Guerlain Guet Apens/Attrape Coeur (1999) -‘Heart Catcher’

 

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by Olivia

 

 

 

I came to this late – very nearly too late. I’d heard reverent murmurs about this voluptuous beauty with a husky timbre and silky spirit: a hallowed resurrection of the golden days of Guerlain in the guise of a fruity chypre. Is there any greater lure than a discontinued Guerlain? The pull of those beautiful gilded bees lures you in until you’re neck deep in their gummy honey quicksand, gulping down small puffs of hysteria and trying to regain perspective. There’s a certain promise: the magnet of something uncommonly beautiful just out of reach.

 

I’d managed to (sort of) ignore it, assuming that the thing would be impossible to find and that even if I did unearth a bottle it would run me out of house and home and condemn all my meals for the foreseeable to gruel and slops. Sometime in early 2012 or so I sent an email to the wonderful Place Vendome in Belgium (if you haven’t shopped there – I apologise to your bank balance in advance – it’s magical.) I was asking after another Guerlain I’d developed a fixation with and in doing so, asked for a list of their current stock. The reply came:

 

 

‘Les Parisiennes (Cherry Blossom, Attrape Coeur, Mayotte, Liu, Vétiver Pour Elle, Nuit d’Amour, Derby, L’Ame d’un Héros. Chamade Pour Homme). Les Voyages Olfactifs (London, Moscou, New York, Tokyo), Les Arsene Lupin, Vega, Sous Le Vent, Le Muguet etc etc. Of course the ‘basics’ as well such as Shalimar et al….’

 

 

I think I probably did one of those Disney-esque double takes (actually even reading back that list now pokes at my adrenal gland) how can this perfume, this unattainable unicorn be just there. I could order it! Oh god. I tried to talk myself out of it but when they told me they only had the one bottle left, and feeling the firm nudge of a more experienced Scentophile on my back (‘Just do it! You can always sell it if you don’t like it!’) I bought it blind and spend the next week trying not to wake up in a cold sweat at 3am.  When the beautiful bee encrusted bottle arrived, after spending the requisite time stroking it, I twisted off the stopper. A rush – honestly, I know this sounds hyperbolic but I had one of those very rare moments when, in amongst the thicket of perfumes you smell that don’t suit/are downright dreadful, you recognize something of yourself in the bottle. Silly as it might sound, here somehow is a piece of your soul seemingly caught in liquid amber. This is really such a beautiful perfume.

 

Guerlain classified it as a ‘fruity chypre rose animalic’ – but I find the rose part somewhat misleading. A dark, fruity rose is nestled in the heart but this is really much more abstract as a whole: a complex melody of sequential layers and shadow play in the classical style.  Weaving between liquored sweetness and smoky, soft tang there is rose and jasmine, orris and violet, peach and cinnamon held up by darker leathery basenotes of oakmoss, fir balsam and the distinctive rich and smooth tonality of the proper sort of sandalwood. It’s a conversation between vintage style powdery florals and the siren call of deep amber.

 

The rose and violet do their lipsticky thing bolstered by a light touch of snowy orris – the gorgeous buttery/ashy sort – whose clarifying glints shoot through the amber like light on a sapphire and glisten like snowflakes in the night sky. The orris and violet don’t make this a dry scent though, although they do temper the richness that pervades it, preventing it from becoming too sweet. The body of the scent fans out with that buxom rose and the animalic indoles of jasmine spun with nuances of just ripe, dander skinned peach and perhaps a pinch of civet before darker, denser notes of oakmoss, patchouli and that resplendent sandalwood gild the base. There is plenty of that Guerlainade hallmark duality of umami facets – leathery moss, dry woods – against powdery patisserie sweetness that make it both delectable and definitely inedible. In the end, it becomes a magenta mossy haze of the rose-cream of sandalwood and piquant powder, lassoed in dark, honeyed amber. A seductress (with just a hint of sleaze), this perfume wraps around you with velvet tentacles.

 

A difficult scent to describe in some ways, being at once strangely familiar (in the sense of possessing a great comfort and assurance) and disarmingly beautiful. I personally find it in no way challenging or inaccessible, but it does have that unfurling characteristic of the older Guerlain perfumes: there is a plot, an orchestra of characters that bloom in and out. Long hours on the warmth of skin does it every favour and perhaps those that expect a Polaroid perfume would leave their seats before the final curtain call. These perfumes, just like people can be, are perhaps at first a little unfathomable – puckered and guarded. But with time and touch the layers of edition melt off into what feels like a confession, leaving the essentials: a sensual interlacing of softness and carnality (we all have that mix) which wait like little secrets beneath the protocols.

 

There are peekaboo flashes of Guerlain greats that roll in and out of the development of Attrape Coeur: Nahema winks by with her rosey radiance and luminous colour (but leaving none of her day-glo fruity, alien hyper-reality), Mitsouko lends her sylvan boughs and peach skin (but skips the dour severity.)  There are winks of L’Heure Bleue in the spiced powder and dusty orris-marizipan and Shalimar floats to the surface from the sweetly sullied leather-amber depths. But while these little homages are made, Attrape Coeur is very much its own creature: a dusky violet gem that wears like silk and panthers purrs. It’s both elegant and decadent, as soft as soot and as rich as brandy. This is a truly bacchanalian antidote to the flimsy and facile, to perfume as a last minute utensil. It is a recluse of finery in which you are allowed to revel in a particular kind of solitude; a dopamine crested wave at the sudden recognition of a rare breed of beauty.

 

So while this gorgeous thing has been unforgivably axed (we could be generous and speculate that restrictions and the rarity of ingredients was to blame..) there is a small solace in the knowledge that is has been re-released before. First launched as Guet Apens (‘Ambush’) as the centerpiece of the newly renovated Maison Guerlain in 1999, and housed in the covetable sapphire Flacon Lantern – a copy of the bottle used between 1939 and 1943 to house extraits of Jicky, Sous le Vent and others – it was withdrawn not long after. In 2005 the perfume reappeared as part of Les Parisiennes, now in a bee bottle and rechristened Attrape Coeur (‘Heart Catcher’.) Here it won a stay of execution until being slain again in 2009. Happily but for too brief a time, Attrape Coeur was reincarnated as the exclusive ‘Royal Extract’ for Harrods in 2014 (cue mania and me cutting a panicked dash to Knightsbridge to snatch a bottle.) Guerlain is wont to do this sort of thing: with a flourish release things from the vaults in different guises and with new names (and all too often nowadays an extra 300 Euro dolloped on top) – so perhaps at some point Attrape Coeur will rise spectrally from the ashes again. Until then, eBay is your best bet – I’ve seen several bottles listed there over the years (everything pops up on eBay eventually.) Genuinely, this is one of the ones worth the chase. If you can find it, buy it. (You can always sell it on if you don’t like it.)

18 Comments

Filed under Flowers, spiced ambers

18 responses to “Guerlain Guet Apens/Attrape Coeur (1999) -‘Heart Catcher’

  1. Stunningly beautiful fragrance, ditto your review, Olivia. Was surprised, though: no mention whatsoever of . . . Mathilde Laurent?

  2. P.S. Meaning no disrespect to you, I hope you know.

    • Thank you Robin. And yes you’re quite right of course – I had meant to talk about Mathilde Laurent but somehow forgot to put it in! For the best Guerlain released in years (well, asides from the beautiful Metallica which deserves high praise too) to not have been signed by a M.Guerlain must have stung up there in the higher reaches of La Maison. I imagine there’s a good chance that’s why they re-credited it back to Jean-Paul Guerlain when it was relaunched in the Parisiennes – a move I always thought pretty rum!

      • Exactly, Olivia. Such a big part of that story. I love and respect her work – it’s a shame Cartier Les Heures de Parfum haven’t really been on the radar – and appreciate seeing well-deserved acknowledgment. Thanks very much.

  3. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Velvet tentacles … and just out of reach. It sounds very much my cup of tea in this Blue Period. I always have it in the beginning of a new year: the French called it Spleen in the 19th century.
    Should I be grateful to you for pulling at my heartstrings? The first snowdrops are on their way, after no snow, to speak off. Please let me stay a while in a wnter dream with Guet Apens … S’il vous plait! Merci.

    • Olivia

      Guet Apens is a wintry dream, a rare and beautiful thing and a perfect balm for a blue period. It’s lovely to see the first snowdrops – we have the first blossoms coming up on the trees here (although it does seem a touch early for it) and it is such a beautiful thing.

  4. bella ciao

    This is just the most beautiful thing ever. I also blind bought it, was rather worried and had that flash, just like you… and have been wearing it ever since. It got me to explore more perfumes by Mathilde Laurent, another worthwhile endeavour!

    • Olivia

      It’s really magical isn’t it? So glad you love it too. I find it absolutely womanly and very sexy, in a self assured and contented way – but without the extroverted, bombastic sexiness of something like Fracas. This is less demanding/domineering, but in its dusky temperament just as lustful and sultry. I totally agree that Mathilde Laurent is worth exploring – I love her L’Heure Defendue for Cariter (cocoa, iris and patchouli! So delicious) as well as the summery carnation bomb Voile d’Ete and the lovely Ylang et Vanille.

      Here’s to successful blind buys! Its so exciting when they work out (although I’ve had plenty that didn’t go nearly so well.)

      • VII is one of my faves, too! XII and XIII are up there for me, too . . . Worth checking out, if anyone out there wants more Mathilde.

      • grrr…Tokyo doesn’t have any of Les Heures, and I am yet to smell them. If Mathilde also made Ylang Vanille, then I know I am an inherent fan. She strikes me as more sumptuous (yet simultaneously with a more deft touch ) than Thierry Wasser.

      • bella ciao

        I could not express it any better! The forbidden hour is now also on my must-try list:)- If you enjoy Voile d’Ete, then, L’Heure Convoitee is just right in the winter time, cream with carnation. It is less nuanced than Voile, like a big Verdi soprano to Monteverdi’s early baroque tones.
        And I only discovered Ylang Vanille 3 days ago! And liked it for the same reason: that Mathildesque creaminess with a bit of spice, as a contrast. In fact I am going to put it on right now, for a cosy bed time note, mmmhhhh….

      • Ah these rich, gorgeous scents…..who can be bothered with uppity anorexic oudhs when such creations exist?

  5. I have a bottle of Guet-Apens in the sapphire blue cone bottle. I actually bought it when it came out in 1999 and still have it. As it is a 4 oz. (120ml) dab on bottle, I still have more than half left. It takes a couple of minutes after applying it for it to smell like it used to because of its age, but once that initial stage is over, it smells as beautiful as when I purchased it.

  6. jennyredhen

    I had no idea there were so many discontinued Guerlain perfumes. I thought they just punted out the same ones year after year and every few years one would drop off because of old age so theyd bring out a new one to replace it.. I cant believe they discontinued Metalys If it didnt work as a female perfume they could have reissued it as a male perfume.. Maybe they will reissue miniature bottles of all the discontinued perfumes one day.. like in a sample pack, plain packaging, budget, collectors items .. what happens to the stock after the perfume is deleted .. is it in a big storehouse somewhere or has it been poured down the drain???

  7. Fabulous review Olivia. I used to have Guet-Apens in the cobalt lantern bottle, but it just never did anything for me. I ended up selling an almost full bottle on eBay.
    It sounds as if it works gloriously with your body chemistry. I only wish I could have had it sing on my skin.

    • What was lacking?

      I thought it was immediately very appealing when I wore the sample that Olivia sent me, but as you know, I just don’t do sandalwood, so whenever that note appears I shy away. I did love the rich, ambered fullness of it, though.

      • I do not know if anything was lacking, per se, but the scent just never captured me. It just didn’t have that certain something that renders me speechless, in the way so many other Guerlain scents have.
        It just did not work on me, which is sad because I loved the bottle and packaging so much.

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