Scent Semantics #1: BRAVE

Introducing a new collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (Cool Cook Style blog and IG), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass).

Once a month, one of us will be selecting a word (any part of speech representing an emotion, color, flavor, etc.), and we all will try to come up with a scent that we can connect to/associate with that word. We’re not limited by any particular format, so expect anything from a New-Yorker-cartoon-style picture caption to a War-and-Peace-type piece of writing (and everything in between).

Scent Semantics Project Banner

I agreed to participate in this project only because I love group efforts, AND it was Portia who organized it – how can anyone refuse? But I’m beyond bad in paring anything with anything. Nevertheless, I’m here, so let’s try.

* * *

This month’s word is: BRAVE

Unexpectedly, this one came easy.

Vol de Nuit was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1933, according to mentioning in different sources, inspired by the title of the book by his friend, Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

Vol de Nuit, both in its extrait and EdT versions, had been reformulated since then, probably more than once, which we all got used to. What amazed me beyond any words (well, I found some once the first reaction subsided) was that now marketers and brands reformulate not only perfumes and their stories but also classical literature.

My search for Vol de Nuit extrait (it seems no stores carry it now in the US) brought me to Harrods, where I discovered the following:

Vol de Nuit description at Harrods

the story of love and romance”? Have we read the same novel? I won’t argue “spicy musks” since for all I know we smelled different versions. But I question a blanket statement “the first years of aviation” (but that time aviation in general was quite well established). But at least they still mention the Art Deco aspect of the bottle design.

And then I decided to check the brand’s site. I don’t think they read the book at all:

Vol de Nuit Description at Guerlain site

Just in case you don’t remember or haven’t read the book yet, without giving away too much, I’d like to mention that the flight central for the story takes place on the route from Patagonia to Buenos Aires; it’s a storm, not a tornado, that plays an important role during the flight; there is nothing sudden in losing radio contact; and, finally, the pilot is flying towards his loved one (though, alright, let’s issue a poetic license here).

Night Flight is a story of bravery, bravery demonstrated not just by pilots who flew those early planes, but also radio engineers who accompanied them to keep communications going between the plane and airports, and even by those on the ground making decisions that influenced not only the lives of people who worked for them, their own careers but also the progress itself. It’s not war-time heroism we grew up appreciating and almost expecting, regardless of the cultures we were brought up in. It’s ordinary, almost prosaic courage that still would deeply impress you if you muse about it for a while.

What about perfume, you might ask? I hoped one day to try the current version again and, if it’s still recognizable, buy Vol de Nuit extrait during my trip to France or the UK. But with all the recent changes with Guerlain perfumes (and considering their attitude towards both their brand’s history and their national literally treasure), I started thinking that maybe I should brave international shipping from Harrods while that beautiful Art Deco propeller bottle is still available?

Guerlain Vol de Nuit

Please visit other participants (links in the opening paragraph) to see what associations for the word “Brave” they came up with. And return in a month for the second episode of this joint project.


33 thoughts on “Scent Semantics #1: BRAVE

  1. Thank you for this, Undina. I don’t know how the people at Guerlain can be so cavalier! But I guess that “mis-speaking” is everywhere these days.

    It would be brave of you to buy the extrait from Harrods, but if it makes you happy and you desire that lovely bottle, then perhaps you should. At least you know the true history of flight and its courageous pioneers. and can wear it with appreciation and pride.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, mostly, I want that perfume. But if to buy it, I’d like to have that historical bottle and not some cube-shaped tester (which still won’t be such a bargain!). I’ll think more, but it looks like a possible Christmas/NY gift to myself :)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. OOOH! Undina, I have not read the book and had no idea that they were all askew! Thanks for the lesson. LVMH seem to have a white elephant on their hands with Guerlain. Fingers crossed the brand can weather the storm and not go the way of Patou.
    YES! Go bravely to Harrod’s and get them to send you a propellor bottle. You’d be devastated if they suddenly DCd them and you did not.
    PS: Thank you so much for being a part of Scent Semantics.
    Portia xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Vol de Nuit! Wonderful choice for writing about “brave”; and thank you for correcting the record about the story!

    I wonder if any Canadian stores might be able to sell you the extrait, which might feel a bit less risky in terms of distance? I’ve had some luck ordering from Canada. I adore that propeller bottle too, but I was able to meet the craving for the bottle with the limited edition fragrance powder bottle from some years ago: it is the same shape, but in a gorgeous turquoise blue color and with a old-fashioned squeezable atomizer. You can see it here: The extrait is extraordinary!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha ha, it sounds like Guerlain copywriters just read the Cliff Notes! This is a great choice for Brave. What a fun project. I just finished reading State of Terror, the collaboration between Louise Penny and Hillary Clinton, and the fictional Secretary of State in the story wore Clinique Aromatics Elixir for courage. It is a pretty fierce perfume. I have been known to overspray it badly in my younger days. I only tried Vol de Nuit in the very early days of my perfume explorations (probably when it was still very good), but I don’t remember being wowed. My taste has expanded a lot since then, but I don’t know that I would want to try this new version. I’m looking forward to more installments of this project!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I did read the little book many years ago. Vol de Nuit commemorates the bravery of the early pilots who carried the mail by night, during storms and rough flights, risking their lives. Perhaps the words have been lost due to bad translation? As a Guerlain fan, I would gather what I loved asap before a treasure is ruined by another type of “bad translation”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ‘As a Guerlain fan, I would gather what I loved asap before a treasure is ruined by another type of “bad translation”.’

    Love this comment by morgana62. Brands are shockers for not being brave enough to stick with a winning formula.

    Get the bottle, I would, before they put it in a refillable cylinder. ;)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Why am I not surprised that no one read the book before drafting that copy! I do wonder which Sparknotes or other website they consulted for those tales. The original is incredibly poignant and I wasn’t aware of it. Thank you for sharing it with us and for such a great choice!


  8. I love that you chose my favourite perfume for Brave!
    It doesn’t surprise me that a copywriter has romanticised the story but as you say, being a national classic it is a bit much.
    You’ve prompted me to get round to reading it before long.
    I never thought about my love for VdN being connected with courage but seeing as it’s something I am always preoccupied with, it makes sense.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was thinking of you both in terms of your love to this perfume and your reading posts.
      Night Flight is such a short novel that there is no good reason not to read it. I liked the way Exupery uses changing (omniscient) third-person narration and short scenes.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful choice!! I love your explication. Brave for me is encapsulated in Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, which makes me feel like a soldier with my boots and sword on and ready for war. I love this fragrance and I wear it when I need to feel brave.

    Liked by 2 people

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