Guerlain Heritage, 1992

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(Image George Harrison, source unknown)

Perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain

Heritage is the spiritual successor to its great-aunt, Shalimar. It has Shalimar’s citrus/amber opening, skips the animalics and then rides out a resinous parade-float of a heart and base quite similarly to Shalimar.

The difference is that Shalimar’s harmonies revolve around a purr and a growl. Heritage’s harmony is on a far larger scale. It has fewer low-decibel notes than Shalimar, hence no snarl, and actually doesn’t quite hit some of Shalimar’s high sweet notes either. But, oh, that large middle range. It is dense and overlapped on itself. It feels as if there is a redundant set of harmonics built-in.

This is a bit of a stretch, but I find the closest analogy that captures the experience of Heritage is a song by George Harrison called, “What is Love?” It was from his first solo work post Beatles. Structurally the song, produced by Phil Spector, was the height of the Wall of Sound recording and production method. Dozens of overlapped horn, guitar and vocal tracks create a sound that has as much a quality of physical force as sound. This captures Heritage as well: exuberance and an almost palpable wall of harmonious aroma.

A 1992 fragrance could look dated, or at least era-specific from the perspective of 2011, but Heritage was groundbreaking in its approach to masculine perfumery. Large, unabashedly pretty, neither soft-spoken nor cool/fresh like the bulk of the releases of the early 90s, Heritage was out and proud. It fell in line with that anthem of the era among my people: “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”

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