THE SPIRITUAL SON
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, authentic bon vivant. A man in touch with the land with a craftsman's mindset, without a hint of ostentation. 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.
Relating, demonstrating, sharing, conveying: a precious heritage that only an extraordinary nose could receive.
PERPETUATING & COMPOSING
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.
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.
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 of 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 in one.
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 (NÉ EN 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 beaten 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.
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 that all generations have adored combining, each in their own way, to offer a new interpretation.
The House's olfactory stamp arises from its expertise, exceptional character and daring approach. This is why a Guerlain fragrance enchants, stirs and captivates the senses like none other.
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:
- Calabrian bergamot: Guerlain is a major user of this fruit from the bergamot tree, derived from grafting a lemon tree and sour orange tree.
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 in one, 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, which gives it floral and fruity facets and a pronounced earl grey tea note, others prefer the greener version with its livelier, more direct character.
Incidentally, the Guerlain perfumer creates his own grade of bergamot: it is a communelle, a blend of harvests from several producers in order to ensure an unchanging olfactory profile year after year and maintain extremely high quality.
- Rose: 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, he himself composes a communelle of Bulgarian rose essence with fruity lychee and raspberry accents. A Guerlain favourite, rose is found in many fragrances, but it is particularly distinguished in Nahema, Idylle, Rose Barbare, Nuit d’Amour and La Petite Robe Noire.
- Jasmine: 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 the concrete at the harvesting site to preserve all the richness of its olfactory facets.
There are two botanical varieties used in Perfumery:
- Jasminum Grandiflorum native to Grasse (France), Calabria (Italy), and India
- Sambac jasmine from India.
These two varieties have their own quite different olfactory characteristics.
Thierry Wasser uses both varieties and, as for rose or bergamot, selects specific batches of jasminum grandiflorum each year to create a communelle specially for Guerlain.
Guerlain showcases jasmine in many of its creations. Its presence is particularly noteworthy in Jardins de Bagatelle, Samsara and Idylle Duet Jasmin Lilas.
- Tonka bean: the tonka bean is contained in the fruit of Dipterix Odorata, a tree native to South America, primarily Venezuela. It is dried and processed by extraction to obtain its absolute, which is a real perfume in itself. We can detect the scents of almond, honey and spices, as well as hay and tobacco. It gives fragrances a warm, enveloping and gourmand 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.
- Vanilla: this orchid variety with a sensual fragrance is one of the House's favourite ingredients. Guerlain possesses an organ gathering together all the vanillas in the world.
The vanilla pod is the fruit of an Orchid. Guerlain has always used and abused it. It uses it 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.
It is native to Mexico but there are many producer countries. Guerlain has specifically selected varieties from Madagascar, India and Tahiti.
It is found in most Guerlain perfumes but is most particularly distinguished 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.
- Iris: for perfumers, iris is the embodiment of luxury through the beauty and purity of each of its facets. The rarest and most expensive ingredient, iris is the object of every desire. Only a few perfume houses have the chance to use this precious nectar. There are two botanical varieties: Iris Pallida and Iris Germanica. Guerlain uses only the Pallida variety, which is the finest. It comes mostly from Italy and more specifically from Tuscany. The iris is a beautiful mysterious flower that jealously guards its treasures… underground. In fact, the rhizomes are processed 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 adored 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 remotest lands. At Guerlain, a good perfumer is a good explorer.
Like the four generations of perfumers before him, Thierry Wasser travels the world to uncover exclusive ingredients of exceptional and unchanging quality.
This total mastery of the ingredients - whether natural or synthetic - is of the utmost importance to Guerlain. It should be remembered that synthetic ingredients are not simpler to procure, as certain high-technology and very high-quality molecules, such as civetone, may prove to be extremely rare.
Overseeing the channels is essential for Guerlain. Thierry Wasser controls the quality of the suppliers and productions, looks for new partners, and initiates new channels, bringing the necessary 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 heritage 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 the different moments in this wonderful human adventure.