It doesn't happen every day that a perfume gets a hold of you and doesn't let go of your heart. Guerlain Vol de Nuit has done it to me.
I have a vintage bottle of the parfum extrait, which doesn't seem to be available anywhere at the moment (though an EdT can be found from several e-tailers if you google it, and I also saw it in my local Nordstrom a couple of weeks ago). The bottle itself is beautiful, as is the velvety animal print box. But the surprise for me was the juice within, because I rarely fall this hard for something that smells so classic and so very French.
Since my bottle is vintage and seems to be dating from either the late 60s or early 70s, the top notes are mostly gone. It still has the chypre kick, that thing that if you're my little sister you'd describe as "old lady", but even she would find this to be very mild. It slides easily into a lengthy dry down that is mostly wood and iris, with that vanillic Guerlain thing that makes their classics so recognizable.
Vol de Nuit, Night Flight, was created in the early 30s as a tribute to author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote a story by this name. Back then, aviation was a new and romantic idea. A lone man in his little airplane against the night sky. It's as far removed from our big, bustling airports, security checks, travel size cosmetics packed into clear plastic baggies and easy to slide off shoes. There's more than a touch of tragedy there: Saint-Exupéry disappeared with his plane into the night, just like another aviation heroine, Emilia Earhart.
The perfume was launched in 1933, four years before Earhart's doomed flight. It is said that Vol de Nuit was described as fit "for women who like to take risks", which describes her adventurous spirit perfectly. I can't say it really smells risky. Not today, not to my nose. But the romance is alive and well in this bottle. It does have a slight edge here and there, it isn't always as smooth as it seems, and the iris has some darkness to it. It's a rich, elegant perfume, fit more for a long dress and vintage jewelry than for greasy coveralls and a helmet. I can picture myself wearing it and quietly slipping into the night.
1979 Vol de Nuit ad from Okadi.com
Photo of Emilia Earhart via her official site.