house overview · perfume history · perfume review

Le Jardin Retrouvé

I first read about Le Jardin Retrouvé’s and The Revival Project 2018.  in The Plum Girl text sometime in the middle of last year. 

By then, I already knew the basic facts about Yuri Gutsats, the perfumer and the founder of Le Jardin Retrouvé, the first niche house in the perfume history.

In my mind, his sentence “Perfumer, your name is no-one.” stood as a footnote of my every reflection on contemporary perfumery, which now in relation perfumer – perfume clearly establishes, pronounces and appreciates the direct link between the author and his/her work. 

Still, until recently I haven’t tried any of  Le Jardin Retrouvé’s perfumes, including  Le Nécessaire, the line of seven fragrances introduced in 2016.

Elena’s texts about Le Jardin Retrouvé came as a really good reminder that sometimes it is not just about the perfumes.

Sometimes it is about history, too.

And sometimes – when perfumes, stories and history come organically merged into a whole – it becomes personal…

I am an archivist, a custodian and a researcher of the written sources on which our history was built, learnt, told and known. 

I work in an archive.

This means papers, registries, pictures, different centuries, different rulers or administrations, letters, books, some traces of paper eating bugs coexisting in the same small universe with some high tech solutions, wars and laws, jurisdictions and some colourful vignettes on a margin.

Lots of boxes with numbers. Heavy boxes, long numbers.

And nice white gloves, occasionally.

Sometimes history represented in the materials feels like more on the Mel Brooks side, sometimes seems dry and cold like it was carved in stone, and sometimes delicately whispers like it is almost already gone with the wind…

But, it is all about keeping it last.

Keeping it safe.

Keeping it accessible.

Keeping it understandable.

Making it lovable.

As time goes by.

Sometimes only for some future understanding, perhaps.

History intrigues me, but rarely now touches me as deeply as it used to. But, there is one exception, the one segment of all the material that passes through my hands that I haven’t become immune on:

Family histories.

Testimonies of lives alike mine or yours – only shaped in a different era, under different circumstances:

Love. Marriages. Grandmother’s postcard – a love letter, actually. Emigration. Dad’s identity card. A half torn and a half bleached picture of a young boy… Some leather bag that should not be put into the same box with all the papers that were kept in it for more than a lifetime, but – oh-my-god-please, how can we separate them, it is not just about the different material

The intimacy with the spirits of strangers coming from material I touch and smell is inevitable.

Mostly, family histories come in small sets of boxes with only a few consequent numbers, starting from one, and mostly it’s because The Big History was rarely kind to them… And then, there is always this thought that materials remained not because there was a custodian like me, bound by duty or profession, but because there was one led by heart, the one that cared on a deepest personal level.

No matter of the importance in a broader context or the impact the family made on the big story we call The History, there is always some personal tenderness and professional admiration and gratitude present when I’m taking parts of a family legacy into my own hands, even if it is only for a while, and only to make it more accessible, understandable or known.

So, when seven wonders of Le Jardin Retrouvé finally came to me dressed in a pouch, as an olfactive reflection of a family history, places and time, I was already both personally and professionally impressed and moved by the way that today’s owners of Le Jardin Retrouvé – Michael and Clara Gusats, Yuri’s son and daughter in law – presented their family story, their roots and the authentic fragments of the perfume history:

Yuri Gutsats (1914. – 2005.) – a perfumer, a perfume critic, a perfume custodian – was the founder of the very first niche house in the perfume history – Le Jardin Retrouvé, founded on 12.12.1975., the year I was born.

He was also one of the founders of the Osmothèque, the world’s perfume archive, founded in 1990. and cited in Versailles. By keeping the perfumes of past safe and preserved, and then accessible to be further explored and reinterpreted, Osmothèque is not only the perfume archive – Osmothèque is the ultimate manifestation of the perfumery’s self-awareness not only as an art but as a cultural and a historical fact.

This kind of self-awareness is partly the legacy of Yuri’s historically significant sentence: “Perfumer, your name is no-one.” and his personal efforts to preserve and revive the perfume creations of the houses that seized to exist.

The whole niche and a significant part of the perfume world we love today are born out of self-awareness expressed in this Yuri Gutsats’s sentence.

As for me – an archivist, a perfume lover and a blogger who shares the year of birth with the house – I can not see how anything about Jardin Retrouvé could not be personal

Already sucked into a complex story in the intersection of olfactive and narrative, and presented with a delicate balance between private and public, least I could do was to approach the perfumes with a delicate hand…

I just dived in the olfactive side of the story and history, Le Nécessaire.

I followed the story through the years and the places as they were presented in the descriptions on the back of the cards, and I slightly enveloped them in a little bit of history.

While listening to what the perfumes have to say to me, I did that because history is like a perfume:

It captures you in so many layers of real, you feel it like you can grasp it, but you can not express its essence without translating it into a story.

And if we don’t cherish it, it evaporates… like perfume.

Paris, 1689.

While during their night walk through the gardens of Versailles courtesans inhale the night air, deeply saturated with blooming tuberose, which was planted by the will Le Roi Soleil (the Sun King), in a more modest Bordeaux palace newly born baby is sleeping. His name is Montesquieu and he will become a lawyer, philosopher and writer from a wake of modern civil France…

Tubéreuse Trianon

Notes from the card: tuberose, jasmine, ylang-ylang and raspberry.

A charming, bright and sunny, well-mannered tuberose that gave me an immediate smile. Tubéreuse Trianon opens with a pronounced white floral bouquet. I could particularly well smell jasmine, pairing opulent tuberose. Later on, as the first wave of white floral loudness calms down, Tubéreuse Trianon presents beautiful and polite tuberose, only slightly indolic, transparent and friendly, as if her mission is to be enchanting, rather than openly seductive. In the dry down, tuberose is additionally softened and supported with creamy ylang-ylang, before landing on the soft and musky-powdery base.  

Tubéreuse Trianon strikes me as unpretentious but well-elaborated tuberose I could easily pick for early summer brunch on a sunny day, to match a new dress. 

India, 1786. 

Almost two centuries before Yuri Gutsats will manage the factory in Bombay, somewhere near Candad, along the Nerboudde river a small Hindu temple elevates the strength of prayers with the sublime scent of sandalwood, and in more profane fragrant Calcutta, Sir William Jones is giving a lecture on the connections between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, laying the foundations for modern comparative linguistics…

Sandalwood Sacré

Notes from the card: sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, musk, coriander, petitgrain, orange blossom.

Deeply aromatic and fully rounded, Sandalwood Sacré delivered me a sense of tranquillity. As the perfume develops, the initial crispness of petitgrain is replaced with freshly spicy coriander. As the woody heart becomes more apparent, the texture of Sandalwood Sacré becomes powdery dry.

The light, mild and aromatic sandalwood is followed with not so clean, earthy patchouli. Sandalwood and patchouli work together almost as a sacred and profane counterpart of the same woody backbone. Base, however, leans more on the profane side, manifesting patchouli’s strength tempered with velvety moss. Nice aromatic woody. 

Saint Petersburg, 1878.

Thirty-six years before the Yuri Gutsats was born in Sankt Petersburg, some children are playing with a ball in the French garden designed by Peter the Great. The traces of the refreshing rainstorm are still present on the leaves and grass. In a carefully designed place of beauty and tradition, the fragility of fresh raindrops evokes different storms and heats yet to come. Earlier this year Vera Zasulich, a writer and a revolutionist who translated Marx into Russian shot Governor of Saint Petersburg. The assassination from an English bulldog revolver becomes one more step towards the October Revolution, which separated Yuri’s family…

Verveine d’Été

Notes from the card: basil, lemon, bergamot, verbena, oakmoss.

I have a verveine plant in my garden. My grandmother’s husband, a Frenchman who became the most beautiful grandpa in the world,  brought it to us almost 40 years ago from Le Muy, a small town in Provence. I always thought that this verveine plant is the most expressively and openly happy plant I know. Each time I water it, as soon as the first drops of water land on its leaves, my verveine releases a generous cloud of rich, citrusy green and slightly sweet smell.

While the opening of Verveine d’Été is dominated by lemon and bergamot, they very soon melt into the purest verveine heart, and that is where Verveine d’Été smells exactly like the happy verveine in my summer garden. Closer to the base, verveine quiets a lot, and final stages of Verveine d’Été present calmly fresh velvety traces of oak moss mixed with clean musk. Joyful.

Paris, 1912.

During one of Dhaighillev’s Ballets Russes performances, all eyes in the crowded Paris Opera are glued on brilliant Vaslav Nijinsky. The greatest ballet dancer from the beginning of the last century dances in leather boots, and maybe among fascinated Parisians was also Coco Chanel, 29 at the time. Later she stated that “Diaghilev invented Russia for foreigners”… 

Cuir de Russie

Notes from the card: ylang-ylang, violet, cinnamon, wood, styrax

The ballet and the perfumes naturally share the magic of silent performative art:  perfume lasts while its notes dance and vanish forever once they stop, and none of the wearings or performances is the same. Ballet seems airy and light almost, ethereal almost as a perfume, but is everything except that – behind every polished move, behind every immaculately performed pirouette or jump, there was a personal struggle, falls and mistakes, physical pain and, most importantly, the will to surpass them and transcend them into art. 

I sensed all of that in Cuir de Russie: tender and fragile violet wavering on the border of ethereal, firmly trained muscles of the leather, woods and styrax lifted high as if they do not possess any natural weight. Accomplishing this level of performance, olfactive richness and beauty does not come easy, and yet it feels easy because the true magic always looks that way. I fell in love, and I own my own bottle now. Magic.

Paris, 1935.

A sunny spring day in the streets of pre-war Paris. In the year when Francoise Sagan and Alain Delon, both artists who will mark French popular culture and life in post-war Paris, were born, Yuri Gutsats works as a perfumer for Parfums de Mury. A Parisian woman passes by  Trocadéro Palace, on her way to the Seine. There is a large bouquet of fresh may roses in her hands… Yuri Gutsats will firstly name the perfume Rose Thé, and Arlette Gutsats, his love and lifetime partner for almost six decades, will wear it…

Rose Trocadéro

Notes from the card: rose, blackcurrant bud, lavender, musk

A beautiful tea rose: rich, complex and simple at the same time, capturing, kinda open and honest. Inside the fully bloomed bouquet of roses, enchantingly fresh and crisp, there is a drop of green fruity sweetness suggesting not only flowery pleasure. There is some mild edge, too: a bit of lavender, as a sharper contrast to petals and buds, reminds that behind the enchantment there is some firmness and seriousness, too. The roses are gradually enveloped in musk, rich but not thick, and every time I thought I’m wearing the most classic rose-musk perfume, Rose Trocadéro reminded me that rather than just that, it is a character, almost a person in the ethereal body of the scent. Enchanting.

Madrid, 1970.

It is the thirty-first year that Prado Museum proudly exposes surrealistic and hyperbolic “The Garden of Delights” painted by Hieronymus Bosch in 1503. Former surrealist and famous director Louis Buñuel shortly returns to Spain, now oppressed and censored by Franco’s regime, only to film Tristan. A young man, also by sensibility a hyperbolist and a surrealist, studies film in Madrid, and his name – Pedro Almodovar – is still unknown. A sound of the broken glass in the museum. A fragrance escaped from crashed cologne bottle transforms reality… this must be the hyperbolic and surrealist olfactive equivalent of the Bosch’s painting…

Eau des Délices

Notes from the card: lemon, bergamot, mandarin, petitgrain, lavender, cypress, patchouli, oakmoss

The opening generously offers bright, fierce and sparkling citruses that would provide refreshment from any numbness or stuffiness caused by heat or hangover. In a way marked in the description,  transparent and sharp freshness in Eau des Délicesdoes transform the reality in a similar way the wakening does it. I was immediately reminded of classic colognes like Eau de Rochas or Eau de Givenchy. The sharpness of citruses softly melts into half soapy, half mossy chypre base.

During the hot late summer day, on my skin, Eau des Délices lasted about 6 hours, which is more than average.

Florence, 2000.

The year of “the millennium bug” seems like yesterday, so I had to remind myself that almost twenty years have passed. “Virtual” is a word we all use on a daily bases: there are social media, blogs, Skype, virtual friends, false on-line identities, photoshopped beauty, but in beautiful Boboli Gardens a statue bedecked with lemons is unchanged. Questions like: are the lemons real, are they virtual? became a legit method of testing our visual information these days. However, the information coming from one sense – the smell – still remains genuine and undoubted. Smelling became a sort of reality check because virtuality still hasn’t put its hands on a scent of a real lemon. A real perfume…

Citron Boboli

Notes from the card: lemon, petitgrain, bitter orange, galbanum, black pepper, cloves

Citron Boboli came as a true surprise! Intensive and shifting, it captured my attention in every wear. The opening introduces juicy, intense and already slightly sweet citruses additionally lifted and sharpened by petitgrain. Then – just when I thought the perfume and I are heading towards fresh and uplifting cologne territory of Eau des Délices and Verveine d’Été, comes a twist: from the centre of the juicy freshens cloves start to work their way out on a surface. For a moment the surface is covered with cinnamony cloves. The cloves infuse perfume with the spicy warmth, and for a while, there is a “cinnamony lemon” – intense, juicy, sweet, warm, yet still fresh. This magic dance of freshness and warm spiciness takes another turn – closer to the base the perfume becomes rounder, calmer, a bit powdery, and it almost suggests something edible. 

Beautiful surprise.

Le Nécessaire

So, what connects Le Nécessaire?

First thing I thought is that I would not mind to enter or pass through the cloud or trail that any of these perfumes creates.

Anywhere.

There is something noble in their aura, some natural acceptance as an expression of the respect and the courtesy. Each of those perfumes comes as a reward – they share a sense of noble measure joined with quality that immediately suggests tradition, integrity and reliability.

In all the olfactive noise, all the sound and fury of the new perfume concepts and generated but not groomed olfactive identities, in all the bright commercials and prestigious hype, Le Jardin Retrouvé seems almost like a utopia you get to by time machine.

To me, all seven perfumes feel like coming home, like coming back to a known and reliable place where everything is as it was because it was treasured and it is deeply cherished, no matter the world outside.

This seven perfumes made by Yuri Gutsats, remade by in house perfumer Maxence Moutte and presented by Michael and Clara Gutsats represent not only the personal and family history as a part of the big one we all share when we wear a perfume. In the spirits of this revived creations Le Jardin Retrouvé presents:

the memory, the endurance,
the continuity. 
The moments of beautiful nowness along the way.
Yuri Gutsats

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