Jacques Guerlain 1934
[su lə vɑ̃]
Family: chypre, aromatic
Herbs and cinnamon
Period: The flight years

Thierry Wasser and Frédéric Sacone have re-created an extensive list of historic Guerlain perfumes, using the exact same ingredients as when they saw the light for the first time.

In the vintage sample set we find the original Parfum version of Sous le Vent, created by Jacques Guerlain in 1934. Along with Véga, Sous le Vent was featured commercially as an EdT in the so-called Il Était Une Fois Guerlain collection, but Guerlain regrettably has chosen to discontinue the production due to low demand. Guerlain lovers are quite sad about this; it deprives us of one of perfumery's most elegant aromatic chypres, now only a museum piece. We wonder if Guerlain really imagined it would sell like hotcakes.

Jean-Paul Guerlain was a great admirer of his grandfather's Sous le Vent. He wrote that it made him fantasize about ships and faraway islands when he was a child, and he made Vétiver, Eau de Guerlain and Philtre d'Amour in its spirit. The Sous le Vent accord is barer, greener and drier than those of the two famous chypres, Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit. In Sous le Vent, Jacques Guerlain pushed the bouquet of Provençal herbs (lavender, tarragon, basil, myrtle and verbena) from its usual top note position into centre stage, and reinforced it with the galbanum resin. Both Vol de Nuit and Sous le Vent are known for their use of galbanum whose scent is often likened to that of green pea pods, intensely leafy and resinous. However, only Sous le Vent is what perfumers would call a green perfume, due to its emphasis on aromatics. Thierry Wasser explains that galbanum was a very novel material in fine perfumery back then, and that Vol de Nuit and Sous le Vent came to define the green chypre genre.

Apart from greenness, in Sous le Vent we find the roundness and warmth of jasmine, ylang-ylang, and, not least, soft balsamic notes. Balsamic resins have been valued since antiquity in perfume, ointment and incense. When combined with oakmoss, these materials smell extraordinarily pleasant and natural, like dusty oak barrels and sweet spices. On a basic level, it explains the fame of the chypre accord, which mixes oakmoss and labdanum resin with the astringent citrus scent of bergamot. Among all the historic chypre perfumes, Sous le Vent has a unique feel that marries the dulcet scent of cinnamon with the briskness of the great outdoors. Some perfumers even talk about a "Sous le Vent-type accord".

On the olfactive diagram for Sous le Vent we notice an addition of floral freshness with cyclamen and lily of the valley, something which the untrained nose maybe wouldn't have guessed without their placement on the pyramid. Now that we've been edified, it makes sense. Flicking through all of the vintage set's scent diagrams, it's striking how often Jacques Guerlain used the lily of the valley note. Thierry Wasser tells us that Jacques Guerlain was very fond of this note, to give delicacy, lightness and air to his rich compositions.

The reissued EdT version of Sous le Vent was able to pass the safety test thanks to its low concentration and because the bergamot oil and animal musk were replaced by norm-conforming ingredients. We already loved the EdT, but it comes as no surprise that the vintage Parfum version is much richer and deeper, mossier, muskier, more animalic and less dry, and all in all more long-lasting. That said, the reformulated EdT gave us a good idea of the original, and we must applaud Guerlain for its outstanding skill in constructing commercial remakes of long-gone scents within the tight restrictions of modern perfumery. All the more reason to regret that Guerlain doesn't want to sell Sous le Vent any longer. Read more about Sous le Vent

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