Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Watch out for those old Guerlain bottles...

image: skybluepink

 Disclaimer: I am not a Guerlain expert, nor have I ever been...

But who doesn't love a good Guerlain? Even hearing the name makes me go a little wiggly-jiggly in the knees. From the pretty shiny bobbles that populate the makeup counter to the gallons of amber juices swirling around inside of precious crystal flacons, it's all good. Really good.

And there's nothing better in the whole world then something like this:

 image: another travel guide

But Guerlain isn't just my mother's perfume, it's everyone's mother's perfume and therein lies a problem. If you're thinking about getting into collecting vintage Guerlain perfumes, know this--  everyone else is looking for vintage Guerlain perfumes, too. And for some (insane, ungodly) reason nearly all of them are perfectly willing to pay way, way more than you would normally ever think about spending on perfume. Just know that going into the whole thing.

image: monsieugguerlain

Part of Guerlain's mystique may come from the grand story about their most cherished (vintage, pre LVMH) fragrances- Jicky 1889, Mitsouko 1919, Shalimar 1926 and Chamade 1969- that they were all created by Guerlain men for the women they loved. Each one is indeed like a love story, a masterpiece.

But be prepared because Guerlain will break your heart- it's the Guerlain curse. You haven't heard of the curse, you say. Well, stick around, try a few. It won't be long before you will find one, the one most likely and you'll have decided that you either a.) have to have it, but can't find or can't afford (see above) it or b.) can't wear it, but feel you have to be able to wear it. With Guerlain it always comes down to one of those two cases.

Take me, for example. Like many vintage perfumistas, I've decided.  Mitsouko is the Guerlain for me. In fact it is 'the one'- the one perfume I'd wear if I couldn't ever wear any other perfume, ever; the one I'd grab if the house was on fire... But there's a problem: it's too darned popular. Why, it's almost a cliche... predictable at the very least. But I love it, it smells- well, just perfect. Plus they just ain't makin' it like they used to.... so I'm compelled to pursue it, endlessly... searching, searching for the all too rare bottle of that certain vintage to pop up. So there you have it- my personal Guerlain heartbreak...

image: vetivresse

Then you'll find those who really feel they should be in love with Shalimar. Don't ask me why so many people say they cannot wear it... must be they're only trying the vintage cologne versions, which to tell the truth can tend to go a little sour on the leather.  But I think in its present condition LVMH has tamed this beast entirely. I can't imagine anyone not being able to wear the newer Shalimar versions (reformulations/flankers, whatever you call them). It's been neatly neutered- all fluff and pure sweetness, no teeth, no claws- but I'll admit, I love it.

image: dailymail.uk

I hope you decide not to take my tongue in cheek sour grapes to heart... and just to prove that I love y'all, let me give you a little tip about collecting those vintage Guerlain perfumes that beginners may not know- many of the older spray bottles can be unscrewed. I hate to have to say it- but you have to be smart about collecting- that means they could potentially be refilled or otherwise compromised. I'm not saying avoid those bottles altogether, I'm just saying you should know Guerlain has favored using these 'refillable' bottles for quite some time. Make sure you know how a certain perfume is supposed to smell and don't let one of these bottles be your first experience with trying a scent.

The Guerlain cologne bottle style below (with the pleats and cute little 'hips') circa 1960s-1980s is one example of the screw-off top and removable atomizer stick (leaving the mouth of the jar open)...



And there are squatty black plastic shouldered, fluted bottles very like the red shouldered one shown below, which also unscrew and can be refilled (I'm not sure about dates for this one):


If there are these two, there are likely to be others. Ironically, the blue and white decorated tin canister bottle, which is often referred to as refillable, is NOT refillable in the same, open and pour way.

The cartridges that fit into those bottles are sealed and cannot be easily refilled, diluted etc... just popped in and out. So, I quite like finding cologne in those bottles. Of course, I really like to find sealed, corded bottles like the one below, whenever possible:

And just a quick aside - I really like Guerlain's colognes, eau de toilettes and eau de cologne formulas. The vintage versions of these juices are often stronger and more beautiful than other makers pure perfume versions. Thanks to the beautiful quality of these creations you don't always have to have the pure perfume in order to get a great sillage and sensory experience.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

images: all the little thumbnails are from ebay auctions

11 comments:

olfactoriastravels.com said...

Perfect timing, I´m just getting into the vintage Guerlain experience, so much to learn, so much money that could be spent, sigh...
Your Mitsouko experience is a little frightening, may it is best to be content with what is easier to obtain (as if ;))

moi said...

I am addicted to a few Guerlains, but have nearly given up bidding on eBay. As you so astutely point out in this post, most of the juices are way too costly for the average working gal. And, in your one previous, it's way too easy for nefarious sellers to fake a "vintage" perfume. There is one seller on there now that I suspect is doing so. Twice now, I've followed sales of an empty bottle which three to four weeks later popped up on this person's eBay store filled to the brim and advertised as the real vintage deal. So, as much as I adore eBay and as many perfume bargains as I've found on there, I stay away from the Chanels and the Guerlains. Instead, I hound antique shops and garage/estate sales. Which last year netted me a perfect Shalimar extrait in the umbrella bottle for only $12.

Amelia said...

olfactoriastravels.com- That's the thing about the big G, you can't stay away even if you want to!

Amelia said...

moi: Thanks for adding your voice and sharing some REAL vintage perfume wisdom!

Vintage Lady said...

I LOVE SHALIMAR! It's my favourite perfume, I could wear it always but also like wearing other perfumes as well. I don't like the new versions, the light versions of Shalimar. I prefer to wear it cautiously than put on a scent that lacks of the other ingredients. Even if Shalimar eau de parfum doesn't smell exactly as back in the last 70s, at least it is close to the old one, the twenties scent. I really can't feel good when I wear other versions, only Ode a la Vanille, but then, to me it is not complete.

Amelia said...

Ah, Vintage Lady... You're more of a traditionalist with this one then? And one with darn good taste too, since there's nothing better smelling in the world than good vintage Shalimar. But it's kinda funny about Shalimar with me because I love all versions of it. Unlike almost any other perfume I can think of, it just works; the newer versions, the older versions- everything's good.

Vintage Lady said...

Yes, I am really traditionalist when I speak about Shalimar. But I must add there are memory connotations when I speak about this perfume. Thus said, maybe this is why I do not prefer the lighter or diverse versions that have been made of this scent. You know, pysychology has to do a lot with scents:-)

Amelia said...

Exactly- Do you think we loose or diminish the strength of our connection to perfume if we switch around too much?

Vintage Lady said...

I think it could happen but this is my personal opinion of course. Because when I smell Shalimar variations, for example, and go back to Shalimar tout court, then everything comes back again. And the variations give me different experiences as well, I do not close the doors of course. It is just that the first one in this case happens to be the true one for me and my world of scents-memories-sensuality-mysticism.. all this and more perhaps!

Amelia said...

Hmmm... Thank you for such a thoughtful answer. You make me think of a story about Andy Warhol. As I understand it, he switched scents every few months but only wore one scent for each period of time. He boxed and stored each 'old' scent; presumably he planned to smell everything again and relive his past via perfumes at some point... I think his way is charming to chronicle things with perfumes.

Vintage Lady said...

This is an amazing way to travel, yes!