Guerlain Vol de Nuit is one of the very first bottles of vintage perfume I acquired. It was some time prior to fully jumping into the rabbit hole of collecting vintage perfumes, but there was an opportunity, and even with very limited experience I knew it was a special little thing. The first time I wrote about Vol de Nuit was in 2007, and it might have been the first vintage review I ever posted, though back then I didn't even tag it as such (I went back years later to add the tag for the sake of search results). It was just my bottle of a precious Guerlain that I learned to love. Dearly.
Vol de Nuit is kind of a chypre, but not really. It's also a somewhat aldehydic floral, but not quite, and a cool green iris with a leathery touch. I think of Vol de Nuit as an incredibly romantic perfume. Part of it obviously has something to do with its name ("night flight" only second to Je Revien, "I will come back", in this department, though try to remind me of it next time I'm at an airport in the dead of the night ready to kill someone). But it's more than that. There's something wistful about the cool air of the night that blows through the iris, narcissus, and galbanum that hold this perfume together. The floral bouquet is tall, lean, and pale. The green stems are part of its design, but seen in the dim light of the moon they're almost ashy gray. This actually can be said about Vol de Nuit in general: I experience it as though from a distance, through a sheer veil.
I usually wear Vol de Nuit by layering the extrait with an eau de toilette, both vintage. The extrait is decidedly sweeter and thicker, though even in this concentration that has a vanillic touch in the late dry-down I find very little of Guerlain's signature base. A hint, maybe, in the progression from the powdery iris (the EDT is greener and earthier with little powder in comparison) to a slightly leathery vanilla. The leather might be a phantom note born from the remnants of the galbanum. Speaking of the way galbanum manifest in this perfume, it's also a bit blackened by the night. I think of Vol de Nuit as capturing the feeling of staying out very late on a night in the end of summer. The sky is dark blue, the trees almost black against it, the air is chilly, and on my shoulders there's a borrowed jacket, a bit heavy with its leather and zippers, cool to the touch as are my hands that I keep inside the too-long sleeves.
The dusty, mossy green of the dry-down and the overall feel of Vol de Nuit make me thing I should have added it to my list of "feminine perfumes guys should try" from the other night. The classic propeller bottle should be an extra incentive for them to give it a try, don't you think?
Top image: Francois Flameng - Returning from a night flight on aircraft "Voisin" Bomber, circa WWI