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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


By Marina

La Chamade is an old military expression to which Francoise Sagan gave new life by using it in her novel. In its original meaning, la chamade is a signal by drum or trumpet signaling capitulation. In the book and in the copy for the eponymous fragrance by Guerlain, it "symbolizes a surrender to love." First of all, I have to say that I have always been jealous of Guerlain, because they got to make a perfume inspired by Sagan's book. If I had a perfume line, quite possibly each scent there would have been an homage to one of her works. Secondly, I am in two minds in regards to the suitability of this particular scent to this particular book

Chamade, heavy on hyacinth, is a perfume that does not give up or surrender. Besides (and that might just be the reflection of my very subjective impression of hyacinth as a note) neither does it strike me as particularly romantic. The buttery bitterness of hyacinth is the strongest in the beginning of Chamade's development, but it is very evident on my skin in the heart of the composition, where it is actually aided by another uncompromising and unbending green note, galbanum... Without them, the heart would have been all starry-eyed, heavy-lidded and honeyed thanks to the presence of jasmine, rose and ylang ylang. The unyielding, sharp greenness persists as far as in the drydown. Hyacinth and galbanum are fighting the typical velvetiness of Guerlain's base as if it is against their ideology, they will not relent..

None of the above is meant as a criticism! Quite to the contrary. I  love Chamade for the tough, sharp fighter it is. When I need strength and dare I say bitchiness to not give up, that is what I wear. I love how it is so very Guerlain, because somehow even the sharp greenness smells lush in the hands of Jean-Paul...and yet stands out as a little bit of an alien in the line up. It doesn't quite belong there  and doesn't want to. Chamade is an elegant non-comformist.

This is the kind of perfume that would never surrender, be it to love, to circumstances, or to pressure...In that respect, it is wrong for La Chamade the book. But only if we condense all the content and meaning of it into one piece about the heartbeat signaling capitulation. As Wikipedia cleverly summarizes, however, the heroine "wants to be with the one who doesn't ask her to change", and thus the book is actually about NOT surrendering: now that is the philosophy to which Chamade by Guerlain can subscribe. Wear it and don't change for anybody. And never, never, never give up.

Chamade can be found wherever Guerlain is sold, including online discouners.

Which book would you turn into perfume?



Blogger Balutakat said...

The first book that sprang to mind was "The Wind in the Willows" and "Possession" shortly thereafter.

2:58 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chamade is a perfume I learned to love, but that love has lasted. Great review, exactly explains this complicated, difficult, but lovable perfume. I'd like to see a perfume for Bathsheba in Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd"!

5:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Would love to hear what you'd imagine those scents to be like

8:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

And same question for you- what would it be like? :)

8:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Koki said...

Love, love, love Chamade. Sprayed it for the first time when I was 16 onto a rust-colored suede purse and it lasted there for months, I can still smell it in my mind 35 years later. Uusally have a bottle in the closet but it's time to buy a new one . . .

8:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Oh but, M, you don't get that big turn from the opening to the drydown? The moment when the oily galbanum-hyacinth gives way to that plush amber? I've always thought of that part as the surrender.

10:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wuthering Heights

10:42 AM EDT  
Blogger Jen said...

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

12:12 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Alyssa! It's the "turn," or what I think of as the "blooming" from chilly green to warm sweet gold that makes Chamade romantic to me.

1:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Tammy said...

Chamade is the only Guerlain I have found that I care much for, since it seems to lack that vanilla-sweet base that I can't tolerate. I am a hyacinth lover, which probably also explains it! With the Wind would be a fun one....would fit with the Chamade theme you have laid out, though it's not the scent I'd choose right off the top of my head.

One could scent the book itself, and have Scarlett (Fracas, Bandit, Jolie Madame?) Melanie (AlO?), Rhett (Black Afghano)and Ashley (drawing a blank here, something insipid but classic) flankers. :o)

Not sure what scent I'd choose for the book. L' Heure Bleu is the right feel, but the scent itself doesn't work. Needs to be haunting, a little smoky, maybe one of the Amouages?

5:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh I imagine it would smell so great on suede or leather!

6:21 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

The hyacinth and galbanum are present on me even in the base and so the scent never really softens on me to an extent where I could say it surrendered :)

6:22 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Should be a beautiful, brooding, intense scent. An earthy floral?

6:23 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I need to google that!

6:23 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Gold- yes, with a tinge of green, in the base, but warm and sweet? Not on me!

6:24 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

what an interesting idea- scenting the characters in Gone with the Wind. If I were to choose a scent for the whole book, from Amouages only, I think I'd go for Memoir.

6:27 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina, that's kind of funny that you'd scent Gone with the Wind with Memoir... as I was reading, I was thinking about The House of Mirth, and that Memoir would be perfect for it!

1:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

well, both are dramatic books :) and Memoir is a dramatic scent :)

9:12 AM EDT  
Anonymous maggiecat said...

Just thinking of Gone With the Wind - rmeember Scarlett used cologne to capture the heart of her sister's beau, Frank Kennedy. He told her she was "as pink and fragrant as a rose." And Scarlett's scent memory of her mother was lemon verbena....Shouldn't Melanie be in violets somehow? Why yes, this was my favorite book when I was a teen - how did you guess?

10:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I don't even know how many times I read it :) I agree that Melanie should be in pale, melancholy, soft violets.

10:50 AM EDT  
Anonymous Sturdibaker said...

I'd already given up on finding another Guerlain to adore. Perhaps I've been wrong to overlook Chamade. Your review makes it sound exactly like the kind of scent I'd enjoy. I'm SO in the mood for sharp and green!

1:18 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Chamade is definitely worth a look, I think you'd love it.

1:20 PM EDT  
Anonymous Joan said...

I'll have to think about Chamade as a fighter. I see it as a representation of spring, with no further motive.

But that's what's so great about perfume: everybody can have a different interpretation, and nobody is more right than anyone else.

10:47 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree, the diversity of impressions and reactions is the best thing.

10:11 AM EDT  

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