The House of Guerlain is closely connected with Paris, women, and the revolution in cosmetics and perfumes. It was founded in 1828 thanks to the vision and creative talent of Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain.
The ambitious young man proved to be a real inventor and perfume revolutioner. In 1853 he composed the Eau de Cologne Imperiale and helped design its bottle as the wedding gift of Napoleon III to Empress Eugenia. Decorated with 69 bees, which was gilded with fine gold, this bottle became iconic to the House.
The legendary perfumery composition begins with citrus and verbena, and rosemary with cedar, combined with tonka bean, makes the perfume a classic women’s cologne with a fresh, slightly woody sound. The fragrance conquered the Empress and, to recognize the genius, she granted Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain the title of a court perfumer, which was an absolute triumph for that time.
Aime Guerlain continued his work. Inspired by a desire to evoke emotion, surprise, and amaze, Aime Guerlain revolutionized the world of fragrances by first combining natural and synthetic ingredients in the Jicky perfume. Perfumer Aime Guerlain, like his father, studied in London. There, he allegedly met and fell in love with a mysterious girl named Jicky – who then became an inspiration for this fragrance. Jicky became the oldest fragrance in the world that has never been discontinued: it was released in 1889 when the French finished building the Eiffel Tower and held the famous World Exhibition, dedicated to the anniversary of the Bastille capture. The perfume starts from fresh, bright, juicy citrus overflows of bergamot, lemon, and mandarin, shaded by the pleasant aroma of rosemary.
The next heir to the already world-famous perfume house – Jacques Guerlain crafted over 400 creations including L’heure Bleue and Mitsouko. In 1925, fascinated by the beautiful love story of Emperor Shah Jahan and Princess Mumtaz Mahal, Jacques composed oriental aroma and placed a luxurious crystal Baccarat bottle in it. Shalimar, named after Shalimar Gardens that were gifted to Princess by Emperor, soon became one of the most famous fragrances of the House. The composition begins with light passages of bergamot, sparkling citrus fruits, and velvety cedar. After inspiring top notes, feminine overflows of rose and delicate jasmine come to the fore, as well as an exquisite combination of iris, vetiver, and patchouli.
The last representative of the Guerlain family who ruled the House was Jean-Paul Guerlain. He is famous for crystallizing House’s fragrance style. Part of which – Guerlain’s aroma compositions that never elaborate, their components do not hide and do not block each other since there are not many of them. As a case, Nahema perfume, which the author dedicated to his beloved actress Catherine Deneuve in 1979, has only twelve components. Simple at first sight, Nahema took four years of Jean-Paul life – finally revealed its delicate aroma of aldehydes, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, and vetiver.
In a decision widely seen as a break with tradition, the Guerlain family sold the company to the luxury goods conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) in 1994. Thierry Wasser was named the in-house perfumer for Guerlain, and later he created La Petite Robe Noire – the modern flagship of Guerlain House that grew into the whole series. Thierry gives each of La Petite Robe Noire aromas a unique character, but all of them belong in one way or another to the family of fruit, gourmet, and oriental perfumes. Only one chord unites them – Gerlinad – a unique ingredient Guerlain holds as a secret and used mostly as the base of the fragrances. What is known for sure – it contains a specially aged iris root, Comoros vanilla, ylang-ylang, rose, jasmine, and tonka bean.
Now the company is not only the leader of the fragrance production but advocates biodiversity and drives its commitment to sustainable development.