All in the Execution Afterall?

L'Heure Bleue Advert

L’Heure Bleue Advert

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

L'Origan Advertising

L’Origan Advertising

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.

Bellodgia in extract

Bellodgia in extract

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

Current L'Air du temps Advert

Current L’Air du temps Advert

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.


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8 thoughts on “All in the Execution Afterall?

  1. Very nice post! By all accounts Guerlain invested a lot in Chamade and Samsara. Not sure that they would bother today, at least in the mainstream. That new Homme thing of theirs, forgotten it’s name already, does not seem to have impressed anyone much.

    I like to think of Chanel No 19 as the perfect fragrance. Perfect idea, perfect execution. I don’t know if it was derivative of anything before its time. Vent Vert maybe?

  2. Chanel No 19 is a great fragrance and the elderly Mademoiselle drove the perfumer- Guy Robert I think- crazy developing it. She would literally say, “This stuff is no good I got no compliments today. Fix it!” And he did. He must have been about ready to shove a bag over her head, but in the end the perfume was just about perfect.

    You’re re right that it’s related to Vent Vert but apparently not derived directly from it or so says my H and R guide. First cousin to the old green floral Weil de Weil though :-).

      1. No worries, I knew who you meant. Weil de Weil sounds great. The Fragrantica reviews are fascinating. WDW wearers are an articulate bunch!

        1. WdWeil is a strange and taste specific old perfume, as I remember there’s a big mimosa presence in the middle. So basically you have to like mimosa, also it’s warmer and for lack of a better term…approachable…than No19. 19 used to be more tactile but over time it has cooled off, WdW should still be a huggable fragrance.

  3. That’s an interesting observation about Amouage having really developed their perfumes fully before releasing them, and the fact that they feel more like classics right out of the box. Lots of food for thought in this post!

  4. And I think that to become a classic perfume house was their ambition from their inception. They were going to meld French and Arabian perfume traditions. It’s always been an interesting idea.

    More people mention Amouage in connection with luxury perfumery these days than almost any other house, which used to surprise me but doesn’t anymore.

  5. Blacknall, thank you very much for your kind comment about my Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient post. Thinking about how much I love that type of perfume – the green/rose/iris combination that is so romantically and cosmetically beautiful, smacking of both nature and artifice – and how many of those I’d love to own if I were to fling all caution to the wind – and then thinking about exactly what you talk about in this post, I realize that I love the perfecting (and coming up with new riffs on a classic theme) more than I love the “shock of the new” of a very unique creation. I do have an appreciation for the latter, and know how difficult and rare it is to come up with something that’s utterly unique, but my preference is for the former. I think this must explain why I have a fondness for cover songs in music, too. I love hearing how various artists will treat the same song (and yet I know many people who absolutely hate cover songs).

    Anyway, thank you. Great food for thought!!!

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