Classic Beauty- Le Coque d’Or Guerlain

The name of the Guerlain perfume Le Coque d’Or (the golden shell) is a pun on Le Coq d’Or a Rimsky-Korsakov opera-ballet from 1907, based on a poem by Pushkin. The Rimsky-Korsakov Golden Cockerel was first an opera with ballet, until Diaghilev, manager for Les Ballets Russes had the idea to let Fokine choreograph a ballet to which the singers would sing from the side, not act. I assume it was in this version that Jacques Guerlain would have seen Le Coq d’Or and have been inspired to create a fragrance on a theme.

Anna Volkova in Le Coq d'Or

Anna Volkova in Le Coq d’Or

An astrologer starts the tale, it is a magical satire dressed up as a fairy tale opera, and a not only golden but also wise cockerel is the title hero. The story is about a dim- Czar, about a queen of another kingdom who outsmarts the Czar, and the cockerel who was a gift from the astrologer to the Czar, who helps outsmart them all.

This year Guerlain chooses to re-release Le Coque d’Or, but not for mere mortals; it retails at the astronomical price of 17K €! Only for Czars and Queens indeed.

Mouillettes- re-created vintage Guerlains

Mouillettes- re-created vintage Guerlains

I wouldn’t even be writing about this if it wasn’t for the blogger ‘Monsieur Guerlain’ who to my luck is not only Danish, but offered to come along with his box of re-created vintage Guerlains to give me my own special guided tour through the lot. He was even incredibly generous to share some precious drops of the ones I had proclaimed to be favourites while sniffing for me to investigate further.

It is this version, and not the 17K one that I am writing about, since apparently that one has been tweaked a bit to comply to IFRA standards. *



If you like old books, and have always been fascinated by libraries and antiquarians, you’ll instantly recognise the smell of old bound leather books which opens Le Coque d’Or. Perhaps the old astrologer comes in with Pushkin’s old book to read the poem. The mix of leather, old paper and maybe even the glue and ink, when in fact I think it’s this incredible bergamot (which can no longer be used), aldehydes, dusty orris and a beautiful oak moss which give off this impression. Like the astrologer and his golden cockerel, the iris and moss is there with us from beginning to the end, and takes us through the tale of Le Coque d’Or at a smooth and calm speed.

When the page turns, the fragrance goes more fiery, pepper and especially carnation notes are very recognisable, and it goes from this short flammable outburst to a calm floral beauty, covered in a matte powdery veil. The jasmine is noticeable and given a hint of civet, but between jasmine and carnation I get an impression of a chrysanthemum wreath, with its sombre and introvert aroma.

Alls well that ends …with a light dust of vanilla, some gritty musk, resins and yes that even softer orris and moss at the end. I love how the fragrance has that dry powdery feel and still manages to be so alive on the skin.It’s an incredibly harmonious composition, with an overall matte finish in mauve and moss. A classic and flawless piece from a master.coque dor 002

Let’s hope for a fairy tale ending; do you remember when the ‘Precieux Nectar’ was first released in some golden fountain at an unobtainable price, and later re-released in a bee-bottle as a part of les Parisienne? I hope for this event to happen again in the case of Le Coque d’Or. Is it not after all the cockerel and the astrologer who have the last say in the story?


* Not a single one of the tested fragrances gave me anything remotely close to a rash.

The reissue of Le Coque d’Or coinsides with the release of the Un Soir à l’Opéra makeup collection  for Christmas 2014 which has a Russian opera and ballet theme. The powder is housed in a bottle similar to the original perfume bottle.

14 thoughts on “Classic Beauty- Le Coque d’Or Guerlain

  1. Amazing! Sounds absolutely divine (I was sold at the old book smell). 🙂

    Well, I certainly hope you are correct and Guerlain issues it in a more approachable bottle/size/anything.
    In the meantime, I’ll sit here jealous you got to smell a perfume with the old bound book note. 😉

    • Of course you were 🙂 I’ll let you know if I find another perfume with the same smell of books. It’s a beautiful perfume in such an understated way. I do hope it will be issued at a price where mere mortals can join.

  2. What an amazing sniffing session that must have been. I’m not at all surprised nothing brought you out in a rash. I went on a last minute trip to the Osmotheque yesterday and am more infruiated than ever about the IFRA regulations. I’m writing it up for OT as we speak.

    Anyway L’Coq d’Or sounds wonderful from beginning to end. I hope us mere mortals have access one day. Beautiful description in the 8th para especially.

    • Ooh, can’t wait to read about your Osmotheque experience. And yes it was amazing. And even if there were several that I would like to own, I must also admit that the classics which have survived have done so for a reason. I still think it would be wonderful if they would keep the long gone ones in rotation.

  3. Even though most of classical Guerlain perfumes do not work for me, for the sake of perfumery itself and those who are big fans of the brand I wish all of the perfumes were re-issued (I hate IFRA!).
    The story was fascinating for me since I grew up with this tale and, I think, I still can cite at least some of the parts of this Pushkin’s poem.

    • Really? You can recite some of the poem, I didn’t know exactly how famous the story would be in Russia, so it’s great to know, and I like to envisage you hearing the story as a child.
      The funny thing about the Guerlains that I sniffed is that quite a few of them were very much their own, it is absolutely possible that you might like any of them, even if it’s normally not your thing. The Shalimar was incredible. I am not the biggest Shalimar fan, but this ‘vintage’ version was beautiful. Something about that bergamot they use makes it something quite different, and a lot softer, inviting almost.

  4. Absolutely fascinating! Old book smell… I love it since libraries and antiquarian book stores are one of my favourite places. Old books seem to hide so many secrets and memories.
    Asali, I’m so jealous! I’d love to get a chance to smell it.

    • I know, it’s not really fair writing about something that might never again see a broader distribution, but I started by really wanting to draw the golden cockerel, and then I realised that the release date was actually now, and then…
      I love that smell of old leather bound books too, it was my first thought upon smelling it, and when I told ‘Monsieur Guerlain’ he immediately recognised it too.

  5. Very cool that you got to smell the vintage version of this Guerlain, Asali … and it’s wonderful that you live in the same city (I assume) as Monsieur Guerlain, as I always have thought of you as the ultimate Guerlie girl. Serendipity is awesome! Glad you had this opportunity.

    • We do live in the same city, and it was a fantastic experience. Most of them wouldn’t be out of place at some really edgy niche perfumery. But thanks to IFRA I guess it’s just never going to happen… But, as I also said before, the classics that have survived have done so for a reason. Those are the most groundbreaking, perhaps only Djedi should be added, even if there were several that I should personally like to own and see in production. Big sigh, as you said ‘ever the guerlie girl’

  6. How marvellous to get to sniff these rare scents with Monsieur Guerlain – it must have felt almost akin to a religious rite to be approached with hush and reverence.

    I loved your ‘page turning’ image to describe the Coque d’Or’s development, as well as its *scent* of books, and I now have a real lemming for your beautiful cock illustration – in those wonderdully fiery autumnal colours.

      • A wonderful word you just invented. I might use it in the future 🙂

    • You’re absolutely right in your assessment. I did approach it with hush and reverence, at least as much hush as I could muster 😉
      And thanks for the wonderdull compliment 😀 if you like I can send a high resolution file for you to print, which is the way to go to print it to be fade resistant. Just let me know.

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