Wednesday, 29 December 2010

5 Rare Guerlains in 5 Days (Part 2) - Day IV: Ode

It is no coincidence that the last perfume ever created by Jacques Guerlain was called "Ode", as it represented an olfactory milestone in his career; the final perfume poem in his body of work which spanned 65 years. It also marked the very first efforts of his then 18-year old grandson Jean Paul Guerlain who was set to ascend to the throne at 68 Champs Élysées.
Ode also marked a turning point in the style of perfume that was to emerge from the house of Guerlain in the decades to come. Jacques Guerlain's somewhat sombre, mature creations launched between the two world wars were soon to replaced with arguably more spirited, dynamic works of art under an enthusiastic young Jean Paul's direction.

I find the contrast in Ode's advertising noteworthy too. In one regard, the advertising almost has a funerary feel... an ashen harp-playing cherub is depicted perhaps mourning the end of an era; whilst in striking contrast, Ode is portrayed as being energetic and new-fangled against violet hues and bushels of verdant green. This visual inconsistency illustrates a perfume perhaps standing at the crossroads of tradition and modernity... one whose purpose was maybe to appeal to an existing, more mature market, whilst at the same time, was establishing a brand new one.


Ode is a bright floral perfume with one foot planted in the past, and one foot planted in the future. In 2010, we can now review all the Guerlain creations of the 20th century, and I can see where Ode embraced classic perfume styles with its use of aldehydes, jasmine and rose, but also gives us a taste of things to come... I sense a prelude of other Jean Paul Guerlain prefumes sitting just over the horizon: the likes of Chant d'Arômes, Parure and Nahema.
Ode is a rich floral that has been likened to Jean Patou's Joy, though I personally don't feel it bares much of a resemblance. Indeed, it does focus on jasmine and velvety rose, but Ode is pregnant with other surprises... I glean a very green accord lying beneath the floral fanfare in the opening spritz... a crisp green/floral accord much like muguet. This brisk virescent facet synchronises well with the aldehydes and lends a dry piquancy to the perfume. There is a slightly dirty facet too which I would attribute to tuberose... a fleeting sensation of carnal liveliness. My nose also struggles to pinpoint the cause of a rather transitory but delightful 'rubbery' facet... perhaps there is a whisper of hyacinth unfurling within. Some time later, the rose/jasmine duo recede a little whilst the aldehydes turn to powder, and a creamy vanilla base becomes apparent... there is a hint of muskiness in the base that shifts the honeyed nature of the vanilla in a more libidinous direction.


To my mind, Jacques and Jean Paul not only intended Ode to memorialise the efforts of a perfume master and mark the inauguration of a new perfume nose, but also to act as an olfactory aria to femininity itself. Now lost to time (despite ongoing rumours of a possible resurrection), Ode remains the one perfume collaboration between two perfume greats; a moving and impassioned marriage of ideas, and - of course - ages.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another nice piece Dimitri.

Speaking of libidinous - who is the gorgeous woman in the accompanying photograph ? Mrs Dimitri perhaps? Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

I believe it is a young Brigitte Bardot...
/ Eva

Dimitri said...

Thats correct Eva...that trademark gap between the teeth and long eyelashes are the giveaway... :)

Flora said...

I would kill for one of those bottles, never mind the juice inside, although I am sure it's wonderful.

I bid on a bottle of Ode on EBay once - did I ever find out very quickly just how prized it is! I will probably never smell it, but it's definitely on my "try before I die " list.