Sunday, June 10, 2012

still-sound 74. A gentleman's fragrance

I have the pleasure of knowing a very elegant gentleman named Michael.  He's a little older than me and has led an interesting life.  I saw him yesterday and was saddened to hear about the recent death of his father.  Most of our conversation was dedicated to him.  Although he reached an impressive age and suffered poor health recently, his death was no less devastating for Michael.

Michael's father was a true gentleman.  A dandy in fact.  Michael was proud of this fact.  He emigrated as a young man from Baghdad and spent the rest of his life in his adopted city of New York.  Michael has a fine appreciation for fragrance which is most likely an inheritance from his father.  He showed me an enormous old bottle of a Guerlain fragrance I have never seen before called Extrait de Pot-Pourri aux Plantes Marines.  I guessed that the bottle must have originally contained 750 ml or perhaps an entire liter of perfume.  His father bought it 45 years ago and kept it in his closet along with two other unusually large bottles of Hermes fragrances: Equipage and Caleche.  I was familiar with the Hermes fragrances and was delighted to smell the beautifully preserved, vintage versions.  In such large, spectacular bottles no less.

Michael had just returned from New York.  He's due to go back in a few days for the funeral which, upon his father's request, will be held in a cathedral and feature a full church choir.  I love that what Michael took from his father's well-appointed life, to remind him of his old man, were his scents.


  1. Love this old bottles. I had a giant bee bottle of Imperiale as a teen that I loved in the heat of New England and then New York summers.

  2. The big Guerlain bee bottle is pretty spectacular. The label even more so. I've never seen anything like it! I wonder if pot-pourri was a more popular theme in perfumery in the 70s. I heard of the Shelly Marks perfume boutique in New York which was supposed to be the fragrance destinations for 'those in the know' (ie. well-heeled Europeans visiting New York in the 70s). The popular fragrance from Shelly Marks was called pot-pourri.

  3. I have my father's last bottle of Old Spice, and the half-empty bottle of Divine L'Homme Sage that I gave to him a year before he died. He said the "usherettes" at church *really* loved how he smelled in L'Homme Sage.

    How I miss him.

  4. Wow Katie, Old Spice and L'Homme Sage! Your dad had good taste! I love both. Isn't it amazing how scent manages to bring people back into our lives so wholly and specifically? My dad wore Guerlain's Vetiver. I try not to smell it often - not just because it makes me sad (which it does) - but because I'm scared that if it becomes more commonplace to me, that it will lose its strong association with him. A fear of watering down a scent memory I suppose.

    1. Hi Steven. Extrait de Pot-Pourri aux Plantes Marines is a room fragrance that is meant to be put into a ring (either metal or the heat-safe fiber kind)that rests on a light bulb. The fragrance is then diffused into your room. I purchased EPPPM at Guerlain in about 1975 and still hoard the last mls because it is no longer available. One of the famous/popular womens wear designers (maybe Bill Blass)of the 1960s-70s mentioned this fragrance in a magazine interview and it was a time when few people were fragrancing their homes... or at least were only using incense or one of the very few (and not sophisticated)home scents. My bottle is not fancy like yours but the scent is wonderful and powerful.I suggest your friend use a little in his home from time to time and imagine how special the scent was to his dad. I will too... they won't last forever. (PS The large bottle may be a factice, which is for display and the contents are not the actual fragrance. You see a factice on fragrance counters all over the world and Guerlain has them, too. Apparently they are usually made by the same glass artisans who make the perfume bottles, so they are quality items but the solutions inside are not.)

    2. Hi Chris

      This is so interesting! Thanks for letting me know. I love how Bill Blass knew about it and by mentioning it in a magazine interview, put luxury home fragrance on the map, so to speak. I don't believe my friend's bottle is a factice - the scent is so distinct and concentrated. He was nice enough to allow me to make a sample from his very limited supply. I was so impressed by how such an old bottle kept its scent in tact. I'm going to resniff it and try to imagine it in its glamorous context. Now I'm so curious if you have any other gems from the 70s that have since, disappeared? Steve