Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guest Post: Strangers When We Meet - Revisiting L'Heure Bleue by Carrie Meredith


I'm sure you all know the saying "When you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it's yours". Does that also apply to perfume? I set Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue free more than 15 years ago, and just a few weeks ago, I heard its wings gently beating on my bedroom window once again. I have welcomed it back into my life in a way I never thought I would again, and all it took was a sample vial I'd forgotten I had.

L'Heure Bleue has always held a special place in my heart and in my memory. When I was a teenager, it was the first perfume I ever walked into a department store and picked out and bought for myself. I spent a long time at the Guerlain counter, fussing over every bottle in the multi-tiered carousel display, barely believing everything I was sniffing. I grew up with a mother who loved her massive florals (especially YSL's Paris and Cacharel's Anaïs Anaïs), and I had not previously smelt perfumes with so many subtleties, many of which offer an emotional watercolour portrait that you may insinuate yourself into at will. So many temptations, all new, each soul-stirring in their own unique way. But nothing could prepare me for L'Heure Bleue. It smelt like nothing else, like something I absolutely had no business wearing as a young teenage girl. It was like the whispered promise of a young lover, one that you can't be sure will be fulfilled, but you'd be a fool not to take a chance.

I wore L'Heure Bleue for a couple of years, and then I set it aside. I wish I knew what happened to the bottle, but it is long lost. My tastes changed many times over, but I have never gone back into L'Heure Bleue territory since then, until recently. So what brought this perfume back to me? Another new perfume: Oscar De La Renta's Esprit d'Oscar.

Esprit d'Oscar could definitely be a relative of L'Heure Bleue, a daughter, perhaps. Where L'Heure Bleue's transitions between stages of wear are fairly seamless, Esprit d'Oscar is thrilling in its citrus/aldehyde opening, then softens considerably. L'Heure Bleue is something that transcends what I consider "classic", even though it technically satisfies all of the requirements of a classic as well. It left an indelible fingerprint on me, and like certain music becomes too emotionally charged to revisit because of memories you have attached to it, it had to be retired so many years ago. It was stronger than I was. I was laid bare by its ethereal nature, and it turned out that I really was too young to be wearing it - too young to understand it anyway, too inexperienced to know anything about why certain scents affected me, and how. Little did I know how much of a focus in my life those very things would become one day. Why couldn't I have had Esprit d'Oscar 15 years ago? Now I'm just happy to have it because it makes me giddy with joy, something its forlorn kin never managed to do.

What do I get out of L'Heure Bleue now that was lost on me when I was younger? Well, I know what a heliotropin masterpiece it is, how a touch of anise can cool off an entire perfume, and I know how it's possible that once the top notes in a perfume fade and the base notes begin to emerge, sweetness follows, and intensifies over time. This is what I've come to know as one of Guerlain's signatures. I understand how what can be perceived as a cool and distant fragrance is actually full of passion, just an outwardly restrained kind. L'Heure Bleue does not hang from the chandeliers at parties, it has a sparkle in its eye that belies a rich inner world.

Now that I am all grown, I experience L'Heure Bleue in a different way. I am able to appreciate the individual notes for what they are as well as the impression of the whole; I can look at it from many angles, assess, dissect, extrapolate and categorize it. There is nothing technical I can say about the perfume that hasn't already been said a hundred times over, and probably better than I could have said. But that's not the point of my story. What lies at the heart is, well, the heart. I have had a lifelong obsession with perfume, and L'Heure Bleue was a milestone for me. Becoming acquainted with this particular fragrance is an experience I look back on fondly, it was my first real love. I'm at that point in my life where not only is it clear to me exactly what I want, but I'm honest enough with myself to allow the past to show itself to me in whatever form it prefers. I have been receptive to this antique sensory memory, and have accepted it back into my life as part of the pack. It won't be sitting on my shelf as a relic, I can let its white magic wash over me and take hold without the sadness or fear that can accompany the inexperience of youth.

So tell me, are there any fragrances you've let fly away from you only to have them return another day unexpectedly? Perfumes often represent a certain period in a person's life. Is there a special one from the past you'd like to bring back by invitation?

© 2011 Carrie Meredith

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About the guest blogger: Carrie Meredith's blog - Eyeliner On A Cat - delves into the joys and challenges of retaining perfume as her sole mistress. She doesn't review perfumes so much as she lets them speak through her, and she enjoys the company of the witty ones the most. Chasing the soul of scent is her most worthwhile endeavour.

19 comments:

  1. Carrie,

    If I hadn't tried L'Heure Bleue just a couple of days ago and still haven't liked it I would have been running to try it again.

    As to your question about long lost and found again perfume loves, it's not about me: I've never parted voluntarily with any perfume I liked... Well, maybe just one. But it hasn't found its way back to me yet so I don't know if it counts so I let it stay unnamed.

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  2. I think I've maybe let Pi by Givenchy fly away. I received a bottle of it when I was 15/16 from a friend as a present. I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't overwhelmingly enamoured as I would be now had I received it. What I do remember liking was it's sweetness and, what I know now, it's lovely amber quality.

    I seen a bottle of it on sale in Boots the other day. I just didn't have the cash to part with it! Someday soon I'll pick it up again, and relive my teenage years, of discos and the odd special occasion as Pi was a staple wear back then.

    Really nice article too Carrie, you have a great way with words and L'Heure Bleue has left quite the impression on you it has to be said :)

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  3. Beautiful review, Carrie! You evoked the magic of L'Heure Bleue in me again.
    The scent I let get away is Chanel No.19, but I found it again recently and will certainly treasure it forever.

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  4. New perfumes appear in a magical way, like wild flowers in a garden, but if I wish to pick them up it will not be for free :-)

    I really admire L'Heure Bleue, but since I find it a bit heavy on me,I apply the body lotion (yes, there is one!)I know I might miss some notes in this way, but on my skin it actually smells better!

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  5. I let a perfume get away from me and it hasn't come back sadly. Nor is it likely to - Helmut Lang for Men. I used to wear it in the early naughties and loved its muskiness. It is discontinued now and while there are bottles to be had on the internet, they are expensive.

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  6. Ummm... am I allowed to take part too? Yes, I guess I am, I suppose...

    I think there have actually been quite a few perfumes that I've initially rejected or failed to embrace, only to fall in love with them years later.

    The one that comes to mind today is Antaeus. I remember smelling it when it was released and finding it... well, just vile. Horrible. Awful. Totally unwearable. Sweaty and crude, in all the wrong ways.

    Now, it's in my Top 10.

    Reformulation? Or change in taste?

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  7. Undina: I have to admit, the fact that the perfume that got away from you remains unnamed is quite intriguing. Tell me I can't know something and I want to know it all the more. :)

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  8. Liam: Thanks very much. I'll be looking forward to the day you do get another bottle of Pi, and to see if your interpretation of the scent has changed over the years.

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  9. Birgit: Thank you so much! Not only have you found and fallen in love with no. 19 again, but now you're about to be faced with a very tempting flanker, I might add. I definitely plan on getting a bottle of Poudre for myself. Speaking of flankers, I've pre-ordered my bottle of Shalimar Parfum Initial from Saks, it should be shipped next month, so that's one more thing I can stop whining about. Until I find the next thing.

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  10. Alexandra: I've had it happen where a perfumed body lotion works better on my skin that the parfum itself, funny how that works. Sometimes a more diluted version with less emphasis on the top notes is just the thing to make it sing on our skin.

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  11. Michael: I share your disappointment with attempting to track down discontinued scents, even when there are some bottles still in the open market. It's often fruitless and disappointing, but I've gotten lucky a couple of times too. Don't give up hope!

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  12. Persolaise: I would surely have been disappointed had you NOT participated, you're just fulfilling your duty as a supporting friend. :)

    I do remember you singing the praises of Antaeus. Thinking about the idea of any given scent changing vs. us changing, I think many times it's probably a combination of both things. The only way to know for sure is to have some of the old and some of the new to compare side by side, I suppose.

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  13. By the way, Personaise: I am giddy with happiness over the image you chose for this post, it couldn't be more perfect!

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  14. Haha, sorry, I called you Personaise. Sometimes a type-o can be amusing though. :)

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  15. Carrie, I'm glad you like the picture.

    And I'm saving Personaise for my equestrian clothing range.

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  16. Carrie, this is so much more than a perfume review...so many beautiful phrases. Reading it has left with me a feeling of peace.

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  17. Oh, thank you so much Joanne, that means a lot to me!

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  18. I love L'Heure Bleue! Thank you Carrie for sharing these tender memories---they suit the fragrance perfectly.
    :)

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