If you ever come in contact with volcanic earth you will discover that despite the sulphurous yellow emanations it is exceptionally fertile. Stationed as I am in the land of numerous volcanos silenced for years but always at the ready to burst forth their bituminous menace, I can better appreciate the inspiration behind Fleur de Feu by Guerlain: the fragile yet sturdy beauty of flowers that rise their head on an island volcano.
Created by Jaques Guerlain in 1948 (according to Le Portail des Antiquaires, while others attribute a 1949 date), Fleur de Feu, which means "fiery flower", was the first Guerlain perfume to celebrate the optimism felt after the end of WWII. Guerlain had only produced the legendary Dawamesk during those difficult years (in 1942 actually), so they were eager to turn a new leaf. Much like Christian Dior had written in his autobiography referring to Miss Dior ("Europe was tired of letting off bombs, all it wanted now was to let off firewords!"), the festivity and joie de vivre inherent in that primal force of nature, fire, has inspired perfumers with connotations of radiance, warmth and passion and Fleur de Feu was masterminded as Jacques Guerlain's generous gift to women.
Fleur de Feu is quite rare since it's been discontinued for decades and it's even rarer in extrait de parfum (pure parfum) which I am now going to review, but like I mentioned before a thesaurus (with the original Greek meaning of treasure-trove) of vintage Guerlain fragrances has ended in my lap inspiring me to write and appreciate the tastes of a bygone era: When women displayed a different interpretation of their feminine wiles and when sexuality was revealed in shapes that accentuated the female form.
The scent of Fleur de Feu is warm and inviting, a floral almost quasi-gourmand with the plush carnation heart that will be reprised in Atuana in 1952. It shares the rich note that appears in the scorching peppery whiplash of the admirable vintage Poivre by Caron at a time when the perfumer's base Dianthine (first devised in 1902 by Chuit & Naef -its formula now owned by Firmenich, same as with Cyclosia and Iralia) was supremely popular. After all, the original L'Origan by Coty also featured it.
Although Fleur de Feu bears the epithet of "fiery" however, the composition here smothers it with decadent flowers of which a rich jasmine and ylang ylang can be very clearly detected, as well as powdery tonalities of iris and vanilla, so characteristic of the Guerlinade accord (supposedly the base that appears like a signature in every vintage and several modern Guerlain fragrances). There seems to be a little benzoin wamth that paired with the butterscotch-like vanilla and a hint of tobacco flower (I might be hallucinating however as to the latter note) might allude to the delights of leisure at home, at a time when women were expected to be efficient homemakers with a roast in the oven and a bavaroise in the fridge, while simultaneously bursting out of their hourglass curvaceous attire. The slight shift in focus from the optimism of l'après guerre to the bombshell ideal of the 1950s can be witnessed in the retro print advertisements for Fleur de Feu: from the romanticism of the young woman holding a bouquet of flowers to the excited bust of a red-faced Maenad. The parfum concentration is seamless with little progression, a very feminine purring composition that radiates with warmth and stays poised on my skin melding with its intimate effluvium for hours on end.
The art deco ribbed bottle with a pedestral for Fleur de Feu was made by Bacarrat around 1948 (according to Roja Dove), breaking with the more rococo tradition and introducing simpler shapes. It was designed to resemble the gigantic American skyscrapers of that time, same as with Ode later on, according to Dulcinea Northon Smith's research. It's interesting to note that this was also the inspiration behind the old blue bottle of Je Reviens by Worth; such was the impact of the brave steel and glass architecture on the pulse of culture, at a time when everything seemed possible and affluence was slowly building!
In the beginning of 2008 Guerlain decided to use the copyrighted name on their makeup collections, much like they did with the lamentably discontinued Parure fragrance: Fleur de Feu nowadays denotes the '08 spring collection of eyeshadow palettes and Kiss Kiss Gloss limited editions. Which probably means that it won't be any time soon we see the re-issue of the glorious fragrance...
If you are persistent you might find some on Ebay or at least some Eau de Cologne concentration from the 50s/60s at Sarah's Perfumes or Eau de Toilette at The Perfumed Court.
Pics: Ad illustrations "Jeune femme avec bouquet de fleurs" for Guerlain's Fleur de Feu by Darcy 1949 and illustration by Darcy 1951, courtesy of Parfum de Pub and Vintage Perfume Publications respectively. Bottle pic uploaded by orchid74 on MUA, with many thanks.