Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Guerlain Apres l'Ondee: fragrance review & a bit of perfume history

Lots of scents with heliotrope pose as "almond" or "marzipan" or "powder with tonka". These are all scents with a kinship that runs deeper than initially thought of, like matryoshka dolls that peel one after the other, each one revealing a smaller version of the same idea. Après l'Ondée by Guerlain feels like the great grandmother of them all, if only judging by chronology, if not adherence to the exact formula from 1906.


The synthesized material that is dosed into compositions that take heliotrope as a starting point is quite strong and can be an overwhelming molecule to work with if one isn't careful and discreet. One of the first major fragrances to make judicious use of it, in a light enough composition, so as to wear it inconspicuously, was Après l'Ondée by Guerlain. "Ça se porte léger" (this wears lightly) is the motto behind the concept of these Guerlain creations that aim to offer gouaches rather than oil paintings. In fact the composition was largely inspired by a former Guerlain fragrance, Voilette de Madame, which according to fragrant Guerlain lore served as the fragrance to scent a lady's veil. In those times of the cusp between the 19th and 20th century perfume worn on the skin was considered rather scandalous. It recalled les grandes horizontales, kept women of the demimonde like La Bella Otero or Marie Duplessis. Lightness was therefore a requisite for proper ladies; never mind that the subtle animalic undercurrent of Voilette de Madame is antithetical to our modern scrubbed down notion of how a perfume behaves.

I personally find Après l'Ondée a rather quiet fragrance, almost timid, with a sweetish air that is not immediately thought of as feminine (quite different than the airs that current feminines exhibit!), with lots of heliotropin to stand for cassie, which is the predominant element. Some heliotrope scents also recall cherry pie or lilac and powder, but not Après l'Ondée. Even the almond is not particularly identified as almond, it's a haze of lightly warmed, blurred, hazy notes.

The violets, like you might have read in evocations of gardens "after the shower" (the literal translation of its French name), are quite fleeting in this Guerlain scent, especially in more recent incarnations which are warmer and cuddlier than the older ones. The anisic note on the top note is also a brilliant addition (created through the use of benzylaldehyde, it would be recreated more forcibly in L'heure Bleue some years later) since it brings a chill cooling off the first spray and balances the warmer, almond paste flavor of the heliotrope in the heart.

Après l'Ondée is also rather less known than L'Heure Bleue, so even Guerlain wearers on the street might not identify it right off, which is always a good thing in my books; it would also obliterate your qualms about it being perceived as solely feminine.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine:

The Guerlain Series: perfume reviews and history of the French House
Guerlain Re-issues 4 Archived Fragrances for their Heritage Collection
Guerlain Chypre 53: an unknown photo-chypre, perfume history
The history of the Guerlinade accord and the modern Guerlinade fragrance


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. "apres l'ondee" to me has a very nostalgic feel. yet it is, among older perfumes, lightly gourmand, in a delicate way. the almond in it is sweet rather than bitter, and there's that almost liquorice-y top note as you mentioned. but to me it fairly quickly becomes floral; the heliotrope in it seems to end up being more like lilac, and the violets are very subdued, like a violet pastille box rather than a cluster of actual violets. i like it, but not as much as i do its slightly later siblings from guerlain's pre-1940 years. for some reason, i like many of these fin de siecle scents even more on men than i do on women. there's something nice about the delicate violet-floral-almond thing; perhaps just that it is different from the commoner aquatics and musks floating about, or perhaps i simply like the idea of a kind of delicacy, consideration, or reserve in men that has traditionally been classed as 'feminine'?

  3. Anonymous20:06


    Thank you very much for bringing to mind again this wonderful scent. I love it very much because it is so unique.

    By the way, do you have any idea what happened to Monsieur Guerlain? All I get when I try to reach his blog is "website under construction". This has been going on for some time now.

    Best regards



Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin