Soul of a Carnation – Œillet 000 Guerlain Vintage

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.

Fashion 1879

Fashion 1879

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’.

Music Performance 1879

Music Performance 1879

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.guerlainoeillet000


*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.

15 thoughts on “Soul of a Carnation – Œillet 000 Guerlain Vintage

  1. This really sounds amazing, Asali. How fortunate of you to own a bit, and be able to experience it. Your statement about how many roses gave their lives in 1879 really resonated with me and reminded me a lot about why I love collecting old coins. I’ve always imagined the hands they’ve passed through and where they’ve been. I imagine children excitedly fondling a silver dollar 130 years ago, or soda’s being purchased 90 years ago. I love it – and I love that material objects can forge a real human connection to the past. Thanks for the post – I wish I could smell the loveliness you describe.

    • Hi Sun Mi, I bought a tiny bit at The Perfumed Court, and seriously considered buying a few mls, but then; what’s the point, when after that there will be no more, and I might just not use it for fear of running out. I will just remember its beauty and wear all my other perfumes of which there are enough ;-). Should I one fine day stumble upon it, well… Yes, it’s true material objects which have been lived in and with can forge a connection, love the thought of your old coins in a child hand. I found some pictures of my house (an appartment building) a little while back, from when it had just been build in 1902, and the surrounding houses where still cottages/ hovels. Actually, in one of the appartments lives a very old lady, and her father was the builder/ owner of the original house back in 1902, which is amazing really in this day and age. Anyway, thanks for you comment:-)

  2. Asali, you made lots of interesting points that make me understand your deep love of vintage perfumes. The one that had the most impact for me was your remark about the otherworldliness of smelling a composition for which so many roses gave up their lives. Yes, now we’re in an age where there isn’t that breath (in our perfumes) of something that once lived.

    Great food for thought, and your description of the perfume is wonderful, too.

    • Yes, most perfumes now I suppose are almost homeopathic in there use of natural oils 😉 Which then perhaps is a good thing. I remember JC Ellena (I think) once complaining that if all mainstream perfumes would take to add just a smidgen of natural jasmine just to say that ‘it’s there’, then that would overexploit the marked, or some such thing…
      And also look at those dresses, this was such a different day and age, incredible that it’s still possible to be linked to that.

  3. Wait, what?!
    Did I understand this correctly? Guerlain released more than 100+ perfumes in one year?! Were they doing personal perfumes?

    Btw, this sounds amazingly beautiful. Looking forward to Heliotrope!

    • Yes, Ines, you understood correctly, however, this could be incorrect of course, but still- 14 in any one year around the turn of the century was a small production! Ins’t that incredible? I do think that it was customary to use many of the same ingredients though, and just tweek the formular a little bit. Perhaps close to something like todays flankers?

  4. Stunning post, Asali. As Suzanne says, so much great stuff in here. Really enjoyed learning about how the soliflores were romantic interpretations and the insightful obervation that “even the best soloist needs the best accompaniment to be able to stand out”. The footnotes were fab too!

    Fantastic illusration too.

    We need to start a crowd-funding campaign to get you to The Osmotheque!

    • Thank you Tara <3, You had me in chuckles in the metro today ready of the crowd-funding campaign 😀
      Yes, when 'Monsieur Guerlain(blogger)' told me about Muguet, it made perfect sense, that it should have been that way, even if it's hard to comprehend now. I suppose in a way that's why soliflores havn't got a great reputation now; a bit like Vodka, which just has to be as pure as possible with no own flavor, it can't really be improved upon. If it smells perfectly like rose, or any other flower, perhaps it begs the (devil's advocate) question why wear it at all, if it hasn't got something extra?

  5. There are just a couple of people who could make a vintage perfume sound interesting for me and you’re one of them. As a rule, I skip most of reviews for something I’ll never try or wear so only a full bottle purchase by one of my blogo-friends or a beautiful illustration (as in your case) keep me reading.

    Every time I smell something old, discontinued and beautiful, I moan the loss – so I try to protect my feelings by not actively seeking any of those scents that I might love.

    • Aaawww, thanks Undina, much appreciated.
      I think it’s a clever strategy, not actively seeking out vintage perfumes that you feel might be loves for you. I don’t often seek out samples of unattainable perfumes ( apart from icons like Djedi or My Sin- to know what the fuss is about), for that same reason. I’d rather take a gamble at a FB of an auction site than spend money on a sample I might never come near a bottle of. When I still write about this little gem, which I ordered mostly out of a carnation- whim, it’s because I felt I had something to share apart from just the scent.

  6. Asali, you are fueling my vintage fever! As usual, your writing is so beautiful and it made me feel that I could almost smell this gem. There were so many treasure from bygone days. Pity that we can’t enjoy them so easily these days…
    By the way, love your illustration. Gorgeous!

    • Sincere apologies Magpie ( Muwahahahah, my evil plot to convert you all has started 😉 )
      Seriously, I would only recommend buying vintage if it’s cheap and looks like notes you care for, but then it is this time capsule that will maybe make you see another era from a different perspective. And that they are not easy to come by, makes it all the more special, and sometimes heartbreaking.
      Thank you, it’s wonderful to know that my illustrations are appreciated 🙂

  7. I shouldn’t really like a perfume with carnation *and* heliotrope *and* animal musks in it, but your description sounds as lush as the scent itself. Love the imagery of black red roses and velvet. Maybe I am limbering up to a carnation epiphany – you know, the next civet? Stranger things have been known. And even if this one wasn’t my thing if I caught up with it one day, I was certainly able to savour it virtually!

    • Oh Vanessa, you make me laugh 🙂 I need to pick up that game again of ‘give me your nightmare frag’, although actually I think by now I know more about the fragrances and notes you don’t like than the ones you like. You need to give me an update of your ‘best of’ soon. . In the meanwhile; thank you for sticking it out with me while I take you on a journey through your most feared notes, perhaps see it as a kind of therapy 😉

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