When art history enchiridia are written they emphasise how Art Deco style covered almost every sphere of human life in the 1920s and 1930s: architecture, interior design and furniture, aviation, fashion & jewelry most certainly, cinema and the visual arts... But they leave out perfumes and the industries that cater for them, such as cristalleries and glass blowers. In that regard, if we're to present emblematic Art Deco perfume specimens, the very rare but exquisitely designed Coque d'Or perfume by Guerlain should top the list. And not just for its looks, either!
Coque d'Or was issued in 1937 in a cobalt blue bottle of Baccarat crystal encased in a gold metal "sleeve" shaped like a bow (and further encased in a white lined wooden box designed by acclaimed designer Jean-Michel Frank). However this fragrance is NOT to be confused with the entirely different Eau du Coq Guerlain "cologne" (after the famous French actor Benoît-Constant Coquelin, nicknamed Coquelin aîné) from 1894.
The name Coque d'Or [Cock-DOORH] literally means "golden shell". This type of bottle is typified as "flacon noeud papillon" (papillon meaning butterfly in French) in the Guerlain archives at 68 Champs Elysées, as it's so reminiscent of the masculine black-tie accessory.
Even though the original design included the gold gilding of the blue bottles apart from the upper edges (as shown in the pic), some speciments come without the gold.
Production of the noeud papillon bottle stopped altogether in June 1956. However, till that time, other perfumes were presented in it as well: the even rarer Guerlain Kriss (1942-1945) and Guerlain Dawamesk (1945-1955).
The fragrance of Coque D'Or was also available later in the big goutte bottles (shaped like a drop or a tear, containing Eau de Toilette) and the standard quadrilobe (very familiar from Jicky and other Guerlain fragrances in extrait de parfum concentration).
What I smell in Coque d'Or is a cross between Guerlain's Mitsouko structure and Vol de Nuit, with very detectable oakmoss in the base, very rich as both of these fragrances used to be in vintage form, and typically Guerlain, as established by perfumer Jacques Guerlain who has shaped the Guerlain aesthetic through his many classics. The correlation seems logical enough as Mitsouko launched in 1919 and Vol de Nuit in 1931 and the lavishness of the l'entre-deux-guerres period is palpable.The orientalised effect with the chypre-leathery background with oranges, flowers (clove-y carnation) and the Persicol peach-skin base on top (as in Mitsouko, but rendered less austere) is smooth as a caress, sweetly melding with the skin, there most certainly, but at the same time what the French call "doux" and "enveloppant" (soft, enveloping, wrapping, tender, tactile almost...)
The leathery hint wraps the flowers and ripe notes in sophistication, much like it was the enigmatic quality in Vol de Nuit, with an ambery glow like fine cognac sipped from crystal glasses across a blazing fire, and the oakmoss persists like a warm, melodious, baritone voice.
Today the name Coque d'Or is a vibrant pink shade (#120) in Guerlain's Rouge Automatique lipsticks. The preservation of the copyright of the name is perhaps proof of the existence of God of Small Things. I have forwarded the plea to the proper Guerlain authorities, asking to re-introduce this gem into current production, even as a one-off limited edition or a tiny-production exclusive (due to the high oakmoss content) so as to perserve its patina for future generations who haven't visited L'Osmothèque perfume museum.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Guerlain news, Guerlain Series of fragrance reviews
Erté illustration via Fashion Loves Films