Friday, May 15, 2009

For all you Guerlainomaniacs and some fact-checking

There is a tribute to Guerlain vis their 180 years of history (we talked about Chanel's 100th anniversary the other day), posted in Vanity Fair, in which Naomi Kaplan takes us through the history of the house with beautiful photos to illustrate the heritage.
You can read the article on Vanity Fair online.

Myself I was a little critical upon reading, catching a bit of dubious detail here and there: Mitsouko "a pleasantly simple fragrance, with woody base notes and a peachy top note" really doesn't begin to describe it, for me at least. Do you find Mitsouko pleasantly simple, regardless of whether you hate it or love it? On top of that the Tortue re-issue bottle pictured was actually holding Parfum des Champs Elysées, an old start-of-20th-century violet-ionone leathery fragrance, and not Mitsouko. I do like the inclusion of this tidbit from Jean Paul Guerlain on Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus: “Mitsouko is really a masterpiece,” says Jean-Paul. “I did not want to betray my grandfather’s, so I added a freshness to the scent with spices and white musk to give a modernity to it without changing the original scent.”

Also if I am not too mistaken, Eau de Shalimar is not this spring's launch (after all we had reviewed it back in September 2008!), but this spring it was merely granted a special limited edition bottle as we discussed here. The bottle design of L'Heure Bleue is only reminiscent in shape to La Petite Robe Noire and one might be confused by the phraseology used which suggests the design and hue were crossovers, especially since everything seems to be perpetuated on the Net and gains credence through repetition. Not to sound too harsh or anything...

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: the Guerlain series.


  1. Oh, the answer is two fold: firstly, you are absolutely right that we need to fact check the publications nowadays. The other day I was reading Forbes' estimated annual earning of the top models and I was surprised how campaigns expired a few years back were counted towards an estimation for last year (sorry, I won't name names). So simply put I don't trust everything.

    But Mitsouko is a bit more complicated...personally I don't think it's a 'simple' fragrance but I've seen it being referred to as that in some PR materials. For instance as you know I went to last year's 150th anniversary event and the Guerlain people were talking about how Mitsouko only featured 10 approx. ingredients, how the short formula generated so much impact. And that speech was consistent with the other stuff I've encountered. I guess it comes down to the perspective. Of course, I'll have to read the article further but this is just my two cents

  2. Vanity Fair factual? THAT would be worth commenting on. At least they took the time to recognize the anniversary though, perfume houses don't get a tenth of the credit and coverage of fashion houses.

    Now I want some Mitsouko!

  3. perfumeshrine, the amputation Mitsouko's real ambregris, natural musk, (not sure about castoreum and civet if used in original formula), rich animalic jasmine and oakmoss, I'm sure Mitsouko's present formula must indeed be rather "short"...

  4. Oops...left the comment first thing in the morning and had 10 minutes to type out my thoughts without being late for the day...Guerlain of course just celebrated its 180th anniversary--ironic that I made a factual error on my comment on factual errors. Ha!

  5. Thanks for the fact checking! At least the article features classics. A good try.

  6. A,

    you have a definite point there and it bears repeating: no one can be certain on anything, because so much ill information is perpetuated. And the more it does, the more it gains credence. This is one of the drawbacks of the net, I guess, never before was possible such a spread of "news"/"facts" so easy and instant.

    In regards to the simplicity idea in relation to Mitsouko, you probably know what you're talking about since you followed their 180th anniversary workshop. Yet my obersvation didn't have to do with shortness of formula, so much as perceived effect upon smelling, perhaps I didn't make it too clear. It's quite complex in that regard (there are other fragrances of a similar effect, like for instance Tresor). And I bet it used to be even more complex back then. ;-)
    But I'm sure they're being consistent with their PR material and what is handed out to the press.

  7. K,

    LOL, now you're making me feel I wasn't bitchy after all, thanks. :-)
    Yup, I had a vigorous urge to bring out Mitsouko from the hibernation too! (I really wear it best when it rains)

  8. SJAM (great nic btw),

    I am certain your point is 100% valid. Take off most of those and you've got a more streamlined formula, nip-tucked, so to speak. ;-)
    Alas, the 80s-early90s batches :-) smell so different than today's juice...

    I wonder however how this gets perpetuated into the mythos of the perfume itself. I mean, if a couple of generations go by and LVMH hasn't managed to completely destroy the house in the interim, how will those later generations perceive Mitsouko in the first place, having not had the privilege that the short time lapse since its inception has benefited us with? They won't have any prior juice to compare it with, like we do, and will probably think of it as a "simple pleasant peach" fragrance.
    Does what I'm saying make any sense to you?

  9. A,

    you're much too prolific and attentive to your writing to have one minor detail ruin that. Don't worry! :-)

  10. M,

    thanks honey. I quite liked reading it in fact and I was thrilled that they featured it, as it's not usual for a major publication to focus on a perfume, instead of fshion, house, so often. They brought out a sense of history too, which is commentable.

    Anyway, I am sure I am not causing dramatic changes in the course of events through this blog, so it's all a little for our own consumption, but interesting to do, nonetheless.

  11. Perfumeshrine, if not discontinued future generations will probably only know Mitsouko as a fresh citrucy peachy fragrance completely devoid of animalic dark complexity. I was struck by how present Mitsouko parfum was so linear once past the citrucy topnotes. Like a polaroid photograph, it takes less than 3 minutes before its mediocrity becomes apparent.

  12. SJAM,

    It's probably a grim prospect but rings true... :-(
    It's rather foreboding that everything that had been so promising upon refrubishing the 68 Champs Elysees boutique in 2005 (the re-issue programme of "Il Etait une Fois", the parfum version of Chant d'Aromes, Metalys, Guerlinade etc) are now discontinued/stalled although NOT made public as such! It's as if the fame and respect that resulted from that move is still desired, yet the object of that move is now abandonded (undoubtedly due to lown sales and I am waiting to be corrected if not so).
    Would't you agree?

  13. Mitsouko isn't complex... nice one Vanity Fair. You do wonder if the writer had ever smelt it don't you?

  14. My favourite factual error was that they mentioned Guerlain celebrated their 180th birthday but (one line below) was established in 1830. Apparently Guerlain is still ahead of us, namely in 2011 :D

  15. Too true...I think they go by press releases on these things so if they had a previous one and a newer one and they meshed the two it might explain it. Or else a clairvoyant might!

  16. Roxe,

    yeah...it sounded a little weird the way it was phrased, didn't it. I guess the "pleasant" along with the "simple" made it sound ho hum! :-)

  17. Anonymous21:14

    Dear E,

    Thank you for making a Guerlain fan happy; I can never get enough Guerlain. Now I must hang my head in shame and admit that I had never smelled Mitsouko (horrors!)before you questioned your readers as to whether it was a "pleasant, simple" fragrance. I took that as a homework assignment and went off to sample the parfum. "Pleasant"? Yes, very much so; it is something I could wear, although other Guerlains "speak" to me more clearly (Sous le Vent, Vol de Nuit, Shalimar). Now, as for "simple"? Hardly. I couldn't place this fragrance anywhere. Where was the citrus at the top? I got INSCENCE(?), which was absolutely gorgeous. Loved it. Then it just simmered down into a beautiful clean floral that had enough "green" to keep a "anything but florals" fan happy. On the way from top to base it changed personalities so many times I probably looked like a lunatic, constantly sniffing my arm. So, no, not at all simple; one of the most complex perfumes I have ever sampled.

    Thank you for inspiring the experience.


  18. Natalia,

    thanks sweetie for recounting your experience and sharing it with us here! It's the new version you tried eh? Hence the clean mention. The older versions are more shadowed and quite animalistic.
    It's a creature on its own, Mitsouko is. One cannot exactly pinpoint what everything is and that's its.....mystery, I guess. :-))


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