Friday, February 08, 2008

Guerlain Vol de Nuit

Vol de Nuit (1933), which I'm sampling in parfum on this cold February day in New York, translates to "night flight". I could easily compare it to Caron En Avion (1932) which was born in the same era and smelled similar in its rich, assertive, spicy-ambery, semi-Chypre tones. However, Vol de Nuit is much sweeter with a definite Guerlain stamp of vanillic-gourmand characteristic. I've seen a vintage Guerlain ad circa 1973 featuring a Marilyn-esque blonde woman as if inside a movie, and I wonder if Vol de Nuit would be another example of "the blonde perfume". Maybe that term isn't limited to white florals and encompasses sweet, perhaps youthful, scents in general. Vol de Nuit is sweet enough I could call it Gourmand, although it is more complex than a straight dessert scent.

The opening is a honeyed sweetness, reminding me of Chopard Casmir (1991) or Jean Patou Normandie (1935) but vaguely crossed with the elegant, subdued refinement of Guerlain Mitsouko (1919). As it progresses, the vanillic-ambery sweetness gives way to a violetty Aldehydic Floral phase, bringing to mind Balenciaga Le Dix (1947) and Van Cleef & Arpels First (1976). Vol de Nuit is classified by Jan Moran as Oriental Spicy-Ambery, which would place it in the same family as Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles, Lancome Magie Noire, Givenchy Organza Indecence and Estee Lauder Youth Dew. While I agree with the classification, I tend to think it smells closer to the aforementioned gourmand-Orientals and Aldehydic Florals most of all but I think it's as sweet and spicy as Organza Indecence, just richer, denser, more powdery.

Vol de Nuit is quite spicy, with noticeable cinnamon in the mix, which also brings to my mind Red Moscow if only compositionally-speaking. One can guess the leaning towards these assertive spicy ambery scents in the 1930s Depression era had to do with the popularity of Guerlain Shalimar (1925) preceding Vol de Nuit in the extravagant, pre-Depression flapper age.

Famous Vol de Nuit wearers include actress Katharine Hepburn and songstress Barbara Streisand according to Fabulous Fragrances II.

(Image: Vol de Nuit bottle, Guerlain Vol de Nuit 1936 ad, 1954 ad