Guerlain Chamade

Quite some time ago, Angie did a wonderful post on Now Smell This on becoming a perfumista – from Stage One (strong interest) to Stage Four – connoisseurship.  I think NST’s Robin later added a quasi-joking stage five along the lines of ennui.  Maybe defeat is the final stage for me.  Many of us have talked in various forums about burnout, both from the sheer number of new releases and, often, their lack of anything interesting to add to the perfume dialogue.

I’ll be honest.  I’m tired of sniffing new product.  All too often it’s a fruitchouli or insipid musk or another gourmand or – in the case of that Chanel Chance Eau Tendre I just gave away unopened – it’s reduced to the sophistication level of a body-care product.  I bet Coco’s spinning in her grave.  Even Guerlain has worn out its welcome with the new releases.  And when niche lines I’ve never heard of beforehand are releasing five or ten scents at once for their debut, I want to grab them by the lapels, gaze deep into their eyes, and say, How about just one?  Or maybe two or three? Faced with all that, I’d rather go dig up my vintage Mitsouko.

There are releases I seek out  – from Serge Lutens, say, or L’Artisan – because the chances are relatively good I won’t be bored.   But more and more, I want to play with what I own.  After years of steady, intense pursuit of perfume the way an obsessed person pursues an evasive lover, I have amassed quite a collection.  Not a huge collection by the standards of some, but more perfume than I will wear in this lifetime.  And in that collection are fragrances that are, for me, the most beautiful scents on earth.  Increasingly, I’d rather spend the day wafting an old favorite than trying the new Tom Ford or Estee or what have you.

Some new fragrances I love, of course; I am craving a bottle of Amaranthine.  And I’m always “discovering” scents from the past, scents I’d dismissed (Dune), or wore and then forgot about (Niki de Saint Phalle), or somehow missed the first time around (Theorema, Chaos and many others).  One of these scents is Guerlain Chamade.

It’s not hard to understand how I might have overlooked it.  First off, it’s not as widely available as some of the other classic Guerlains.  Second, the current iteration of Chamade in the EDT is (like most Guerlains now, in my opinion) much sharper and less lovely than the current EDP version, not to mention the extrait.  Finally, the top of Chamade is such a sullen, green oddity that if I ever sniffed it before, I probably thought, eh.  I doubt it would have made it past the blotter onto my skin.   However, having fallen in love with Chamade in Paris, I pursued a bottle of parfum de toilette (PDT, the slightly “vintage” version) online, although the newer EDP is great too, and the parfum is no doubt gorgeous.

Chamade was released in 1969, done by Jean-Paul Guerlain, and the notes (I’ve seen several slight variations to this list) are hyacinth, aldehydes, jasmine, ylang, rose, blackcurrant bud, galbanum, vanilla, amber, benzoin, and sandalwood.  Chamade-lovers worldwide can now de-lurk and tell me I’m an idiot, but I don’t care for that green opening that seems so utterly disconnected from the rest of the scent.  It’s like a Cristalle dupe without the same pitch-perfect, Marlboro-Light follow through.   Luca Turin says in The Guide that he lived near the Paris flagship store at the time Chamade was released, and it took him months to realize the two perfumes (top and heart) he kept smelling were in fact one and the same.  (He gives it five stars and calls it “a masterpiece.”)

The not-quite-Cristalle top fades, and then all is quiet; is the action over?  No.  Next comes the powdery floral of my dreams – i.e., less powder (not one of my favorite effects in a scent) and more floral.  It’s not remotely baby-powderish, more sweetly diffuse, with a liquor-like richness that’s exceedingly difficult to describe.  LT says it’s a “beautiful, strange, moist, powdery yellow narcissus accord that had the oily feel of pollen rubbed between finger and thumb.”  And I’m quoting that because I’m hard-pressed to do better – there is something oily about it, and it is both beautiful and a little strange – it has a luminosity that makes me think of fireflies in the night, in one of their rare displays of synchronous flashing.  It sends up its small golden flares in measured bursts as I wear it, the heavy vanillic white florals interspersed with the green-tartness of blackcurrant.   It is leagues and fathoms away from the current Guerlains of the quasi-edible variety, but it’s less old-school and “difficult” than Jicky, Mitsouko or Parure (to name three Guerlains I happen to love, but I certainly understand why others don’t.)   For a well-mannered floral with both powder and aldehydes, Chamade doesn’t make me feel like Aunt Nellie pinning on a brooch – it’s too wet and beautiful to smell old-fashioned.    The drydown after two or three hours is well worth the wait – the powder fades, and it’s a quiet, ambery benzoin with a touch of honey.

Chamade fits very nicely in the smell-pretty box, a box that at least for me holds rather more interest than it used to.  It doesn’t require careful consideration before I put it on, and I’ve garnered enough compliments on it to have concluded that others must like it too.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you about that funny, mossy-green opening act.

image of fireflies: nature.com

122 Comments

  1. March–a big part of the fun of reading Perfume Posse and some of the other blogs, like NST and PST, is the good descriptive writing. Love the image of the fireflies flashing on and off at once. Beautifully done– Chamade sounds gorgeous. I’m still in the excited chihuahua phase of perfume enthusiasm– I love running around and smelling everything over and over again. It is such a pleasure to discover an enthusiasm which pushes so many buttons, and yet has no calories. And the husband and kids enjoy it too. I sniffed Chamade at the Guerlain counter a few weeks ago, and didn’t get any of the oiliness. I’ll go try it again. :)>-

    • The excited chihuahua phase is a fun place to be, and don’t let me rush you out of it! Yes, I can think of far worse ways to spend time and maybe a little money … if you can get ahold of it, do try the EdP. I’d say that’s true of most Guerlains (sorry to keep harping on that), I think their current EdT formulations are too sharp and thin, with a couple exceptions.

      • “Maybe a little money . . .” ??? Gawd, what have I been doing WRONG????? :((

        Unless your tongue was planted firmly in your pretty cheek, dear M.

        • Yep, that was a joke. Also, I’ve been deluding myself for eons that I’ve “saved” money via samples and decants, but I can’t even b.s. MYSELF with that one any more, much less anyone else.

          • That’s the flip side of the fragrance frugality coin. I’ve been deluding myself with the “If I get 100mls of this stuff I can swap it around for a dozen decants of all sorts of other different stuff” argument. Got a fridge full of FBs to prove the weakness of said argument. Gotta get me some black market Resveratrol so I can live long enough to actually make a dent.

      • The chihuahua phase is great, so long as I restrain myself from the one night stand purchasing I was doing there for a little while. I have enough perfume now to last my daughter’s grandchildren through long, happy lives, unless I really step up my consumption. I can only try. Gotta get a friend hooked so we can spilt bottles.

        • Hee. The one night stand. That’s when I got into samples and decants. Too many bottles of: what was I thinking?

          • Crepe de Chine–how did I end up with 3 bottles of Crepe de Chine? Do I even like Crepe de Chine? Oh no, is it making breakfast in my kitchen? And, I have so many little samples rolling around. On my bedside table. In my purse. In my desk drawer at work. And, I obsess over the samples I have emptied. Balenciaga Paris– should I get it? Surely if I wait, I will see it at the discount place. Yes, the sample is really empty. Is it really, really empty? Oh no, surely I can tap out one more drop. Leslie Blodgett Bare Skin? Why do I like it so much? It smells like Halle, only better. But that much better? 50 bucks worth better? You get the idea. I hope jaded sets in. Soon.

  2. 25 years ago I shut a misbehavin’ kitten in the bedroom only to hear a crash moments later. My beautiful bottle of Chamade perfume was broken on the dresser and dripping perfume onto the carpet! The cat did live a long life, but I moved on to Mitsouko and L’Heure Bleue rather than replacing the Chamade. It must be a “mature lady” thing that’s had me spending a fair amount of time lately thinking of my past perfume loves-did they really smell as wonderful as my memory of them? I ordered some vintage Chamade from TPC last month and the first whiff immediately transported me back 25 years! It smelled fantastic and I regret all those years without in my life 🙁

    • Oh gosh cym me too! I’ve spent the last year haunting ebay looking for all my old loves…and finding that (a) I still love them (b)they are still better than about 75% of new and niche. For instance I finally nailed a gorgeous gift box of vintage Fidgi; it was apparently popular, although I always had to go to the city to get it. It could be released today, with its whiffs of wet white flowers and tropical and green.

      • Er, me too. I think we’re all hanging out on the bay and elsewhere, filling in holes in our collection. I finally got ahold of that Dune parfum, I kept getting outbid… they still make Fidji, although I don’t have any vintage to compare it to. But smelling it in Paris, you’re right — it felt very modern. I bet the vintage is lovely.

    • In my house, that cat’s days would have been numbered8-x

      I keed…in all likelihood…

      • Seriously, the pooches never knocked anything over? Of course you now have them anesthetized with Yanni… shall I call doggie social services? I think it’s cruel…

        • Lark is perfect in every wayo:-):x. Dash…well…Dash needs work. He has never knocked anything over, but he did get ahold of a red lip liner which he managed to get all over his paws and then proceeded to run around the house leaving greasy scarlet prints on every available surface…pale blue rugs, beige linen chairs, white duvet covers…you get the picturex(. And then of course there was the time he ate my $400 Chanel glasses. Damn, I loved those glasses:-b:((. But touch my Ondees[-x, and it’s curtains for old Dasheroo:(|)8-x

          • Not even Yanni would survive the carnage. Of course, Yanni is totally begging for it, anyway…

    • I’d think cats and expensive perfume would be mutually exclusive interests 😕 unless you could keep them entirely separate. I’ve been relatively lucky so far that the girl-children have kept their mitts off… and hey, you took a vacation from Chamade! Now you can go back to enjoying it.

      • Springing to the defense of felines: mine has never done anything worse than batting some stray sample tube out of reach (and I haven’t actually seen her doing it: it could well be me). I’ve broken bottles all on my own by trying to put them out of reach. The irony! Fracas and Shocking. I think it was the names.

        • I’m shocked at those losses, which must also have been quite fragrant. I have a couple of stoppered flacons I’m terrified of breaking, for fear we’ll have to rip the floorboards up. I have a big-ish bottle of very vintage Guerlain Le Jasmine that I think would kill the neighborhood if it escaped.

        • I remember the Shocking incident. If I remember correctly, your wardrobe was scandalized:o

  3. March, your own “pitch-perfect” description is exactly why I have been trying to get my mitts on some vintage Chamade hopefully at least EDP if not Extrait – no success yet, since whenever a bottle comes up for auction, the barracudas show up in droves with more cash than I can muster – and one day I will get some, I just know it.

    I have been trying to wear my own special favorites more often as well, which is hard to do since I keep finding NEW loves, but at least one day per week I apply something I have had for a long time just to remind myself why I love perfume so much. 😡

    • Well… let me whisper in your ear. I don’t know if you have any musty old perfume shops around, but the PdT bottles (with the green cap and the inverted heart) are stocked there, gathering dust. The one near us, at Tysons, for instance, has the PdT. But the current EdP, which I believe is sold in a refill bottle for their fancy cocktail-shaker spray, is pretty easy to get ahold of, and at least in Paris it smelled wonderful.

      • I have the PdT of L’Heure Bleue and it’s exquisite! Well worth the search.

        • See, this is the slippery slope … I have an older bottle of LHB EDP, but that little, greedy part of my brain says, well, what you *need* is the PDT…

      • Thanks for the hot tip! They probably keep the stuff under the counter in a drawer to, since it’s not new & youth-oriented.

  4. Heh, is there a ‘live dangerously’ phase?? I think I’m through the ‘ennui’ phase, seeking out the ever more extreme; sitting here with Byredo Pulp on, after “loathing” frooty for the last 20 years, adding to full bottle list…thinking to Serge, ‘bring it on baby, Iris SM and T Criminy and Rahat L are too tame for this ole ‘holic’, Dzongka’s just a sweet little dusty thang, you mean ‘Kingdom’ is supposed to be dirty??? (Although I will give MKK a nod for dirty!) Sniffing modern chypres makes me think to heck with it, I’m gonna get wasted on Black Afgano and Absinthe!
    I’m even reconsidering the humungous Montale ouds!!
    Actally I’m deliriosly happy with my collection, and days I spend at home are lost in a haze of samples and dousings.
    I often wonder if the gig is up with my parcel postman…is this the last one I’m going to get through!!!?>:/

    • Mmm, Black Afghano, I’m glad to hear someone else loves that one! I’ve been dreaming about a bottle of that.

    • Hm. Maybe there’s a phase after defeat then. 🙂 I do think I’m going to throw in the towel on much of the new mass-market stuff, and probably much of the niche. And there’s always room on the shelf and in the heart for something more extreme!

  5. When you wrote about falling in love with Chamade in Paris, I dug out my bottle of vintage extrait (which I had totally forgotten that I had) and dabbed on waaay too much of it and got kind of nauseous. But that was my bad and no fault of Monsieur Guerlain’s in this particular case. It’s very beautiful, but I think the powder is perhaps more prominent in the extrait and requires a lighter hand. I’m so glad you brought it to mind, however, because it’s one that I really want to get to know better.

    As I’ve mentioned before in past discussions, my collection is closely edited due to lack of space in this small NYC apartment, and I’d say that a good 75% of it (full bottles, that is) consists of vintage greats or simply oldies-but-goodies.

    I have a lot of new samples and splits, but I rarely revisit them after the first couple of applications because I’d much rather smell great than merely good, and very few of them measure up to what I already own. And when I spring for something that I haven’t yet sniffed, more often than not it will be for something vintage which I have always wanted to try but haven’t yet had the opportunity. The Perfume Canon, ya know what I mean?

    Heck, I spent a month or so last year with my sweet little coffret of vintage Lanvins alone. Not one of them let me down — far, far from it — and it was time and money well spent. I am afraid that most of the time I simply can’t say the same about the new stuff[-(:-<:((

    • Bleargh, too much Chamade extrait would be Too Much … hey, Guerlain ought to use that name on a perfume … 😉

      I think what I tried was the PdT, and if the extrait’s even more powdery, than the PdT is the one for me.

      We must drive folks nuts blathering about the vintage stuff, but … so often when I reach for something that is magnificent, a thing of true beauty, it didn’t come out last year.

      • I think the powder pukeage quotient was more an issue of overzealous operator error than formulation. I’ll restrain myself next time and report back.

  6. Mmm. How nice. I love reading reviews when I’m at home — where I can go the shelf and look around for the object in question for sampling — instead of when I’m at work and can only try my best to remember what something smells like.

    I’ll say that sometimes Chamade is just too much for me. Too floral, too sweet somehow. The top is never jarringly green to me. But it is beautiful, especially when the time is just right. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the ambery, honeyed aspect of it reminds me a bit of Attrape-Coeur. Let’s just say that I know they’re related when I smell that sweet amber.

    My Chamade moment: last February, a drizzly Friday late afternoon, the beginning of our local film festival. A few spritzes of Chamade (I think I have the PdT) and then a walk down our rain-slicked main street to meet a friend… pure heaven, I tell you. Chamade is made for gray, drizzly, spring afternoons.

    • Heck, I completely forgot to add that to the review — any number of people find the drydown of Chamade rather like A-C. And Chamade’s way easier to get ahold of. Since I can’t find my A-C (I know I used to have a wee decant) I couldn’t compare it.

      It’s another rainy, drizzly day here, although not as cold, and I’m probably going to break out the Chamade again!

      • which is exactly why I am not in love with it, though it is gorgeous. I am one of the Wackadoo Few who absolutely adore the open – all that snarly, bitchy green – but the soft, A-C drydown :-< Funny you should write about new/niche burnout. I was just channeling that song "57 channels and nothing on" as I browsed through my collection. I keep going back to my trieds and trues as well. It's well into the 90s here today and I am back in Charmes and Leaves. Tomorrow it will be Imperiale or Agraria Bitter Orange. So predictable. xoxo >-)

        • The 90s?!? Our weather has been so strange. And I know you love those snarly greens… predictable isn’t bad when it’s beautiful. @};-

      • Coming back after wearing the vintage PdT this evening to say that not only is that dry-down related to A-C, but the whole structure, I realized, is like a 70’s, springtime version of Vol de Nuit. VdN, in the vintage extrait, which is the only way I know (and adore) it, starts of with a green blast of what are supposed to be daffodils (or is it jonquils?), but galbanum, for sure, snappier than the hyacinth infused version of Chamade, and over much more quickly (always sorry about that, I like it very much) before settling into it’s gorgeous, velvety guerlinade base, which is darker, and more leathery than Chamade’s much softer version, but still–definitely related!

        • I need to go back and resniff the VdN extrait (I don’t like the lighter versions AT ALL.) You sound right on track with the smell-relationship.

    • Joe, no wonder I have been craving it – it’s been rainy for WEEKs here! :((

  7. Chamade extrait is truly gorgeous, it’s a lush spring garden in a bottle. I actually like the weird green top, though you’re right, it doesn’t fit the heart or drydown. Nevertheless…it really sings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t suit me somehow, so it’s not in my collection. And I’m with you on the burnout thing- there have been too many clone releases to keep up with, and as I’ve gotten more and more into actual botany and natural perfumery, I’ve grown less enchanted with today’s offerings. My collection is pretty big and includes too many discontinued/reformulated beauties to ignore any more- I mostly wear them. I think I own a liter of Niki dSP! Yikes!
    I’m with you on the Amaranthine, though, just buy a bottle already!:d

    • Hee. A liter of Niki would be enough to supply a small country for a lifetime. At least on me, a drop goes a long way.

      Oh, I like to torture myself with things like Amaranthine. Buy it or not? 😕 I’m waiting for L’Artisan Tubereuse to land, which I think it has, and I’m contemplating forcing myself to choose.

      • Amaranthine and NdT are totally different beasts (yes, they’re both beasts!)- I have a huge bottle of NdT if you want me to send you a few mls, just email me. I love Amaranthine, but NdT overwhelms me. It’s longevity on my skin is scary- it takes 2 days and 2 showers for it to wear off! But I know some people who’ve tried it love it.
        The 1 liter of Niki comes from my collecting all of the Eau Defendues- the little zodiac bottles with her own enameled designs-I have them all now, and you’re right, I’ll have to send the perfume to another planet, because all the people on Earth couldn’t use it up in a century! 😮

        • Oh, i love those bottles. I’m pretending they don’t exist, because I know I would do exactly what you have 🙂 One of these days I’m going to pull the trigger and buy the snake parfum bottle and call it a day. Possibly.

          Is the NdT that big? I only got a wee nibble, as you’ll recall, in Paris, before it was released. I’m itching to really spray it on and see what happens. :d

          • It’s El Grande. And since NdT is as strong as Niki, that amount will last my family through 3 generations into the future. So I am very happy to share….

            • I’m not getting that at all. I think it’s just right — certainly not the sillage monster that Carnal Flower and Tubereuse Criminelle are. It is absolutely fantastic, IMHO, and you may well find yourself on the hook for both.

              • Oops, Carter, I meant my bottle was El Grande, not the scent! Actually, NdT is not a traditional sillage monster at all, but it really…projects. It radiates hugely, if that makes sense, but not in an obnoxious way. And so far, a few sprays have lasted me more than 48 hours, which is formidable. It doesn’t smell at all like a trad tuberose perfume, I think people will just have to try it see what they think. It is unique, that’s certain.

  8. I hear you March on the volume of all this new stuff. I’m still trying to smell the things that are already out there and I have SO many yet to get a hold of, entire lines I haven’t even smelled yet. It’s pretty depressing. So many wonderful things, so little money. Anyway, I dug myself back into the house of Guerlain as well and threw down some cash for some Derby. Chamade does sound lovely and it, of course, is one I’d like to smell. You know, someday…I did FINALLY just get my hands on some Amaranthine, though. Hello, cumin. Lovely. Just when you thought it was too pretty for a guy to wear. Not that men have the market on cumin. At least there are those perfumers and houses that you can trust will be reliably good, which can help sort out all of the noise. Until then, I await the shipment of my classics. :)>-

    • So glad you liked the Amaranthigh! That cuminy bit is funny — some people don’t get it on their skin at all. Just milky sweetness. It’s such an interesting scent. But yes, when taking a survey of what I really want to own, and what I wear — well, most of it is not going to be found on the shelves of my local mall.

  9. I can’t say I’m suffering from ennui, because I tend not to sample most of what comes out, especially in the mainstream: I focus on the houses and perfumers that are significant to me — L’Artisan, Lutens, Goutal, in a word the “heritage” niche houses, plus anything Duchaufour, Giacobetti, the Ellenas father and daughter, Mathilde Laurent… And Guerlain because you can’t not talk about Guerlain. Chanel’s been a letdown lately though.

    And that’s what I review, which is why I don’t do much flaming on the blog. Life’s too short to wear something you don’t like for even a day, just for blogging purposes. In the things I *do* review, I’ve found quite a few new loves and very strong likes over the past months, things I’ll be wearing for pleasure.

    But I do regret not having more time to go back to my collection, a lot of which lives in the refrigerator, the rest being in various closets. That said, I find I’m moving away from wearing vintage classics and feel more at home in the creative contemporary stuff, in the same way that I tend to pull out my vintage dresses only on occasion.

    • I think I will have to adopt your approach, D, if I’m going to maintain my sanity. I’ve been trying in my scattershot way to keep my sniffage “democratic” — giving time to Sephora as well as to Guerlain, etc. And four or five years ago, that was easier. But I can’t even keep up with the new “niche” releases now. And I’m not sure I want to. Like you and your neglected collection in the fridge and closets, I think: why am I not wearing these things more regularly? If I’m going to get up and smell my own fragrance every day, why shouldn’t I smell divine?

  10. Hi March and thank you for a lovely review of my “starter Guerlain” Chamade, which I worship and adore to this day. Back in the early-to-mid 70s I decided, after years of gazing longingly at the Guerlain counters and sniffing the fabulous concoctions in their exquisite bottles, Now Was The Time. I loved Shalimar, l’Heure Bleue and Chamade but the assistant told me sternly I was too young for Shalimar and pointed me firmly in the direction of Chamade. Beautiful! Of course, since then there have been many, many, many bottles of Guerlain under the bridge, as it were. but Chamade will always have a special place in my heart.

    As for new stuff, we’re just back from Tuscany where we found a wonderful perfume shop in Siena and bought two for me (Bois 1920 Notturno Fiorentino and Fontana di Trevi XVIII – no they haven’t released 18 at once, just 4) and one for Mr F (Odori Cuoio). I never sniff mainstream department store dreck – just isn’t worth it I’m afraid.

    • Oh, I love your Chamade story! I can see that happening, them telling you, no, this is not for the jeunes filles … although I’d be tempted to argue about LHB. But that’s just my affection talking…

      Siena is such an amazing city, how great that you found a perfume shop there!

    • Too young for Shalimar, certainly, but I remember L’Heure Bleue being advertised in Seventeen magazine in that era!

      • So you’re in agreement. Although … honestly, trying to imagine any teen TODAY wanting to wear LHB makes me weep. My girls would laugh at me.

  11. My sentiments exactly. I have a cigar box in which I keep contemporary samples on the nightstand, and I look at them, go “meh,” and head to the cabinet for one of my old or new favorites. With the mainstream new releases…they all smell so synthetic, like raspberry-flavored “vitamin water”. Lately I’ve been focusing on not-exactly-contemporary-not-exactly vintage things. The word “discontinued” is like catnip to me. I figure that, if something that was around for awhile has been discontinued, it either couldn’t play ball in the new regulations field, or was too good for the mass market. So far I’ve been hitting with a decent average.

    Sad to say, I’ve never tried Chamade. One more for the wishlist, thanks!

    • Raspberry-flavored vitamin water is not a bad comparison at all. And the looking-backward — whether it’s Dune or Fidgi or something much harder to get ahold of — is well worth it. I too am giving up and spending more time with old favorites. Sniffing all the new stuff was only fun when I enjoyed it, and I don’t as much any more (with a few exceptions, of course.)

      Chamade to me does not smell very Guerlain-ish, whatever that means. 🙂 It doesn’t have the powderiness of, say, LHB, or the mossiness of their chypres.

  12. Well, call me Aunt Nellie, but a friend sent me a great sample of vintage Parure edc and I couldn’t pin that brooch on fast enough! So, off I went to ebay, to see if I could find a bottle at a reasonable price and now I have to look for Chamade too?

    As far as perfumista stages go, I hope to stay in stage four by alternating between classics and some of the new releases that I find wonderful enough to buy. Nuit de Tubereuse (and Amaranthine some months ago) joined the collection recently. I have to agree that it takes a lot of sniffing to sort through the “just so-so” to find the real jewels though.

    • I share your stage-four hopes, partly because I’m so tired of competing on e*ay for things that may have turned anyway, and partly because I want to reward those perfumers who are still creating wonderful things. I smelled some lovely compositions new and old with fellow NST readers in a sniffing tour of downtown SF this past weekend. . . so encouraging to know where to find good new stuff AND classics as well (SF NM has Chamade in extrait. Just saying.)

      • That sounds like a fun sniffing expedition; it’s great with friends, isn’t it? It adds a whole dimension.

    • That Parure is delicious, innit? And it sounds like you and I are sort of doing the same thing, sample wise — classics and a couple new releases. It sounds like a lot of us are focused on the same new releases too!

  13. March, your post made me dig up the crystal flacon of vintage Chamade that my mother gave me when my perfume craze kicked off. There’s precious little left in it, but I just couldn’t NOT smell after your evocative description. I have to agree with Joe though. I find the opening quite lovely if not necessarily distinctive. I mean it smells rather familiar so I’m assuming it was pretty common as far as vintage goes, but then the heart kicks in, and I get the most gorgeous soft honey floral I’ve ever smelled. Very delicate but still strong enough for me to smell off the back of my wrist as I’m typing. I get a hint of oiliness (I mean that in the best way possible) but no powder at all. I get a rosey richness that for some reason I associate with Nahema. I haven’t smelled the more recent iterations of Chamade, and I sincerely hope they are still the masterpiece that the original was. It is simply GORGEOUS!

    • I wouldn’t know about the old/new comparison, except that LT says (in his review) that he finds the newer version gets to the point, so to speak, more quickly — less of the galbanum opening and more of the heart. Which is absolutely fine with me. I think I tried the EDP in Paris and fell in love with that. And that honeyed floral is magnificent, yes? I love a touch of honey. And no powder sounds grand.

    • I’ve got a bottle of the new extrait as well as a vintage-ish one and the differences are thankfully slight to my nose.

  14. I love Chamade. Love galbanum-florals anyway, but Chamade surprised me. I think of Chamade as being such a shape-shifter; that green opening is right on the verge of Downright Unfriendly, but then it just seems to relax and open up. In fact, it reminds me of peonies: weeks of these hard green buds just sitting there, and then suddenly they’re open and wafting floral heaven, and then the petals dry up and you have dried-petal dust.

    The vtg pdt is quite powdery, but I don’t mind that. When my two decants are gone, I’ll be hunting for some current edp.

    • Hmmmm, so maybe my PdT is extra powdery. Will have to investigate the newer EDP. Because I am insane. And I love your comparison to peonies. It really is a shape-shifter!

      • Well, well, well… whaddya know, when I got home there was a box full of sample goodies from the Queen Enabler in my mailbox. Including a small decant of vtg Chamade edt. >:d< So of course I had to put it on. I've tried a 90's era edt from a sample vial, and that was lovely but this was nicer. I see that my pdt is much, MUCH more powdery than the edt, and it's particularly noticeable in the galb/alde opening I called unfriendly. The pdt drydown is powdery too, yes, but bearably so. She also stuck in a largish sample of Parure... I hope I'm not a goner for that one too.

        • Hah! Isn’t that timing funny! I hope you enjoyed playing. Now you’ve got me craving some very vintage EDT. How’d that Parure work out?

  15. Well, now, you’re hitting my notes–from love of Chamade to rest periods. 🙂

    I totally think that fifth “stage” is there, though I think of it as “refraction.” A time to rest, reflect, reveal…totally necessary when a) processing input and b) turning it into something fresh. (Fresh could be fresh ideas, or just a re-freshed approach to a known something.)

    While Chamade is still “new” to me — as in, I haven’t tabled it since I “discovered” it and fell in love — I absolutely go through cycles of processing perfume. And other things in life.

    BTW, I’m with you on the “smell pretty” box…though, for me, while it’s a no-brainer in terms of wearing it and knowing a) I’ll like it and b) other people will like it, it’s not a no-brains scent. That opening that you don’t like, and the vaunted transition from one creature to another, both add an element of “something’s going on in that pretty head of yours.” Which in my book is a quieter version of No. 19, which is both beautiful and brainy without apology and without a mute.

    I could not, would not, commit myself to smelling new product all the time. I am thrilled that other, more adept, more expressive noses do so. Perhaps I don’t thank you enough? @};- More importantly, I would NEVER get hissy about someone taking a time out, or retreating for a while to the company of proven “companions.” Quite the contrary; would support with >:d< .

    • “Refraction” is a perfect word for the pause to evaluate and absorb any new artistic interest or new experience of any kind. Thanks for suggesting it and reminding me that uninterrupted stimulation is useless without time to reflect on it– and to let it refract within one’s own personality.

    • And I got your email. 😡 There’s going to have to be a slowdown and a time to smell the … well, the Chamade and the vintage Guerlains and some of my already-loves. (So glad you’re enjoying the Chamade! And I’ll second your suggestion that it makes the fragrance brainier. I might hate it without the bitterness first, who knows?) The smell-pretty box is a new one for me because for so long what I wanted was odd/unusual. These drop-dead gorgeous scents are a whole new thing.

  16. Months ago, I did a search on “galbanum” and came across Chamade, in addition to many lovelies that are already in my collection. So when the family was in Epcot in March, I went to faux-France to the Guerlain boutique to find me some. I tested the pure pafum – extrait and fell in love. Since I totally adore green scents, those top notes don’t bother me a bit. And the drydown is glorious. Just exquisite. I spent the rest of the evening with my wrist jammed up against my nose.

    I’m a relatively new perfumista, but while I’m still in the acquisitive must-smell-everything stage, I’m also opinionated enough to not like a lot of what I sniff. So, I’m sprinting through those first stages, I guess.

    • That dry-down was incredible. I had one of those hilarious moments when I was sniffing the various spots on my arm, trying to remember WHICH *gd* Guerlain that WAS. And it was tricky, because, of course, it had done that green thing in the opening and then became a completely different scent. Fortunately I had my labeled paper strips, so I could match it up. FWIW its longevity on the paper was ridiculous — two weeks?

      Hey, you might as well have some opinions, because there is plenty out there to smell! Don’t be surprised if those opinions change…

  17. Most beautiful parfum bottle ever, although the last time I wore Chamade, I almost stabbed myself with the pointy stopper!

    Hugs!

    • I’ve seen the photos of that bottle! Mine is a safety-first rounded green cap.

  18. Love Chamade, though I’ve only tried a recent formulation of the EDP – have a bottle of it. These reformulated classics can really be depressing, can’t they? I suppose if you don’t know the vintage, though, you can’t really be disappointed by a reformulation – you either like it or you don’t – not having any previous knowledge of its past, its all new to you (that’s “you” general, not “you” personally, March!). It’s hard to ignore the chatter about vintage when all voices seem to claim how much better the fragrances were “back then”. Makes me want to smell them, but I think it would really depress me – having to mourn the loss, knowing there’s no way I’d devote time, energy, $ to seeking out obscure bottles of the stuff. Best not to go there…though it’s so hard to resist…

    • Hey, LT likes the newish version of the EDP, which he seems to think is as good (they weren’t testing vintages) and got to the heart notes faster. And I know that’s what I tried and fell in love with in Paris. So I say you tried a good one. It’s really the EDTs, the newest Guerlains, that I think they should be ashamed of. [-(

  19. March, this is one of the most satisfying reads ever, I think – and everybody who chimed in, thank you, too. Maybe I’m in a crazy sentimental mood, but just reading all the comments about everyone’s own journey through the world of fragrance has made me feel all warm and fuzzy. 😡

    I can relate on so many levels. I’m at that stage where I look back, quite astonished at how feverishly I hunted down everything I ever read anything about. I was insatiable! Now, and this is a huge relief, I find myself kind of . . . sated, I guess. Not jaded, really, just satisfied enough with what I’ve already smelled and what I’ve acquired that I feel I won’t be losing any significant ground by slowing way, way down and being selective.

    I am also giving far more attention to the beauties that I already have. I’m a bit of a vintage fiend and when I crave those old bases — that heady mix of resins, woods, mosses and animalic notes — nothing comes close to a 40-year-old bottle of French parfum from a very good house in excellent shape.

    Chamade drives me crazy!!! I’m so glad you’ve written about it, M. I’ve sniffed several different strengths of it from several different decades, and it varies so much between the bottles. Sometimes it’s powdery, sometimes galbanum-y, and sometimes I get a lot of sharp blackcurrant bud and dark, fruity cassis. I always seem to get quite a bit of an oily hyacinth: beautiful.

    Chamade parfum from (probably) the seventies is quite possibly the biggest sillage monster I’ve ever tried. The rose is huge in this, laced with a heavy-duty geranium/moss effect. Far, far too much of a good thing sniffed at close range, it’s heavenly at half a foot and beyond. I wish I had a gallon. Hell, I wish I had a few more drops.

    • Slowing down and being selective has its benefits, doesn’t it? And giving more attention to those 40-year-old bottles of parfum seems only logical, when faced with the latest flanker at Macy’s.

      I love your information on the various Chamades (I’ve had the same experience with Mitsouko). As long as you’re getting the hyacinth in there, the rest sound great! A little more fruit would thrill me.

      • I know what you mean about fruit. For some reason, when I catch a bit in vintage things, playing around the civet and leather and sandalwood and vetiver and those kinds of dark, funky things, fruit just kinda works. It makes them purr. I’m thinking of Mitsouko, Femme, Quadrille, Nuit de Noel, l’Interdit and Diorama, off the top of my head. I love Chamade in most of its incarnations, but I’ve found the most obvious cassis is in a vintage version of the edc, oddly enough, so if you ever see it kicking around a thrift shop (Ha! Never happens to me. That’s NST’s Angela’s forte, darn her) grab it. Deelish.

        • Yup, it’s that vintage fruit that seems so worth it, not the new, fruital stuff with the musk. And those thrift shop finds NEVER happen around here … well, only once. But not usually. And I’ll keep an eye peeled for the Chamade EDC!

  20. Chiming in as requested, to tell you that for me Chamade is ALL ABOUT the transition from oil green hyacinth top to lush heart and base. I like both parts–the second act a bit better than the first–but it’s the turn that undoes me. I’m falling for the marketing, I know, but I always think of that beating heart when it happens. The breathless, nervous anticipation of hoped-for love, and then the moment when you know it’s really happening…

    • Beautiful reflection. This reminds me of my favorite quotation. Oscar Wilde said, “The essence of romance is uncertainty.”

    • eeeeeeeeeeee, now you’ve got me falling for their marketing fluff too! And now that I’m wearing it regularly, I’m beginning to appreciate the opening more.

    • It really is romantic, the way it opens so gradually. You have to be patient… it’s all about anticip

      ation. (Apologies to Tim Curry.)

  21. Murphy’s Law – the one day that I couldn’t get onto the Posse, you write about ennui (I couldn’t agree more) and Chamade, which I couldn’t love more! Beautifully said, and I agree about the green top – it can be tricky for me too if I’m not in the right mood. But the drydown is all glorious Guerlainade laced with blackcurrent. To my nose at least, this one has held up to reformulation (at least in extrait) better than some of the other Guerlain scents.

    • I’m wafting it again and I have to say, it was rather nice in the heat. I’m developing a sense of humor (if not actual love) re: the top. And I didn’t smell the PDT and think it was better than the current EDP. Not sure about the EDT…

  22. Recently tried Chamade (unsure of formulation) and love it but found a little went a loooong way. See I’m a spritz-a-helluva-lot kinda gal so this is a dangerous combination. Must find a way to wear it and avoid my jewelry melting off my arms/fingers.

    I do blame most of you here and Melissa in particular for helping me be a very discerning sniffer lately. Thanks, seriously!

    • Hey, thanks for joining us to play! I will say with the avalanche of product out now, it is nice just to have some ideas about where to start. The other nice thing about tracking comments on a blog is, you often discover a “scent twin” — and then if they mention something they love, you know it might be worth trying. I know some people use me as a reverse indicator … :d Um, yeah, I’m thinking a lighter hand with the Chamade would be better.

  23. Well, March, you’ve gone and done it. Hooked my heart into finding a bit of Chamade as I’m one of the few here who hasn’t had the ‘honor’ of smelling it. I love reading all of the comments, but now I want it even more. And I’m on hiatus–or was! Been trying to enjoy everything I just had to have and they’ve needed my attention. Fickle lover that I am, Chamade is saying come to me baby.

    I was barred from commenting earlier today, too; maybe that would have made it easier for me. This is worse than finding my HG of chocolate. For all of you who have been waxing poetic about Chamade? Damn!

    • See, though, I think we should all take a break and enjoy some of the things we already have. That’s why we got them, isn’t it? But it’s fun blogging about things like Chamade — it’s been around awhile, it was never even on my radar, and whoa — turns out of course a bunch of people already know and love it. And you can still get it, it’s not this exercise in total frustration.

      I couldn’t comment yesterday afternoon either!

      • Well! Thanks to Robin (NST) I just bought some Chuao Coffee & Anise I’ve been gnawing and I thought I’d do a comparison so I bought Hageland’s Ecuador and Lindt 70% cocoa which I’m in the process of testing. I have to hand it (the pounds) to Mals for guiding me to WalMart; yes, it’s true, the emporium of strange carries Chuao for $3.96 per bar. Can’t taste the star anise as much as I’d hoped, and the espresso is subtle. The dark chocolate is very good. A friend of mine used to give me pound boxes of chocolate from Belgium where her brother lived. Best chocolate I’ve ever ever had.
        Is chocolate fattening?=))
        What’s yours?

        • I went looking for Chuao at our World Market but they didn’t have it! They do have Vosges and some other brands, and I did leave with two of their house bars, including a chipotle dark choc which was quite good. (the heat creeps up on you). Next time I’m visiting my dad I’m going to try their Super-Target, I hear their grocery store sells them.

          And my very favorite boxes of choc come from this cheesy place on Rue de Rivoli in Paris, where they’re wrapped and marked something like “chocolat Belge.” Nothing special about them. I brought home two pounds, which I didn’t share. And no, as a matter of fact, I don’t feel guilty. 🙂

        • PS I don’t know if you’ve tried (and it’s also Robin at NST’s fault) but I really like the Dolfin choc bars online, they have a sampler pack with all sorts of weird things — Earl Grey tea, which I love, anise, curry, etc.

          • Oh, thanks so much, I’d forgotten that one. I was looking at Chocosphere.com and they’ve
            got a lot of good stuff, too bad it’s so hot and humid here.
            Chamade, scotch, chardonnay, chocolate. I think a cognac post is in order
            :)>-

          • I was told that Caron recently held an event in Southern California, where they commissioned chocolates to be flavored with notes from their perfumes, and had a chocolate/perfume bash. I know no other details– I only know that they might be thinking of holding another one. That sounds like fun— :)>-

  24. Thank you for this beautifully thoughtful review. I discovered Chamade a few months ago – the current extrait version – and felt like I had come home. I love it from start to finish. For me, that oily-polleny aspect conjures up a gorgeous fresh yellow-green color. It makes me swoon with pleasure. It is a happy fragrance and I am all about happy. Also appreciate your mention of Niki de Saint Phalle, a favorite chypre for me – marigolds YES! And I’m with the rest of you who were seduced by Amaranthine. I swear that I dream of that one. It will be the next present I buy for myself.

    • I always think of Chamade as being green around the edges, with a beautiful golden center.

      • I picture the green around the edges, too! My green is a deep mossy one, and the yellow actually has a touch of green in it rather than being gold. But it’s still interesting that we get the same general color image.

        • I think we smell it the same way.

          I… um… confess. Yesterday I went right over to ebay to see if there was any going begging, and there was. A partially-used (yeah, I’m shameless about that) 50ml vintage edt, about 3/4 full, in a funky-shaped bottle which I wouldn’t have considered if the typeface wasn’t right for Guerlain. But it was. Looks 70s to me; seller says it was kept in a closet. $23. SHIPPED. If it’s good I might share. :d

          • Wait, one of those weird asymmetrical bottles that look like Tatiana? Like a lumpen, tall bottle with the corners cut off at odd angles? Those are AWESOME. I have a couple of those (Parure and Cedrat) and they smell wonderful. A steal!

  25. Thanks for the lovely post, March. Life is too short to spend it doing things that don’t bring you joy. If the newest celeb fruitchouli release fills you with ennui or dread, skip it! Put on something weird or lovely from your collection, write about what it evokes for you, and I’ll keep right on reading! Or even take a break from blogging, if that is what you need to enjoy perfume again. I’d not grudge you that for a moment.

    I love learning about galbanum, hyacinth and fireflies. You’ve given me fun perfume pilgrimages when I’m travelling. In a couple weeks, when I’m in SF, I’m on the hunt to try Chamade extrait. Paris, London, NY, LA, all these cities have their charms, and hidden perfume gems for the intrepid perfumista to seek. I love reading all the commenters’ posts here, and learn and laugh from the discussion. 😡

    • I’m wearing a couple of “new” old loves today, while I clean the house and do a little work… yes, I’m going to skip the fruitchouli. Can’t do it any more. I want to write about things I love. And thanks for the kind words. The social part is a huge part of why I blog in the first place!

  26. I am so late getting to this post today but thoroughly enjoyed it along with the comments.

    March: I hope you don’t stop writing about whatever it is you are sniffing or wearing. Whether it’s old or new. I feel as if I am meeting your old friends when you return to something you love. Often that makes me want to “meet” them as well.

    Even if it’s an older scent that you write about, it’s new to many of us or inspires others to revisit. Just keep on writing!

    • All these old friends I’ve met (or re-met) are often through people on this blog — folks who mention fragrance X and I think: oh. I’ve heard of that, or even remember it, but not what it SMELLS like, because I wasn’t into perfume until a few years ago. So it’s been great fun for me to go back and explore older scents that others have already connected with.

      And yes, you’ll probably be getting more posts like that.

      • Dear March – Hope this isn’t way too late to ask your esteemed opinion on something! Have just scored some vintage Mitsouko edt and am puzzled as to just how much celery I’m getting from it! Guess it’s lost some of its freshness, and I wouldn’t exactly say it’s “off” as such, but not sure if I want to smell like that, and wondered if you would know! What I also find so amazing when comparing it to a current formulation, in the same strength, is that I realize it isn’t my nose, the perfume houses really are diluting their eau de toilettes these days (as well as jigging their formulas) as the modern one is so ghostly and weak. And that’s what I am finding with so many perfumes now – the edts are more like colognes. My old favourite Chant d’Aromes is sadly only available in edt, and it is so fragile. At least I can still buy Chamade in parfum form. I am wondering whether to buy some vintage Cd’A in parfum, but my Mitzie purchase is making me stop and reconsider. What do you think??

        • Hm. Well … (insert not-a-chemist disclaimer here.) First off, celery is, like doll-head, one of those notes that some people seem to get on their skin that is extremely offputting. I (fingers crossed) am not one of them. Vintage EDT — the top may well be off, and my vintage Mitsys smell astonishingly different from each other. But the *drydown* should be fine. If you’re getting celery in the drydown — bummer. And you are absolutely right about the current EDT watered-down effect. Some of my most kick-ass Guerlain vintages are EdTs — in fact, my Chant d’Aromes is an EDC I think! And it’s still awesome.

          I’m also heretical … here’s the deal. My favorite Guerlains thus far (Mitsy and Jicky) I own in parfum for the skank. And I’ve tried others, like Vol de Nuit, in the parfum. But I personally prefer — as my own, personal, favorite Guerlain concentration — a slightly older EdP or EdT, usually bought after some effort on eBay. Even if they’re off in the top, and they sometimes are, I prefer their raspiness and angularity to the smoothness of parfum concentrations that many love. Again, my personal preference. So, the celery – have you tried other Mitsys, or is this your first go? I’m loath to tell you to give up after one shot, only because I adore Mitsy so much. 😡

          • I knew you would give me a perfect answer! And you have encouraged (enabled?) me to continue with my quest for the perfect Mitsouko and not to give up just yet. I wore Mitsy in the past quite a lot, but my disappointment with the current version is what spurred me to search on ebay to find one that smells like my memory. As I type, I am sniffing my left wrist which is wearing the modern M, and my right which is modelling the vintage. Alas, still getting celery (caramelised) from the old one, and the new has all but disappeared, just leaving a faint trace of peach behind. I fear I might be one of those people who perhaps does turn some perfume, although I suspect this particular bottle has more of leaning in that direction any way. So – onwards and upwards. And thanks so much for your reply – I don’t want a chemist’s analyis, just an expert’s! x

            • The nice thing about Mitsouko is that it’s been around for so long that older bottles are constantly turning up on eBay and (occasionally) in thrift shops, perfume shops etc. The current Mitsouko EDT is shameful crap and the folks at Guerlain should be flogged. Not that I have strong feelings about this.

              My 1960s Mits is strongly peachy, my 70s a glorious wonder of patchouli. If you can bear it, I’d keep trying. Also (not affiliated!) if you wanted to settle the celery question, The Perfumed Court probably has vintage Mits. You could buy a single small sample and decide whether to continue the quest. If you wore it before, I can’t see why you shouldn’t be able to again!

  27. I rarely comment here because I always have so. much. to. agree. with.

    I’m sooooo with you on the ennui and just wanting to play with old loves. Part of me wants to stop reading about new frags now and just wallow in my larger-than-a-lifetime collection. But! What if?!? Just can’t stop.

    The main reason I HAD to comment was this description: “beautiful, strange, moist, powdery yellow narcissus accord that had the oily feel of pollen rubbed between finger and thumb” – THIS is the smell I perceive as “yellow” that reminds me of dandelion blossoms. Aside from the “beautiful” adjective, this nails it; unfortunately for me, this note/accord is unpleasant to me – to the point of being physically nauseating and ruining Chamade, a few other Guerlains, and a bunch of other perfumes (DSH comes to mind). It’s funny you mentioned Misouko and Jicky, because those are perfumes I *should* have loved, but I smelled this in them and they were ruined for me.

    As often happens, I’m intrigued by how some brain pathway/memory/what-have-you alters what probably smells objectively the same in my brain, so that what is beautiful to you is a deal-breaker for me. Chemistry is always a big topic of discussion, but what about those of us who smell the same things but have entirely different responses? Just the like/dislike alone can’t be explained objectively (not for me, anyway). And I *love* dandelions, so I should love things that remind me of their scent, but I don’t.

    Too much thinking. Thank you for touching on all of this – even if I swear off new ‘fumes (sadly, highly unlikely) I will keep reading. Gotta get my fix somehow!

    • Trina, have you sniffed I am a Dandelion by CB I Hate Perfume? I haven’t, but thought of your comment about dandelions. I love to press my nose into them and inhale, it’s almost a sense
      thing because of the velvety yellow warmth, sunny and green with a depth to it, & the sweetness of pollen. It always evokes a beautiful childhood memory. I have one on my desk here in a little vase and I love to pick it up and sniff it.
      Chemistry? I always liken it to the real estate maxim–location, location,
      location. With perfume it’s chemistry chemistry chemistry! :)>-

  28. Dear March,

    I am a “Lurking Chamade Lover” writing not to say that you are an idiot, but that I was very moved by your haunting description of a great fragrance. I first discovered Chamade when I was 7 years old in a mini set of Guerlains that belonged to a friend. The opening bitter green smell intrigued and disturbed me at the same time. Unlike you I wish the opening lasted longer as it did when I was a child. It’s lovely that you get compliments. I’ve never received one on Chamade. Also it’s a fragrance I wear on my own fearing that people may be turned off. Your write up has made me want to give another try to wearing Chamade in public.

    Thanks Again!

    • Gah, I’m not getting notifies at all on my comments now!!! Sorry!! Well, I don’t wear Chamade places like medical buildings, and I usually put it on ahead of time to give it time to settle. But dang that drydown. And I’m glad I conjured some nice memories for you — wouldn’t you love that set of Buerlain minis now!?

      • Oh how I wish those minis were in my loving possession! By the by, though not a big perfume bottle fan, the Chamade parfum bottle is my favorite to the point of obsession. Thanks again for writing so eloquently about this masterpiece fragrance!

        • I wish it weren’t so desired by bottle collectors. They end up bidding against us on eBay…. :-w

  29. Chamade, how I’d love to love it!

    Alas, all I get is aldehydes. No green, no jasmine, no vanilla, no sandalwood, no nothin’. I don’t understand it, but I smell nothing but the harshest of soapy soaps, like I’ve somehow gotten a sample of eau de undiluted aldehydes instead of a beloved classic. And it’s not just me; my mother recoiled when I came up to her, my wrist to her innocent face. She agreed it was a very harsh soap.

    I don’t know of anyone else who’ve tried it and gotten a similar impression, perfume people in general seem to really enjoy it. I’m kind of hoping my sample was mislabeled, or had gone off somehow, but I don’t really dare to spend more money on it to try a new one.

    Does this sound in any way reasonable? The notes sound so pretty, and I keep trying it, but I always end up developing sadface from it 🙁 Can I somehow blame my sample or am I just too uncouth?

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