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Perfume: Where the Fragrance of Life Exists

Posted February. 04, 2005 23:27,   


Jean-Paul Guerlain is from Paris, France. As his family was involved in making perfumes, he grew up in an environment of copious kinds of flowers and refined oil.

An anecdotal story from when Jean-Paul was 15 years old at a cognac sampling party held by Sir. Hennesy states that he selected the best quality cognac simply by smelling it, since he was not allowed to sip it due to his young age. Many guests spoke under their breath, “As well, he is the son of a perfumery family.”

As he was not the first son in the family, he couldn’t dare to think of taking over the family business. One day, his grandfather was very distressed over lost refined yellow daffodil oil. Hereupon, Jean-Paul made the same fragrance by mixing several refined oils from flowers and artificial mixtures. So delighted with Jean-Paul’s adeptness, he called up to Jean-Paul’s father and said, “It will be Jean-Paul who will take over our perfumery business.”

Musicians create mellifluous chords by mixing different sounds, and perfume makers make fragrances by combining scents collected from nature. Thus, perfume makers can be called the musicians of fragrance. As Jean-Paul enjoyed riding horses, he made “Habit Rouge” from the scent of horses’ flesh and skin, and he also created “Chant d`Arômes” by adding tangerine and jasmine aromas to the scents of spring flowers when he met his “wife-to-be.” His perfume making skills were so deft that all of his products succeeded at stealing people’s hearts.

While he was making “Vetiver Guerlain”, he asked his best friend to try smelling the new fragrance. A couple of days later, his friend visited him furious, so Jean-Peal asked him, “Is there anything wrong with the perfume?” His friend replied, “My girlfriend told me that she was familiar with this. As far as I know, this has been exposed to only the two of us. How could she have come in contact with this perfume?” The two men opted for friendship and deserted love, and the woman ended up destroying both relationships.

The reason Jean-Paul doesn’t mind traveling abroad at his old age lies on his intention of finding exotic fragrances from abroad. He once said, “Divine aroma is scattered around the world. I plan to find the first fresh fragrance that came to Earth following the seasonal changes.”

He traveled to Nepal several times to find a musk fragrance and to Tunisia for orange oil. After all his journeys finding aromas, he reached an inspiration; he made “Derby” after he saw the phantom of a sword fighter at the coliseum in Tunisia and “Petit Guerlain” after appreciating the gigantic blue ocean from an island of Sicily.

Resigning from Guerlain in 2002 at the age of 65, Jean-Paul has been working as an advisor managing perfume resources, which he pledged himself to do long ago. In his autobiography he states, “I want to pass on the secrets of alchemy from my own experiences and emotions, which produce happiness. Also, I am hoping to introduce people to the world of perfume as it plays the role of creating joy and light. Beside these two goals, I don’t have any other ambitions.”

I have read a good book that melted both the aromas of people and flowers. I hope some of my fellow friends who have their own fragrances also find and read this book.

The original title is “Les Routes de mes parfums (2002).”

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com