Perfume house founded in 1828 by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain. Guerlain at first sold imported toiletry products; eventually, he began to develop his own fragrances and to create custom perfumes for his clients. He soon became the official supplier to many of the crowned heads of Europe. Eau de Cologne Impériale (1853) was created for Empress Eugenie, and introduced the now iconic "bee bottle" decorated with the golden bees of the Napoleonic crest.
After his death, his son Aimé Guerlain became the house perfumer. His best known fragrance, Jicky, was created in 1889 and is widely considered to be the first "modern" perfume. Aimé was also said to have developed the famous "Guerlinade" base used in many of the iconic fragrances from the House of Guerlain.
His nephew Jacques Guerlain took over as perfumer and launched Apres L'Ondee in 1906. He went on to create many of the masterpieces which established the modern reputation of Guerlain, including L'Heure Bleue (1912), Mitsouko (1919) and Vol de Nuit (1933). Shalimar, possibly the house's best known fragrance even today, was introduced in 1925. Its creation was said to have been an accident: "while examining a sample of vanillin, Jacques Guerlain suddenly poured the entire contents into a nearby bottle of Jicky, just to see what would happen."1
Jean-Paul Guerlain is the grandson of Jacques Guerlain, and was said to have assisted in the creation of Ode (1956); his first solo perfume effort was Vetiver, in 1959. Other well known fragrances by Jean-Paul Guerlain include Habit Rouge (1965), Chamade (1969), Eau de Guerlain (1974), Nahéma (1979), Derby (1985), Samsara (1989).
Guerlain remained family-owned until 1994, when it was acquired by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. Jean-Paul Guerlain retired in 2002, but has continued to develop fragrances for the house. In 2008, it was announced that Thierry Wasser had been appointed Guerlain's house perfumer.
Recent fragrances from Guerlain
2003: Shalimar Eau Légère, L'Instant, Crazy Cherry Blossom
2004: L'Instant Pour Homme, Glittering Cherry Blossom, Precious Heart
2007: Cherry Blossom Fruity, L'Instant de Guerlain Fleur de Mandarine & L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme Critaux d'Agrumes, Guerlain Vetiver Extreme, Huiles de Parfum Garden Sensuel & Oud Sensuel, L'Instant Magic, Quand Vient La Pluie, Vol de Nuit Evasion, My Insolence, Spiritueuse Double Vanille
2009: La Petit Robe Noire, Habit Rouge Sport, Insolence Eau Glacee, Shalimar Fleur de Shalimar, Mitsouko Fleur de Lotus, Guerlain Idylle, Moscow, Tokyo & New York, Guerlain Homme Intense, Les Secrets de Sophie, Boise Torride
2012: Guerlain Homme L’Eau Boisée, Shalimar Parfum Initial L’Eau, Idylle Duet Jasmin-Lilas, La Petite Robe Noire (new version), Les Déserts D’Orient, Shanghai, L'Heure Bleue Le Zénith, L'Heure Bleue L'Aurore, L'Heure Bleue Le Crépuscule, Shalimar Ode à la Vanille Sur la Route de Madagascar, L'Heure de Nuit
Special series from Guerlain
The Aqua Allegoria range
In 1999, Guerlain introduced the Aqua Allegoria range with 5 fragrances: Herba Fresca, Pamplelune, Rosa Magnifica, Lavande Velours and Ylang & Vanille. The line is meant to "showcase nature", and the scents are lighter and more youthful than the "regular" Guerlain issues. They add to the line every year; they also discontinue the scents quickly if they don't do well. See reviews/notices for Anisia Bella (2004), Mentafollia (2004), Orange Magnifica & Pivoine Magnifica (2005), Tutti Kiwi (2006), Grosellina (2006), Angelique Lilas & Mandarine Basilic (2007), Figue Iris & Laurier Reglisse (2008), Tiare-Mimosa and Cherry Blossom (2009), Flora Nymphea (2010), Bouquet Numéro 1 (2010), Jasminora (2011), Rosa Blanca (2011), Lys Soleia (2012), Bouquet de Mai (2012), Nerolia Bianca (2013), Flora Rosa (2013), Limon Verde (2014).
Les Parisiennes (Reissues)
In 2005, Guerlain completed a major renovation of its flagship store in Paris, and at that time, announced a program to reissue selected fragrances from the back catalog as limited editions under the Les Parisiennes, Heritage and Legacy collections. Reissues to date include Kadine, Sous Le Vent, Djedi, Mouchoir de Monsieur, Voilette de Madame, Vega, Mayotte (originally Mahora), Liu, Purple Fantasy, Attrape-Coeur (originally Guet Apens), Derby, Ode, Vetiver Pour Elle, Philtre d'Amour, Chamade Pour Homme, Candide Effluve, L'Ame d'un Heros (originally Coriolan).
L'Art et la Matière
The L'Art et la Matière line features the work of well-known perfumers, and are meant to "freely express passion for an original, precious raw material". The initial release, in 2005, included Cuir Beluga, Rose Barbare and Angelique Noire.
Where to buy
The major releases can be found at department stores and online fragrance discounters.
If you're looking for one of the more obscure fragrances, try the Guerlain boutiques at Bergdorf Goodman or Saks Fifth Avenue in New York (see shopping report for Guerlain at Bergdorf Goodman), at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, at the Regent Bal Harbour in Florida, in "France" at Epcot (Disney World, Orlando), or at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.
See all articles on Now Smell This tagged Guerlain.
1. Elisabeth Barillé, Guerlain p. 11.