Friday, November 7, 2008

Pour Troubler by Guerlain: fragrance review of a rare gem

"Her extraordinarily dark black eyes were so captivating, they were of such intensity that it was impossible not to be detained before them". The French have a wonderful verb to denote the agitation and emotional anxiety one is experiencing upon encountering a compelling and unsettling sight (usually one that involves a wily attractive woman): troubler. And coupled with the immortal words of Georges Braque : "L'art est fait pour troubler, la science rassure" (Art is made for unsettling, science reassures), this French verb took on a dual meaning in the onomastics stakes of the 1911 Pour Troubler perfume by Guerlain.

This gnomic attachment points to a scent fit for Liane de Pougy or even La Belle Otero, for the eyes of which the above image was put into such passionate words, yet in doing so Guerlain also managed to inject perfumery with apertures of bizarre cubiques through which we get a glimpse of a puzzling game of connotations. On the other hand the passionate, fatally mad love that transcends logic has always been at the core of Guerlain's promotional material, even in more obscure creations such as Voilà pourquoi j'aimais Rosine or Vague Souvenir (1912); and Pour Troubler is no exception.

The orientalised theme that slowly unfolds as the first drops of Pour Troubler begin their journey on the skin are ingrained in the evolving fashions of the first years of the second decade of the 20th century. The early 1910s saw fashionable feminine silhouettes become much more lithe, softer than at the beginning of La Belle Epoque and with a fluidity immortalised in Isadora Duncan's dance performances. Notably it was Les Ballets Russes performing Scheherazade in Paris in 1910 that sparked a craze for Orientalism. Couturier Paul Poiret was prompted to translate this vogue into opulent visions of harem girls and exotic geishas which catapulted the bastions of conservative circles into desiring the forbidden mysteries of the sensuous East.

Although no given notes exist for this Guerlain fragrance I tried to ponder on its structure as I contemplated the history of the house and the lineage, using this composition as a porthole into the creation process to follow. The initial impression of Pour Troubler is one of sweet, confectionary type licorice-anise, but not exactly veering into the beloved macaroon delicasy yet, which makes me think here was the spermatic idea behind L'Heure Bleue which materialized a year later. Indeed the reworking of several of the themes of L'Heure Bleue into both Fol Arôme(1912) and Pois de senteur (1917) indicates that Jacques Guerlain was working and re-working on certain aspects to emphasize nuanced ideas: from the romantically melancholic moment of day melting into the warm floral effluvium of the night, to the sensuous invitation to folly accompanied by fruits underpinned by absinthe-y tipsiness, finally leading to the honeyed sweet Miel Blanc* with spice accents. The anisic sweetness accord of Pour Troubler smells imbued with the softness of powdery violets and cool iris notes that give a gentle ambience, contrasted with richer florals like jasmine and what seems like jonquil, appearing in its heart. The florals treated in a transparent study of black and white softly fuse to reveal a hazy daguerreotype. Through this gentle fog the warmth of amber along with some bitterness of leather notes and sweet balsams polish the scent off in the embrace of a courtesan pictured in patina-laden postcards.

Extrait came in a quatrilobe capped Bacarrat flacon, same as the one used for Jicky (and later used for many other fragrances in the Guerlain stable). Eau de Cologne concentration, of which I am now proud owner of, came in the "disk" bottles with the pyramidal stopper, popular in the 50s and 60s. Pour Troubler is long discontinued, rendering it a rare occurence in online auctions.

A sample of this extremely rare fragrance will be given out to a random lucky reader!

*a perfumer's base by laboratoires de Laire redolent of honey

Lithograph "figure" by Georges Braque via POstcard of Carolina Otero via wikimedia commons. Parfum bottle courtesy of Russian site Palomka.livejournal.


  1. Beloved-
    May your greedy, grieving girlfriend enter the lottery ?

    BTW- your Guerlain posts have been a delight- I'm such a Guerlain girl, always have been...

    [I pray that my recent embarrassing candor hasn't scared the crap out of you, my dearest...MWAH !]

  2. This sounds sublime. Anything related to L'heure Bleu sparks my interest but everything about this sounds heavenly and the name is fabulous for a scent.

    I didn't even know this one existed so thank you

    Oh and please enter me in the draw!

  3. My only hesitation in asking to be entered in the draw is that you will soon have a review up of Atuana and offer a drawing for it...I don't want to seem greedy:-)

  4. Dearest I,

    how could I leave you out? That would have been unthinkable! Guerlain is very simpatico to me as well, as you know (or as is obvious by all these articles and vintage hunting, LOL!).
    Glad you enjoyed the posts and hope you're slowly better and better.

    BTW, honey, no shock on your candour accounts for my silence, just too many mails which buried yours on the fourth page before I could even see it...I have just read it though and I will be replying very shortly, sorry to have kept you waiting.

  5. Rose,

    it's both rather sweeter and less floral than LHB but it's rather fleeting for an oriental, discreet, at least in the EDC concentration.
    Guerlain has an impressive back catalogue with hundreds of perfumes, I have set my goal to sample as many as I can humanly can ;-)

    Of course you're in the draw! I will leave those draws (yesterday's and today's open throughout the weekend so people have ample chance to participate, because they're worth it)

  6. Billy,

    LOL!! You're not greedy, not at all. Offering a sample of those vintages (or "exclusives") offers something that pleases me as well: the olfactory perceptions feedback I get from the recipients which is fascinating to watch.
    So your name is in the hat definitely!

  7. Anonymous15:50

    Oh! Anything to do with L'Heure Bleue makes me very exicted! :D LHB is my favourite Guerlain; it makes me want to speak in poetry. Someday I hope to sample Fol Arome, Pois de Senteur, and Kadine, those mythical others created close in time to it. Please count me in the draw!

  8. Anonymous16:08

    !!! yes! please count me in the draw! (am new to this, you know, but have lately fallen in love with both L'Heure Bleue and Mitsouko; was earlier this day dreaming about smelling Mitsouko in old & "new" vintage versions. I like the fact that it was among Anaïs Nin favourites: In her diaries (vol. 1, 1931-34) she writes.
    "Have you enough heliotrope ink?", Henry asked. I should not be using ink but perfume. I should be writing with Narcisse Noir, with Mitsouko, with jasmine, with honeysuckle. I could write beautiful words that would exhale the potent smell of women's honey and men's white blood."

  9. Well, E., we're all coming out of the woodwork for this one. I'll second Adam on his remark of "anything having to do with L'Heure Bleue. Old Guerlain scents constitute a rare museum of things which betray a singular, unitary vision. Count me in!

  10. Can't wait to see what more you are going to pull out of your sleeves lol. Count me in for a sample.

  11. A,

    of course I've included you. I think you'd like that one, then.

  12. Anonymous21:37

    Hi E, I have been immensely enjoying your Guerlain series. I do have a drop of Pour Troubler Extrait and find that the sweet topnotes are less pronounced but the anise, leather and balsam notes are deeper and richer. How I love to own the bottle of extrait pictured in your blog.
    BTW the sample I sent you came in a giant quadrilobe bottle. According to my Guerlain book its dimensions originally held 250ml. I read somewhere that in the early days families use perfume to not only scent themselves but also to disinfect hence the need for big bottles (edc has more alcohol). Not sure about this perhaps you can enlighten me.

  13. S,

    I am familiar with Anais' preferences (great choices!) as I compiled a list of what famous people like to wear as personal fragrance, so thanks for the exact quote!
    You're in the draw and best of luck :-)

  14. C,

    usually draws do reveal some of my lurking readers, although still not all of them. (Of course I am not implying that you're one of them, just saying). I have of course included you, because I think this is a chance for someone to try what is nowhere available for trial. :))

  15. L,

    thanks for the nudge I guess (as if I needed one, LOL) and you're in!

  16. You must have been grinning to yourself when you found this baby; sounds very intriguing with the use of leather notes but a similarity with L'Heure Bleu (a Guerlain I appreciate). Please enter me in the draw.

  17. B,

    it was with immense gratitude that I received your very generous offer and I thank you for it, so knowing you're enjoying this Guerlain series makes me really warm and fuzzy inside: someone who has experienced them and can appreciate the impressions compared to her own.

    Thanks for the mention of the giant bottle of EDC (should edit I guess, was almost sure it would follow the others). 250ml, oh my! And yes, isn't that extrait bottle something! I was drooling.

    I will devote a whole post to your excellent question: my mother did the same and passed on the habit to me as well ;)

  18. J,

    I was OVERJOYED, as it is very rare, almost mythical. I am quite determined on what I set my mind to and B was ever so gracious in letting me share her collection, so I am deeply thankful.

    You're in for the sample drawing! :-)

  19. Sometimes arriving late to the party only intensifies the reactions...

    I am going to indulge in a smidge of jealousy at some point, but I'm so glad YOU are able to investigate such a phenomenal do enable a fine vicarious experience...

    Since you've given permission for indulgence, please consider me for the draw. :) (Especially since this was the week L'Heure Bleu and I found our true love...)

  20. Anonymous00:16

    Throw my name into the draw Helg , I am intrigued beyond belief .... and this is me , who chases nothing out of reach as a rule.

    Once again I have to thank you for these glimpses into my favourite house's history. I am thinking they should have consulted you and Mr Guerlain before doing their anniversary box set , I suspect the offerings would have been far more riveting than what they are flogging.

  21. I'd love to smell it!

  22. E, this past week on here was a true feast for the soul! Not only have you resuscitated a forgotten era, you've also fleshed out the story about vintage Guerlains with art and historical backdrop and in doing so, lit up lamp-posts for those of us not so familiar with these rare gems. Thank you!
    Anise is a note that I'm wary of in terms of its translation into perfume (particularly the modern synthetic compositions) but when done beautifully I find that it can be very rewarding. No surprise then that Pour Troubler piques my interest much; however, much as I like to tango (blindfolded, of course ;-)) with the note, I'll sit this dance out because I feel I wouldn't be nearly as appreciative (or deserving) as most if not all of the commenters here of the opportunity to test this Guerlain. I'll just keep on romanticizing it, if you don't mind :)

  23. Anonymous07:49

    Please enter me in the draw.

    I may be largely a lurker, but as an historian, I am a particular fan of your site and this series!

  24. Anonymous09:07

    Awesome to be able to research and experience these old perfumes!
    Please enter me in the draw.

  25. I don't know how you keep finding these amazing rarities--I'm very envious! I'd never even heard of Pour Troubler, and it sounds fascinating, so please do put my name in the drawing for the sample.

  26. Dear S,

    so wittily said, LOL, you're very welcome and by all means, hope to share things with you (btw, hope the prize for the vetiver draw has reached you by now?)
    LHB huh? I think you'd like this one then as well.

  27. N,

    You do flatter me very much, thank you. *blushing*
    Not to tout my horn or anything because surely there must be people more knowledgable but companies might do well to listen to what the loyal fans desire. It might account for things we'd all enjoy.

    Of course your name is going pronto to the hat! (I am not one to hanker after the elusive when it's that latest exclusive thing you can get only in one city's boutique etc *wink*, but when it comes to historical houses, I can't resist...)

  28. Karin,

    of course! Best of luck :-)

  29. Dusan,

    thank you for your most generous and lovely compliment which warms my heart; I appreciate it more than you know. :-))
    I completely understand about anise being a difficult note, it's something many people have trouble with. It's much subtler than in L'Heure Bleue or indeed Apres L'Ondee here, but's there!
    Hope you get many chances of romanticizing and equally many of trying things here as well.

    And btw, sorry for not getting round to replying to your lovely mail. This week has been frantic, I will sort out my loose ends this weekend though, promise. :-)

  30. Ben,

    we have something in common then, that's great!! Thanks for being a fan and so happy you're enjoying yourself.
    Good luck in the draw and may the Moerae be with you :-)

  31. hi, E. Thanks for another fascinating review. I'm intrigued by Por Troubler, and would very much like to be in the draw. I look forward to the next Guerlain gem you review in these pages!

  32. A very interesting read indeed! :) I would be delighted to be entered as well.... these vintage Guerlains fascinate me!

  33. maitreyi,

    it's been fabulous to fill in the gaps in my collection, it's true. You're in! Good luck!

  34. P,

    searching, searching and some more searching! My studies have oriented me into much more arcane research ;-)

    You're in!

  35. J,

    you're welcome and best of luck! I will keep you in suspense :-)

  36. D,

    don't they fascinate us all? You're in, best of luck!

  37. Anonymous17:31

    Dear Helg,
    I would LOVE to win a sample of this rare treasure !! Please count me in your draw.
    Why can't Guerlain revisit these gems ? I am drawn to just this type of scent . If only the contents of the Osmotheque count be recreated for all of us ...

  38. My pleasure, E! :)
    And no worries about our e-mail correspondence - I know how terribly busy you are... xo

  39. Hi, I am new to perfume (have only been sniffing, sampling and reading for about six months). As an historian I particularly enjoy your blog. I would appreciate it if you entered me in the draw.

  40. Anonymous21:17

    Never heard of this, and I'd love to be in the drawing!

  41. You make this sound so fascinating! I'd love to be in the drawing...

  42. Madelyn,

    I have included you. Good luck!

    I think it's not always viable or indeed desirable to resurrect long-defunct scents: some couldn't be reproduced with today's limitations, others no matter their lovely structure seem completely anachronistic. I think the fact that Guerlain hasn't re-released Ode (or indeed Cachet Jaune and Kadine) despite announcing that they would might show that despite what we say, interest isn't that high to justify doing so.

  43. D,

    you're very gracious, thanks :-)

  44. Cosmopolitine,

    welcome then and hope you become one of our regulars (what fun if we can discuss historical aspects as well!):-)
    I have included you in the draw and best of luck!

  45. Noy,

    you in!
    It's an interesting scent, subtle really in EDC but I liked it quite a bit!

  46. Anonymous18:44

    Sounds very interesting. This one is completely new to me as well. Enjoying your Guerlain reviews,and it would be so exciting to win a sample of one of these rare finds.

  47. I'm so interested in trying vintage fragrances right now - I would love to be entered in the drawing!

  48. Gail,

    thanks for saying so, it warms my heart to read your many comments and private emails saying you've been enjoying the Guerlain series, which hasn't finished yet ;-)
    This fragrance in particular hasn't been reviewed before and it was quite obscure, so best of luck for the drawing!

  49. Tessa,

    you're in! It's an intriguing proposition entering the world of vintage. Good luck!

  50. I've been really enjoying the vintage Guerlain series - I could seriously become a collector of these gems. Let's hope I can start with this sample of Pour Trouble.
    So count me in the draw!



  51. M,

    you made it in the nick of time :-)
    I will be running those submissions through a random-pick machine shortly.

    Good luck!

  52. Anonymous15:54

    your blog is fantastic!
    I've got all the old guerlains, from ai-loe to kriss!, except pour troubler and vague souvenir!Maybe I come too late but isn't there any way to get some 1 or 2 ml of pour troubler, please ??!! I also give you a mail address:

  53. Anonymous19:11

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  54. Oh my gosh! I would love to be in this draw! I am a vintage Guerlain fanatic as it is and how fun to read about yet another one I had never heard of. Where ever did you find your vintage bottle of this scent? Probably a secret ;o) Thanks!

  55. Thanx for sharing . . More Guerlain history anytime. Please enter me in the draw. Would love a sniff. Kuromi


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