Thanks to art and literature, we have some idea of what the past looked like and what sorts of things people said and did. But how did the past smell? What scents were popular and what did they mean to people? It’s a question that perfumer Gérald Ghislain of Histoires de Parfums was so taken with that he was moved to create a series of fragrances that are inspired by influential figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, each one named for the year they were born.
But, as intriguing as this concept is, the real appeal of Histoires de Parfums is of course its olfactory excellence. “Most perfumistas revere the ratings from the 'bible of perfume criticism', Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's Perfumes The A-Z Guide." says our curator and fragrance expert Michelyn Camen. “These famous fragrance critics gave most of Gérald Ghislain’s collection four-star ratings: two masculines, 1725 and 1828; and all four feminines, 1804, 1826, 1873, and 1876. 1740 holds a coveted five star rating ...the highest honor they award a perfumer.”
For women, he has 1804, a warm, amber floral named for writer Georges Sand, who defied convention by adopting a man’s name and wearing men’s clothes; 1826, a sensual amber-patchouli-white flower blend named for Eugénie de Montijo, the last Empress of France and an unabashed fashion plate; and the mysterious and glamorous 1876, a spicy rose concoction with a multi-faceted bouquet of jasmine and iris as an homage to the sexy spy Mata Hari.
For men (though they’re actually unisex), Ghislain has created 1725, a woody amber-fern scent that’s named for the legendary ladies man Casanova; 1740, a spicy bouquet of patchouli and bergamot that’s named for the infamous Marquis de Sade; and 1828, a peppery grapefruit-vetiver mix that’s named for Jules Verne, the father of science fiction.
The scents come in sets of three, one for women that includes 1804, 1826 and 1876 and one for men that includes 1725, 1740 and 1828. The bottles feature sleek and understated labels, and each set is perfectly packaged for travelling, in a padded black case with an elastic closure—so no unpleasant surprises when you open up your suitcase. Now if only you could book a trip back in time to see what Georges Sand, the Empress Eugénie et al thought of your perfume….