UPDATE: MONDAY, NOON-ISH: Did everyone notice Patty’s post from Saturday with her MDCI winners and her Etat Libre Sample Special she’s running until tonight? Uh, me neither. I think she’s shy about pimping her decants on the blog … so let me do it for her. Have you been in there? Lock up your Visa, honey. Since the last time I looked (what, last week?) she’s got the Juozas, Shalini, Doblis (!)… anyway, on to the post, but take a peek into her store if you haven’t done so recently, up there in the upper right hand corner of the blog.
If Guerlain Mitsouko is sublimely elegant, and Apres L´Ondee is divinely tender, then L´Heure Bleue is profoundly evocative. Notes (via Osmoz) are: Bergamot, anise, carnation, orange blossoms, rose, tuberose, heliotrope, iris, vanilla, musk.
While L´Heure Bleue shares a number of notes with Apres L´Ondee (including anise, rose, violet, and iris), the driving force behind L’Heure Bleue is the cherry-almond smell of heliotrope. I’ve noticed how little love and/or attention L’Heure Bleue gets relative to Apres or Mitsouko (hence this post). I’m also surprised by the number of people who appreciate Apres and can´t stand LHB, and I´m guessing (extrapolating from the reviews on Basenotes and MUA) it´s the heliotrope that does them in. If POTL renders itself as entirely Play-Doh on some people, clearly L´Heure Bleue comes across as a too-sweet, powdery mess on others.
L´Heure Bleue has a rush of bergamot at the opening, and a little anise (prompting the mind´s association with Apres), but from the start it´s a much heavier, sweeter, denser scent than Apres. The rose and tuberose chime in (sweetness and light!) and then cue the violins, here´s the heliotrope and the iris together, and whether you find that spicy, almond-ish smell, swaying back and forth into cherry-vanilla, divine or horrible is impossible to know until you try it.
I´m lucky enough to have a sample (thanks, Co-Skank-mistress!) of the parfum, which, like every Guerlain parfum I´ve tried, takes the idea of the EDP, makes it richer, and smoothes all the edges off. In Guerlain, I don´t always consider that an improvement. L´Heure Bleue parfum does have the advantage of moderating the blast of heliotrope into a tighter fragrance, more concentrated on the other florals (particularly iris), rendering it both smoother and spicier than the EDP. It´s stunning. But it´s also expensive and hard to find (although NYC Bergdorf has it and most of the others in parfum) and, really, the EDP is well worth owning.
L´Heure Bleue translates as “the blue hour,” the time between daylight and darkness that can be transfixingly beautiful, if you put down what you´re doing and go outside to enjoy it. In the long, late summers of my childhood the Blue Hour seemed stolen, being well past our normal bedtime. The ripe smell of sultry Washington evenings, indoors and out, captivated me. I loved chasing the first fireflies in the early dark serenaded by the sound of crickets and the occasional cicada. My mother was an indifferent gardener, but we had several highly fragrant, spicy tea roses that are sadly long gone, and huge beds of nicotiana, pollinated by moths, a scented wonder in the dark. The powerful smell of those flowers at dusk, and the sight of them in the darkness – the blood-red roses blooming black, the nicotiana ghostly white – added to the mystery. Maybe I was just a weirdo, but all of it together in the gathering night, with the sound of bats chasing insects overhead, and the smells, and the changing colors in the deepening darkness, filled me with a pleasure so intense it felt illicit.
During the day I was a bookish, clumsy tagalong in a neighborhood teeming with mostly older kids, all of us shooed outside by our mothers to play. I had a sense of myself as a terrible actor in some play with a complex plot which perpetually escaped me. The Blue Hour was when I began to fit into my own skin, to see and hear things differently, to have an understanding that, out there in the gloaming, something magical was waiting for me. The dark was beautiful, and I felt more beautiful in its presence.
To some people, L´Heure Bleue is a melancholy smell, and I can see it. What is more symbolic than the quiet, inevitable approach of darkness? But to me the smell conjures the vague, sweet promise of mysteries to come.
Blue Hour, Mary Maginnis, 2003, www.antreasiangallery.com
A note on the concentrations, because I can´t stop myself. If you´re sniffing Guerlain for the first time, please, please do not smell the EDTs. With the exception of Jicky, the Guerlain EDTs are such pale, sad, bitter semi-dupes of the stronger concentrations I almost wish they´d do away with them, particularly since the EDPs can be found online relatively easily.
Hello Patricia, I believe you are the writer of poetry and the lover of pomegranates. In that sense, we’re twins. I live in Canada and was sent a poem of yours by a woman in a group that raises funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Your poetry is stunning. So, I’m wondering if you’d approve my posting of two of your poems. You can see them at http://www.gggg.ca under the left menu heading “Thoughts of Grandmotherhood.”
I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Pat — oh, I hpe you love [email protected]};-
I am married by a thread in the blue hour,
spellcaught, transfixed like a love-blind houri
just playing with words and feelings…miss the fireflies…none in South Florida…but an abundance of soft, velvety evenings…had to order a sample of the L’Heure Bleu…[email protected]};-
Ellen — hah hah! I am only your very, very slightly older sister! Yay! Some of the whippersnappers on this blog…/:)
Insolence is, I think, a lovely fragrance that bears a definite kinship with LHB. I hope you like it.
Cheez — oh, goodness, nicotiana and lilac!!! There’s a wondrous combination. I’d forgotten about the smell of lilac at night.
It sounds like you had the same sort of suburban oasis to be grateful for. My dad grew up on a farm, which I’ve always thought would be sort of cool.
Gina — well, you can be a weirdo with the rest of us!;)
Katie — dang, I loathe Shalimar. In all its concentrations! It’s always been a bit of a mystery to me how Guerlain’s #1 Baby is my enemy. But there you have it.
I guess they put out the EDTs, like all the other lines, for people to smell because they’re the cheapest. But what a crappy way to introduce fragrances. Even Saks and NM here only have EDT testers.
Nina — well, I worked the word “gloaming” into the post, because it’s such a perfect word. I’ve tried working it into my vocabulary a time or two as well, but it just sounds dumb, nobody uses it around here.
If Guerlain doesn’t love you, despair not. There are lots of other things to smell. Something may change for you as well — I am revising my Caron relationship.
Madelyn — oh, I so wanted to go to the Guerlain event!:(( I am sure it will be wonderful, have a spectacular time! And sneak in there and smell the JARs if you haven’t yet … and they offer great salads at lunch in that little restaurant down there!! (there ya go — full service perfume blogging:))
Hey, March: For all I know, you’re younger than me (42– hardly a babe by any stretch). But older sisters have that tantalizing ability to know stuff you don’t — in the case of you & Patty, how to appreciate Guerlain & Caron. I’ve just recently sent off for Insolence, figuring that it might be like the AAs — a way to ease into the world of Guerlain. (Perhaps I am the only person in the world who really likes Pamplelune?)
It would be so interesting to post a map of the world on here on which people could stick a cyber-pin where they live. It’s lovely to think of all the different world perspectives showing up on here.
Ah… Thank you for your gorgeous post March! Your memories of summer twighlight sound remarkably similar to mine!
Growing up just north of the 49th parallel, twighlight seemed to last forwever starting in late spring. I have memories of the hypnotic scent of nicotiana, & lilacs wafting through the open windows at dusk.
We had no fireflies, but interestingly, we had bats too! We lived not far from a wooded ravine, and many evenings at sunset I can recall sitting in the back yard and seeing something flutter by silently only to realize it couldn’t have been a bird.
I’m so grateful to have grown up in a suburban house with a big green leafy yard to experience those long summer evenings in. If I ever were to become a perfumer, I would attemt to recreate that smell & call it “Nightbloom”.
Such a lovely review for a scent and a time that I love. The blue hour is my very favorite time of day, I love the light, the way all things have a lovely bluish hue. I find there’s this strange sort of sadness I actually enjoy (I’m definitely a weirdo)during this particular part of the day.
Your evening childhood memory sounds precious. I don’t know nicotiana, but now I want to. How beautiful…
Except for the bats. I know they aren’t going to eat me, I know… but they still freak me out so badly that I instantly turn into the stereotype of a shrieking hysterical girl.
There are some folks who do enjoy the edt Guerlains, specifically Mitsouko (I think they’re on crack, but they don’t seem to like the big peach I guess) and Shalimar (which I particularly don’t like, but some folks seem to wear its more stringent stark representation of the fragrance better.) I’d hate to leave them out. I just wish that spotting the edps in STORES was a little easier sometimes. It seems like everyone opts for just devoting space to the edts and screw the edps for some mysterious and obviously wrongheaded reason.
If you could all kindly perform mental insertion of the end bracket I failed to put into the above post, I’d be deeply grateful. A missing end parenthesis always leaving me ‘hearing’ in a mumbled undertone….sorry.
What a perfect painting for the perfume, March. It makes me think of the endless evenings in Scotland, where I grew up. (The high northern latitude makes for long, lingering midsummer twilights where you can still read a book outside at midnight. It’s called ‘the gloaming’. That picture is exactly what I want LHB to smell like, but each time I’ve tried it, I get an initial blast of that Guerlain Exquisite Pain, and then a long decline into perfumey mess. These Guerlains do not love me, alas!
What a beautiful photo along with the most exquisite L’heure Bleue write-up! I was forever searching for a place to put LHB – now you have managed to do it ! Twilight -in between daylight slowly surely easing itself into darkness. How bewitching – my favorite introspective time of day ..or night .
I ,in my mature years. have finally been able to appreciate the complexity and genius of LHB..an acquired taste. I am going to the Bergdorf Goodman .Guerlain event on Feb.8-10. I will be sniffing LHB, to be surg with Apres L’ondee. Vol De Nuit etc. For me LHB would be an cool weather evening scent – its so dressy and elegant. When would you best wear it ?
Thank you – March , your review was a pleasure to read!
Oh, March, I believe you do get the cherry-almond accord. It’s amazing to smell how fragrances develop on different skins. If I got Play-Doh, as some people do, LHB would not be my favorite fragrance!!! (Holding hand to heart at the horror of it.)
Cemeteries and bats weren’t spooky for me either. There were three separate cemeteries in my neighborhood, each with a different character. They were fascinating.
I do miss the fireflies of the East Coast now that I’m on the other coast! Summers are not complete. :((
Maria — what a great story about Havana! The part I left out of my post because it sounds just too creepy, no matter how I wrote it, is the house I grew up in is next to a cemetery, and we played in there at night all the time. Lots of bats. But there was nothing spooky about it to me — it was what I was used to, and seemed perfectly normal. That’s where my mom is buried, and my dad is right next door…
The notes I find for LHB vary widely depending on the source. Basenotes lists maybe 5 things. But I smell what I smell and I went with it — that powdery cherry-almond accord around which LHB orbits is, I believe, heliotrope. The fact that another commenter gets Play-Doh from LHB tends to confirm that, in my opinion, but you’re right — I could be wrong!
Tom — you definitely get the LHB in New England. I’m sure there are wunnerful things about your current locale, but… I’d really miss [email protected]};-
Vi — for their early years, daughters 1 and 2 were in Santa Fe. I tried (and failed) to explain fireflies. One of the really fun things about moving back here was their excitement upon seeing them for the first time.
Yes, I’d guess the Play-Doh is the heliotrope, which is what happens to me with other frags.
Robin — the Jicky EDT is lovely, and actually layered over the parfum they’re wonderful together. The opportunities for the EDT present themselves more regularly … the parfum is fairly intense on me.
That’s a good question about the Apres. So far as I can determine, no — which seems mighty peculiar, doesn’t it, for something that’s been around for so long? So I WANT to say yes, but cannot find a reference. Of course, you can almost say the same thing about Jicky — the PDT was very hard to find, even in Europe.
P — I can’t believe your mother let you have mallets!:o You’re lucky you still have your teeth, IMO.
Em, no… I don’t have that book. I know. I’m a fraud./:)
March, that was a beautiful evocation of the blue hour itself and of the perfume. Transitions are indeed beautiful. At the last apartment we lived in in Havana, my mother and I used to sit on the balcony and watch thousands of bats fly by us from the nearby cemetery. Now I’m afraid of dusk because of the mosquitoes; there aren’t enough bats around!
L’Heure Bleue is my absolutely favorite perfume. If I had to sum myself up with one perfume this one would be it. It inspires longing–as did your review. My bottle is sitting three hours away in the house we’ll finish moving into on Thursday. Moreover, I have a sinus infection, so even if I were near the precious liquid, I would inhale at my own risk.
I was surprised to read your discussion of heliotrope, as that is not one of the notes the Guerlain Web site lists. I get no almond or cherry-vanilla–absolutely ***NO*** Souvenir de Luctor et Emergo.
I tried on Apres l’Ondee decades after I began wearing L’Heure Bleue, so to me LHB will always be the “true” version. 🙂 The first time I put on l’Ondee the DH said, “It’s not you. It doesn’t have the mystery of your usual perfumes.” What a nose! It just so happens that Luca Turin (all bow) :)>-^:)^ is quoted by Chandler Burr as writing that l’Ondee is “the counterpart–the fresher, younger brother–of the mysterious L’Heure Bleue” (Emperor, 36). One shorthand way of describing the difference between the two is that Apres l’Ondee is a floral while L’Heure Bleue is a floral with an Oriental base. There’s also that striking note of bergamot at the beginning of LHB. Don’t get me wrong; I think l’Ondee is beautiful and enjoy wearing it–on my lighter, fresher days. (I won’t say “younger” because there are none of those.)
I was an outcast dreamer too, Elle and March. It all worked out for the best. #:-s
…and thanks for the heads up about Patty’s store. I thank you, my bank balance does not. :d
What evocative writing! I miss that “l’Heure Bleu” dusk. The closer you move towards the equator the less you get of it: where I grew up in New England it seemingly lasted an hour in summer, in southern California it last moments.
What evocative writing! I miss that “l’Heure Bleu” dusk. The closer you move towards the equator the less you get of it: where I grew up in New England it seemingly lasted an hour in summer, in southern California it last moments.
March, that was DC in the summertime of our childhoods, wasn’t it? You know what I miss most? The lightning bugs! There aren’t any lighting bugs here in So Cal. 🙁
I’ve always loved Apres L’Ondee, but never cared for L’Heure Bleue, because it has a play doh-type note that I do not like. It must be the heliotrope.
No matter! This is a beautiful post, my friend.
Have to agree that the parfums are not always an improvement, at least, not if you’re already very used to the EdP. Agree that the EdTs are by & large inferior, but you’re right that Apres is an exception, and I like the Jicky EdT very much. Did they ever make an Apres EdP?
So is that a yeah or a nay? I never can tell which way you are getting incriminated. You HAVE to have it. If you don’t, it will be an early birfday present.
Pounding? Please, we were much more brutal than that. Croquet was a Full Contact Sport at our house. We were wretched children. My poor should-be-sainted mother.
don’t worry, you’ll soon have a little set on its way to you! I did see the two new ones, which aren’t available at Bendel’s yet, but Gerard promises to keep me informed.
I think it smells like, well… a Virgin. 🙂 Sorry, sorry!
Pam — I should be more careful with my commentary. Apres is the winning EDT for me because there is no more of the other parfum 🙁 unless you get it secondhand. Having said that, I like the EDT better. I swapped my parfum decant away.
P — refusing to answer the Perfume Legends question on the grounds that it may incriminate me:d
Also, I can just pitcher the sweetness of you and the rest of your kin, out there pounding each other into the ground over a game of Mother May I…
Patty — you tease me with those puddy etats!;) Did you see the name of the new one on NST — Don’t Get Me Wrong Baby, I Don’t Swallow? No, seriously. Wonder how that smells?;)
Angela — that’s it exactly. We smell a lot of things that are beautiful, but only a handful of those are evocative. I wonder why that is?
V — objectively, the parfum is clearly superior. But there’s something about the EDP… maybe it’s because it’s the one I got used to first? I also think I kill off some of the sweetness on my skin.
Iris — thank you. I hope you like it.
Christine — that is hilarious about the bergamot. I mean, to me it’s such a guy-cologne staple, what is he objecting to? Although maybe that’s the issue — no guy-smells on his woman? It does fad pretty fast.
I too prefer the EDP, I believe. I also (lean in close here while I whisper) think that LHB is the closest Guerlain relative to Insolence.
Tigs — oh, you are going to have SUCH a good time!!! I hope you fall in love all over again with all the best parts of your life — and several parfums.:x
annE — thanks for that beautiful blue hour memory! BTW, Patty has LHB parfum decants in her store… just enabling your addic — uh, education.:d
Gaia — this weather is WICKED cold. Supposed to be worse as the week goes on. I snuck up to NYC for one day last week to see a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was wonderful.
Marina — OD, huh? I did that with Black Cashmere. Still waiting for full recovery.:-w
Ellen — thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing “slightly older sister” rather than “mother.”:d
Most of the AAs are extremely fleeting on me, Winter Delice being a new, loved exception.
Hey, little sister — how do you feel about Insolence? Not a trick question. Just wondering.
Hey, Marchie. What a lovely post. I especially love twilight in the spring here (which lasts about two-three weeks) when the air is slightly cool and everything looks greener and prettier.
I’m on the fence re L’HB. But Apres L’Ondee is a real favorite; I’m wearing it today. Its bittersweet aura is usually perfect. Guerlain EdTs I most like are Apres, Chant and Jicky.
LOL at Patty’s Puddy Etats. Clever girls, both of you. 🙂
Elle — you ARE my smell sister, aren’t you?!?
I found that painting googling “blue hour.” I was sad to see it had sold, I would love to own it!
vashopper — you’re welcome!:)
Hey, March, do you have the Perfume Legends book? If not, I’m going to have it sent to you. Edwards loves most of the things you love. It’s a horribly expensive coffee table book that you can sometimes dig up for under $100, but I think it’s a must-have for any serious perfumista.
Yeah, you’re a weirdo, but one of my favorite ones.
You described that time of day perfectly, and, I guess because it and dawn are the transitions parts of the day, they will always be my favorites — the time of change is always magic. Also why I love spring and fall the most.
We used to rat around at that time of day, playing outside in the summer, usually red light/green light or Old Mother Witch What Time is It or Mother May I or Annie Over. You couldn’t see anything anymore, so it was the shadows and the unseen that held your attention the most. And the night rung out with laughter and rules fights and scuffles (big family, you know).
Right now I’m nose deep in some Puddy Etats, there’s some great skank in these bottles!
Picasso — what have you been up to?!?:-?
I too love reading a review of a classic I love. It can’t all be new, or niche, can it?
Flor — now, reading these comments is interesting. I get the feeling that, for the group of LHB fans, Apres is okay (or great), but not necessarily as great as LHB…
Chaya — thanks for sharing that Roja Dove information. I always love it when some esteemed personage shares my exquisite taste… you included.:d
Masha (and everyone) — I can’t believe all the love out there for LHB!!! It makes me all goopy and sniffy and soppy.:”>
Masha — I guess it’s what you’re used to, but I still think DC summers are the best, in spite of the humidity.
Leopoldo — I suspect you’re a weirdo, too.:x
*Big sigh of appreciation* Thanks so much for this review! I love L’Heure Bleue, too. It’s one of those few scents that doesn’t just smell like a piece of heaven, but creates emotion. Now that’s what I’d call art.
Beautiful tribute to L’Heure Bleue! It remains one of my absolute favourite fragrances. Of course, the parfum is just magical!
What a beautiful post. You’ve inspired me to re-try LHB.
Nice piece of writing, girlfriend!
I love LHB but do not like Apres l’Ondee at all. However, I can no longer wear LHB around my husband because he can’t take the blast of bergamot. Sometimes, I “sneak” some on & make sure it’s well dried down before I’m around the man. That seems to work out well. My preferred concentration is the edp.
Lovely, moving post on one I’ve always wanted to try, March. I’m waiting for my LHB parfum sample from Patty, and hoping to sniff all the concentrations of this and Mitsuoko in Paris to decide on (a) purchase(s). I’m excited because Apres blew me off my horse and I like heliotrope (in limited doses). And – no offense – I knew you were an awkward bookworm: they always make the funniest, kindest adults.
March, what a lovely review! Twilight has always been my favorite time of day, and you capture its magic here. It seems to hold such a sense of promise (along with its seasonal equivalent, autumn).
I have just been thinking lately that I need to re-try L’Heure Bleue; it’s always seemed too sweet for me and isn’t one of the Guerlains that I wear. However, as you point out, this may change if I ever get my hands on a sample of the parfum. I really *want* to like this one.
I must share one of my favorite twilight memories: One evening in early fall, I was riding the Red Line, and as the train began its ascent to cross the bridge over the Charles between Boston and Cambridge, I literally gasped. The river, the buildings of the skyline, and the sky itself were all the same color – yes, you guessed it – a deep yet brilliant blue! I felt as if I were in a painting, or in a fairytale come to life. It was one of those moments that keep me holding out some hope for all the rest of the days in the year. 🙂
How beatiful! If it weren’t so cold today I’d get myself out and off to Bergdorf to try the parfum. I love Mitsuko, but LHB didn’t do it to me in the EdP. This post is enough reason to give it another try.
Loved it. Overdid it. Can’t wear it anymore. :((
Wonderful review, March. 😡
March: What a beautiful piece of writing! Doesn’t it seem sometimes like being a reject kid makes one a more interesting adult? All the time popular kids spent hanging out with other kids, us reject kids could spend thinking.
Can’t wait until I grow up and can appreciate the Guerlains (other than the Aqua Allegorias) and the Carons. I feel like you & Patty are my slightly older sisters, telling me how cool it’s going to be when I grow up! Thanks to you both!
What a beautiful description of those summer twilights. I live for twilight and dawn. The hinge times of day are by far my favorites. The only thing I ever found troubling about living near the equator is the shockingly short twilight. It wouldn’t be the blue hour, but the blue minute or even second. I also am a hard core fan of L’Heure Bleue parfum. I appreciate Apres l’Ondee and occasionally will wear it – but, in truth, rarely. It’s almost always L’Heure Bleue that I reach for. I’m going to have to try the edp.
Thank you for reminding me why I love L’Heure Bleue. I, too, was that “bookish, clumsy tagalong” chasing fireflies in NY during “the blue hour”, memories I’ll always cherish. It’s exactly why I really like Apre L’Ondee, but LOVE L’Heure Bleue.
Thanks for the beautiful review!
I love reading reviews of my favorites. L’Heure Bleue, AprÃ¨s l’OndÃ©e, and Mitsouko are three I can’t really imagine life without.
I’d say something poetic, or maybe just cogent, but the sun is coming up, and I must get to bed or turn into a frog…or something.
Good morning 🙂
I love, LOVE L’Heure Bleue. I wouldn’t have a complete wardrobe without it. I love all the concentrations, I cannot find fault with any of them. I love Apres L’Ondee as well but prefer LHB. I own both and they are a great source of pride and joy. Thanks for writing about one of my favorites. It really is a melancholy, feminine, and infinitely elegant perfume.
Good morning, my fellow geeklet !
I love hearing about your memories and reflections.
While I enjoy Apres, I’m much more of a LHB girl, myself. More intense,more everything…
Along with Mitsouko, Roja Dove says it’s a great favorite of his- that, on the right person, it smells like the creamiest , velvety skin.
Not everyone can pull it off- it’s either divine, or putrid.
Be well, sweet lady.
Thank you so much for your beautiful evocation of childhood evenings in DC. I shared those, and well remember the fireflies. It was a beautiful time and place and I’m going to put on some LHB right now, it’s one of my favorites. Beautiful prose!
And for that very reason…=d>^:)^