Jean-Paul Guerlain

Jean-Paul Guerlain is the fourth generation heir to the Guerlain perfume empire, whose unique nose can distinguish over 3,000 fragrances.

He was born on January 9, 1937 in Paris. His brother Patrick was considered the successor of the Guerlain business in the family, and Jean-Paul, studying at the Lyceum, intended to study literature, but
due to vision problems and debilitating treatment, he hardly finished school. In those days, the owner of the company, Jacques Guerlain, wishing to support his grandson, brought Jean-Paul to the factory and introduced him to the art of creating fragrances. Then, during his vacation in England, a 15-year-old teenager amazed adults with his developed sense of smell when, at a tasting reception with Sir Frederick Hennessy, Jean-Paul unmistakably selected the best cognac of the 1911 vintage by smell.

For several years, Jean-Paul worked as an intern in the family business. In 1955, due to the cold spring, died the harvest of the jonquil flower, an essential component of the Vol de nuit perfume. Jean-Paul
took up the synthesis of its fragrance by mixing natural and synthetic essential oils of violet, tuberose, jasmine and narcissus. The resulting smell was so identical that Jacques Guerlain immediately informed
Jean-Paul’s parents in his brusque manner that he had finally chosen the successor to the family  business. Also in 1955, Jean-Paul helped his grandfather in the creation of the women’s perfume Ode –
the last fragrance by Jacques Guerlain.

In 1959, Jean-Paul took over as head perfumer of the House of Guerlain and created his first independent fragrance, Vétiver cologne, which firstly used the fragrance of vetiver, Indian cereal plant,
along with the traditional components of men’s compositions. 

Jean-Paul added to the collection of the House’s fragrances, having made many trips to exotic countries, bringing new fragrances from there: neroli from Tunisia, jasmine from Egypt, sandalwood from India, ylang-ylang from the Comoros. 

In Venice, during an internship with raw material suppliers, Jean-Paul met his future wife Marie Monique. Especially for her he created the new delicate perfume Chant d’Arômes in 1962. 

“Each of my fragrances is a portrait of a woman,” he said. A few striking examples: 1969 – the Chamade
fragrance appears as an impression of the novel of the same name by Francoise Sagan; 1975 – in honor of the mother of Jean-Paul, Parure perfume “an olfactory retelling of the emotions of childhood” was
invented: 1979 – Nahéma perfume was created in thoughts of Catherine Deneuve. 

Drawing on the Maison’s tradition, Jean-Paul adhered to the use of natural ingredients and attached great importance to the design of bottles. Guerlain’s compositions are well recognizable: they almost always use a signature combination of scents (“gerlinade”). In 1998, Jean-Paul decided to perpetuate the name of this combination by releasing the Guerlinade perfume; their head of the House considered perhaps his greatest success. 

Unfortunately, at the end of the 20th century, the traditional principles of creating fragrances slowed down the development of the company. Synthetic combinations and incredible ideas (the smell of dust or asphalt) began to come into fashion. Jean-Paul Guerlain refused to accept new trends. As a result, in 1994, the LVMH group bought 52% of the shares of his company. Guerlain continued to do his favorite thing, managing to get along very well with the new co-owner of the company, Bernard Arnault. And even when, in 1996, Jean-Paul, who considered that the new version of the Champs-Elysées perfume turned out to be “non-Guerlain”, decided to leave the perfume business, it was Arno who persuaded the enraged master not to retire.

However, with the advent of a new person in the Maison, much changed in the affairs of the “empire”. First of all, innovations touched the rhythm of the enterprise. Before, each new fragrance had been
prepared for several years, however, in 1999 the House launched nine original compositions on the market, designed not for eternity, but for momentary demand. Jean-Paul could not accept this approach, and in January 2002, the 65-year-old representative of the Guerlain dynasty announced that he was leaving the Maison of his name.

In retirement, Jean-Paul Guerlain remains a legend and one of the greatest perfumers of the 20th
century.