Thursday, September 24, 2009

The history of the Guerlinade accord, original & re-issued Guerlinade perfume by Guerlain

Like many other confusing matters pertaining to fragrance history the often quoted name Guerlinade stands for several seperate things and disentangling them is at large an exercise in minutiae. Historical minutiae being within the scope of Perfume Shrine from the very start however we hope to cut through the knot which perfume companies often present us with. So this little guide is aiming at providing answers to what the Guerlinade accord is, how Guerlinade smells and in which Guerlain perfumes it can be discerned, which fine fragrances were named Guerlinade and their packaging and availability as of this minute.

Originally La Guerlinade was the code-name for an olfactory harmonious blend ("accord" in perfume-speak) ~possibly conceived by Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain* but first referenced in relation to Jacques Guerlain** ~ that typified Guerlain perfumes in their classical compositions and made them the stuff of legend: Bergamot, jasmine, rose ~especially the Bulgarian version rather than the Turkish one~, orange blossom, iris, (possibly vetiver), tonka bean, and vanilla are said to be the main ingredients comprising it. Of course the exact formula of this special accord is guarded with the zeal Fort Knox is, but most perfumephiliacs can identify the above notes forming the characterist nuance of the chord that runs through the melody of L'Heure Bleue (along with trademark heliotropine) ~especially in Parfum de Toilette and vintage extrait de parfum~, Shalimar and Vol de Nuit; this nuance either captures in its guile or haunts with terror the fragrance enthusiasts. The fragrances composed by Jacques Guerlain especially are intensely redolent of this accord, although Mitsouko is less immersed in it, opting for the oakmoss chypre base under the notorious peach-skin note.

Strangely enough, the term only entered popular parlance outside of the Guerlain labs at the launch of masculine scent Héritage, as Sylvaine Delacourte, artistic director of parfums Guerlain reveals! Like a silky veil, the Guerlinade softens any sharp angles and smothers the composition in the purple hues of twilight. Its feel is polished, bergamot fusing its elegant freshness with rose and vanilla and the tonka bean gives a vague sense of hay, powder and tobacco. But its perfume-y ambience can also feel somehow retro which is why sometimes modern tastes run antithetical to its rich, textured feel.

Guerlinade nevertheless also happens to be the name of a Jacques Guerlain creation from 1921 which came in a beautiful bottle of intensely faceted crystal, shaped like a lekythos. The Guerlain archives include a vegetal lotion issued in 1924 with the same name, an early thought of an ancilary product so to speak. The scent after some "renovation" was re-issued as a seperate, limited edition Eau de Parfum in a new Baccarat flacon design to celebrate the 170 years of Guerlain in 1998 (circulating again as Guerlinade in a presentation that depicted paintings of Parisian life, depicted above) and later re-issued yet again in Les Parisiennes boutique line (in standard bee bottles, depicted below) upon renovation of the 68 Champs Elysées fragship boutique in 2005. Nevertheless the actual scent was different than its predecessor and the famous accord: it had a predominent streak of powdered lilac (a lovely one at that) ~and perhaps a touch of oily hyacinth garlanding it with its "dirtier" streak~ and little relation to the characterist chord that Guerlainomaniacs recognise instantly. Its powdery retro formula (a little iris, a little tonka) explored bouquets of impressionistic vignettes of Parisian life amidst equestrian scenes when gentlemen with horse-drawn carriages would bow down to pick up the handkerchiefs of ladies blushing beneath their veiled little hats. The homage in Guerlinade the fragrance was more that and less an actual reproduction of the exact secret formula for the Guerlain house "signature".

Today the fragrance named Guerlinade is discontinued and no bottles can be found at boutiques Guerlain updrading it into a collectible. Much like happens with other elusive limited editions such as the Harrod's aimed Belle Epoque from 1999 with its musk-veiled tuberose, the No.68 limited edition which reworked Guet Apens, the Champs Elysées Bacarrat turtle/tortoise bottle amongst them...

Yet the renowned accord hasn't died; far from it! The classic Guerlinade harmony was revisited in a Limited Edition commemorative Eau de Parfum fittingly called 180 Ans de Création (meaning 180 years of creation and issued in 2008 to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the house of Guerlain) Jean Paul Guerlain twisted the idea of the classic Guerlinade harmony, realising its aura is often perceived as admirable but a little outdated, and thus added contemporary accents in the form of grapefruit, pink pepper and white musk. The result is elegant, polished and a study in dry warmth and I sincerely hope it becomes more widely available than the gifts given out to the participants of the 180th anniversary celebration. In the meantime we can admire and savour the classical Guerlinade, "un état d’ Esprit", in several vintage Guerlain fragrances where it is shining in all its unadulterated glory.

*ref: Perfume Intelligence Encyclopaedia.
**according to Jean Paul Guerlain
Pics via passionforperfume.com and monkeyposh.blogspot.com


  1. Helg, you'll hate me but this one is on the way, too. Can't wait:D

  2. Fiordiligi11:42

    Oh, what a perfect article for moi, sitting here snuffling with a cold! Thank you so much dear.

    The Guerlinade is everything I adore in perfumery, as you know, and I bought the 1998 limited edition of Guerlinade as well as Belle Epoque (the bottle signed for me by Jean Paul himself at Harrods). This is what it's all about!

  3. So where do I find some of this one? You know Guerlain is dear to my heart.

  4. Mike Perez21:38

    So, the 180 Ans Creation has NO guerlainade, but it has an accord similar to Guerlainade.

    Confusing indeed.

  5. Lovely review! I have one of those Guerlinades... it's not getting as much attention as it deserves. In fact, you've made me want to go put some on right now, so thanks!

  6. L,

    that's great and no, why should I hate you? (For 180 Ans, yes I might...Just kidding!)
    It's quite nice, more of a lilac soliflore (I assume you're getting the Parisiennes edition or the re-issued not the 1921 perfume, eh?) ;-)

  7. D,

    I hope you're feeling a little better as the day progresses even with obsctructed nose...poor baby!
    It's times like these that make us appreciate what we take for granted.

    Belle Epoque should be lovely and if it's such a collectible....ah...

    Glad you liked the article!

  8. K,

    it used to be available wherever Les Parisiennes were (so I think LV Bellagio might be a place to start asking questions), it's all a question of if there is some stock left. The discontinuation was very recent, so there are good chances.

  9. MP,

    yeah...I hate how they make these things so complicated that the consumer is never sure what they're getting! One of the purposes of such articles ~apart of my own little smug satisfaction of getting to the point of this "detective" work~ is to help along anyone who IS confused with so many reworkings on the same idea. I just hope they do serve some purpose...

  10. M,

    hi there darling! How are you?

    Yes, it's quite a lovely little scent and I bet it deserved a better fate. They seem to discontinue several of the JPG re-issues and it's a pity. It would be even lovier in spring, in lieu of autumn...but glad I inspited you! :-)

  11. Helg,
    I'm getting the 1998 reissue, my magic powers are not strong enough to procure the old one.
    Should you want more of 180ans, let me know, I have more that I'll be able to use up in a lifetime anyways.

  12. L,

    I assumed so! If you had been able to procure so many rarities from the start of the XXth century in such a short time I would be beginning to think YOU are the next Uri Geller! :-P

    Seriously now, if your generous charity extends to the next package exchange (haven't sent yours yet, but will do, promise), I wouldn't exactly dissuage you although I have some to tidy me over for a while.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Helg, I often come by to read your historic and insightful Guerlain writings. Normally I have nothing to add but praise, but this time I have this:

    1) According to Jean-Paul Guerlain's autobiographical Les routes de mes parfums p. 52, it wasn't before Aimé Guerlain's Jicky that one began to talk about "the Guerlain style" and the Guerlinade.

    2) Jean-Paul Guerlain's 170th anniversary perfume Guerlinade wasn't trying to recreate Jacques Guerlain's Guerlinade. Jean-Paul Guerlain's Guerlinade was a whole new scent.

    3) The bottle of Jean-Paul Guerlain's Guerlinade was also all new, modelled after a bronze wine carafe he brought back from his first trip to Tibet. The bottle for Jacques Guerlain's Guerlinade was the lyre bottle designed in 1921.

    PS: Jean-Paul Guerlain's Guerlinade is the most nostalgic and charming scent. You'll recognise the lilac from his Parure.

  15. Helg,
    I don't know who Uri Geller is although the name does ring the bell. Moreover, I don't have that many rarities. Five, maybe, and it's you who owns Iris Gris.

    I'll send you something.

  16. Anonymous09:03

    That's Fort Knox, dear. Gods, all these awards and no spell check?

    1. Thanks for the correction. It's scandalous who they give these awards to, isn't it? :-)


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