As I was going through the usual blizzard of new releases this season, something struck me: no one perfects perfume anymore. I know perfectly well that there are art directors at Amouage and Guerlain and Chanel and so on, but because the business model of perfumes has become the model of planned obselescense, with buyers most interested in the novelties (little suspecting that the novelties are often oldelties) you get a paradox, an ocean of novelty, mostly already passe.
Still, if a perfume is seldom new it can often redeem itself by being the very best version of something on the market. I was reminded of this point by a lovely piece written by Suzanne at Eiderdown Press on Guerlain’s Encens Mythique which is a beautiful scent in the green/rose/ iris family. Suzanne was comparing it to Goutal’s Heure Exquise and Le labo’s Iris 39, but Encens was probably the loveliest iteration of this idea with a rare ambergris trail off. Well, you should read her post yourselves, but her point was well
taken. Execution in perfumery is key.
Every once in a while you will find a perfume house that is really innovative: Shelley Waddington, Neil Morris, Caron, Etat Libre d’Orange. However only in some of those instances do you also find wonderful execution. That’s how the other perfume houses, sometimes the big boys like Estee Lauder or Guerlain subsequently get in on the act. They smell a hit, or at the least a great idea, but realize that with some tweaking that idea could become a possible market dominating force micro spritzing its way out of bottles and onto skins around the world.
Guerlain recast Emeraude and produced Shalimar, Chanel’s Ernest Beaux reprised his Russian hit Rallet No1 for Mademoiselle, producing No5, and I have frankly lost count of the versions of Opium and Coco Mademoiselle I have smelled in the last two years. However none of this much matters if the resulting perfume is absolutely exquisite.
I’m not a fan of Opium and yet was charmed by George Sand from Nicolas du Barry, because it seemed fresher and more rusticated than the Opium of yesteryear. Another example of this same phenomenon has to be Parfumerie Generale’s L’Oiseau de Nuit which is an homage to Ambre Sultan- only better. What did they do differently at PG? They perfected the perfume.
There remain a few perfumers who are willing to sit with a formula until the resulting scent has all the snags worked out, but they’re rare. Caron was one such and Coty was another which is why both did very well establishing themselves in the twenties of the last century. It took time to develop Bellodgia and L’Origan. The pay off was huge but so was the imitation of both and in the end we know other versions of these formulas even better than we know the originals: L’Air du Temps and L’Heure Bleue respectively.
These days I think the perfume house that comes closest to this model may be Amouage. They seem willing to take some risks with originality, for instance Interlude, or to release
something very classic and make sure that the perfume is superlative: Gold which is similar to Arpege or Madame Rochas.
None of this ought to bother buyers. You should find the best incarnation of the perfume notes that you love. I can’t wear Fracas myself, but I can wear Caron Tubereuse, another matter of execution- no doubt.