Old perfume houses show they’ve still got it! After Oriza L. Legrand, Volnay, l’Institut très Bien or Jean Patou these past few years, Le Galion is born again from ashes, too.
“It has been an incredible discovery”, says the man to whom we owe this new page of history, Nicolas Chabot, raised in a family where “everyone worked in perfume” and who has worked for some big names in the luxury industry as a sales rep himself. “I was at a flee market when, by pure chance, I stumbled upon a bottle of Sortilège. Le Galion? That name rang no bell. I started flipping through the pages of Les Parfums by Elizabeth de Feydeau and I patiently went on with my research. Slowly, I unfolded the whole story of Le Galion”. And what a story!
Founded in the early 1920s by the Prince Murat, a descendant of Napoleon, the House is bought in 1935 by Paul Vacher, a legendary perfumer who composed, among other things, the mythical Miss Dior (the 1946 version), Diorling (now discontinued) or Lanvin’s Arpège, Rumeur and Scandal. As early as 1936, for Le Galion, the flower lover composes Sortilège, an aldehydic floral whose formula contains no less than eighty natural essences, and whose success is immediate.
In the Parisian suburb of Neuilly, in the private mansion the House uses as factory and office, he creates some thirty more perfumes until the beginning of the 1970s. When Paul Vacher dies, in 1975, his daughter Dominique, who had been working and learning the ropes with him for fifteen years, becomes the perfumer of Le Galion. But soon the House is bought by Sarah Lee Corporation. Swallowed by the American giant, who couldn’t care less about the patrimony it held in its hands, Le Galion falls into disuse and eventually disappears in the 1980s (a story that can only remind of what happened when Procter & Gamble bought the Jean Patou perfumes in the 2000s).
It seemed like Le Galion might as well never see the light of day again, if it wasn’t for Nicolas Chabot’s pugnacity, as he eventually managed to get in touch with Dominique and to talk her into the adventure. Her and Nicolas gathered a dream team of three perfumers to make the ancient formulas live again and to work out the problems posed by the fact that many of the raw materials used back then are now forbidden. Among them, the excellent Thomas Fontaine, who had already tried his hands at the exercise when he recomposed the recently reedited vintage fragrances of Jean Patou’s Collection Héritage. Le Galion has thus relaunched 9 first perfumes in September.
As for the soliflores, we are mesmerized by the crystal-clear elegance of Iris (composed in 1937) and surprised by the crisp greenness of Tubéreuse (1937), far from the heady cliché that often sticks to this beautiful flower. We literally feel hit by a whip lash when disvocering the very, very citrusy notes of Whip (1953), which then unveils a beautiful floral heart; we are charmed by the oriental and sensuous feel of 222, an unsigned creation found in the archives of Le Galion, and we discover, not without emotion, the famous Sortilège, whose 2014 version, if we believe Nicolas Chabot, is just a tad less old-lady-ish than the original. As for the references labelled as “masculine”, they’re a slap in the face too. Ah, if only we could encounter the beautiful chypre-leathery notes of Eau Noble (1972) in the metro every now and then… Let’s comfort ourselves: from now on, the dream could become reality.
On sale at Jovoy in Paris, and in the Ombres Portées stores across France, Le Galion fragrances can be found at Liberty in London and at Le Galion’s online store.
Great read on Bois de Jasmin: a few extracts, translated into English, of an article by Michel Arbaud on Paul Vacher, published in 1943.
Read or re-read on Flair: The rebirth of Jean Patou perfumes.
I’ve just discovered your blog and will be reading more articles on it – really informative.
Thank you Megan 🙂