Monday, October 8, 2007

Sous le Vent


All this talk of chypres at Perfume Shrine has me positively green. At a time of year, when I'd usually be contemplating a bottle of Tabac Blond and a pot of Lapsang Souchong, I'm isolating my green scents to a corner of (what my boyfriend has dubbed) "the shrine." Standing out from the midst of them is a small flacon of Guerlain Sous le Vent (1933/2006), recently reissued by Guerlain at their Champs-Elysées flagship and their boutique at Bergdorf Goodman. Sous le Vent is one of my ür-comfort-scents, a complex aromatic chypre that does not bury my nose in sap-soaked, mossy earth but, rather, exalts it in a Provençal herb garden suffused by nearly horizontal rays of sun, wet with morning dew, bordered by beds of rose, iris and ylang-ylang. It is one of the few scents that, each time I wear it, sends me into a type of synesthetic trance: fuzzy pastel points of emerald green and salmon pink move in and out of focus, floating on a cloud of milky white; every few seconds, a lightning-flash of Persian blue "cools" it all down. Sous le Vent is a perfume that, owing to its expertly blended ingredients, nearly eludes analysis. Like Lyn Harris's Eau de Vert, it renews me and, at first, makes me feel clean, but it doesn't stray chez Harris into the fennel/anise part of the garden; rather, after the Guerlinade accord calms down, a little cat comes padding down the walk: civet, ma favorite. In the shadow of Uncle Aimé's masterful Jicky, Jacques Guerlain knew that an animalic was needed to counter the freshness, to give it depth. Surprisingly, the civet does not "dirty" the scent. Rather, it challenges the nose to reconnect to those diminished Guerlinade notes and to pick out the very thing that may explain those flashes of Persian blue: tonka-bean-glazed orris. Along with the initial triad of unmistakeable basil-estragon-lavender, Sous le Vent has me wondering whether Jacques Guerlain created the first gourmand fragrance sixty years before its time.

Image credit: Original advertisement, Ebay.

4 Comments:

Blogger carmencanada said...

I've never perceived Sous le Vent as a gourmand although it has distinct cinnamon overtones. To me, it straddles the border between a chypre and a fougère (with the lavender opening): a hybrid of Jicky and Mitsouko. And oddly, it is also a synaesthetic, coloured scent to me, though I see it in intense sky-blue and "fauve". 31 rue Cambon is to my nose a variation on the theme, but with a more nebulous sky and a Parisian, limestone beige skyline. Oddly enough (again), the third scent in this trilogy would be Eau d'Hermès, which has the same cinnamon note... But clearly, Sous le Vent is a brilliant precursor.

October 9, 2007 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

D., Thanks for the reference to Eau d'Hermès, which I do not know but have heard is quite "sauvage." I am interested in other scents which spark synesthetic responses, especially aural ones (which, hélas, I do not experience). Also, I find it interesting that you bring up 31 rue Cambon, whose iris-pepper equation I adore and which rests, spatially, next to Jicky, Kiki, Mouchoir de Monsieur and Attrape-Coeur.

October 9, 2007 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Beautifully written V, and as we all know, it is so hard to describe scent, it is like trying to describe emotion, to which it is so closely related.

Wonderful that you have found such a beauty that as the Quakers say -- speaks to your condition.

Coincidentally, I have been having a very basil themed weekend, after getting a large fresh bunch at the Union Square Farmer's market. Made some basil lemon lime aid and plan to chop up the rest today for the last of this season's heirloom tomatoes. All that fragrant crushed basil and lemon and lime juice on my hands has started to draw me towards the world of gourmand fragrance arena, which for some inexplicable reason I've been shying away from so far.

October 14, 2007 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

L., Isn't there some story in the Decameron, like "Laura and the Pot of Basil"? I remember a steel-engraving of my father's with a title to that effect. If you were at Union Square Greenmarket, we must have passed each other. But for the muffin-munching throng...

October 14, 2007 at 11:54 AM  

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