Guerlain’s website tells us that Chamade is named after the drum roll that Napoleon’s armies referred to as La Chamade, which sounds like the rhythm of the heart in love. Personally I think that title doesn’t fit too well, not because it’s too good for the fragrance, but because the fragrance is a lot less cliche than what the copy suggests.
Chamade is a masterpiece. A bright, springtime, pollen masterpiece that phases into summer after a few hours of wear. It isn’t traditionally sexy, but it smells fertile enough to attract more than bees. It isn’t traditionally mature, but it is confident enough to come off as such. Chamade has an utter lack of motive and is all the better for it. Luca Turin in Perfumes: The Guide states that Chamade lacks bone structure, but I think of that as a deliberate triumph over philosophy: the perfume that doesn’t try to be, it just is.
The top notes are a powdery garden with a lot of yellow flowers (hence the ads), most notably hyacinth, in a patch of bright grass. There is a bit of vanilla here that I didn’t notice the first time, as well as galbanum and bergamot. The ubiquitous floral duo rose and jasmine are listed as ingredients, but I can’t smell either of them. Chamade is more interesting than that; a collection of abstract flowers that don’t mesh with any of the more common accords of white flowers or animalic flowers.
The meadow effect lasts for a long time, but then it subtly starts to change, as real flowers do with the seasons. Chamade lifts its veil and the nectar comes out, smelling both delicate and strong. It’s a distinct oily smell, like honey mixed with greasy but still fragrant blossoms that fell off the tree. There isn’t a specific flower that comes to mind at this point, nor is there a specific mood, as there is with Chanel fragrances. Guerlain makes perfume simply to be gorgeous, no personification necessary. Chamade is a flower, just that. But it makes a lofty and successful attempt to supplement the already proven theory that man can triumph over nature, because it is more beautiful than any natural fragrance I have ever smelled.
Perfumer: Jean Paul Guerlain
Price Range: Moderate to Very Expensive (parfum)
Recommended Occasion: Any
Release Year: 1969
My Rating: 9