Smelly Blue Hours

Are You the L'Heure Bleue type?

Are You the L’Heure Bleue type?

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

Blue Hour advertising

Blue Hour advertising

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.

L'Heure Bleue inlater advertising

L’Heure Bleue in earlier advertising

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.

L'Heure de Nuit

L’Heure de Nuit

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?


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10 thoughts on “Smelly Blue Hours

  1. Just the other day I told a friend that LHB was my nemesis – or one of them. That suffocating heliotrope! I am so with Francis K on this one…

  2. Yes sadly he was right, but someone somewhere must wear LHB well.

    Or do you simply get used to the bandaids and crave them after a while?

  3. Well, I *like* the smell of bandaids, myself (must be why I get on with so many of those Montale rose ouds). And I agree, L’HB is difficult, especially in the edt which I once described as “Hell’s Medicine Cabinet.” But I don’t get burnt rubber out of it. And I like heliotrope too! The parfum is nicer, but honestly, in the end I’d much, much rather have Esprit d’Oscar. Or L’Origan.

    Haven’t tried L’Heure de Nuit (which a certain perfumista I know calls ‘Bloo’), but it sounds nice. L’HB could benefit from some clarity, I think.

  4. The “Bloo” is so pretty and so feminine and recalls L’Origan only without the fruity note that you get in the beginning of L’O.

    Some people on fragrantica say it’s a cross between Apres and LHB and could be maybe. Anyway over at Basenotes where they are plenty picky everybody liked it, and myself, I’d buy a bottle sooner than either Apres (as it currently is) or LHB (bandaids!)

  5. I don’t particularly care for L’Heure Bleue or Shalimar, either (and I did so want to love them both). I do own and love Mitsouko, though, and did at first sniff.

  6. I always wonder why at Guerlain they break down their customers into the L’Heure and Shalimar camps when clearly you also have the Mitsouko aficionados, and they’re a different group? Don’t know, but I agree that people tend to like one of those three from the beginning.
    Mitsouko is something extra special, I was wearing a sample from the seventies the other day, and it just was so smooth and so elegant, and that was just the edt!

  7. I’ll admit to being a fan of (vintage) L’Heure Bleue! A year or so ago I was lucky enough to run across a small bottle (sealed) of extrait dating back to the 1940s, and it’s amazing. On me it’s an aromatic clove/anise accord with heliotrope and lots of ylang-ylang, and a super-smooth vetiver-benzoin base. No Bandaids in sight (or smell), fortunately; that latex note sounds awful!

    Shalimar, OTOH, is a complete train wreck on me – fermented burning plastic (if that makes any sense) and acrid, rancid baby powder. I’ve tried vintage and modern in every concentration and no dice.

    Vintage Mitsouko works beautifully with my skin chemistry, so I guess I’m an LHB and Mitsouko girl. Sorry, Mr. Kurkdjian!

  8. I loved this review! This is a nostalgic fragrance for me-it’s a difficult thing to describe. I get no band aids from it . It smells of another time and place to me. I only wear it once or twice a year, usually when I am alone. It’s too big for me….too opulent, too dense.

    i do have a bottle of Shalimar, which really turns my crank, I love it so much. I totally get band aid from it at one stage-also lots of leather, which is not something I normally get with Shalimar. This bottle started life as a tester. I know the strength of the tester is not supposed to be stronger, or even different from the actual fragrance-but sometimes I wonder if they make testers extra special to make consumers really want to buy the product.

    I also like Mitsuko :) I like the idea of a fragrance to suit hair colour, but in real life i am not sure it’s a workable idea.

  9. So it sounds as if you do get to enjoy the blue hour, which is lucky for you.

    Interestingly you also seem to be one of those people who can do LHB, Shalimar and Mitsouko. I read that the Duchess of Windsor wore two Guerlains at once in the thirties, and I think the combo was L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko. Wowza is all I can say to that.

    I think testers can be marginally stronger than regular bottles. I’ve owned a few and although I don’t detect a difference with Carons, I think the Guerlains are sometimes a little more lasting. Only my guess though…

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