Deep in the heart of its laboratories, the Guerlain perfumers concoct the house’s most iconic fragrances. L’Art & La Matière is one such collection, which was first released in 2005, the first collections to offer exclusive scents. Now, more than a decade later, Guerlain’s artist perfumers have released two new scents to celebrate the first anniversary of the collection’s relaunch.
Oud Nude and Cherry Oud both celebrate oud wood in their own unique way, also expressed through colour. Each of the 21 scents in the collection begins from a work of art that inspires one of the Guerlain perfumers, who then brings it to life as a fragrance.
The pair of fragrances represent two new shades of oud, which is black by nature but has the unique ability to absorb the entire colour spectrum. “What interested me in the oud is that it is a rare mystery and precious wood,” says Guerlain perfumer Delphine Jelk. Sourced from the forests of Bangladesh, it scent is one she describes as “very leathery, smoky, almost animal.” The raw material turned out to be the most natural fit for the collection. “It is the philosophy of L’Art & La Matière to take materials where they are not expected,” she added.
For Oud Nude, the direction veers towards “softness, more sensual, like human curves,” says Jelk. The fragrance is a deeply woody amber that’s warm but also spicy. It opens with notes of white almond and cumin before revealing its heart of raspberry accord. Meanwhile, cedar and oud wood are tempered by sandalwood sap and a Madagascar vanilla tincture. “If Oud Nude were a colour, it would be Constantin Brâncuși’s nude,” says Jelk of the famed Romanian sculptor. “Just as Brâncuși’s work exalt the undulations of wood, the fragrance unveils an abstract, minimalist, yet deeply sensuous oud wood.
Cherry Oud, on the other hand, tells a contrasting tale. “My idea was to take the oud to make something different,” says Jelk. Where Oud Nude is soft, Cherry Oud is a mischievous and fun play on the cherry. “It’s the contrast between something joyful and fresh in the imagination and something serious and almost sacred,” says Jelk. The scent features a clash of cinnamon and cardamom, with an intense cherry accord that blooms with a heart of Turkish rose absolute and a fruity Bulgarian rose essence. “If Cherry Oud was a colour, [it would be] Jeff Koons’s glossy red,” says Jelk.
Sustainability is top of mind for the house’s perfumers when creating new scents. “We’ve acted sustainably since 1828,” says Jelk. “Natural raw materials have always been a priority in our sourcing,” she continues. The entire L’Art & La Matière collection is refillable, and its bottles are made with up to 15% recycled glass. Moreover, each time an Asian Aquilaria tree is cut down for its oud wood, 20 more trees are planted in its place.
To top it all off, Guerlain tapped up-and-coming Moroccan artist Ghizlane Agzenaï to design a new collection plate representing oud wood—and the myriad colours that can be drawn from it. Her interlocking geometric designs she calls “totems,” are charged with positive energy and top the bottles’ caps. “Colour has always been a central element in my work,” says Agzenaï of her designs. From cap to fragrance, each scent is truly a work of art.
Photos courtesy of Guerlain.