The man and his inspiration
A SON IN SPIRIT
His predecessors were all called Guerlain. His name is Wasser. But, talent is thicker than blood and it was thanks to his that Thierry Wasser was chosen as a worthy successor.
Thierry Wasser is a rare and distinctive creator. A sensitive, refined, elegant and charming man, he is nonetheless a down-to-earth, genuine bon vivant. Practical, and without a trace of ostentation, his craftsman's mindset is unmistakable. This personality, combined with astonishing olfactory abilities, would allow him to become the fifth generation of House perfumers.
THE CHOSEN ONE
Jean-Paul Guerlain entrusted him with the top secret "Formula book", passed down from generation to generation in the family. He also revealed to him all the know-how and mysteries of a unique olfactory legacy.
Passed down by way of story-telling, demonstrating and sharing, the Guerlain fragrance heritage is one of which only the most extraordinary of noses could be heir.
THE LEGACY CONTINUES
Thierry Wasser became the new Guerlain nose in 2008.
He was then tasked with continuing the work of his illustrious predecessors without curbing his talent or restraining his very personal signature. A challenge that he soon met, creating Idylle, Habit Rouge l’Eau and Shalimar Parfum Initial and reinterpreting the famous Guerlinade for La Petite Robe Noire, the House's latest must-have.
FOUR GENERATIONS WENT BEFORE HIM
Thierry Wasser is the worthy successor of four generations of perfumers who have written the Story of perfumery. All different, but all daring. Each one invented or reinvented perfume, ceaselessly exploring new olfactory territories, pushing back the limits of creation. Four unique imprints that have marked and continued Guerlain's unique olfactory signature, known as the Guerlinade.
PIERRE-FRANÇOIS-PASCAL GUERLAIN (1798 - 1864)
He founded Guerlain in 1828.
"Make good products, never compromise on quality. For the rest, have simple ideas and apply them scrupulously." A chemist, explorer, incredible inventor and pioneer, he combined every talent to make Guerlain the "Patented Perfumer of Her Majesty" Empress Eugenie and the favourite Perfume house of every court in Europe in less than 50 years.
AIMÉ GUERLAIN (1834 - 1910)
The House of Guerlain invented modern perfumery in 1889. Aimé was the man behind this. At the time, perfumes all looked to reproduce the scents found in nature. Aimé made a bold move and changed the history of perfumery for ever: for the first time, he incorporated synthetic notes into a natural composition. Jicky was born. Unique, surprising and intoxicating all at once.
JACQUES GUERLAIN (1874 -1963)
"A successful perfume is one in which the scent corresponds to an initial dream."
Jacques Guerlain, one of the greatest noses of the 20th century, was also the most poetic. He saw perfume as an art in its own right. A friend of artists and a collector, he would compose 400 creations, including internationally successful hundred-year-old fragrances (L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, etc.), and open Guerlain's famous address at 68, Champs-Élysées.
JEAN-PAUL GUERLAIN (1937 - )
"A perfumer must go to meet scents."
Jean-Paul Guerlain was nicknamed the Marco Polo of essences. Instead of brief stays, he liked to settle for a while in a plantation to create a sense of isolation conducive to creation. A lover of women, obstinate and passionate, he cared nothing for trends and ignored the well-trodden paths. An experienced rider, he would create Habit Rouge. It was also on riding over fresh grass on horseback early one morning that he would have the idea for the Aqua Allegoria. We owe him Vetiver, Samsara and many of Guerlain's cult fragrances.
The Guerlain Stamp
You recognise "a Guerlain". And if the House's fragrances leave a truly distinctive sillage in their wake, it's because they have a secret in common.
It lies first and foremost in the abundant use of natural, often rare, raw ingredients, chosen to the most exacting standards.
These natural notes are enhanced by synthetic ingredients. A combination that offers an explosive sillage and strength.
A Guerlain fragrance is then characterised by its style of composition, with a preference for short formulas and overdoses.
While long formulas blend a host of ingredients and can lose their character, Guerlain has always boldly chosen the structure of a short formula, which is much more difficult to balance.
However, the Guerlain signature would not be the same without what is known as the "Guerlinade": rose, bergamot, jasmine, tonka bean, iris and vanilla are the House's six cult ingredients of which each generation has delighted in creating new combinations, each in their own way, offering a new interpretation of their legacy.
The House's olfactory stamp arises from its expertise, exceptional character and daring approach. This is why a Guerlain fragrance enchants, stimulates and captivates the senses like none other.
6 Cult Ingredients
The Guerlinade perfectly expresses Guerlain's creative spirit, its sense of boldness, the art of overdosing and short formulas.
A real signature, it combines six raw ingredients that are found in the House's perfumes:
This fruit from the bergamot, a tree born from the process of grafting a lemon tree and sour orange tree, features predominantly within Guerlain's portfolio of ingredients.
95% of bergamot production comes from Italy nowadays. It is also nicknamed the green gold of Calabria.
Mild and lively, sparkling, floral, sweet and bitter all at once, it has been used in Eaux de Cologne since Guerlain was founded, and now features in La Petite Robe Noire. Some prefer its more mature version, from which both floral and fruity facets and a pronounced earl grey tea note emerge, while others prefer the greener version with its livelier, more direct nature.
Incidentally, the Guerlain perfumer creates his own grade of bergamot: it is a communelle, a blend of harvests from several producers which ensures an unchanging olfactory profile year after year whose quality is consistently of the highest degree.
Out of over 700 botanical varieties of roses, only two reveal their secrets to perfumery: the centifolia rose and damask rose.
Guerlain uses both varieties, and Thierry Wasser is particularly fond of the Damask rose from Bulgaria. The pickers must gather five tons of petals to obtain one kilo of this precious essential oil using a steam distillation technique. Every year, Wasser composes a communelle of Bulgarian rose essence with fruity lychee and raspberry notes. A Guerlain favourite, rose is found in many fragrances, but it is particularly prominent in Nahema, Idylle, Rose Barbare, Nuit d’Amour and La Petite Robe Noire.
Jasmine is a very delicate little white flower that is picked very early in the morning. It is so fragile that it is transformed into a concrete at the site of harvesting to preserve the full richness of its olfactory facets.
There are two botanical varieties of jasmine used in perfumery:
- Jasminum Grandiflorum, which originates from Grasse (France), Calabria (Italy), and India
- Sambac jasmine, which comes from India.
These two varieties have their own quite different olfactory characteristics.
Thierry Wasser uses both varieties and, in the same way as for rose or bergamot, selects specific batches of jasminum grandiflorum each year to create a communelle that is unique to Guerlain.
Guerlain showcases jasmine in many of its creations, but its presence is particularly noteworthy in Jardins de Bagatelle, Samsara and Idylle Duet Jasmin Lilas.
The tonka bean is contained in the fruit of Dipterix Odorata, a tree native to South America, and primarily to Venezuela. It is dried and processed by extraction to obtain its absolute, which is a real perfume in itself. Here, one can detect the scents of almond, honey and spices, as well as hay and tobacco. It gives fragrances a warm, enveloping and inviting note.
Tonka bean is particularly distinguished in Tonka Impériale from the exclusive L'Art & la Matière collection, but is also found in Jicky, Habit Rouge and Shalimar, in which it makes a wonderful accompaniment to the oriental notes.
This orchid variety with a sensual fragrance is one of the House's favourite ingredients. Guerlain owns of an organ which contains every variety of vanilla in existence.
The vanilla pod is the fruit of an Orchid, which Guerlain has always used to its full potential, whether in the form of a tincture or absolute. Creating a tincture is an age-old technique that consists in infusing vanilla pods in alcohol. This gives a unique result that distinguishes Guerlain fragrances from all others.
Although most commonly cultivated in Mexico, Guerlain has also selected varieties from Madagascar, India and Tahiti.
It can be found in most Guerlain perfumes but is most notable in Spiritueuse Double Vanille, Cuir Beluga and Angélique Noire from the exclusive L'Art & la Matière collection, along with Jicky, L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar and Habit Rouge.
For perfumers, iris is the embodiment of luxury due to the beauty and purity of each of its facets. The rarest and most expensive ingredient, iris is the epitome of desirability. Only a few perfume houses have the chance to use this precious nectar. Of the two botanical varieties, Iris Pallida and Iris Germanica, Guerlain uses only the Pallida variety, the finest of the two. It comes mostly from Italy and more specifically from Tuscany. The iris is a beautiful mysterious flower that jealously guards its treasures… underground. Indeed, it is its rhizomes that are processed in order to obtain the divine substance. The plant is grown for three years before being harvested, and the rhizomes must be dried for three years to obtain an extract of optimal quality. Its extraction is long and the result of a delicate process.
Guerlain perfumers have always treasured its highly characteristic powdery facet. We find it most especially in Après L’Ondée, L’Heure Bleue, Insolence and Shalimar Parfum Initial.
All the poetry and rarity of an exceptional fragrance: the finest essences are often found in the most remote locations. At Guerlain, a good perfumer is a good explorer.
AN EXACTING SELECTION
Like the four generations of perfumers before him, Thierry Wasser travels the world to discover exclusive ingredients of exceptional and unchanging quality.
This total mastery of ingredients - whether natural or synthetic - is of the utmost importance to Guerlain. It should be remembered that synthetic ingredients are no simpler to procure, as certain high-technology molecules of the finest quality, such as civetone, may prove to be extremely rare.
Overseeing every branch of the fabrication network is crucial to Guerlain. Thierry Wasser controls the quality of the suppliers and production sites, looks for new partners, and launches new branches, bringing to each his wealth of expertise and know-how.
Thierry Wasser includes sustainable development projects in his approach, thereby ensuring a long-term supply of the raw ingredients, an essential asset in the creation of his perfumes.
Knowledge of what is happening on the ground is indispensable in order to be a responsible buyer. For the House, creation must go hand in hand with social development and respect for the environment. Nature is a precious legacy for a perfumer, which he is responsible for protecting and passing down to future generations.
The photographer Denis Chapouillé accompanies Thierry Wasser on his travels and his quest for rare ingredients, capturing some of the key moments of this wonderful human adventure.