Sapphire and steely… Chamade by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Vogue cover greeen

That day, late spring, she wore a satin trenchcoat in a shade just north of turquoise blue.

Indigo jeans and silver shoes, and, under her heavy fringe, those same steely grey eyes that can see straight through a glassy lens to you.

When she looks in your direction, be it across a room, or out from a magazine, she breaks the rules: she watches you.

Vogue cover Penn

The observed becomes the observer: the unmoving girl in the photograph who holds your gaze no matter how you wriggle; the clotheshorse on the catwalk who stares you down every time you eye her hemline.

She won’t blink first. She’s frozen. Crystalline.

“She’s not a model, she’s a work of art.” Andy said, or would have done if he wasn’t already good as dead.

The hyacinths were past their prime when they came to take her away, the flowers’ scent, almost fermented, was at its strongest: sharp, high, piercing as one imagined her scream might be, except of course, she would never scream.

They rapped the door three times and hollered, got ready to barge it in: a show of strength for assembled tv crews no doubt.

But no one seizes her moment.

Vogue pink sunshine

They pull back to charge and just then in full maquillage she opens up the entrance way and steps out into the day, a feint smile on her plush flesh-toned lips, her horse-hair mane of chemical blond glistening in the newly golden sunshine, its rays dappled through the lilac tree to form a pool of light that serves as her spot, a pale pink rose in her buttonhole, a purple patent Kelly bag thrown across her arm.

She has been surveying them all the while on security, waiting to steal the scene with her entry.

The plan was always to become famous first, then notorious, to use cool and stardom as a cover for as long as possible and then make infamy the tool to spread the message.

The Officer in Charge isn’t.

Porcine and perspiring, his efforts after dishevelled police inspector chic wilt in her shade.

Confronted with his prey – beautiful, implacable, perfectly presented – he panics just a little, mumbles his way through the statement of arrest, wishing the media would melt.

She meets each camera’s gaze as she has a thousand times before. Showing no more emotion than if she were selling a Saint Laurent or parading a Prada.

Vogue lips and eye

She has no problem with hollowed out: devoid of care, devoid of remorse… emptiness is all the same. She does it electrically.

And, besides, she’s waiting.

A shot, muffled only by the proximity of the body it enters.

A thump, said body hitting the floor. Andy. Upstairs.

Confusion. Journalists and cameramen on the deck too. Some police begin to go inside, then hesitate, withdraw: waiting for his word.

“Hadn’t you better go up, there’s a man dying in there.” Her marquise diamond cut voice.

No concern at all. The practised, callous warmth of a thousand interviews. Pleasant, carefree, casual and deadly.

He gives the order to go inside.

She smiles.


He screams: urgency and saliva ejaculating at all at once.

A hail of bullets like a drumroll ricochets through the house.

Vogue cover red

Andy’s jam now. That was always part of the plan too. That nothing should remain of the cold hand that created the scheme.

She’s all that’s left. Upright, flawless, ready for a close up, chaos all around her.

She could be here to sell you soap flakes or sell your country down the stream.

Everyone wonders if she’s wired, fears more surprises: death, an explosion, carnage.

She’s a swan. Gliding across the surface of their pond she’s just made choppy. Underneath she’s working overtime, her heart beats like a machine gun. This is how she imagines love must feel.

Vogue unspent summer

Head high, back straight: sense the invisible thread pulling the body into the vertical: that’s what they said in ballet school. She assumes her position, her poise, her pose.

She’s already ready, in the dock of public opinion and awaiting trial.

Only one possible verdict.


Chamade by Guerlain is a scent of international espionage.

The perfume of a spy: at turns sophisticated, razor sharp, ice cold, sensual, faux shy, sly and insinuating.

This is a fragrance never to be fobbed off or thought lightly of, it is an odour that means business, serious business: affairs of state and matters of import.

This is not a Bond Girl’s bombshell, it is a complex, subtle and strategic scent as impressive for its structure as it is awe-inspiring for its intelligence.

Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel in The Avengers

The opening accord of aldehyde, galbanum and green is one of the most seriously cool and alluringly aloof in all perfumery.

It is froideur made fragrant.

Soon hyacinths, at that moment when they can no longer be tamed, intrude.

Their smell is overpowering, glamorous and artificially natural, lent kerosene power by the lingering chemical taint of that sparkling opening rocket blast burst.

There is a slow segue into softer florals: rose touched with lilac and muguet, yet the sharpness of the start, the hard-headedness of the hyacinth, the rasp of galbanum does not dissipate until we are well through the main part of the perfume’s heart.

Then a wonderful coup de theatre: everything turns from surface and sheen, steel and violent style to manicured, almost polite seduction: with a reveal the Guerlainade appears as if from nowhere, the wings perhaps.


Slowly at first and then onto centre stage, a more balsamic than usual take on the house’s ‘superior crème brulee made aromatic genius’, treads the boards.

It’s as though the perfume knows that to win hearts as well as minds it must show a gentler side, some feather down cushions to mellow the angular geometry that has gone before.

A sympathetic appearance in the witness box and an appealing back story to get the remorseless criminal off the hook.

Though if this perfume were to be charged with ruthless, electric, sublime beauty then the answer must be guilty, guilty, guilty.

Chamade is that rare thing: a shimmering, transcendent scent of enduring, yet somehow untouchable, pleasure.

Chamade ad

Sometimes dismissed as a perfume of the middle rank, perhaps because it deceives simpler minds with its intended duplicities, this is a fragrance of the first order, an enigma within a mystery wrapped up in a miasma.

Glory in it before it gets too hot.

It’s good to be back.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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23 responses to “Sapphire and steely… Chamade by Guerlain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. The Dandy has returned. And what an entrance he has made! Thank you for reviewing one of my favourites and writing such a thriller of a piece to accompany it. I hope that its froideur puts many off because I want to be the only one wearing it. At least round here.

    I have missed your lyrical tales, your living, breathing metaphors and your always just-so perfect illustrations and photographs!

    Your friend

    • Dearest Iscent
      Thank you so much for your wonderful welcome for my much-delayed return to the fold. It has,indeed, been far too long!
      Somehow, I can;t imagine Chamade being a hit anytime soon, which is just fine by The Dandy, for this is too delightful to be shared round!
      I can’t wait to catch up with all the reviews from other quarters now…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Dear Mr Dandy!

        Welcome! So glad you dropped by. I shall get my best china out for you.

        I’m with you on Chamade. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and even to me it was an acquired taste, but once I understood it, it was true love. It starts off one way and then goes off into an entirely different direction before coming back as something else.

        I love it when a scent is capricious and changeable and it reminded me a little of Vol de Nuit- my other Guerlain favourite.

        Your friend

  2. Mary E.

    Mr. Dandy, such a glorious perfume to regale us with and perfect for this time of year! Now to go dab some on.

    • Dearest Mary
      Chamade comes into its own when the Spring is breaking into summer, the hyacinths and tulips giving way to roses and the sharp bitter earth scents the air under the sun’s warmer rays.
      It’s a phenomenal fragrance.
      Don;t just dab… bathe!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. Oohh, thank you for this! I recently got a vintage edt of Chamade and it will take a while before I make her acquaintance 🙂

    • Dearest Njaal
      Ohh, don;t leave it too long, for if it’s Spring turning Summer where you are now is the time for which Chamade was made.
      I’m not generally one for strict seasonality in scent… but this was bottled for mid late May.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. rosestrang

    Good to read you again Sir Dandy! I enjoyed that! It’s lovely to be so entertained and distracted from work and obligations for a little while.

    Another characterful perfume, long may they last. I was on a perfume sniffing spree with someone the other day who, though very cultured and open minded on any other art form, just couldn’t get beyond perfume that smelled of anything other than innocuous florals – we encountered Ninfeo Mio of which I took a deep sniff, but the other person recoiled as though it had lashed out! Chamade would be too much of a challenge for the average nose these days I fear.

    I hope all your projects are going swimmingly well, and that you enjoyed this re-immersion in perfume wonderland!

    • Dearest Rose
      Oh yes… a moment away from work (though that work may itself be wonderfully enriching) is never a bad thing.
      Chamade I fear is probably considered acrid by most these days, it might just escape being ‘old lady’ on account of it being so acerbic and assertive, but few under 25 would buy it I imagine. It’s Diana Rigg rather than Honor Blackman: a perfume with a hinterland, Chekovian depths to draw on. Today all we want – so the large perfume houses seem to think – are soft, wispy clouds of sweet nothingness
      Never mind, they can keep their Prada Candy I’ll stick with Chamade.
      I’ve been watching your Island series from afar… heavenly.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. AH, YES. Dear Perfumed Dandy, you’ve been missed! Your prose. Your images. It’s true. Thanks to your words, I’m now off to throw on my spy garb in mint green, of course. Guilty! Guilty! Guilty. Enjoy the evening! ~Theadora

  6. Lilybelle

    It’s so good to see you back, Mr. Dandy. I’ve missed you and your unmistakable voice. Thank you for the Chamade review. It is an old, old friend of mine. Warm regards. 🙂

    • Dearest Lily
      Oh I’ve missed our conversations too – though at least we speak at facebook now and then. No sooner had I returned though than I was stolen away by the weather. Never fear, another review is in the offing and shall be with us very shortly!! The voice will not be silenced…
      As for Chamade… how did I know all my dearest friends would adore it. It is so aloofishly irresistible.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Nena

    I’ve always wanted to try Chamade, but I haven’t got around to it yet.

    • Dearesr Nena
      Do, I think you’d like it. Though that opening is quite a sharp green shock to the system!
      It would be the perfect way to jolt away the onset of winter!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Nena

        Ooh, I think I will try it! I’ve been intending on using my decant of Liu to chase away my winter blues, but I keep forgetting about it.

  8. So lovely to read you again. I have to say I’ve never tried this although it is on the dreaded list. I do however love Diana Rigg in all her incarnations so I will think of her when I get to try it.

    • Dearest Megan
      It’s just grand to be at the keyboard again with wrists aglow with such a wondrous perfume!
      Diana Rigg… well I can’t seem to escape this word at the moment, she’s irresistible, I saw her as Mother Courage a few years aga, quite amazing from cat suit to wreck of war in four decades… what a journey!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  9. Good to see you!

    I love Chamade – even in the current version… I haven’t worn it in a while – I hope it’s not too hot tomorrow. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Dearest U
      And good to see all of U again too.
      You’re right, they’ve not managed to rubbish Chamade. I prefer the current EdP, though it goes a little gooey at the end for it has an emerald green punch at the opening.
      Vintage is best, but I’ll settle for a good present day habit de fete of this fragrance.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  10. Talk about a dramatic entrance! That was dynamite, with a very long fuse. So glad to hear your voice again! xox, V

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