digging (into) vintage: Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle, 1983

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Jardins de Bagatelle

Perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain

A mixed floral requires perfect dosing of a lot of elements, but doesn’t do well with compromise. It’s more ‘all’ than an ‘assortment.’ It has to be busty and ballsy. Most of the florals from the 1980s that we remember as ‘big 80s’ florals were big, as in loud. Jardins de Bagatelle is big, as in grand. It sits at the balance point between ornate and topsy-turvy, about one step closer to chaos than say, Amouage Gold, Joy or de Nicolai’s Number One.

Voluptuousness requires a certain willingness to let your shit hang out, and Jardins de Bagatelle does just that. Sweet but not sweetened. Dry but not harsh. Musky but not sloppy. Overall, it’s chatty but not manic.

Jardins de Bagatelle accentuates the florals—tuberose, narcissus, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, muguet—with a heavy blast of coumarin. While the flowers are given enough leash to fly free, they never shriek. The coumarin note hints at both vanilla and wood and lands Jardins in a very distinctive spot between the woody floral and the floriental.

I don’t remember Jardins de Bagatelle from the 1980s, but it demonstrates perfectly the lessons we should learn from the 1980s. As an era, the 1980s is young to be vintage, but because it predates many current restrictions on ingredients, it belongs to a golden past. Maybe being younger than, say, Mitsouko, it has avoided the axe of lethal reformulation. Maybe coumarin is just less anathema than oakmoss.  Whatever the case, I have no faith that Jardins de Bagatelle will maintain its current good health—it’s just too good not to be tinkered with.

I just bought an older 100 mL bottle of EDP, and I’ve read that Guerlain are putting Jardins in the classic (boring branding) Bee Bottle. Prime time for a stealth reformulation.

Get it while you can.

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