I had a bit of an Ab Fab 24 hours last week: to Paris by Eurostar (first class, with full complimentary tea-and-coffee action, plus free mags) to interview Thierry Wasser (Guerlain’s reigning nose), a night at the Lancaster (five star fabulous, just off the Champs-Elysées), menu de dégustation in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, shut-eye in gigantic empty bed with not a single child jumping on me, lavish breakfast and then home in time for lunch. It was heaven.
It was also, allegedly, work. Although interviewing Thierry Wasser (it’ll be in the December issue of the Times Luxx magazine) is hardly “work”, especially when he cracks open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot half way through. As well as being the owner of one of the most revered hooters in the business, he is also a, it turns out, an actual hoot.
He’s also a gentleman. I am one of those people who has an uncanny knack of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at all times. I’m not proud of it; I just can’t seem to help it. It’s a most excruciating form of social Tourette's, a mixture of embarrassment and subversiveness that somehow forces me to say or do something inappropriate.
Over the years, victims have included the Chief Rabbi, a national newspaper editor and a senior Royal; now Wasser joins that list. He was taking me through the history of Guerlain, explaining the various styles of his predecessors. He brought out two colognes. The first, Vetivert: a big, overpowering citrus burst, a bear-hug of a scent. The second was a more subtle, complex affair. I’m a one-note girl, really, complex is lost on me. “Oh no no, I said,” airily,” I don’t like that. No at all. It would give me a headache. The first one is MUCH nicer.”
There was a slight pause in Wasser’s narration, and the two PRs who were with us shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Wasser chuckled softly to himself. One of them said: “That’s, erm, Thierry’s. The one you, erm, hate; that’s Thierry’s. He made that. It’s his. Signature. Male. Fragrance.” Silence.
Oh God, not again, I thought. And we were getting on so well. I looked at Wasser. He was giving me what Paddington calls a hard stare. Feebly, I attempted to redeem myself by saying that I liked the bottle. Naturally, it only dug the hole of my rudeness deeper. “Hmm,” said Wasser, “you are right, it is a lovely bottle. Shame about the scent in it.” Tumbleweed. Then he broke into a smile, shrugged his shoulders and pulled down the corners of his mouth in that very French way (actually he’s Swiss, but you know what I mean). “It is not grave,” he said. “Everyone is different.” Later, after we had talked more, he sent me a present. A bottle of Vetivert, of course.