You’re not seeing wrong, and I’m not re-blogging my post from a few weeks ago, today is about carnation, but this time it has not been re-constructed or re-imagined, it’s the real deal. This is Guerlain from 100+ years ago.
As vintage hunting becomes ever more popular, increasingly much gets written about vintage fragrances. How they alter over time, macerate so that they cannot be compared with what they would have originally smelled like, or in fact as the perfumer intended to. And at the same time the market for vintage fragrances and the prices paid has never been as high as now. Is that simply because it’s possible and the internet allows for worldwide sales, or is it the hunt for a lost treasure, or for authenticity and perhaps even a dream of innocence from a time long gone, a perfume market we can dream weren’t as cut-throat as it is now? For me, it’s possibly a bit of all, but most of all, I like vintage fragrances. Perhaps I’m kidding myself and what I like about the vintages, is all down to the maceration, and the deepness is only due to age, but in many cases I feel that the precious extracts which have been used, do either not exist like that anymore and/or would be too costly to use, and/ or for me to buy. And there is something truly otherworldly about smelling a fragrance, for which many roses had to give their lives in 1879, and a 100 years on bring them back to life, if only for a day, in 2015.
The original version of Œillet 000 was (perhaps*) created in 1879, fitting of the fact that soliflores were especially popular before 1900. I have no idea whether the bottle that I got my sample from, dating from at least 30 years later, would be of the same composition as the original, but it is true, that even if soliflores were the rage, they were still quite a bit different to what we think now. They weren’t necessarily meant to be a realistic rendition of the flower they were called after, but rather an imagery, a romantic impression of the flower. At least that’s what I learnt it was like when sniffing the recreated Muguet from the recreated vintages (to be sniffed only at Maison Guerlain in Paris), which smells nothing like the sprightly lily of the valley fragrances we now expect. It would perhaps also explain why it was even possible for every perfumer in Paris to have an Œillet or Muguet perfume; it was ‘his’ special floral ‘impression’.
Guerlain Œillet 000, or so-called triple extract. There are no notes for this anywhere that I could find, but here’s what I smell: A carnation spicy yes, but not overly so and deep, deep red and velvet smooth. It feels like an equally dark almost black red rose is added for diva-drama and consequent chamber separée. There’s also a bit of make-up powder in the shape of orris and perhaps a hint of heliotrope, to add a bit of vamp to the lady. Not to mention what I perceive as definite animal musk*, mixing in heavenly with the spicy flowers. The velvet curtains are drawn to the last notes of vanilla and tonka, and what feels very Guerlinade. I don’t think I’ve ever tried a carnation fragrance as incredibly lush and beautiful as this. It’s a soliflore, no doubt about it, but even the best soloist needs the best accompaniment to be able to stand out, and that’s exactly what she gets here.
I hadn’t dreamt of the fact that this should be so heart achingly beautiful, but I’m afraid it is. And as always I am amazed at the fact that this doesn’t smell old-fashioned, perhaps retro or not-contemporary, but in its simplicity this is as gorgeous as they come. I don’t know what this would have smelled like in 1879, or fresh of the bottle fillers, but what I wouldn’t give to find out – in 2015.
*There are a few different years for an Œillet perfume 1839, 1881, 1879… I’m for now going with what it said on the Perfumed Court where I bought the sample from, and seems more plausible than 1839 for this fragrance.
*verified by feline God child, who sniffed my wrists several times with a very puzzled look – she never sniffs perfume normally.
Hopefully soon my post on Guerlain’s Heliotrope Blanc 000 a vintage fragrance will follow.
* In my search I encountered also the fact that according to Cleopatra’s Boudoir, Maison Guerlain released about 100+ new perfumes in 1877, now take that Luca Turin, who laments how Guerlain has slipped standard by bringing out 14.