Another Guerlain's milestone. A classic landmark opening with a sort of fleshy classically chypre mossy (oakmoss-galbanum) vibe combined with luxuriant hesperides and with a traditional Guerlain's smooth "edible-silky" amber not so far in consistency from the one we are historically used to admire in Shalimar and L'Heure Bleue. An enormously beautiful narcissus laces its languid sophistication with musks, floral powder (iris-rose) and balsams. All sounds infinitely classic, soapy-chypre, restrained and familiar inhaling Vol de Nuit. The following development evolves gradually towards a multifaceted spicy-floral-vanillic soapiness of immense classic french "Grandeur". Another giant which unfortunately does not last on my skin (all this beauty faded after 45 minutes, a real pity).
EdT: A sharp, mossy blast upfront with a slight ammonia-urine tinge—a byproduct of materials such as silver fir and black spruce. It’s a dramatic, melancholic way to start a scent, but the darkness breaks a little as spiced citrus notes begin to assert themselves. A uncomplicated sandalwood undergirds this one, and it’s all seamlessly integrated to a point where I want something about it to snap. Although I’m turned off by it’s perfection (nature—which the scent is clearly attempting to reflect—simply isn't this polished or polite), Vol de Nuit is one of the handful of Guerlain scents that I look at as something I might wear myself rather than simply admire as an artifact or a stepping stone for modern perfumery. I think there are far more evocative foresty scents available than this, but it’s still a solid candidate when exploring the genre.
Parfum: A greater emphasis on the bitter galbanum at first that’s then tempered by a noticeably sweet fir balsam. The pissy facets of the EdT have been replaced with something that, while deep and intriguing, feels overly saccharine and out of sync with the scent’s maudlin nature. The citrus and the spices are still there though, and I’d say that the overall experience of the Parfum in relation to the EdT is that the Parfum feels pressurized whereas the EdT allows for subtle dynamics. Furthermore, there’s a rooty and slightly metallic orris peeking through, yet it’s kept subtle so as not to destabilize the sharp galbanum opening. As it dries, the Parfum leans more soapy than the EdT and the array of floral notes (violet, lavender?) surface as more substantial players than in the EdT. The main issue that I have with this version is that it’s loud and therefore lacks any of the subtlety and space that existed in the EdT. While there’s perhaps more to look at here, and it’s rendered more people-pleasing through the use of a sweet fir balsam, it’s all a bit full-on whereas the EdT unfolds in a graceful way.
(Review of vintage cologne)
I've always loved the imagery around this perfume - the adventure of air travel, with a hint of the aviatrices of the 20s and 30s - as well as the notes that seemed to compliment it: the intellectual dryness of oakmoss and iris, underpinned by an animalic base, suggesting a woman hiding a passionate nature under a cool exterior.
Alas, after repeated tries, I have to say, the longevity on this is pretty weak, meaning I only catch the top and heart notes, with very little of the warm base notes coming through. I get a clear citrusy note to begin with, a bit of powdery iris, and a teensy bit of oakmoss, but that's it. It's elegantly pretty, but because I miss the growl of base notes, I can't say it's much else.
The version of Vol de Nuit I originally came to love was the parfum available the 90s. My reference now is the modern EDT. I haven't smelled the reformulated extrait as it's kind of a lose/lose proposition for me - if it's drastically different and diminished, that will make me sad; if it's not drastically different and diminished, I'll want to buy it!
Others have captured this one-of-a-kind scent beautifully in their reviews, and I'd only add that even the modern EDT manages to be interestingly "fat" while objectively light. Like long-simmered stocks, duck confit, heavily reduced sauces, truffle oil, Vol de Nuit is a perfume equivalent of French cuisine in its depth of "flavors", contrasts, and earthy funk.
Genre: Woody Oriental
Vol de Nuit is an odd experience for me, especially in light of other Guerlain classics like Mitsouko, Shalimar, and Apres l’Ondee. I love the sharp galbanum laden opening, and the transition to plush, semi-sweet iris and vanilla is a delightful surprise. The drydown of lingering vanilla with dark spices is a treat as well. What’s so funny, you ask? The whole thing zips by in less than half an hour on my skin. And that’s in pure parfum concentration! Am I anosmic to most of Vol de Nuit’s development, or is this time lapse perfumery? I don’t suppose I’ll ever know.
Ephemeral as it is, I give Vol de Nuit a thumbs up because, like a rainbow or a butterfly, it’s beautiful while it lasts.