Sous le Vent, the original version, is my favorite feminine perfume to date. Better than the Frederic Malles and non-vintage Chanels I've sampled. The oak moss is part of it, and I'm probably just scratching the surface of what could be done in vintage perfumery with the ingredients available.
Having now tried the more recent version (2005, I believe), the opening surprised me as being different, and not as good, but as it develops it becomes more familiar.
31st December, 2015 (last edited: 11th July, 2016)
Carried by the wind...
Have you ever thought of selling all your perfume collection just to buy one extremely rare bottle of a perfume that shook your world? And how about if you're a man and the perfume in question is supposedly a feminine one? It's one of these abhorrent yet alluring thoughts, on which one might spend a whole life pondering over it, without being able to make a final decision. The proverbial "What if?".
Sous le Vent is the melancholic smile of someone who gazes at the horizon while being in some far-flung exotic place on this earth and knows there's a war going on back home. But while his thoughts are back there, his eyes are here. Beholding all the eye-hurting beauty which lies before them and floods every single grain of his soul's sands. The war is there, beauty and life is here... And he slowly turns his back to the horizon, and chooses life.
If there was some way to know how a painting would smell like, then I imagine this would be the scent wafting from Paul Gaugin's "Manao tupapau". Surrounded by an otherwoldly aura, created by a seemingly contradictive atmosphere of both innocence and debauchery. Like bright colours which can be a sign of life and a warning of danger at the same time. Like a joyous yet austere beauty, whose austerity comes from the very same quality of being beautiful, and thus unapproachable to many. I can picture Josephine Baker coming out of a giant bottle, and then dancing frenzily around it, before the eyes of the mesmerised audience, as though it was some kind of a totem. Primitive, yes, but also one of extremely skilled craftmanship. You can hold beauty in your hands, but can you hold its essence? You can put your arms around a beautiful woman, but can you put them around her soul? No matter how close you may be, Sous le Vent will always be elusive. Like the never-ending quest for happiness. Like the fleeting and short-lived fulfilment that beauty pursuers may feel every once in a while. Just like the wind, Sous le Vent may be at your side, but it shall never be yours...
I'm fully aware that my words may sound abstruse, but it's not reason that is speaking here, and the exact depiction of abstract sentiments through words is a privilege held by poets. And I'm not a poet... But Jacques Guerlain surely was. One of the greatest poets of his generation I'd daresay, even though he did not write a single word. For me, and based on my sentimental receptors rather than my olfactory ones and the iota of their analytic abilities, this is Guerlain's eternal masterpiece. One of just a handful of scents which drown me under a tidal wave of images and dampen my eyes, every single time I feel them. Not Shalimar, not Mitsouko, not L'Heure Bleue, not Apres l'Ondee, not Jicky. No. This...
Deep dark and rich. Wonderful. However, about to be discontinued so get your nose on it asap.
It’s Derby for girls! Well, maybe not exactly, but the opening sure is a dead ringer for Derby in its smoky, bittersweet, green leather chypre structure. Sous le Vent’s top notes include a magnificent sweet bergamot that’s lacking in Derby, and there is a more obvious floral component, but the two still present themselves as siblings. I’m left wondering whether Jean-Paul Guerlain consulted grandpa’s formula when he made Derby, or whether the resemblance is purely incidental.
Unexpectedly, the bergamot note expands rather than fades with age, contributing a bright accent to what otherwise might be a rather somber accord. Next to appear is a whopping note of civet, which serves at once to infuse the composition with a lascivious animal warmth and to associate Sous le Vent unmistakably with the tradition of Guerlain’s vintage perfumes, particularly Jicky, Shalimar, and Mitsouko. The current Sous le Vent was composed in 2005, and whether it follows the original formula or not, it certainly smells like something out of 1933.
The intensely animalic chypre accord persists for hours, growing ever more sweet, spicy, and balsamic, until the civet dissipates to reveal warm amber and oakmoss base notes. This drydown goes on forever on my skin, though sillage and projection are only moderate. I’d consider Sous le Vent equally appropriate for a man or a woman, assuming you’re comfortable with its raunchy animalic aspect. I think it’s a great scent, and regret that it’s so hard to come by.
I tried the most recent version. I understand the vintage is the one worth having. Yes, it IS wonderful. It's like a sister to Guerlain's Derby.
I retried this, and found it was too fleeting to buy a bottle prior to its being discontinued. For that money, I'd rather have a bottle of Vol de Nuit, Shalimar or Jicky parfum.
My Derby will have a place in my collection.