Perfume Shrine: Guerlain Apres L’Ondee: fragrance review

What’s in a name? What’s in a material? Shakespeare’s immortal line has a lot to account for. Lots of scents with heliotrope pose as “almond” or “marzipan” or “powder with tonka”. These are all scents with a kinship that runs deeper than initially thought of. The synthesized material that is dosed into compositions that take heliotrope as a starting point is quite strong and can be an overwhelming molecule to work with if one isn’t careful and discreet. One of the first major fragrances to make judicious use of it, in a light enough composition, so as to wear it inconspicuously, was Après l’Ondée by Guerlain, “after the spring shower” as the name implies.  

“Ça se porte léger” (this wears lightly) is the motto behind the concept of these Guerlain creations that aim to offer gouaches rather than oil paintings. It’s more akin to the pale, hazy colorations on a Monet sky than the almost fauve brushwork and vivid color palette on a Van Gogh, to bring an art analogue. If one were to look for a fauve heliotrope, one would rather turn to Cacharel’s Loulou.

Zaira Alfaro on Flickr via

I personally find Après l’Ondée a rather quiet fragrance indeed, almost timid, with a sweetish air that is not immediately thought of as feminine (quite different than the airs that current feminines exhibit!), with lots of heliotropin to stand for cassie, which is the predominant element. Some heliotrope scents also recall cherry pie, or lilac and powder, but not Après l’Ondée. Even the almond is not particularly identified as almond, it’s a haze of lightly warmed, blurred, hazy notes, a cloud of a distant scent.

The violets, like you might have heard, are quite fleeting in this Guerlain perfume, especially in more recent incarnations which are warmer and cuddlier than the older ones, notably the extrait de parfum in the Louis XV style bottle. The anisic note on the top note is also a brilliant addition (created through the use of benzylaldehyde, it would be recreated more forcibly in L’heure Bleue some years later), since it brings a chill cooling off the first spray and balances the warmer, almond paste flavor of the heliotrope in the heart.

Après l’Ondée is also rather less known than L’Heure Bleue, so even Guerlain wearers on the street might not identify it right off, which is always a good thing in my books; it would also obliterate your qualms about it being perceived as solely feminine.

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