Guerlain Sous le Vent : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The dryness of Sous Le Vent stings mildly before the caress of flower petals tempers the rustic feel of the herbal notes gracing the top accord. The perfume was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1934, and while I would not call it modern, it has a timeless quality of an artwork that moves with its beauty. In the classical chypre family, Sous Le Vent holds a place as a composition that blends the sensual elegance of Mitsouko and the roughhewn character of Coty Chypre, with the most intriguing result. While it touches in a gentler manner than the green leather of another fascinating Guerlain composition, Djedi, its embrace nevertheless has a passionate quality. …

What upon the first inhale conjures the sun scorched hills of Cyprus, an island that gave chypre family its name, is magically transformed by the lush notes of ylang ylang and sweet spices into the vision of tropics, where the trees are covered with flower vines and the salty smell of ocean is carried by the winds.

The opulent richness of Guerlinade, an accord of iris, rose, tonka beans and amber, is beautifully paired with the verdant top and the animalic base, providing an olfactory respite from the assertive green notes. The sand-like dryness of Sous Le Vent softened by the classically rich floral heart lends a remarkable languid aura to the composition, thus maintaining the suspense between the more aggressive aspects of this complex orchestration. Sous Le Vent makes me want to close my eyes and feel the warmth of sun on my skin.

Along with Véga, Sous Le Vent was recently reissued by Guerlain, indicating that the future might bring more gems from its archives. While I have not tried the new edition, based on my experience with Véga, I am hopeful that it shall maintain the beauty of the original. Anyone who loves green chypres, especially in the baroque orchestration characteristic of Guerlain will find Sous Le Vent beautiful.

Update: I had a chance to try the reissued version of Sous Le Vent. I would recommend it without reservations to those who chypres as a genre. It is luminous and airy. The composition oscillates between the languid beauty of floral and woody notes and the aromatic brightness of herbs and citrus. The delightful contrast of the original is maintained well in the reissue. Of course, it is not identical to what Sous Le Vent used to be–the new version is thinner, lighter, lacking the delicious animalic notes of the original. Its lasting power is surprisingly weak, especially compared to the tenacity of the original (even the EDT.) However, given that Sous Le Vent is such a rare discovery, I am glad simply to see it being made once again.

Sous Le Vent features notes of basil, bergamot, lavender, tarragon, carnation, oakmoss, iris, woods, patchouli. It is available from Guerlain boutiques.

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22 Comments

  • carmencanada: Dear V, I am glad you share my admiration of SLV. After sniffing it on my boyfriend’s wrist (he actually made the trip to Guerlain to try to surprise me with a sample – they’re not giving any out), I bought a full bottle.
    I find it a rather restrained, complex scent, with various notes wafting in and out over the hours.
    As you write, the leather note is quite soft and subdued (totally unlike the bite provided by scents such as Jolie Madame or Miss Dior), as is the patchouli base. The ylang-yland (which I initially mistook for jasmine) rounds it out, with the “green” lending it a slightly bitter tang. There is something that reminds me of anise (perhaps the tarragon?)…
    I am only sorry that this is available solely in the eau de toilette concentration, not the best way to appreciate such a subtle scent! May 23, 2006 at 2:50pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear D, I also find it more subtle than what I originally expected, but I also have the EDT (from 40s-50s). Sounds like I need to seek out the reissue as well. Like you, I find Miss Dior much more assertive by comparison. I am fairly sure that Sous Le Vent includes jasmine as well as ylang ylang, since the ylang ylang note strikes me as more suave than what I would have expected. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to try the parfum? May 23, 2006 at 2:59pm Reply

  • agritty: Does anybody know if or when it will be available in the States? I asked about it at the Bergdorf’s Guerlain boutique about ten days ago, and they looked at me like I was from Mars! It sounds like a perfect fragrance for me, but I would really love to try it first. May 23, 2006 at 3:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Perhaps, towards the end of the summer? I am just making a guess, because so far, I have not heard the news of it appearing at the BG boutique. It just came out in Paris. Vega arrived to the States 6-8 months after it was released in France. May 23, 2006 at 3:19pm Reply

  • Robin: So…would I like it? I thought Vega was ok but no big deal. May 23, 2006 at 4:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, Vega and Sous Le Vent are nothing alike, so I would not compare them. If you like green chypres like Miss Dior, you should enjoy SLV. May 23, 2006 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Judith: I think this is absoulutely beautiful! And, from the report from Paris, it sounds like the reiusse does it justice! Can’t wait to try that. . . May 24, 2006 at 7:49am Reply

  • annE: Dear V,
    Thank you for a review which is as lovely as the name of the fragrance! I recently bought a vintage bottle (unsniffed *gasp*), having been intrigued by your previous mention of it, and I was immediately smitten. Thank you for helping me to find a new love. Since it’s a lovely day here today, I will wear it in your honor. 🙂 May 24, 2006 at 8:42am Reply

  • violetnoir: I have one comment: Oh yeah!!!

    Hugs! May 24, 2006 at 12:02pm Reply

  • marina: Oh, sounds amazing!! May 24, 2006 at 12:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, I just love the fact that Guerlain decided to reissue some of their classics. Next, I would love Kadine. May 24, 2006 at 12:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ann, I am glad that you are enjoying it. Thank you for wearing it in my honour! How flattering. I find Sous Le Vent beautiful and moving. The genius of Jacques Guerlain never fails to amaze me. May 24, 2006 at 12:52pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R (violetnoir), yes, a perfect comment! 🙂 May 24, 2006 at 12:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, it is amazing! May 24, 2006 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Patty: Victoria, I just got the reissue in yesterday. I can send you a sample of it if you want to compare the two and see how faithful they were. Just e-mail me your address since I have a terrible time keeping track of them.

    Your review is perfection, this is a really wonderful perfume, and it surprised me in lots of ways. May 24, 2006 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Diane: Beautiful review, dear! A couple of weekends ago, when I was having a wonderful fragrance shopping day, I had on Coty Chypre, along with an amalgam of other green scents, namely Fou d’Absinthe and Givenchy III, and I became utterly fascinated by the resulting mossy bouquet. It was divine. I cannot wait to try Sous Le Vent. It sounds like a stunning chypre, one to behold over and over again. May 25, 2006 at 12:24am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patty, thank you very much for your offer. It would be very interesting to compare them. I do hear wonderful things about the new reissue, so I am even more curious. May 25, 2006 at 11:50am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, green chypres are among the most beautiful and elegant compositions, since they have most amazing complexity. You have just named a few of my absolute favourites. Sous le Vent stands firmly in their ranks. May 25, 2006 at 11:55am Reply

  • Karin: This sounds like it might be right up my alley. I do love his compositions. Unfortunately there will be no place near me in which to catch a whiff. I’m always a bit leary of lavender. May 26, 2006 at 10:05pm Reply

  • Cynthia K: Great review! I have a question, what is a good source about vintage perfume bottles? I have been interested to learn more, but I am not sure where to start. May 26, 2006 at 10:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, lavender is very subtle here, not the main player by any means. However, it addds a pleasant rustic touch to this elegant and refined composition. May 30, 2006 at 1:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, the source I would recommend is anything by Christie Mayer Lefkowith. I would suggest starting with The Art of Perfumery and then exploring her other publications. The books are packed with information and they are quite beautiful to behold. I very much enjoy her books for their historical perspective and respect for the artistry. Of course, the International Perfume Bottle Association website has a number of links you could explore. May 30, 2006 at 1:20pm Reply

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