Friday, October 27, 2006

Guerlain Vol de Nuit


When I started reading the perfume blogs, no other name stood out for me the way Guerlain did. True, Guerlain, along with Chanel, was one of the only perfumers I recognized, beyond the basic department store offerings. But there was also the reverence of the perfume world for fragrances like Mitsuoko and L'Heure Bleue; I knew had to try these. And so I try I did, starting with Mitsuoko. Now, Mitsuoko wasn't my first attempt with a Guerlain. That would have been over a decade ago, when I bought a bottle of Shalimar EDP. I was so excited about owning what I thought was my first real sophisticated fragrance (I was mainly wearing Opium and Calyx in those days). Sadly, my excitement was short-lived. Something in that lovely perfume turned on my skin and produced a smell so awful, even my cat wouldn't come near me. I returned it and went back to my department store friends.

Not long after I started this blog I was browsing in TJ Maxx and I came upon a bottle of the revered one, Mitsuoko. Without sniffing, I snatched it up and took it home. The minute I got into the house I tore open the box and sprayed...In the air, the scent was lovely, sophisticated, what I'd hoped it would be. And on my skin, as it dried?

Bug spray. Honestly, I couldn't think of another way to describe it. But I didn't have to, because Bob thought of something: industrial-strength household cleanser. Not a scent that exactly says "Come here and take a big whiff," unless you have a problem and plan to huff it out of a paper bag.

At that point, I almost walked away from the perfume game. After all, if one of the "greats" was not for me, then where did that leave me? How would I ever find a Guerlain that might suit me? After I calmed down a bit, I decided I was being slightly unreasonable, and I set my sights on L'Heure Bleue and Jicky, two of the other much-revered Guerlain scents.

Months would elapse before I would sniff either of them, and sadly, when I did, both turned strangely industrial on me. Even the Guerlain SA told me "No, absolutely not!" And then she bid me to try Vol de Nuit.

The notes (from the Guerlain site) in Vol de Nuit are:
Top: bergamot, galbanum, petit grain
Heart: jasmine, jonquil, and spices
Base: woods, iris, vanilla, amber

Sweet fragrance angel from heaven, that SA was. But I still didn't know it, even then. Although at first sniff, I thought, "Yes! Finally, this is my Guerlain!", my excitement was tempered with doubt. What if I only thought I loved Vol de Nuit because L'Heure Bleue and Jicky were so disappointing on me? I couldn't be sure, so I walked away.

The scent of Vol de Nuit haunted me so much that I finally caved and bought a decant from eBay. I'm going to find a velvet box for that little plastic sample spray container, a soft cushiony protective home. This pungent powder, soft and alluring, is even better than I remembered. The opening is a soft, grassy citrus with just a hint of sharpness, but it moves quickly into the middle notes, which temper the green and start the descent into a soft heady powder with a twist of something--I suppose I should say animalic, but seriously, what I think is sex. This scent is alluring and sensual, but also comforting. I don't think, in my brief sampling time, that I've ever smelled jasmine this way, so evenly present among a deep spice that quiets into powdery notes that make you feel as though you'd been lifted into the clouds. I generally don't wax quite this rhapsodic about fragrance, do I?

I'm serious when I say this: I could happily wear this scent alone until then bitter end. If this were only about the hunt for a signature fragrance, we would have reached the end. I'd eBay everything else and use the proceeds to buy my bottle of Vol de Nuit.

*image from basenotes