Thursday, August 21, 2014

A scent of 1908

"Four hours of research for two lines of text" is my oft-repeated joke. And sometimes an evening spent doing research ends in a scene abandoned on the cutting room floor, so to speak. I share both my research into Edwardian perfume and its related outtake here.

Jicky perfume was created by the house of Guerlaine in 1889, and was one of the first perfumes to contain synthetic essences. As described by a variety of sources, Jicky's notes included lavender, citrus, and rose over a base of civet (a scandalous scent!) and vanilla. Legend has it the perfume was named for a woman named Jacqueline with whom Aimé Guerlain fell unrequitedly in love, but more likely it was named after his nephew Jacques. It was marketed as a women's scent, but proved equally if not more popular with men.

Jicky is still available- in fact, it's the oldest perfume in continuous production. While I'm tempted to try some for myself, I know that classic fragrances have mostly been modified for modern preferences, and I wouldn't have the same experience with it as do Vivian and James in this brief scene from The Stowaway, which takes place shortly after their arrival at the Savoy Hotel in London.

*  *  *

Deep in my brown leather trunk I discovered an unfamiliar green velvet bag. “And what might this be, Lord Jim?”

“A gift for you, compliments of 'Becca. It seems she enjoys outfitting her new customer. Also I told her in my last letter about our unpleasant experience with the lavender, and she offered to send along something we would like better.”

From the bag I withdrew a small, light-green velvet box. I traced the looped House of Guerlain emblem printed in gold upon the lid before I opened it, drawing out the moment. “Jicky perfume!" Any aspirations I may have had of appearing sophisticated were handily overcome by the sight of the beveled glass bottle in the box.

Jicky in its 1908 bottle

If James liked to see me happily surprised, this must have been all he could ask for. He leaned over my shoulder, one long ringlet brushing my cheek, as I held the bottle gingerly in both hands. “'Tis only proper to warn you, It has a lavender note, but 'Becca promises it will not remind us of our mothers. And we can both wear it, if the lady doesn't object.”

“I would be honored to share a scent with you, sir.” I turned my beaming face to his. “James, how did she know? I've always wished for a bottle of this.”

“Good. You can wear it tomorrow, and at least something worthwhile will have come of the day.”

“Let's try it tonight and make sure we do like it, shall we?” I unscrewed the top and sniffed. “Oh, I don't think that will be difficult at all.”

I learned ever more about Jicky and the House of Guerlain researching for this post. Some sources:
Fragrantica, Monsieur-Guerlain, Now Smell This. And there are some interesting first-hand accounts of people's experiences with Jicky on the web as well.


  1. if you're interested, you can buy a small decant of vintage Jicky here: It's from the 50's but will be much closer to the Edwardian version.

  2. Ooh...yes, definitely interested. Thanks!

  3. Charlie Chaplin wore Jicky (and Mitsouko). I read somewhere that Gary Cooper wore it, too. :-)

    1. A perfume with an eminent history! All the more reason to try it for myself.

  4. Lovely work, though I've always been a Shalimar fan, personally.