This bottle of Heliotrope Blanc, a long-forgotten Guerlain perfume, was one of my antique store finds. I recognized the apothecary bottle as vintage Guerlain right away, but had never heard of Heliotrope Blanc until I bought it. I was aware that some early Guerlain fragrances were simple soliflores, so my initial guess was that I was holding something from the 1930. Imagine my surprise when I contacted perfume historian Octavian s. Coifan and he had this to say:
Wow."The bottle was made by Pochet et du Courval in the apothecary style and has the "femme drapeaux" motif on backside. But your bottle was created after 1914 because it has the Champs Elysées address. This type of bottle (shape + motif) was still produced in 1917 (but not for a long period, and with a change) and the bottles from the 30's (Cuir de Russie Guerlain) have not the motif. In my opinion you have a WWI perfume based on a formula created somewhere around 1880-1890."
The juice inside still smelled good and perfumy. I suspected that whatever top notes Heliotrope Blanc might have had, they were pretty much gone; my suspicion was confirmed when a wonderful reader sent me a sample from her bottle. It smelled the same, just slightly perkier in the opening, while drying down to the same juice as mine.
So, what does a heliotrope fragrance circa WWI smell like?
Basically, like slightly sweet heliotrope talc. It's a pretty little thing, despite a certain medicinal note (more prominent in the brighter juice my friend sent). Heliotrope Blanc is like almond powder dusted lightly. It reminds me of old French sachets embroidered with a lilac colored thread. As a matter of fact, I might also be smelling something sort of lilacy. The blossoms are so delicate they come apart hwn you touch them, or maybe they're scattered on an old bridal veil that's stored away carefully and lovingly. Heliotrope Blanc is really pretty. The obvious almond scent of heliotrope is definitely there but at no point does it become even remotely gourmand, even as some vanilla kicks in. This is where Heliotrope Blanc differs greatly from its famous offspring, L'Heure Bleue. The latter takes the almond note and runs with it all the way to the pastry shop, getting into a mood and developing deep emotions on the way. Heliotrope Blanc smells more sheer and carefree, perhaps younger.
More about the composition of Heliotrope from Octavian:
"It was already sold by Guerlain in 1890's and actually it represents one of the first perfumes based on the new synthetic molecule called heliotropine (it smells like almond and vanilla and many Guerlain perfumes used it) like Après l'ondée was based on another similar molecule called aubépine (anisaldehyde or hawthorn). In those early days "heliotrope" became a type of perfume, and one of the first "fantasy" soliflore fragrances. L'Heure Bleue has an important heliotrop note (and heliotropine)."
So there you have it: a 100 year old Guerlain found at an antique store in NJ. I wear it sometimes, especially early in the morning before I'm fully awake and ready to decide on my scent for the day. Heliotrope Blanc lasts for a couple of hours, which is all you can ask from this pretty relic.