Guerlain: Heritage and Innovation in the World of Luxurious Perfumes

Pierre Francois Pascale GuerlainGuerlain is one of the oldest perfume houses in the world that is still functioning today, and it is steeped in tradition, elegance and luxury. One of the most remarkable things about Guerlain’s legacy is that it stayed in the family for so long before being bought out, which boosted the development of such a distinctive branding.

Back in time to 1828, the company was founded by Pierre Francois Pascale Guerlain, who originally set up a shop in Paris selling vinegar and perfume. As a trained chemist, Guerlain was able to bring knowledge and expertise to an industry that was in its infancy, and composed and manufactured custom fragrances with the help of his two sons.

The Rise of Flagship Perfume House

In the beginning of 19th century France, a society where regular bathing had not yet caught on, the use of eau de cologne became integral to anyone who could afford it. Previously, perfumes were not considered to be important and it was more socially acceptable to leave the skin naturally scented. Guerlain was a key part of the origination and growth of the perfume industry.

The shop in Paris allowed the founder to meet and develop relationships with his clients, and this early importance placed upon customer service has become a legacy in the Guerlain brand. As well as getting to know his clients and learning from them, Pierre-Francois-Pascale started to develop personalised fragrances for special customers, including many celebrities and historical figures (say, Queen Victoria of England and Queen Isabella of Spain). This attention to detail helped Guerlain to develop a reputation for being an elegant and exclusive perfumer.

When Pierre-Francois-Pascale died in 1864, the Guerlain brand was already enjoying great success, but when the company was taken over by sons Gabriel and Aime, it expanded even more. Gabriel took over the role of the commercial side of the business and made sure the company was up to date with latest marketing and production techniques, whereas Aime was responsible for producing the perfume itself. By this time, perfumes were being considered more and more desirable and people wished to cover up the natural scent of their skin. Guerlain benefitted from this as well as helped this trend to develop.

L'Instant De Guerlain Pour Homme AdOne of the great breakthroughs in the world of perfume came under the supervision of Aime, and this was the development of synthetic substances which produced odour. Previously, perfumes were only able to incorporate naturally occurring substances, but due to the work of Aime, the revolutionary perfume Jicky was produced containing vanillin, coumarin and linalool. With the turn of the 20th century came the real development of the perfume industry, and Guerlain was now a big name amongst the brands that were producing artistic and creative fragrances, the likes of which had never been seen before.

Eventually, the nephew of Aime, the person whom Jicky was named after, took over the role as the “nose” of Guerlain. During those 60 years that Jacques Guerlain looked after the company, many ground-breaking developments were made. At the time, the perfume industry was becoming bigger and bigger, and more money was being poured. On the other side, the products coming out were more creative, distinctive and elegant. Stylish packaging and unique perfume bottles were just a few innovations that Jacques Guerlain introduced.

New Era, New Perfumes, New Guerlain

During the World War II, the perfume factory owned by Guerlain was damaged extensively. Despite this setback, a new factory was built in 1947, along with the fourth Guerlain boutique. Shortly afterwards, Jean-Paul Guerlain took over the company’s reigns and prepared to add his list of classic perfumes to those already designed by his forefathers.

Guerlain Homme
Guerlain Homme

The refreshing citrus scent, which reminds of a cold fizzy drink on a hot summer day, constructed with top quality ingredients. Yes, it feels like a day time scent, but would be just good at night. Very distinctive and unique, Guerlain Homme opens with a spicy mint, tea and citrus accord then dries down to a vetiver base. While not overwhelmingly unique, it is well-rounded fragrance with the right amount of longevity and aura to make you shine on every occasion.
Guerlain Habit RougeGuerlain Habit Rouge

The iconic men’s cologne developed by Jean-Paul Guerlain, an outstanding horse rider, and supposedly inspired by his love of the equestrian world. It opens up with bright citruses, followed by some woods and finally settling into a powdery combination of leather, sandalwood and vanilla. Right from 1965, when this fragrance was introduced, Habit Rouge is every Gentleman’s must-have on a formal occasion along with a tuxedo or Armani suit.
L'Instant de GuerlainGuerlain L’Instant

Launched in 2004, the men’s version of L’Instant de Guerlain was developed by Beatrice Piquet and Sylvaine Delacourt. This magnificent fragrance with great longevity and sillage, opens with citrusy accord, topped up with cacao aroma on the drydown. There are some spicy notes thrown in for a well-rounded and sophisticated scent perfect for the office wear. It is a strong, yet inoffensive masculine perfume that stays with you throughout the day. This cologne is still available today and is one of the most popular men’s fragrances ever developed by perfume house.

One of the greatest things that Jean-Paul is credited for is the development of the Guerlain line of men’s perfumes. He created several classic men’s fragrances including Guerlain Vetiver and Guerlain Heritage. He also created what is known as one of the first oriental fragrances for men, Guerlain Habit Rouge. By this time, the perfume house was really developing a reputation for producing imaginative and innovative perfumes.

Guerlain Homme Ad CampaignDespite the success of the Guerlain family as directors of the company, Jean-Paul proved to be the last single director; when he passed the company on it was to a group formed of 25 Guerlain heirs. In a sector that was increasingly dominated by conglomerations, Guerlain remained one of the last independent perfume houses up to 1994. The company began to find that it could not compete with brands associated with the huge conglomeration companies such as L’Oreal in terms of marketing and production, and so in 1994 the company agreed to be acquired by Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH).

The next few years were a challenge for the Guerlain brand as it struggled for autonomy, before eventually giving in to the giant company by whom they had been bought. Christian Lanis was appointed director and became a creator of Champs-Elysees, the first Guerlain perfume to be created by someone who was not from the family. Despite this, the perfume proved to be a massive success, and is regarded as responsible for bringing a more floral note to the Guerlain collection.

Guerlain Golden Bee BottleOver the past century and a half, Guerlain has established several perfumers. Each was required to create their own fragrance in a brand new style, unique to his or her vision. And deep into the 21st century, this tradition continues. 2010 brought about Cologne du Parfumeur, created by Thierry Wasser. He utilized galbanum resin and top, green notes, pushing aside the prior lean on dated bergamot. He, essentially, brought the three hundred year old design into modernity, allowing the simple splash of fragrance to co-exist with the times — even in this age of daily showers and deodorant.

To buy a Guerlain cologne is to buy into a brand that is intimately linked to its heritage and history. Despite this, the company keeps moving forward and is developing new products and growing in size, influence and reputation.