CHAMADE by GUERLAIN (1969)

‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

They called me the hyacinth girl.’

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The appearance of The Hyacinth Girl in T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland is probably the most memorable part of the poem the for the budding and swooning flower acolyte, and many a romantic seventeen year old English student is probably sighing and dreaming on discovering her as I write this ( I know that I most certainly was; that age when I was blooming into  consciousness).

The flowers in the first part of the work, ‘The Burial Of The Dead’ (lilacs, hyacinths) speak of desire, death, and romantic loss (the cruelty of spring), and Chamade, Jean Paul Guerlain’s great masterpiece of 1969  – inspired by a tragic love story by Francoise Sagan, ‘La Chamade’ – reflects this: it is an exceptionally tender, sensitive perfume;  a perfume to own just for its own beauty even if you don’t wear it yourself, just to apply to the skin like a dream-touched portal to another sphere.

There is an inherent mystery under this scent’s outwardly romantic surface, a half-eyed melancholy brimming and swirling with sensuality. Beginning with a verdant overture of Persian galbanum and spring green leaves, this is followed by an emotion-filled, rich-bodied hyacinth accord cushioned and clasped with the classic Guerlain mastery.
But although the initial departure of Chamade is green and hyacinthine, slowly, gradually, a soft floral heart develops in the perfume’s central, of rose, jasmine, lilac and clove, leading, eventually to a gorgeously lingering balsamic and vanilla powdered heart that is one of the very finest dry downs in the history of perfumery. Resolutely sexual despite its outward temerity (Chamade means ‘moment of surrender’ or ‘the rapid beating of the heart’), extremely feminine, poetic, fully realized, and one of the very best perfumes I have ever had the fortune to be acquainted with, the treasured vintage parfum that I keep near my bed is one of my most prized possessions.

23 Comments

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23 responses to “CHAMADE by GUERLAIN (1969)

  1. cristinainger

    My goodnes… This post make me want to go out and by this parfume right this minute. The way YOU describe it, it must squelch any yearning one might nurture romantically, idealized or real… Your writing is ridiculously good

  2. Holly

    Perfection.

    I’ve purchased vintage Chamade in every concentration off ebay. None of them last on me for longer than an hour or two, but while it lasts it is utterly astonishing.
    Perhaps I’ve been ripped off. I finally bought the current formulation, and it’s much sharper, like a too-sudden orgasm that leaves me feeling bereft…

    • WAY sharper.

      Maybe she just isn’t for you, but as you say, while it lasts….

      It’s funny though. I have a memory of Helen wearing just the cologne at her sister’s wedding and it being incredibly tenacious, almost salacious on her, all musky and rude.

  3. I love Chamade, although it’s got pricey and hard to find. Your review is great but it has just made me want it even more!

    Sam

  4. One of my favorites of the Guerlain creations. I own the vintage PdT and absolutely adore it. I do agree with you, it is quite the sensual perfume but with a certain temerity.
    Such a gorgeous review, I can feel how deeply this scent touches you.

  5. Chamade is a treasured perfume. Now she resides in vintage formula on the second shelf of my armoire. I dared not put her to work as yet. She will have to abide her time until autumn. After Arina And I return from Spain. Finally after a long time a result with a CD by Arina and friends with galician music. Then there will, definitely , sound a loud Chamade for Arina’s laatste kunstje, dutch for last leap.
    So comforting to know that Chamade endures. I’m longing to know her more intimately. In my giddy youth in the 70ies I just put her on and walked by myself in my wild lone …

  6. What a stunning review! I have started in the past few months reading your reviews and they are simply gorgeous. Have not sampled this scent, but this makes me feel almost I have.

  7. Lilybelle

    I love and wear Chamade. I have a recent version of the extrait. Vintage is best, of course. I am most nostalgic for the eau de cologne formulation. It had a brilliant sparkle, and it was just that tiny bit strange, cold then warm. I miss the Guerlain of yore. I know, we all do. Do you know Grand Amour by Annick Goutal? It’s also a hyacinth (and I get lily) fragrance on a balsamic base.

  8. Renee Stout

    When I opened my email and saw this review, I immediately spritzed Chamade on so that I could smell it as I read. I love doing that whenever your review is about a scent I have in my collection.

  9. Like Renee, I had to grab my Chamade before diving into this. Unparalleled description – hell, “description” doesn’t cover ten percent of what you’ve done. And I love that, for all the rich prose, it’s not at all purple. Gaa, how I dislike that overwrought kind of review.

    I have a fair bit of Chamade, as fortune would have it, including vintage extrait in the teardrop bottle and vintage EdT. What you say about it is all true. That sharp blackcurrant bud note harmonizes well with the green of galbanum and contrasts nicely with the richness of the floral notes. The new stuff is, of course, not the same, BUT if anyone has no source of vintage and wants to get in on the Chamade action as best they can, I have to say that Chamade Eau de Parfum is a lot better, I mean a LOT better, than the current one-dimensional EdT. And, natch, Guerlain decided to discontinue the EdP in 2016!!!!??? Grrrrr. I managed to grab a bottle of it online not too long ago and I’m sure clever sleuths will be able to track it down. For the price — now, before prices start going up on eBay, et al — I think the EdP actually better value than the contemporary parfum.

    • This is good to know. It will never suit me but I LOVE it. I adored the vintage parfum de toilette but there is only a dribble left now

      • Amazing how those old things hold up, isn’t it, given so many years semi-exposed to the elements. What I’d give to go back to 1969 and smell Chamade in its original formulation and freshly bottled. Imagine the top notes and the vivacity of the heart. Oh, and think of the fashion of the times, and the music. It was an amazing era. We could have the complete package, the total experience. Would it be in Paris, or London? It would be so groovy!

      • It’s true. I am not so drawn to the sixties myself for some reason but YES to smelling it fresh. I often think the same thing about INFINI as well: the flowers fresh in the top with the green notes……even the versions we have now smell incredible four decades on which is a real testament to their quality. But fresh in the bottle………..dazzling.

      • Infini is a stellar example, for sure. And No 19 can be rock-solid, in a different way.

        I was thinking of being back in ’69 just for, you know, the context with which to relate to Chamade, artistically and viscerally. Just to “get” it even deeper. As I’d go back to 1919 to experience the totality of Tabac Blond . . . Ah, the list could go on.

      • I know I couldn’t time travel to these areas because I would DETEST all the smoke (just think: EVERYONE would have stunk the entire time, rendering perfume virtually pointless), but I still in a way would have been fascinated to see how women, and perhaps men, perfumed their way through the smog and what the effect would have been. Do you have any vintage Tabac Blond?

      • ’33, Vol de Nuit. . .

      • That one I am sure is just as good now. I can just feel it.

        I am utterly obsessed with it. Yesterday, Duncan met me for a quick coffee before work, and I was in all my shampoo fresh other persona scents. He had my Vol De Nuit extrait drenched (from about two weeks ago) cashmere scarf on, and was aureoled in incense from the house as well. All I could smell was this unbelievably beautiful patchouli and gentle, ambered, unpinpointably mysterious sensuality.

        Weird and fascinating to meet your own scent mirror.

      • Ah, I can just smell that scarf. Mmm. Glorious. I do love it when other people wear scents I love. It adds something extra, a different way to experience it, a different perspective somehow. It often takes me by surprise, the “newness” of the scent when I’m not the one wearing it. And for some reason scarves seem to make anything smell better.

        Knowing you, and knowing Japan (at least in terms of vintage perfume availability), it won’t be long before you can re-stock your vintage Chamade.

        I know what you mean about smoking back then. It stunk up the whole world. I do have vintage Tabac Blond, although not the extrait I would almost kill for. I have the Eau de Toilette, although there’s now only about 15ml left in the bottle, so I use it parsimoniously. It really is in my Top 25. (I find it hard to contemplate a Top 10 because there are so many ties for each spot.) I also have about the same amount of the vintage “lotion” form of it, which is lovely: low alcohol, high oil, wears close to the skin, comparatively dark and rich, more smoky and less tobacco-y.

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