Under the Wind

There can seldom have been such a poetic name for a fragrance can there?  I’m referring to the Limited Edition Guerlain Sous le Vent of which the title here is a loose translation.

And yes, this is another in the series of very highly priced scents that you won’t run into at your local mall. Currently I think this sells for about $US 350.00 per 100 mls, and it’s a green chypre.

Now that everyone has finished running for the hills, let me point out that it is also a fine perfume, and most notable because the Guerlain ylang-ylang plays a prominent part in it practically from the get go.  Lavender starts the fragrance and then you get some citrus and the ylang for which the Guerlains bought an entire plantation on the island of Mayotte back in the day.  This was the stuff that was supposed to power Mayotte like a nuclear engine, and in some people’s estimation may have succeeded.  The dry down includes wood and some de-fanged oakmoss.

Whether or not you like Mayotte, you have to admit that here, the ylang-ylang makes the perfume. Without it frankly, Sous le Vent would be far too close to the original Coty Chypre.  People who have  smelled only Mitsouko tend to recognize the later perfume’s similarity to it, but really Sous le Vent is closer to Chypre, because here the habitual complexity of Guerlains seems to be missing.

I’d say Mitsouko was a far more complicated idea than Sous le Vent, and when I smell Chypre I can see that it was cut from a very similar pattern.  In the Guerlain, however, it’s the quality of the ingredients that makes the difference. That marvelous ylang-ylang gives the whole chypre formula a lightness and a salinity that suits the end product extremely well.

As for representing the green chypre genre, I’d still give the edge to a wonderful Jean Patou composition from 1964 called Caline, discontinued most unfortunately.  This one, though less graceful and less nuanced, is still a very good representative of the group.

The muse for Sous le Vent was said to be Josephine Baker the African-American dancer and soubrette whose fabulous legs and figure hypnotized Paris in the 1920’s.  There was more to Josephine than her beauty.  She was a foster mother to twelve children and a supporter of the French Resistance during WWII.  So perhaps this perfume with its charm under girded by backbone, is a fitting tribute to a lady with courage as imposing as the diamond collared cheetah she used to walk down the Champs Elysee on a leash.

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