L’Heure Bleue at 100
Société Française des Parfumeurs celebrates the continuing
influence of Jacques Guerlain’s classic fragrance
Victoria Frolova, Bois de Jasmin
According to Guerlain’s archives, Jacques Guerlain was inspired to create L’Heure Bleue in 1912 during a walk along the Seine when he noticed the vivid blue color of
the sky as dusk fell over the city. “I felt something so intense, I
could only express it in a perfume,” he later wrote in his notes.
On Sept. 20, 2012, Société Française des Parfumeurs (SFP), the
society of French perfumers, celebrated Guerlain
L’Heure Bleue’s 100th anniversary. Patrick Saint-Yves,
the president of the SFP,
chaired the event and
highlighted the enormous
influence of the fragrance
in the history of modern
perfumery. For many perfumers, L’Heure Bleue is
not simply a successful
fragrance that survived
two World Wars; it is also a
work of technical and artistic genius.
The evolution of the idea of L’Heure Bleue can be understood
through Guerlain’s earlier creations. Carole Aymé, a training
manager for Guerlain in France, highlighted Après l’Ondée
(1906), a delicate composition dominated by iris and heliotrope.
She likened it to a watercolor drawing in contrast to the image
of an oil painting evoked by L’Heure Bleue.
Like its predecessor, Coty L’Origan (1905), L’Heure Bleue
explores the floral oriental theme, fusing the opulence of orange
flower and iris with the sensual richness of sandalwood, vanilla
and balsamic notes. Embellished by citrus, thyme and the gourmand sweetness of heliotropin, the effect of L’Heure Bleue is
nuanced and multifaceted. Perfumer Jean Kerléo, the creator
of fragrances like Jean Patou 1000 and Sublime, mentions it as
an example of a fragrance with an impeccable sillage.
“It is the universal symbol of the word powdery in per-
fumes,” adds perfumer Patricia de Nicolaï, the president of the
Osmothèque perfume conservatory. “It is for me a masterpiece
of our industry.”
Sophia Grojsman, the author of Yves Saint Laurent Paris,
Calvin Klein Eternity and Estée Lauder White Linen, considers
it a fragrance with beautiful structure and development. Her
Vanderbilt (1981), a successful American classic, is based on the
same intriguing contrast between fresh citrus and orange blos-
som top notes and the methyl ionone, heliotropin and vanillin
According to Guerlain’s archives,
Jacques Guerlain was inspired to
create L’Heure Bleue in 1912 during a
walk along the Seine.
From left, Norbert Bijaoui, perfumer and former SFP president; presenter
Carole Aymé (Guerlain); and current SFP president Patrick Saint-Yves
Pierre Nuyens, vice president of the SFP, and
Patrick Saint-Yves, president of the SFP
To mark the anniversary, Guerlain’s in-house perfumer,
Thierry Wasser, created a new interpretation of the classical
fragrance in three different concentrations which were presented at the conference. Aymé explained that the fragrances
are based on the accords found in the original, but that each
formula was worked in a luminous, airy manner to appeal
to consumers who might be intimidated by the rich aura of
L’Heure Bleue. L’Aurore Eau de Toilette, the most sparkling of
the trio, focuses on citrus and orange blossom. Le Zénith Eau
de Parfum wraps orange blossom and iris into a warm oriental
accord. Le Crépuscule Parfum emphasizes the velvety base
notes. The trio is packaged into a sumptuous coffret created
in collaboration with Baccarat and Gripoix. Aymé noted that
the coffret is meant as a limited edition, but Wasser’s interpretation will join Guerlain’s Les Parisiennes collection in 2013.
L’Heure Bleue remains an influential fragrance within the
perfume industry. Even 100 years after its birth, this iconic fragrance still inspires new trends and captures the imagination.
Address correspondence to Victoria Frolova; email@example.com.
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