Saturday, March 21, 2009

Guerlain Après l’Ondée

By Sali Oguri - Guerlain Apres l'Ondee - Early spring in hues of melancholy

Guerlain Après l’Ondée (1906), a violet-motif fragrance, became the building block of another grand Guerlain masterpiece called L'Heure Bleue (1912), the piano to Après L’Ondée's harp. As musicians sometimes refer to the harp as a naked piano, Apres l'Ondee is a simpler composition compared to its full-bodied and more charismatic sister, and yet the picture it portrays is equally powerful and clear, as a watercolor painting whose colors are intricate hues of blues and violets - Debussy and early jazz.

Après l’Ondée in French means "after the rain (shower)". One of Guerlain's most loveliest, evocative creations, the tender, melancholic blend of shy violets and mossy, wet earth can play one's heartstrings as Itzhak Perlman, Noel Pointer or Yo-Yo Ma can do. Many violet fragrances smell extremely sharp, or hypersweet, sometimes powdery and strangely antiseptic like vintage violet candies (which I'll admit I personally find vile), and sometimes unsweet and watery, like root vegetables still clinging to dirt, but in Après l’Ondée, they smell like the wistful, delicate flowers of the English countryside. The seemingly light, quiet scent actually carries a profundity you might only discover over time, as the dry down stage on your skin reaches full maturity, as you live in it for awhile and get to know it well.

If your patience can hold out as you would sit through a classical or jazz piece, waiting for all the right moments, taking them in within the full context of each piece and performance, you can tune into the deeper nuances of this great masterpiece. Then, you'll find the treaure it held you might have overlooked: a classic house signature Guerlinade base, which according to Now Smell This blog contains bergamot, rose, jasmine, tonka bean, iris, and vanilla. I've smelled Guerlinade on its own and thought it smelled overwhelmingly like lilacs, and perhaps hyacinth - a bouquet of spring flowers so true to their scents that they seemed almost too gaseous to wear. Within the context of each perfume containing it, however, it brings each composition to life, like 9ths, 11ths and 13ths, all the colors of the chordal rainbow with all their infinite overtones sparkling above the tactile realm.

Today, Après l’Ondée is only available in eau de toilette form, and it's increasingly difficult to find. The parfum was discontinued a long time ago, but I've had the chance to sample it, so I will tell you that the parfum version is heavy on the salicylic (wintergreen) element which I did not detect in the eau de toilette.