Yuri Gutsatz


Forty-five years ago, in a Paris townhouse that was home to the Gutsatz family, Le Jardin Retrouvé was born, and with it, so was niche perfumery. History was made the day the family business was launched.

When Le Jardin Retrouvé was established on December 12th 1975, no perfumer had ever begun their own perfume house before and no perfumer was recognised by name, except for one or two.  All that changed when Yuri Gutsatz, perfumer, poet and perfume critic became the first to break ranks and go it alone.

The story of how Le Jardin Retrouvé came into being reads more like an epic family saga that spans generations, continents, and two World Wars.  This is a story that began with a small Jewish boy escaping Bolshevik Russia in 1924 and ends, happily, with his son and daughter in law heading up the Maison de parfum you all know, in modern-day Paris.

Clara and Michel outside Le Jardin Retrouvé. Photo credit: visitors Brendan and Pat

Yuri Gutsatz, the boy from St Petersburg, became an adult, and the adult became a perfumer. Back in 1975, the business was a family affair, just as it is now, with everyone helping. Yuri made the fragrances, his wife Arlette was designing and selling, and their three sons helped out where they could.

Yuri added several ancillary bath and beauty products to the line, many years before other brands followed suit.  As well as fragrances, there were incense, soaps, bath oils, candles, and even a popular oatmeal scrub. Le Jardin Retrouvé products were sold in Japan, Canada, USA, and Europe. Yuri was a respected figure in the industry and was a founding member and initiator of the world-famous Osmothèque, as well as being a vocal critic of the lack of recognition of perfumers. As recently as in 2020, Master perfumer and Head of Givaudan Perfumery School, Calice Becker, recalled Yuri’s major contribution in the first Perfumer-Creator Charter. In it, she renewed calls for perfumer’s names to be as well known as those of writers and composers.

Le Jardin Retrouvé products were featured in magazines around the world

Yuri Gutsatz passed away at his home in Paris at the age of 91 in 2005. He left behind his devoted wife and three sons. The business carried on with the help of Arlette and one of their sons, Denis, but on 12th December 2012, the very day the business had been launched 37 years ago, Arlette too passed away.

By 2015, the only surviving member of the Gutsatz family was Michel, a University Professor of Marketing who, along with his wife Clara, an artist and writer, faced a challenge. They could continue with their respective careers and watch Yuri’s work die out, or they could revive the business and keep his legacy alive.  To the delight of perfume fans, they chose the latter.

Today Michel and Clara head up a small team in a pretty Paris courtyard where Yuri’s fragrances are made exactly as he intended from his original hand-written formulas. Each one captures a little of his story. Cuir de Russie was Yuri’s memory of his father David, Rose Trocadero was Arlette’s favourite and Sandalwood Sacré is still made with sandalwood from the family he befriended in his Indian years.

Perfumer Maxence Moutte recreates Yuri’s timeless perfumes in our on-site lab and our customers enjoy classic French Haute Parfumerie once again. The late Arlette, a stylist and consultant, has her contribution recognised too. The tree in the Experience Room in the Paris flagship store has been created from her vintage textile collection, as are the little fabric pouches the Discovery Sets are presented in.

From France, Le Jardin Retrouvé fragrances are sold around the world and can be found in China and the USA, in the Paris Experience Store in Paris, and on the website. With tens of thousands of followers on Social Media, fans from many corners of the world, as well as influencers, have written passionately about the perfumes of Yuri Gutsatz. The Le Jardin Retrouvé fragrances have been featured in GQ France, ELLE, Vogue, Paris Select, Au Parfum, Nez, Glass Magazine, as well as on multi award-winning perfume website ÇaFleureBon, to name but a few.

Yuri, Arlette and Michel, from the Gutsatz family album

Yuri’s spiritual legacy is alive and well

In 2020, though Le Jardin Retrouvé adheres to tradition when it comes to making perfume, they have a few modern additions, such as a sustainable ethos with a focus on recycling, up-cycling, and reusing. This applies to packaging, refillable bottles, and reusable candle pots. They also have established a very strong online community with a co-creation approach and instant communication all over the world with perfume lovers old and new.

Today, the Osmothèque is a much-visited place for perfume pilgrims and lovers.

The niche fragrance industry is booming, and perfumers are now recognised and celebrated for their talent, and no longer hidden away. Who knows what would have happened without Yuri’s contribution?

And all because of a perfumer who came from St Petersburg.

Happy birthday Le Jardin Retrouvé and happy birthday to the niche perfumery movement!

Professor, academic, author, and of course, a lifelong fragrance lover, Michel Gutsatz is at the heart of what we do. Carrying on his father’s work, and his name, without Michel (and Clara!), the perfumes you enjoy today might still be handwritten formulas in an archive, away from the light of day. Michel is a living witness to a childhood experienced by few. Growing up as the son of a master perfumer in a Paris townhouse with a lab upstairs is not a common experience. We couldn’t wait to uncover his scent memories and his vision for the fragrance industry. He took time out of his hectic day (trust us, we know!) to answer our nosy questions.

What question do you get asked most often? 

My my…. Funnily enough, as I have made most of my career in the university, it is “Could you give me some advice for my son/daughter? What degree should they go for?”

When it comes to Le Jardin Retrouvé it is: “Did you reformulate Yuri’s original formulas?” and my answer is No. It seems reformulation has been done widely, even for some classics, and customers are increasingly aware of it. We have decided from the start in 2016 not to reformulate: Yuri’s formulas are beautiful and timeless. They do not need to be adapted to supposedly evolving tastes. This allows us to cater both to Western more mature customers and to Chinese millennials who both love these classic fragrances and are not into sweet scents for instance.

What’s your first scent memory? 

Have you ever eaten fresh walnuts just off the tree? It is a marvelous feeling: getting your hands dark brown, eating the delicious walnuts, and smelling their extraordinary scent. That was me as a tiny boy in a small village just outside Paris where my parents rented a house devoid of water and electricity and where I discovered the extraordinary smells of nature, always linked for me with food: apples, pears, walnuts, green peas, tomatoes, fresh mint…

What was the first fragrance you bought?

Unfortunately (for perfume stores!) I have never bought a fragrance for myself. I always have been using my father’s Le Jardin Retrouvé fragrances, and among them, my favourite has always been Cuir de Russie, the most sentimental of all his creations. It was created as an homage to his own father David: during the Bolshevik Revolution, his father, son of a successful publisher, to save his bourgeois family, had enrolled in the Red Army. Yuri remembered when his father was coming home in the evening in his uniform, taking him into his arms, and when, cuddling against him (he was 3 years old), he pressed his nose against the leather strap. A first scent memory. Cuir de Russie….

What does fragrance mean to you?

Fragrance has always been one of my privileged links to my father and his art. He was a true poet and creator, and the most intimate words we exchanged mostly concerned his passion for perfume. His desire for perfumers to be recognized as true creators and his humble attitude when saying, “I am an artisan and never would compare to true artists like Michelangelo or Bach.” As he once wrote, “The perfumer has no message to convey. All he can do is create a moment of beauty.”

Fragrance has the same meaning for me: it is a “fleeting moment of pleasure,” BUT one that is linked to our deepest memories. Somehow, even if transient, this forgotten memory is there, and smelling a scent, a fragrance can revive it and bring it gushing back. Is there anything more beautiful, more emotional?

What do you think the fragrance industry needs in the future?  

I will again start with what my father Yuri wrote in 1966: “Perfumers used to be craftsmen. The present-day perfumer is a technician who must act to meet the requirements of his time. He has to find an almost immediate answer to the problems submitted by salespeople, by marketing advisers, by export promotion specialists. He is no longer the master of his time or his inspiration. Always in a hurry, always sacrificing to the wishes of the public, after having sacrificed to the dictates of cost, efficiency, planning, and given due consideration to all the problems involved in launching a perfumery product on the market.”

Nothing much has changed in 2020. Except that new perfume brands (so-called ‘niche’ brands, a word I truly do not like, but that is another debate) have come to market resurrecting, in a way, the craftsman. I say ‘in a way’ because most fragrances created today in the premium or prestige category are cost-controlled: the former CEO of a perfume company (“Maison de composition”) told me recently that their briefs averaged 90€/kg of concentrate. At Le Jardin Retrouvé, following Yuri’s precepts, they cost from 150€ to 450€ per kilo…  Why cut fragrance costs that represent but a portion of the final price? Cutting costs (if necessary) can be done elsewhere. For instance, in the packaging that all customers throw away once the bottle is bought!

At Le Jardin Retrouvé, we try to think ahead, and we offer a No Box option: why increase waste when our human actions endanger the planet? We also anticipate that the move to clean beauty – already significant in cosmetics – will become a fragrance driver. We are working on all our formulas and, for instance, are moving to organic alcohol denatured in a natural way. The fragrance industry still has many revolutions to come!

Further reading

You can read more about the Gutsatz family here. Michel’s book, Luxury Retail and Digital Management is available for purchase here with a foreword by Cyrille Vigneron CEO of Cartier.

Michel Gutsatz was in conversation with Samantha Scriven.

Did you know that Yuri was the nose behind Miss Lentheric eau de toilette? The fragrance was launched at Glyndebourne in England and Yuri, as the perfumer, was of course invited. On this occasion, he had to leave his beloved Arlette at home in Paris, although they never enjoyed being parted. Miss Lentheric is now sadly discontinued but was a popular perfume for several years after its launch. You can still find it on eBay if you’re lucky, as it has become a collector’s item, like many of Yuri’s fragrances, including PM for Mary Quant and Chromatics for Estee Lauder.

Underneath Yuri Gutsatz’s matinee-idol good looks there beat the heart of a poet and a true romantic.

Yuri married his beloved Arlette in 1945, and wrote poems and love letters to her that she kept until her death in 2012, seven years after Yuri himself passed away. Theirs was a match made in Heaven, raising three sons (can you identify Michel on the above picture?) and supporting each other throughout their artistic careers. It’s especially impressive to think that Yuri wrote poetry in French, when it was his second language, and one of four that he spoke.

We think he and Arlette would love our new Paris space devoted to their life’s work and their shared love of nature and family. Come and see our “heritage wall” and follow their story for yourself at our Experience Store.

1942 proved to be the most devastating year of Yuri Gutsatz’s life. Having signed up for the Foreign Legion, Yuri stayed in Marseille after a year of service. As a Russian Jew, it was unsafe for him to return to occupied Paris. Sadly, his mother Alvina and his grandparents were trapped by the German occupation and unable to flee. In July of 1942 Alvina’s letters to Yuri stopped and he was later to discover that she and his grand-mother Gueni had been victims of the Vel d’Hiv roundup and taken to Auschwitz where they were not heard from again. Meanwhile, David Gutsatz died the same year in Leningrad, most likely due to the famine and disease during the siege which saw a million persons lose their lives.

On Yuri’s return to Paris in 1945, he found himself alone in the world. His grief and loneliness are unimaginable, but a light shone through the darkness when he met a young woman named Arlette, whom he remained in love with until his dying day. But that’s another story…

The photograph above is from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and shows Jews in occupied Paris before the purge.

As well as a career as a gifted perfumer, Yuri was what you might call a mover and shaker within the industry. His influences remain in place today, notably as one of the founders and developers of the world famous Osmothèque in Paris.

The Osmothèque acts as guardian over fragrance formulae that have often as we all know either been reformulated or long discontinued (not our policy at Le Jardin Retrouvé – all our fragrances faithfully follow Yuri’s formulas).  The oldest scent there is from the 14th century, L’Eau de la Reine de Hongrie and it is not advisable to open or try it!  Yuri, along with nine other founders, helped to conceive and develop this unique concept, which preserves perfumes that would otherwise have been lost forever. We can share an insider information with you: Yuri in his early years worked for a now defunct perfume company who had bought the rights to all Paul Poiret’s perfume creations – Les Parfums de Rosine. When the Osmothèque was opened he donated Paul Poiret’s original formulas – that he had kept and treasured – so that the perfumes could be reconstructed!

Did you know that Le Jardin Retrouve was the first niche perfume house in the world? Yuri Gutsatz didn’t follow trends, he started them.
After several years in India, Yuri returned to Paris and felt frustrated that perfumers were still so anonymous, and that fragrances could only be produced by and for large companies. He felt this stifled the true nature of creativity in perfumers.
So what did he do? He founded Le Jardin Retrouve, the first niche perfume house. He ran the business from his Paris home, aided by his loyal wife Arlette and their sons. A year later, L’Artisan Parfumeur followed suit and after that, many more small indie brands came into being, but Le Jardin Retrouve was the very first, and we have Yuri’s pioneering spirit to thank for that. Every one of our fragrances is made from Yuri’s original formula: all timeless classics that don’t compromise their integrity to meet passing trends and fads.
Not only was Yuri the first perfumer to start his own brand, he was also the first to add accessories to the fragrances, such as matching lotions and soap. Prior to this, he was the first perfumer to fragrance an entire opera house! And did we mention that he was a co-founder of the world famous Osmotheque?

Today, we are guardians of his hundreds of formulae and we are proud to continue his work so that the world can appreciate his talent, even after he has gone.

At London’s famous Victoria and Albert Museum, you’ll find a breath-taking exhibition opening today, 6 th April and running until February 2020. Yuri was the creator of one of Mary Quant’s earliest fragrances, PM. With an AM and a perfume PM, the advert told women to “two time him” with both. Sadly, it’s now discontinued, although a collectors’ item among connoisseurs.
We were just too late to meet the call for exhibits. The Garden Found would have happily recreated PM from the original formula. We take a great pride on how you can get your work done in the USA, France, and even Swinging London! Not bad for the chemist’s sound from St Petersburg. 

Yuri was born in Saint Petersburg in 1914 in a bourgeois and intellectual family of publishers. Between the ages of five and ten, he learned the value of knowledge and languages from his family, and in school, was nurtured in the idealistic precepts of the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution. These experiences gave him a lasting sense of justice, of fraternity, and a love of poetry.
In 1924, Yuri, his mother and his paternal grandparents emigrated to Berlin. His father, David, stayed in the Soviet Union to save his family. Yuri was to be enrolled in the most prestigious school in the city for which his level of knowledge was largely sufficient to be admitted. The day he was invited for an interview, Yuri saw a teacher hit a student. That was something he could not accept, and he decided to flunk the entrance exam out of integrity. He studied in a lesser-known school, but one that was better adapted to his personality and belief in the humane.