Thursday, August 21, 2014

Guerlain- Vol de Nuit (Vintage Perfume, Revisited)

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


  1. This is my favorite perfume and I have a few vintage bottles stored away but the prices have gone mental and I worry about running out! I have heard that the most recent reformulations are a big improvement - have you tried the new version lately?

  2. Beautiful description of an indescribable scent. It's my holy grail, and quite funny you should mention Je Reviens in one breath, because that is another holy grail, able to evoke the same nostalgia, a very odd nostalgia, the nostalgia I felt as a child for the times before me, that I had missed, but that were still 'in the air' so to speak. I too would love to know what you think of the latest renditions.

  3. A biography of Charlie Chaplin stated he wore Vol de Nuit.

  4. What an incredibly beautiful and evocative review. This is one of my all time favorites, which, now, after reading that you layer the edt with the parfum, leaves me all the more puzzled at myself that I not only don't own the edt, I've never even tried it. Yikes! Just went and ordered a sample. I do, however, have the extrait stockpiled - couldn't imagine existence without it. To me, it's one of the more unique masterpieces from Guerlain. I can't imagine anyone smelling this and not seeing how perfume is a true art form, even if they didn't see it as something they might want to wear themselves. Should probably now go order a sample of the reformulated version and repeat mantras about keeping an open mind (may require many, many repetitions, many deep, calming breaths). Chiming in with the others - do hope you review it!
    And, yes, it would be perfect as a scent for men to wear. One of our cats, a male, has chosen this as his favorite scent of mine to sniff - well, it would be tied with a couple of Afteliers, which they all adore to distraction.


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