Le Galion: The ship sails on….


Post by Catherine de Peloux-Menage


For the past twenty years, defunct or dying heritage perfume houses have been coming back to life. Les Parfums de Rosine, Lubin, Robert Piguet , Courreges, Orizia Legrand, Schiaparelli, Worth, Houbigant, Jovoy, d’Orsay, Patou in France. Grossmith and Atkinsons, Crown perfumery (as Clive Christian) in the UK. Now it’s the turn of Le Galion.

Coming across an old perfume bottle in a Paris flea market, Nicolas Chabot’s interest was piqued (Le Galion c’est quoi ca?). As a fragrance industry specialist like generations of his family, he thought he knew most French brands. So he tracked down the daughter of former house owner and perfumer Paul Vacher who supported him wholeheartedly in what became his mission to resurrect the house, even giving him access to the Le Galion archive, formulae and original perfumes. Le Galion was relaunched in 2014.

Le Galion: The ship sails on….

As Creative Director, Nicolas worked within the current raw materials restrictions with perfumer Thomas Fontaine (who specialises in reorchestrating perfumes for brands like Lubin, Patou and, Gres) to recreate nine perfumes which best represent Vacher’s work. Vacher created Miss Dior, Diorling, co-created Arpege as well as his own bestsellers like Sortilege or Whip. At his sudden death in 1975, Le Galion was one of the best known French perfume brands, distributed in over 90 countries. Within ten years it had vanished after it was sold to a US company which failed to understand its ethos and place in the market.

Le Galion

The nine relaunched fragrances are in simple, elegant ridged bottles. Not knowing the original Le Galion scents I can’t compare them. (A visit the Osmotheque would be a fascinating exercise.) As always, the scentosphere likes some and dislikes others. Here’s my take (Disclosure: samples are from Nicolas Chabot during a presentation to the Sydney Perfume Lovers).

222 My autumn-winter perfume 2015. Sandalwood, violets, vanilla. Cloudy soft, but with a bite of myrrh and a hint of leather. What’s not to love?

Sortilege Created in 1935, this feels grown up, seductive, half way between No 5 and Joy and with a nice dirty civet-like note. The original must have been stunning.

Tubereuse created 11 years before Fracas is sedate compared to her younger sister. Fruit, rose, musk. Rounded and ladylike.

Iris Delicate and mimosa-powdery, slightly green, woody and lightly musky. Vanishes quickly on my skin but I love it so will be wearing it on fabric to feel feminine and elegant.

Special for Gentlemen Bergamot, Lavender, oppoponax and patchouli, shades of Jicky and Shalimar but also of Habit Rouge morphing into the cologne feel of Eau Sauvage. Extraordinary, powerful. Wear it.

Rose – a delicate, pretty, slightly fruity morning rose. No thorns. Lovely.

Snob Saffron almond opening interlaced with rich deep rose. Could this be one of the first rose-saffron scents?

Whip You can feel the sting of the leather long after the sharp hit of citrus has worn off. Hit me again.

Eau Noble citrus fougere –green citrus elegance with a chypre twist.

sortilege Le GalionPhoto Stolen Le Galion

Further reading: Ca Fleure Bon and Colognoisseur
First In Fragrance has the Le Galion range €140/100ml

Have you tried any of these? Any favourites yet?
Catherine de Peloux-Menage xx

9 thoughts on “Le Galion: The ship sails on….

  1. Hello Catherine,
    Thank you so much for this post. The background of the house and succinct reviews of each resurrected fragrance are so interesting and helpful. I vaguely remember vintage Sortilege. It was not my style years ago but now I might like it. I loved the old Le Galion bottles. Its nice to see that the new director has retained the ridges.
    Azar xx


    • Thanks Azar. Nicolas told the story well, with passion and brought it to life. I agree about the bottles. They are not at all fussy, in fact quite plain but elegant and satisfying to hold. Apparently there will be a Parfum concentration of Sortilege which should be quite something!


  2. Hey Catherine,
    What fun it was to meet the boys and sniff their Le Galion. I think I have 2 favuorites so far Sortelege and Special for Gentlemen.
    Portia xx


  3. Hi Catherine! They are an interesting range aren’t they? A stand out for me is Iris, it has an excellent carroty note which I really love – and 222 is such a great scent. Thanks for the run down! 🙂

    Tina G xx


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  5. Catherine, thanks for these characterizations! I’ve never heard of this line, but several sound quite intriguing. 222, Tubereuse, Rose and Snob all sound interesting. And how could I not love them all, seeing as how I share my last name with the perfumer himself!


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