digging (into) vintage: Guerlain Vol de Nuit, 1931

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(image Anouk Van Kalmthout)  

Perfumer Jacques Guerlain

Sometimes I simply can’t analyze a scent and identify its constituent parts. This seems to happen in two particular instances. I can’t deconstruct the fragrances that I wore when I was young. Each exists as a whole, like an object. I would have trouble analyzing Chanel’s Antaeus or Chanel No 5 beyond saying that one is huge and the other is aldehydic. The other instance is the early Guerlains. I love Vol de Nuit, and I recognize it the instant I smell it, but other than saying it is a powdery oriental, I’m adrift.

But I do love it. It is clearly complex, and the complexity reads as a richness that even I get. Although I can’t break Vol de Nuit down in my head and look at its bit parts, I can describe it.  It feels lush and unhurried. It is soft in feel. Not weak and vague, but deliberately diaphanous, ethereal. This softness gives Vol de Nuit an atmosphere rather than an edge. Vol de Nuit doesn’t cut or strike, it haunts.

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