This week I will be featuring 5 rare Guerlain scents over 5 days - an opportunity to memorialise a number of uncommon, unfamiliar Guerlain creations that are nigh on being lost to the halls of time. Some are known by name - though rarely sniffed - thanks in part to their inaccessibility; and others remain practically unheard of.
Those who love and revere this house know well that over their 182 year history, Guerlain have provided us with hundreds of perfumes; many of which are still being uncovered for the very first time today, like glinting gems from dusty attics and musty basements.
Lavande was first created in 1840 and is credited to Aimé Guerlain, though very specific information about this perfume is extremely scarce. It came to be revived again in 1920 in the "Louis XVI" flacon, and again approximately 3 years later in Pochet & Courval's swollen "Goutte" bottle. Sadly, very few examples have remained to this day.
I have not yet found any record of an olfactory pyramid either online or in print, however the vintage eau de toilette opens with an arresting, rich lavender which smells just like one's fingers do when stripping the purple blossoms from the stem. It shifts swiftly to a rather 'dark' lavender with unusual muddy green undertones... something I liken to the immortelle/lavender marriage found in Dior's Eau Noire. A murmur of lemony citrus can be detected (possibly furnished by note of fragrant geranium) which adds sharpness to the lavender topnotes.
As the drydown progresses, I begin to sense the Guerlain "red thread" prevalent in many of their earlier perfumes. I experience fleeting nuances of Chant d'Aromes, only without the aldehydes (a perfume which was not to be created for another 40 years); and a familiar vetiver/oakmoss Mitsouko base over which these floral facets are awash.
Whilst the lavender topnotes might be the first to recede, Lavande remains a fascinating blend which leaves me undecided as to whether this should be classified a chypre or a fougere. It certainly exhibits characteristics of both.
With the formula left unchanged, Lavande could easily be re-released in today's market and adored by many. Its deeply aromatic heart and exceptional mossy base sees it stand a full head-and-shoulders above most others in its class.
Tomorrow: Guerlain's Eau de Verveine.