Colour me surprised, I actually like Guerlain‘s new LUI. Quite a bit, in fact. It’s not something I had expected; I’m a Guerlain classicist whose heart beats faster for the old, vintage masterpieces from the house, not the vast majority of fragrances released in the LVMH era. LUI is a rare exception. I find it enjoyable, even delectable at times, smooth, nicely balanced, easy to wear, and a cozy comfort. There is no fruitchouli or goopy red fruits to smother you to death with cloying excess; no cheap vanillin shrieking like a deranged, over-sugared, saccharine banshee; no laundry cleanness; no harsh woody-amber synthetics; and no bombastic amounts of caramel-praline bearing with such an intemperate degree of sickly sweetness that it would put a diabetic in a coma. No, nothing like that for once. Instead, there is only a soft, smooth, carefully calibrated, and good quality cloud of golden sweetness laced with floral, woody, smoky, spicy, and amber flourishes. It’s simple, uncomplicated, and hardly novel, and I grant you that my standards, expectations, and bar for LVMH-era Guerlain are basically at rock bottom levels but, even so, I wouldn’t mind a bottle of LUI for myself and it’s been a long, long time since I said that about one of the company’s new releases.
A garden lies at the heart of Guerlain‘s vintage Apres L’Ondee, a secret garden pulled straight out of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous 1910 children’s classic by the same name. It’s a magical place awakening after a long sleep, brought back to life in early Spring, reborn with tender efforts that make its once untamed nature a thing of the most civilized Edwardian beauty. It’s an exquisite portrait, even a heartbreakingly tender one, where fields of iris and violets sprout to spread their wings in the morning light, their petals glistening with dew and the last traces of Spring showers, their fragile bodies shooting up out of dark, loamy soil to bloom against rambling thickets of rose, sweet jasmine, and green walls covered with climbing vetiver and mossy greenness. The morning light is bright, fresh, and crystal clear, offset by gleaming rays of yellow citrus freshness and clean aldehydes, but a mist of sweet powder swirls through the air like pixie dust and tiny fairies.
Vintage L’Heure Bleue was my first Guerlain love. In fact, until I tried a really old bottle of vintage Shalimar extrait, no other Guerlain came close. There was just something about L’Heure Bleue for me, something that touched me deeply in ways I can’t always explain. Part of it is that I first encountered the fragrance during a happy time in my life, but mental associations are not the only reason. To me, L’Heure Bleue simply feels special. The way the notes are juxtaposed sometimes feels intellectually introspective in a way that almost rises to the cerebral, and that fascinates me, but at the same time, the fragrance always triggered an even stronger emotional response as well, filling me with joy, comfort, and a sense of serenity in a way that other legendary Guerlains did not at the time.
Trying to date vintage Shalimar and navigating eBay to find a bottle of the version that you prefer might seem, at first glance, to be an exhausting, frustrating, and complicated ordeal. However, there are some basic guidelines to make things much simpler. It’s one of those things where the learning curve is initially steep but then, suddenly, it becomes much easier and one can (almost) whip through the many eBay listings to single out the bottles which fit your precise parameters.
So, today, we’ll spend quite a bit of time on the bottle designs for vintage Shalimar, their history, their appearance, their packaging, their differences, and the methods used to try to date the bottles. The analysis will focus almost entirely on the parfum, but I’ll briefly mention the bottle designs for the other concentrations that were discussed in Part II. They’re not hard to date or figure out for the most part but it’s a different story for the parfum, particularly since most eBay sellers don’t know much about the bottles that they’re selling. I recently had to use a sort of reverse engineering or backwards analysis based on nothing more than the height dimensions (inches) of a listed bottle in order to figure out its size and possible date of release. And I’m still not sure of the latter! The process is much like playing Sherlock Holmes except, in this case, the tiny clues often don’t yield definitive answers.