There exist several apocryphal accounts of Liù’s genesis, and though these differ in respect to Jacques Guerlain’s impetus for creating the perfume, they agree that he took for inspiration Chanel’s No.5.
Prior to the launch of Liù in 1929, Guerlain had found great success in elaborating on other houses’ ideas, in particular those of Coty: L’Heure Bleue, for example, strongly recalls L’Origan; Mitsouko, Chypre; Shalimar, L’Emeraude. No doubt Guerlain hoped its aldehydic floral would likewise come to eclipse its forerunner.
To judge even by modern iterations, Liù lacks both the complexity and clarity of No.5. Chanel’s classic is famously built around a floral heart of rose de mai, ylang-ylang and jasmine. There, they are blended in such a way as to be both harmonious, yet individually identifiable. In Liù, it is jasmine alone that presents itself, the additional floral notes being smothered by an overdose of powdery musks and ionones that give the composition a pastel coloured cosmetic vibe. Between the discontinued extrait and the current eau de parfum concentrations of Liù, the EdP is drier, with a more pronounced abstract woodsiness that has none of the richness provided No.5 by its sandalwood. The EdP too, is marked by a sweaty note (perhaps linked to the particular quality of jasmine oil) that I don’t perceive in the parfum which is overall sweeter, more vanillic-ambery-balsamic.
Nose: Jacques Guerlain
Release date: 1929
Notes (per Fragrantica): aldehydes, neroli, bergamot, rosemary, jasmine, rose, iris, amber, vanilla, woody notes.