It has been a gruelling week and I have had stress tension headaches. I need not elaborate.

On my desk, next to the computer, is my absolute favourite of recent scent bargains : a vintage – the label says 1967 – sealed and unopened, pristine dab bottle of Eau De Cologne Imperiale, created by Pierre Francois Pascal Guerlain in 1853 for the Empress Eugenie as a cure for her migraines.

What is amazing is that despite the fact that this exquisitely designed product has existed longer than I have, its citrus notes – lemon verbena, bergamot, petitgrain – are totally intact, and flow beautifully – smoothly and delicately – into the neroli and rosemary that form the main character.

It is fleeting, of course, but relieves and soothes – and seeing it there in its black gold and green makes me happy. This vintage version has also let me understand this perfume properly for the first time (I find contemporary versions harsher ; this is so graceful in every sense.) Eau De Cologne Imperiale is not a ‘perfume perfume’ : but rather a scent created to relieve the strain. A refinement ; an evanescence.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Robin Razzell

    Fresh as a daisy at 53? I’m excited to hear that. Was just reading about fragrance “experts” — and some with legit credentials, no quotation marks — who say that past eight years or so, you can pretty much write off a fragrance. Bah! But a eau de cologne of that age with all the citrus notes intact? That is extraordinary, and a hopeful thing to know. I look at my collection sometimes, at all the elderly vintages, and out comes my motherly concern.

    • I know!

      For me, this box, whenever I see it, induces heart attacks of anticipation. I came round the corner and thought oh my god what is it which one is it my god and suppose was mildly disappointed it wasn’t, say, the parfum of Apres L’Ondee or L’Heure Bleue (neither of which I have ever found in Japan – it’s always Mitsouko or Vol De Nuit, the two Japanese firm favourites; Vol De Nuit even has its own Japanese name – the only Guerlain with that honour, a literal translation of Night Flight) ; but still, I snapped this divine beauty up for 15 dollars and MADE myself not open it until I got home as I knew it would be a classic Chapman smash up on the pavement otherwise.

      When I took out the bottle, still sealed in that papery hymen that signifies untouched, I was astonished. And honestly – pristine. Soft, perhaps, but undiminished !

  2. Georgia Kossifou

    How wonderful!!! 🧡🧡💚

    • Isn’t it beautiful ?

      I thought I would take a break from my raving Trumpmegamania and write about something pleasing instead for a change.

      My god what a week…

      This delightful bottle ( the green is divine I think ) genuinely does provide pause for pleasure in the maelstrom.

  3. OnWingsofSaffron

    How utterly lovely!
    A momento from another time. Not better; life 20 years after WWII and just before all the 1988-69 social protest wasn’t sunshine & roses but it was … so very, very different.
    I find the hate, demagogy, those vilest lies and yes the unfathomable stupidity in the past few years so despicable —

  4. Oh! what a treasure. This is my favorite remedy when I am having my migraines. This and a few other scents, similar in composition are all I can tolerate.
    Hope this week is better and less stress filled.

  5. JulienFromDijon

    I envy you on this one. I still haven’t grasp the appeal of “eau imperiale”.
    Would it be me, I would have removed it from the Guerlain line since 10 years (it and fleur de cédrat), at least in the large distribution where display place is sparse.

    But I know what you experienced, cause I lived the same thing with an “eau du coq” in the same packaging. Everything was in place, and so alive, a silvery flash with a subtle hint of deer musk, even including a pleasing lasting cedrat drydown.

    And it’s not by random. I’ve got a few 2ml samples from Guerlain, that are very old. I get the same ravishment in the first seconds of them :
    – Héritage is superb, it get the most improvement.
    Not the last bit as flat and chemical on the edge as what is sold since 20 years.
    – Habit rouge is a little prettier :
    more coquettish, a little more natural in its flower and more powdery.
    – Derby is like a mitsouko for men.
    Dry dark peach, a carnation accord (clove + rose), a muted patchouli chypre base, with other noble dry woods like cedar. (Got a bottle, resold-it instantly cause I needed money, because I would rather wear vintage Mitsouko edt when the need calls me.)

    The conclusion is obvious : the non-filtered bergamot did splendid things, and Jean-Paul Guerlain -or whoever he art-directed- was a genius at this. (Also, it’s like the budget was unbridled)

    In my imagination, “Eau impériale” smells something like “Ninfe meo” from Goutal. Bergamot cedrat orangeflower, galbanum mastic and benzoin, frankincense.

    It’s getting really truly hard to find vintage, since 4-5 years.

    I search it for my mother, for a friend who is an expert perfumista too, and for me.It’s like a dry spell in the second-hand market, while things like old Mitsouko, old Shalimar (obviously), or old Joy EDT and Femme de Rochas are still popping up easily. (It reminds me of how the frequency of old “féminité du bois” plummeted quite suddenly, making it a rare bird on ebay.)
    At this time, I’m resorting to watching the listing in real auction house. And it means risking to pay 60% more. (due to a wealthier concurrence, 30% in cumulated fees, and a more complicated shipping process).

    And focus your effort on the EDP/PDT, with long batch codes or an old stamp under the bottle. The 80s EDT doesn’t age that well. (It has an odd toilet paper rose on top, and is a mild tonka something on the long run. It doesn’t pack the punch.) Late 80s and 90s extrait is mostly chocolate ganache. Somehow I wish that in 7 years, meanwhile, I’ll have found a botched formula of it, and learned a bit how to mix the raw ingredients.
    (Laurent Bruyère is said to have made a book, with its attempt at recreating things like mitsouko) (Shop like aroma-zone for anyone, and even big-firma providers are quite open to sell for would-be perfumer, as long as you provide them an enterprise code -whatever the field- to fill the bill.)

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