so suddenly since the end of the Great War. Blame it on that Chanel woman some say. But this too is not her claim to temptation to half the men of the city. Is it her cynical air of disdain for the men who adore her? Could it be the allure of danger one catches in her casual sidelong glance from a panting victim to a tray of glittering Cartier iced diamonds?  That look which with a half smile promises nothing but financial ruin and a broken heart? Perhaps so, perhaps no.

 M. DU CHANDONNET

    What each of the men so eager to pay the most exorbitant fees for her favors does know is the smell of this courtesan. Cet amour fou d’une prostituée est dans l’odeur de son. This crazy love for a whore is in the smell of her. And what perfume she decides to wear behind a diamond and sapphire encrusted ear will be instantly transfigured into the rage of Paris by dawn simply because Mademoiselle Du Chandonnet decided that night to wear it. All her suitors will be wearing it tomorrow and in the weeks to come their wives and fiancées will soon be shopping for it at 68 Champs Élysées.  She is wearing Mitsouko.

The men in the orchestra are facing her as the lights go down and the orchestra begins the first strains of The Planets. Only the low glow of the refracted light of the rising chandelier illuminates her face in a diamond prism glitter. She is bored beyond endurance and as the men turn toward the savage new music she rises and leaves for the more jazzy sounds of the left bank. Rive gauche is the only part of Paris where she can forget what she has lost since the 28th of July, 1914, the only place in Paris where she really ever smiles.

**********

The mysterious and utterly enchantingly seduction one finds in such a woman or a man for that matter one finds in Mitsouko. This wonderful perfume from Guerlain is a masterpiece born out of the end of a horrible war and at the dawn of the jazz age. It is a perfume of possibilities and lively excitement couched in a loss and sadness that is glossed over with verve and champagne sparklers.

 

The brilliant Mitsouko inspired by the Japan craze of the era and born to celebrate the end of war opens with a bright shimmering rush of citrus, jasmine, bergamot, and rose.  This fizzes in a natural way and bubbles over into the heart notes of a kind of honeyed Lilac, mouth watering summer peach, and aphrodisial honeyed ylang ylang all in silky summery yellows. This is punctuated by a hearty brilliant May rose. At this point it is all about fun and a bright and shiny future of joy and bliss. But in the dry down comes the drama and real majesty of this perfume. A mix of warm exotic spices and a snap of cinnamon sticks stir the lush almost animalic amber into a blending of exotic eastern flavors the peach lingers and ripens here. This is the melancholy romantic part of the fragrance and my favorite part of the experience. This is all layered over a base of inky dry oak moss that extends the magical elixir on for hours of enjoyment.

Mitsouko is well suited to men and women because of its spicy tones. A Chypre with fruit overtones that never over whelm the dry champagne like sensation one gets from first spay onward  The Eau de Parfume has a long lush life on the skin lasting for eight to ten hours. Be frugal when applying so as not to overwhelm all your suitors with your fabulous silage. Rather tease with a light ease and a whisper of delights and dangers ahead. And remember just as it is with a great courtesan, there is a lot to learn about life and love and men and women from a wise and worldly old classic like Mitsouko.

mitsouko_ad

FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

UN HOMME DE MYSTÈRE ~ L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme

Late evening in the Café Camille, Marais Pairs:

(Café Camille by Lanier Smith. Mixed Media)

The erudite waiters were all in blanched linen shirts, black wool pants and crisp spotless cotton aprons as they elegantly attended the thinning clientele. The noisy American tourists had left and only a few neighborhood regulars lingered over coffee or a dying bottle of wine. As I sat there drinking in the night from the sidewalk table I caught a whiff of something so utterly delicious, a euphoria of blending and slowly unfolding scents. It was chocolate, but not of this earth for it was richer and deeper than the darkest cocoa bean could ever produce. Then I realized that it was something more like a bouquet of jasmine dipped in warm dark chocolate and sprinkled over with anise and lavender….and a little slice of orange on the side. It was so impossibly rich and enticing and sensual. Then sadly it began to fade like a gypsy’s dream until it was finally gone. Only then did I realize that the man who just walked past my table toward the Place Des Vosges was the source of that incredible scent. If only I could know what it was that he was wearing?

Days later as I sauntered past 68 Avenue des Champs Élysées I picked up the silage of this siren like fragrance. I turned to see the man from a few nights before in the Marais. He slipped into the doors of the Guerlain Perfumery. Without hesitation I spun on my heel and followed him into the palace de scent. Nowhere to be seen, he had again eluded me. As I turned I caught in the smallest corner of my eye a glimpse of him. He stood at the counter talking to an impossibly chic sales girl. In his well manicured hand he was holding a golden bottle up to the light. It glimmered, it winked in deepest gold, and he turned and smiled at me as if he knew what I was after…. “L’Instant” he said in less than a whisper.

(ALAIN DELON ET ROMY SCHNEIDER)

L’Instant by Guerlain is so incredibly wonderful. I was immediately enveloped in a vale of coco and jasmine on the opening notes. Not feminine at all as one might expect but so confidently masculine in the blending in of anise, cedar and Indian sandalwood that take over the bulk of the middle. It is never overpowering but still commanding and insinuates a certain confidence that is very Parisian. The dry down is incredible. Lapsang Tea and Hibiscus seed and musk it is almost oriental in feeling. But all the way through and what got the most comments from those who noticed is that scrumptious rich dark chocolate that never quite leaves. Very long lasting, great silage, an all around winner that drew praise from both women and men. Guerlain is the master of luxe and elegant fragrances of such depth and complexity that really makes them stand out as a top fragrance house of impeccable distinction.

Five Platinum Stars ****

  • Blog Stats

    • 250,268 hits