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.

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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.

What Happens in Vegas… Part I: Guerlain – Mission Accomplished

While helping Birgit with charts for her Monday Question: Guerlain or Chanel? I was fascinated by the list of perfumes from Guerlain that respondents named as their favorites without which they couldn’t imagine their Perfume World. That was when I realized that I’d tried merely one third of all perfumes that others loved.

There is a Guerlain boutique at San Francisco Saks. It’s not too far from where I live but even a 30 minutes drive combined with the cost of downtown parking makes it an unlikely place I’d go casually to try one perfume after another.

That’s why when I realized that during my birthday trip to Las Vegas I would be staying at the hotel that hosted the only stand-alone Guerlain boutique in the city… wait… or was it that I booked my stay at the hotel because of that?.. Anyway, I thought it would be a chance to try all those perfumed wonders and asked for an advice.

As you might have noticed already, I like numbers. So here are some relevant to the topic:

  –  28 perfumes were suggested for testing and 14 of them were mentioned more than once;

  –  The most popular suggestion (7 voices) was Chamade;

  –  On this trip I smelled 14 perfumes from the list and tried some on the skin;

  –  3 days are not enough to do justice to what a great perfume house has to offer (duh!).

Las Vegas Guerlain Boutique in Palazzo

Once checked in, I immediately embarked on my mission. I went to the Guerlain boutique and explained my intentions to the SA who greeted me. He was professional and helpful but somehow we didn’t “click”. I might be wrong but I guess he didn’t think I would end up buying anything. Nevertheless we went through a number of bottles, I chose two to try on my skin and went on with my vacation. I came back the same day and then the next one, and the next – and everything repeated.

I didn’t try Chamade this time because I tried it before and liked, so it was my back-up plan (together with Vol de Nuit) – I decided I would try these two and choose one of them if I wouldn’t find any other perfume that I’d like more. I still plan to seek samples of Chamade and Vol de Nuit to figure out if I can go with the EdT, EdP or need an extrait. But all those who suggested this perfume were right: I like Chamade.

Suzanne, your bet on Samsara extrait would be safe: you were right more than you could imagine (but it’ll be a separate post next month – “How’s that for mysterious?” ©Natalie).

Out of those perfumes that I tried on the skin two were a definite No: Nahema (“old lady perfume” on my skin – sorry to everybody who loves it) and Sous le Vent (I might try it again one day but this time it wasn’t close to what I was looking for). I need to test more Angelique Noire, Cuir Beluga and Bois d’Armenie: I liked them all but it wasn’t love. At least not yet.

Las Vegas Guerlains

And then I took a blotter, inhaled and thought: This is the one! Probably you know that feeling when you smell a perfume and immediately like it. You do not need to work on it, learn to appreciate or let it grow on you. You just like it. That was what happened to me with Cruel Gardénia. It is extremely beautiful and the moment I smelled it I wanted to have it in my collection.

I wore it twice and even though I had one more day to decide (or try more perfumes) I felt it would be right to get my birthday bottle of perfume on the actual day of my birthday. When my vSO and I went to the boutique the guy who was helping me previously (you see, I don’t even know his name since he’d never introduced himself!) wasn’t there. I felt a little bad since I usually try to be fair and buy from those SAs who helped me. But in this case it was for the best: Jorganne, who was there and helped me with my order, was just a right person for me. It was a very pleasant shopping experience including a hand-written card from Jorganne that came in my package (I had to have it delivered since we had only carry-on bags). Guess where I’ll be buying my next bottle of Guerlain. And I have no doubts there will be more.

Guerlain Cruel Gardenia

And finally, please meet Elena from Perfume Shrine – a Godmother of the first Guerlain perfume bottle in my collection. She was the first to suggest Cruel Gardenia and she wrote a beautiful review for this perfume. An honorable mentioning: Asali who seconded that advice.

Images: my own

WANTED: Guerlain Perfume Godmother

I have a confession to make: I do not own a single full bottle of perfume from Guerlain. While I’m at it, I don’t think I have more than 2-3 ml of any Guerlain scent in my collection. Here, I said that.

Many years ago I was gifted with a bottle of Champs Elysees (EdT? EdP?). I didn’t dislike it but I wasn’t too impressed either. There was something unsettling about that scent. I kept the bottle but didn’t use it much. Until one day I read something very nice about this perfume somewhere. I do not remember exactly where or what (it was more than 10 years ago), I remember only that it was described as bold and sexy… Yeah, I know, nowadays which perfume isn’t described along those lines one way or the other. But back then that suggestive description made me change my mind about Champs Elysees. And I wore it happily feeling sexy, and daring, and vivacious. Until… One day a co-worker who was also “in perfumes” came over for a quick lunchtime sniffing session, picked up my bottle, sniffed it from a nozzle and pronounced: “It smells like a bug spray!” And that was it. I didn’t suddenly realize Champs Elysees smelled the way she described. She wasn’t even my close friend! But nevertheless I couldn’t bring myself to wearing it again. That’s how impressionable I am. Luckily my second bottle of that perfume was almost empty so I didn’t waste much. But that was the only and the last bottle of Guerlain perfume in my collection.

It was a preamble. A tale comes next.

As I’ve mentioned already I am impressionable. Not only my Champs Elysees story above but a list of my last year’s perfume godmothers attests to that.

Guerlain Perfume Godmother WantedAs an aspiring perfumista I made a New Year resolution to find at least one Guerlain perfume to love (and to hold in my collection). For my upcoming birthday I’m going to the ball traveling and staying in a very close proximity to a Guerlain boutique for several days. What I need now is an inspiration, a perfume godmother to share her (his?) passion for a perfume from this perfume house.

If you had to name just one Guerlain perfume (currently available, modern formulation) for me to try what would it be? If you’ve previously reviewed it on your blog give me a link, I’d love to read it. Or just tell me why you love it.

To make it harder, I’ll list those perfumes I’ve tried already.

Vol de Nuit is the closest to become a bottle in my collection.  I was tempted (surprise!) by Natalie’s review of Vol de Nuit and since then I kept trying Vol de Nuit in both concentrations – EdT and parfum. I have a strange love-hate relationship with it: every time I apply it I think: “Hmm… not bad. Why didn’t I like it last time?” Five minutes later: “It is unpleasant on my skin. It’s definitely not for me.” Thirty minutes into wearing and for as long as it stays on my skin I like it very much and keep sniffing my wrist. And the next time it all repeats.

Usual suspects – Shalimar (EdP), L’Heure Bleue (EdT and parfum) and Mitsouko (EdP and EdT): I tried them again and again (and again…) and no, I do not want to wear them. I can appreciate them, even like them on paper and kind of like some stages of their development on my skin but I do not think I would choose any of them to wear as my perfume if I had other choices.

I do not mind Shalimar Parfum Initial, it’s never unpleasant on my skin (unlike its classical siblings mentioned above) but it’s too boring.

I like how Rose Barbare develops on my skin but in the beginning it’s too sweet. I have a large sample to keep testing and make up my mind but I do not see it as the bottle now.

What say you? Is there a hope for me?


Image: my own (with the help of poster generator)