Air travel used to be sort of glamorous. No really, before you fall over laughing, it truly was. Clean airplanes, cocktails, pretty stewardesses in un-stained uniforms. I barely remember this, my younger sister doesn’t remember anything of the sort, and no one conceived after 1975 can even imagine it.
All we can recall now is how awful our last flight was and how we swore that next time no matter what it cost, we were definitely going to bid on a seat in business class. Yeah, right.
In the 1930’s things were not only glamorous they were dangerous. That was still the era of long distance solo flights by those impossibly thin entities Lindbergh and Earhart. A large number of people swear by Vol de Nuit as evocative of this adventurous airbourne history, but I just don’t think that smells anything like airplanes. Lovely perfume, nothing to do with airplanes even though it’s named after the St. Exupery novel. En Avion though, the Caron perfume from 1932 actually does.
En Avion is one of those cult perfumes like Killian’s Back to Black, or Guerlain’s Apres L’Ondee, never the house best seller, always just a little bit of a minority taste. I
remember hearing some long time ago that En Avion was the favorite of Isabelle Adjani, the French actress who portrayed so many lead roles so well. A romantic perfume for a romantic actress? Maybe, but like Adjani, En Avion is quirky.
There is just this very odd thing about En Avion, the stuff smells like old leather and gasoline. Not all the way through, don’t leave your seats yet, or start pulling your carry ons down on top of your fellow travelers’ heads. Please be advised that En Avion only smells like that for the first ten minutes at most. Back when Tania Sanchez was reviewing the Carons for Perfumes:The Guide she recalled En Avion’s “wild, airy sweetness” over a base which she described as dry as wood smoke. Well, um, uh… yeah, there is some sweetness to En Avion but it is really a leather perfume and the beginning has always smelled like leather and gasoline. Poetry and air travel are queasy partners.
When you read reviews (and this includes reviews of vintage En Avion with all the weird references intact) you get several reviewers posting the equivalent of, “How awful!” They had to scrub to get that horrible smell of gasoline off their skins ASAP.
I know they waited about fifteen minutes on average to reach this conclusion. En Avion you see, “Takes Off”, and when it does, then you get the airy sweet accord that Tania was rhapsodizing about.
If you were to distill modern airplane travel in bottles what would you get? Accord de chemical toilet, avec sweat, urine, etc. ( This depends on who you flew. My personal vote is for Ryanair with the hot sandwiches no one ever buys, the scratch and win games no one plays, and the air stewards who look like they want to bellow, “Will the lot of yez sit down and shut up!” They don’t actually, but if the airline cuts any more costs they will.) Now there’s an airline with a smell. But I digress, eventually En Avion is a beautiful perfume but not immediately. Sort of like flying, it’s pretty awful until you look out the window and “There’s Sicily!” you shriek, because there it is, right in the middle of all this exceedingly blue sea . Exactly.
The above is what we smelled on our last flight, and yes those are toes- but not ours.
What was your best (or worst) airplane smell, bottled or not?