Tuesday, 12 November 2013

"Nahema Is A Weapon Of Mass Destruction" - Guerlain's Thierry Wasser Pops Into London Again

Thierry Wasser was on fine form during a recent visit to London. When one of the writers in attendance suggested that Boots is the British equivalent of Sephora, he begged to differ, on the grounds that "you can't get an enema at Sephora." For him, these sardonic asides appear to be a method of punctuating more serious, considered insights. For the Guerlain PR team, they're a cause of heart palpitations. But that doesn't seem to worry Wasser. He just carries on, apparently saying the first thing that comes to his mind... although I have no doubt he's always in full control of his mouth. Here are his responses to some of the questions that were put to him.

Has Habit Rouge been reformulated recently?
"One of your blogger colleagues said that the bergamot has changed, it's disgusting blah blah blah. I looked at all my lot numbers and I compared it with his lot number and I didn't see any problems. But I know that since 1994, it has changed. But you know, people change things if they don't know the law. If you know the law, then you can walk on the edge. And people either fell off the edge or walked too safely along the road."

Does he agree that the EDP of Guerlain Homme is better than the EDT?
"Oh yes, The eau de toilette was the sketch for the eau de parfum. It's like with L'Eau and L'Eau Boisée. L'Eau Boisée is much better."

Is there a new masculine Guerlain in the works?
"Yes, but it's hanging in the air because of Mister Arnault [CEO of LVMH]."

Is Guerlain releasing too many scents?
"Sometimes, I have to listen to my President. I can say I don't agree, but I can't not do my job for the President. But at the end of the day, I still have my own sensitivity. And I can say I think it's not a good idea to do Shalimar Parfum Initial L'Eau."

Has he made any progress with his attempts to gain 'cultural immunity' for vintage scents?
"It's very difficult because you have to go to civil servants and politicians. You have to be very didactic and talk and talk and talk. There's been a shift in priorities since the scientific committee last year in August advised limiting or banning another hundred products. So the 'cultural exception' of vintage fragrances went onto the back burner. And I worked very hard - but, unfortunately, alone - with the commission, to discredit the scientific committee's advice.

"The agenda has been scrambled because the previous Commissioner For Health And Consumer Policy resigned because he was suspected of getting money from the tobacco industries*. And there was a sort of 'commissioner by interim'. There is a new commissioner from Croatia [Neven Mimica], who took office July 1st, since Croatia joined the EU. And I have to massage the guy."

Has he come across any more surprises whilst studying old Guerlain formulae?
"Nahema! There is so much rose in it. I think, with Après L'Ondée, it's my second most-expensive concentrate. So much rose! Absolute, oil and everything. And that's why IFRA is after it, because of the rose and the methyl eugenol. Rose from Bulgaria is between 1.5% to 2% methyl eugenol, and the absolute is 2.5% to 3%. And that's the chemical which, allegedly, potentially, will kill us all. I really and truly suspect that Nahema is a weapon of mass destruction.

"You know, the perception of our industry is wrong in Brussels. They think it's vain, it doesn't serve any purpose etc etc. And since I'm a manufacturer, they think I'm a capitalist who wants to make money on the back of consumers, and eventually poison them. So, I said, 'Oh really? Do you know what I'm talking about? It's 7 gallons per year, worldwide, of Nahema extrait. And you are going to tell me that I'm the capitalist who wants to make money, by selling 7 gallons? Be reasonable.'

"I had an interview with the Bulgarian Deputy**. Every year, I buy 10% of their national rose production. And I said to him, 'I come here every year to different villages. And it's very funny, because on the one hand, you signed a law limiting, drastically, the use of rose. And on the other hand, the European Union has sponsored a brand new distillation factory for roses. Are you going to be able to explain to me what's the rationale behind this?' But of course, they don't know. They're far away. Even if it's in their territory. And I said, 'Look, I'm not a scientist, but the only thing I can tell you is that 10% of the national production is 20,000 people who live off my order. So 20,000 people are 20,000 votes. Just think.' But you cannot undo a law. What's cooked is cooked. Now what I'm trying to do is to put Nahema outside the law, in a separate category. But that's going to take time."

Why was his Iris Ganache discontinued?
"The inventory is huge and the Prez wanted to kill two fragrances, Vega and Sous Le Vent. So I told him that the L'Art Et La Matière collection is a new thing and it's versatile. But Sous Le Vent was Josephine Baker's fragrance! I will fight for these perfumes because they are Jacques Guerlain's and people know them. I'm sorry, but to me Iris Ganache is more anecdotal than Liu, for example. So I told the Prez that if he wanted to vacuum around, he should take my thing. And he said, 'But you made it.' And I said, 'So what? I made all of them.'"

* For more on the EU Commissioner, please click on this link to BBC News.
** Wasser did not elaborate on precisely who this "Deputy" is.



  1. Really enjoyed this - thank you!
    When I read the title, I thought it was to do with Nahema's potency. It's one of the few my non-perfume wearing partner finds 'too much'. However, it's its too muchness that holds such appeal for me. Am wearing some today inspired by your post.

    1. Gimmegreen, thanks very much. Nahema is quite simply one of my favourite perfumes of all time. Without question, the best thing Jean-Paul Guerlain ever made.

  2. he sound's like A LOT of fun to hear. It gives me hope to know that the legacy is in good hands -- below Prez's mercenary shadow, but it sure helps.

    1. Denis, he's extremely entertaining. I should think he must've been a handful when he was a kid at school!

  3. Thanks for this lovely interview. I must say I quite adore Thierry Wasser, Persolaise. His new formulation of Mitsouko is truly very good and I am so happy that he cares so much about the fragrances. I even wrote to Guerlain via email to pass on the message that I want to hug Thierry Wasser. I hope he got it- the message.
    Thierry Wasser's frankness is charming and refreshing as well.

    Re. Sous Le ven and Vega - are they now safe discontinuation- people have been saying that both are discontinued. I am confused !

    And again - Thanks Thierry Wasser. A worthy heir to the Guerlain Throne.

    1. Mimi, thank you for reading it. You're not the only one who rates his work on Mitsouko; quite a few people have given it the thumbs up.

      I don't envy him his job - it can't be easy being part of the LVMH machine - but I think he mostly does it very well, at least from my perspective.

  4. Great interview, what a man! Thanks.

  5. Loved this post! Thierry Wasser sounds like a Whole Lotta Fun. Very talented, knowledgeable man!

    1. Anita, thanks for stopping by. Wasser has always been great company when I've interviewed him.


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