Perfume Review & Musings: Sous le Vent by Guerlain (1933/2006)

This is a review of the recently re-issued Sous le Vent, originally created by parfumeur Jacques Guerlain and introduced in 1933, the very same year that Vol de Nuit was released. Sous le Vent (2006) is part of the collection "Il était une fois" (Once upon a time) which is enriched each year by the addition of a new historical jus from amongst the 700 or so perfumes belonging to the Guerlain catalogue. The first perfume to be released in that collection was Vega in 1997. This museological or archaeological approach to the perfumed past is now widely experimented as a new, effective marketing tool by perfume houses in France.

Sous le Vent is described as an aromatic chypre, sometimes also as a green chypre, but since I was directly told by the Guerlain staff that it is an aromatic chypre, I will reproduce their classification. It is a very dry jus and precisely due to that quality it is also very elegant. You cannot go wrong with this one; it will be the harbinger of your manisfest good taste in all the different social circles in which you will come to evolve. It is the equivalent for me of a perfectly tailored feminine grey suit, both a professional-looking one and a sexy one...

The fragrance is literally, quite aromatic as different provençal herbs were used in it, such as lavender, basilic, and tarragon. The opening is very citrusy but not in a solar sense, that is, there is no hint of sweetness at all. It evokes rather a white lemon or a very pale blue one or a very, very pale green one, not a yellow one, by all means. Smelling it made me realize that perfumes such as Eau de Rochas pour Femme, Rive Gauche by Yves Saint Laurent, and Eau de Patou are in the direct line of succession. Sous le Vent announces the dryness that is so characteristic of Rive Gauche, the hesperidic paleness that, oh so lightly, colors Eau de Rochas and which I thought was so singular. I also think of Eau de Patou when the perfume starts to warm up with the woods. I am surprised to see that the drydown becomes slightly sweeter and, on me, verily smells of cinnamon. I do not really like this accord at first and wished the fragrance remained uncompromisingly dry till the very end. After repeated applications, the perfume starts mingling better with my natural scent and takes on musky undertones -- at this point, I am reminded somewhat of Musc Ravageur (which comprises cinnamon and bergamot) although Sous le Vent is much crisper and brisker.

I think that an edp or a pure parfum versions would lift my last doubts about this fragrance. The drydown is not very long-lasting and I find myself reapplying the edt over and over again in order to achieve the effect of a more satisfying drydown. However, this very trait might turn out to be an advantage for some as the scent will live on as a discrete skin scent.

Let me conclude by saying that as I sniff on, I am more and more seduced by the smells damn good. The key appears to be to reach that stage where your "body chemistry" has had time to react to a new fragrance and work its magic. Now, I smell the gentle powder of the iris and more of the deep woods, it is wonderful.

Addendum: Still, I am not entirely satisfied with the drydown. It conveys to me the sense of a weakening of the perfume rather than that of a subtle transformation into nothingness.

Historic Notes:

The perfume was inspired by Joséphine Baker who, reportedly, was in adoration of it.

Vetiver by Guerlain, the first fragrance by Jean-Paul Guerlain, was consciously composed in reference to Sous le Vent. 

Top notes are lavender, tarragon, basilic, citrus...

Heart notes are carnation...

Base notes are oakmoss, iris, woods, patchouli...

Photo credit: Paperink on eBay -- this 1937 advertisement is on sale by the way. 

You can find more information about ordering Sous le Vent from Paris here

Finally a big thank you to the wonderfully generous Patty for sending me a sample of Sous le Vent!


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10 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I like this one very much, although somewhat in the reverse order as you do -- I am particularly fond of the drydown, where it loses some of that almost-odd spice note.

  2. Wonderful review! I haven't tried it yet but I do love Rive Gauche, so this makes me even more anxious to smell Sous le Vent!

  3. Ah, ah ....I like odd, I like odd very much! It makes me think very much of Eau de Rochas which offers this odd, singular feeling:) I realized that heir constructions are very comparable. They both have citrus, aromatic herbs, even carnation in the heart notes, and a warm base.

  4. Oh, I love Rive Gauche too, it is so elegant. I caught a whiff of it on someone at a tea house in Paris and I thought, wow! how womanly and seductive!

  5. I love your review, H, because you captured my feelings exactly about this wonderful fragrance.

    It is wonderful indeed, but something about it leaves me wanting more...It was described to me as a green chypre, so when it started smelling very herbal on me, I was a bit disappointed. The drydown is lovely, but I can't get past the fact that I wanted it to be greener, not aromatic.


  6. My favorites in this category of green chypres are Paloma Picasso (parfum),Parure (beautiful fragrance w/ a plumey character) , Fidji, Cristalle, Cabochard (it's on the aromatic side), Azurée, Aliage, Heure Exquise (it's on the powdery side), Norell (the edt is greener than the parfum which makes me want to try the cologne version to see if it might be even greener.)....Chanel no19, Vent Vert are green florals, Coriandre is a green chypre too, but a tad too sweet & powdery for my taste...those are the ones I can think of for now.

    Hugs back to you:)

  7. Love SLV too, but I have the same complaint about its lasting power. I have to reapply several times before achieving "critical mass" and I *do* so wish they had done this in a stronger concentration. Especially considering the price !

  8. I am surprised that Guerlain let this one pass -- their bases are so legendary.

    I think the justification for the price is that they are selling a rare antique, so to speak. The problem is that this beautiful chair or table has a defect in the legs so that you need to put a piece of paper or cardboard to make it stand still and regain balance:)

  9. Thanks to Patty I was able to compare the modern with my vintage EDT (from the 40s), and I must say that the vintage lasts really well in comparison to the modern version. It is not a heavy fragrance, but it definitely has more body than the new version. On the other hand, Vega was rather well recreated.

  10. I wonder what prevented them from making the new version more full-bodied, like the vintage version? I wonder if it is an aesthetical choice or if they encountered some technical difficulties with the ingredients available today? At any rate, I am puzzled.


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