Not so long ago I re- read a 2012 quote from Francis Kurkdijian on Persolaise’s Blog and was amused again by his directness, “L’Heure Bleue doesn’t smell good. It never did, It smells like burnt latex.” He went on to point out that in the history of fragrance L’Heure Bleue does have a place which you have to recognize, but I did enjoy his comment about LHB. Myself, I’d always caught L’Eau de Bandaid when I got tangled up in blue.
But maybe I’m just a philistine. Bad taste is kind of like bad breath: no one tells you that you’ve got it. So when I came into possession of a sample from the eighties in good condition, I thought, why not? Why not try to find out what everyone else has been raving about?
Women famously divide themselves into two factions at Guerlain, those who love L’Heure Bleue and those who adore Shalimar. I’ve never worn either of those. The closest I ever came was Shalimar Lite while that was still obtainable. This means that I understand the fascination of Shalimar’s vanilla/citrus tug of war, but can’t say I’ve gotten to
wander L’Heure Bleue’s sweet evening parterre full of iris roses and carnations. If there’s a scent in nature that L’Heure Bleue mimics successfully, then it is the garden of late spring with those three flowers in bloom.
Those plantings have not stayed the same though with LHB. In the eighties Guerlain sold the fragrance as ” …neroli,carnation and heliotrope wrapped in a powdered breath of iris, floating in in the captivating magic of the orient.” By which I expect they meant vanillan, and also I’m not clear on how anything can float in magic, captivating or otherwise. The top note of the sample of edt I had certainly began with Guerlain’s signature bergamot and a really good grade of neroli. This was familiar, and I remembered Encens Mythique which begins very like this with a wonderful neroli and bergamot duet.
Things changed just a little by the 90′s. The lofty head of L’Heure was no longer a spire dreaming of neroli, bergamot and coriander in the evening air. A host of lesser ingredients, presumably affordable housing, seemed to have crowded the skyline. Tarragon, lemon, and clary sage are listed by 1991, high rise condos with amenities, probably for reasons of economy. Guerlain had to pack them in to maximize margins.
What I found was that the opening of 80′s L’Heure was stunning (even in edt), and for about twenty minutes or so, indulged in the fantasy that I, too, was the L’Heure Bleue woman, that supreme romantic watching the sky go from lilac to ultramarine presumably in 1912, presumably over the Seine…until… Sacrebleu! What was that smell? Was it coming from me? Mais Oui!
Alas the scent of Bandaids pervaded the airs of evening. My skin had sorted out the great classic and decided that on me, the supreme romantic smelled of latex and adhesives rather than iris and roses. I smelled like a Fast Med Center.
So to return to Francis Kurkdijian and his comment, I have to admit that he was vindicated. L’Heure Bleue on me at least does indeed smell of… latex. I assume this can’t be true of all wearers and wonder what it smells like on them?
I’ve had better luck with L’Heure de Nuit which returns to a default position similar to L’Origan’s, only less fruity. The six floral bases of L’Origan here coalesce into neroli, iris, heliotrope, jasmine and rose with musk and sandalwood in the dry down. I personally prefer the new Guerlain over the old Coty, and as to such modernizations as Sacrebleu or La Petite Robe Noir, in both cases I get fruity florals of less balance than the original.
For me, L’Heure Bleue remains half of a great perfume. Does the Blue Hour work for you?