Saturday, January 15, 2011

Balmain Vent Vert: Thoughts and Older Version Bottle Giveaway

1. Winter is hardly the time to properly consider Vent Vert, so let's not regard this as anything approaching a "review". Still, here's the thing. Here is A thing, anyway. I smell some of these Spring and Summer old reliables best during the Winter. Caps on those seasons, please, as they all do major things to the way I perceive certain fragrances or any fragrance at all. Summer stifles many a scent for this oh so delicate nose. For me, Vent Vert breathes freshest and most meticulously of Spring during the colder months of the year, when its stages and subtleties play out in stop motion detail.

2. No one I remember from my childhood wore Vent Vert--that I recollect. I'm not sure I would have remembered. Though it smells familiar (Ma Griffe, anyone?), Vent Vert also smells quintessentially ubiquitous: it doesn't smell like perfume as much as nature in general. What breathes such a breath of fresh air into this fragrance dating back to 1947?

3. Notes. According to galbanum, lemon, basil, peach. Those are the top notes. In the heart: jasmine, rose, hyacinth, lily of the valley. At base: vetiver, oakmoss, sandal, styrax.

4. The opening smuggles in that lily of the valley and hyacinth bouquet under more forceful impressions (i.e. a "gust") of galbanum and basil. It's a weird little movement, in its way; strangely herbal, where you expect dewy and grassy. Don't assume that Vent Vert, being fresh as spring air, is vastly less strange than that other legendary oddity by its perfumer Germaine Cellier, Piguet's Bandit. Both reveal themselves in unexpected juxtapositions. Bandit is simply a bit more declarative.

5. I haven't smelled the most recent formulation of Vent Vert. In 1991, it was reformulated by Calice Becker; rendered, I would guess, fresher, with more sunlit brilliance shining through the reeds. Becker was an interesting choice. Apparently, the formula for Vent Vert was quite complicated. She narrowed it down considerably, aiming for its essence. What, though, if its essence was simply over-complication? I own the Becker version--and appreciate it's lime-like zest, a quality it maintains throughout its development, even into the otherwise mossy base, which reminds me of that bitter musky smell you get from grass-stains on denim. Who better than the nose behind J'Adore, Beyond Paradise, and Tommy Girl to emphasize the sunny facets of Vent Vert?

6. Pity Nathalie Feisthauer. In 1999, she was enlisted to reformulate again; or, as Luca Turin put it, to "deface". As I said, I haven't smelled this version. Balmain did better reconstructing Miss Balmain--which smells shockingly similar to the original. They did an at least respectable job with the Jolie Madam redo. I've smelled original and update side by side and there are considerable differences; however, they share the basic idea, differing in approach. Jolie new is far greener. It lacks that musky density restrictions removed from so many older fragrances. Apparently, no such luck with the new Vent Vert, which, defaced or not, is agreed to be a far cry from even the idea of the original.

7. Vent Vert is a soft thing. I wouldn't say it has a lot of presence. I wouldn't call it a skin scent, either, but it's no screamer. It's contemplative, out looking at the view in the middle of a grassy field somewhere. It lasts decently, if not amazingly. Osmoz classifies it as a "heritage perfume". It is said to evoke the post war era. I would say that's true, in terms of what I consider that period of time. Osmoz also remarks that the use of galbanum in Vent Vert is generous. I find other galbanum fragrances to be much headier on the astringent side of the material. Think Aliage, for instance. Nevertheless, Vent Vert is beautiful and bold in a softly stated way, an interesting contradiction.

I have a 1ml bottle of the Calice Becker reformulation. In order to be eligible, please leave a comment telling me the perfume which reminds you more than any of a person from the past, bringing them to life when you sniff it. I'll draw a name on Tuesday.


Unknown said...

While my mother owned several perfumes, she did not in fact wear them. I recall Bal a Versailles and Fidji, and know there were a couple of others, but they seemed to be more for display than anything else. The strongest personal scent memory I have is of my mother's skin cream - which did not smell nice and thankfully is no longer made. More than anything, my scent memories are directly associated with periods of my life...when I wore Youth Dew in high school; when I wore Calandre in my very early twenties; when I wore Krizia in my early twenties,when I wore Calyx in my mid-twenties; etc. I hope this counts :)

Katy Josephine said...

Estee Lauder's Azuree, and my mother. She died last February and I wear Azuree to remember her in her prime, before a heart condition took her spunky energy and, eventually, her life.

Azuree is not really 'me', but it's one of the surefire ways I can channel the vibrant woman she was. For that reason, I will love it always.

tarleisio said...

Two in particular conjure up my mother, another perfumaniac all her life. That would be the original Fidji, which I have also been known to wear, and First, which I can't because she did. When I find it - which isn't easy these days, I always make sure to sniff it, and there she is as I remember her. I love First, but it has always belonged to her, and it always will.

Irina said...

Madame Rochas and my first french teacher
She was an elderly lady, real lady that had seen better days before the comunists came in power in Romania and was giving french lessons for a living when I was about 9- the first real perfume I ever smelled-the first time I became aware there's something special about wearing perfume and about keeping your head up even in difficult times

Isa said...

When I was a child I used to go to the house of a dressmaker which made some of my favorite dresses.
Her house and herself always smelt like the classic Carolina Herrera.
The strong tuberose note is unforgettable. That perfume is not my cup of tea but it brings strong memories of that time.

I would love to be entered in the draw :) Thanks!

ScentScelf said...

I don't have a single perfume that raises a spectre of a single person.

I do, however, have Jicky, which takes me on a wild and crazy flashback through history that is both mine and before me, of images of more than one grandparent, both as I knew them, and as I imagine them younger, in a time before they even had children, let alone grandchildren.

Add in the babies (including diapers), and it is like some contrived falling through time sequence in your favorite bad movie.

I've tried to use Norell or Halston to recapture my grandmother, but neither has the immediate effect I know they should. I suspect a certain Avon cream would put me right back on my Nana's lap, but I haven't come across it.

No need to include me in the drawing; I was just enjoying stopping by.

Maggie O'Boyle said...

Moment Supreme and my mother's mother: she usually smelled of starched cotton, good leather and a mist of Chanel No5 but when she put on her good jewelry she switched to a perfume that enchanted me. The perfume was Moment Supreme. I can still close my eyes and remember standing in her closet rubbing my cheek against a soft fur coat that always had the smell of Moment Supreme.

Anonymous said...

I have tried the Becker VV parfum, which I expected would knock my socks off, given my galbanum-hyacinth-green floral lust.

It had no word to speak to me, much less something transcendent. I still don't know why. So please don't include me in the draw; VV has had its chance with me.

I had always remembered my mother wearing Chanel No. 5 and other clean-ish florals like Anais Anais and Coty's d/c L'Effleur, which she said smelled to her like "really good soap." But one day I popped open a sample vial of SL Clair de Musc, and "Mom!" just popped out of my mouth, much in the same way I'd opened the vial. Later I dredged up the old memory of a blue Jovan Musk for Women box on her dresser, an everyday sort of smell for her. Clean musks still recall her to me, even more than the insipid Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue she wears these days.

And early in my sniffage, I tested an older sample of Cristalle edt. I kept smelling it and smelling it and thinking, "Now why does this smell familiar? Who wore this? Not my aunts. It's not associated with school, so not a teacher... Hmm." Only in the drydown did I shoot out of my chair, exclaiming, "Georgina!" This was my mother's best friend in the 1970s, a British lady who lived here for several years before going back home. I don't really care for Cristalle's ashtray angle (nor the citrus, really), but I love to sniff the vial and think of Georgina.

queen_cupcake said...

Each time I smell vintage Jolie Madame, I think of my sister who wore it years ago. She was the well-read and worldly woman who married and went to live in NYC when I was still in grade school. She always kept in touch, and seemed to understand me during the difficult teen years much better than my mother could. She was and continues to be my mentor and confidante.

Tania said...

I only have one perfume memory, and it's really of a time, not a person. (I honestly can't remember anybody in my family or close friends wearing perfume. Maybe they did, and I just didn't notice it among other smells. My Dad smoked, for instance).
My memory is of a day spent at a school friend's house just before Christmas, as her mother baked Christmas cookies and fed us chili con carne. I was about 13, and had never had either before. The friend was American, and her mother's perfume was Avon's Occur.

I haven't smelled that scent in years, but if I did, I have no doubt I'd be right back in that warm, colourful house, full of delicious cooking smells, perfume, and exotic - to me back then, anyway! - American accents.

Unknown said...

My grandmother used a hand/body cream called Rose Milk. I haven't smelled it since I was a little girl, but the smell of Perfumers Workshop Tea Rose is close, and it reminds me of Grandma.

tally said...

My first fragrance memories were, of course, from my mother. Joy and Chanel No. 5 were part of my daily life. Then years later, Paris entered the picture. I loved them all. They filled me with feelings of happiness, beauty and a sense of security. My stepping stones to my own loves of present. And they just keep growing and growing.I am a lucky girl!

Vintage Lady said...

Vent Vert by Balmain.. yes, it is one of my very first fragrances. I also remember My griffe but this one I tried it a few years later through a vintage bottle. Vent Vert was the first with Calandre that I used while I was going to the institute. I haven't smelled the version that is sold nowadays. When I remember Vent Vert it brings me back to those times, when I first started buying perfumes! The sense it gave me was very particular, and I think it was too much a perfume for a young girl, but never the less I liked it.

Katherine said...

My father used to wear the old formulation of Monsieur Balmain in the opaque yellow glass bottle with the black screw top. That smell takes me straight back to childhood.

Anonymous said...

Hope I'm not too late for the drawing. Coty's L'Origan was a favorite of my mother's, and she also wore Coty Airspun powder, which has the scent of L'Origan.

Karin said...

My aunt passed away in 1978 at the young age of 46 - she was gorgeous and amazing. When I think of her, I think of her scent. I always thought it was V05 (yes, the hairspray!), but I just emailed my cousins, and they say it was Chanel No 5! Wow. I had no idea! I wore No 5 in the 80's, and loved it. I've since transferred to the Eau Premiere. My cousin has my aunt's bottle, and is going to send me a vial...too cool. I miss her.

Ines said...

I haven't tried the Calice Becker version, only the original which is one of my all time favorites.
My family never wore much perfume (or almost any) when I was young so the smell that most strongly evokes a memory of a person is when I smell nettle in perfume as it instantly evokes my grandmother and the shampoo she used on her hair and ours too (when my sister and I got to spend time over there).

Brian said...

Thanks, for participating, everyone. I loved hearing your stories. The winner of the draw is: Tally. Tally, please get in touch with your contact info?

monika said...

Sadly, I am too late for the draw (would have loved to try the '91 Vent Vert!), but wanted to share my scent memory any way...

When I was in my second semester of university, I started going out with the man who was my first real love and first lover. We were lovers for many years before finding it possible to part for good.

His scent has left an indelible mark on me... he wore Eau Sauvage, and whenever I smell it, I literally time-travel back to those years. Smelling it in a crowd or on a bus literally makes me swoon, and I cannot stop myself from following the scent trail to its source, even though I know he is halfway around the globe, and I have been happily with the father of my children for 22 years.

It's primal.