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May 26, 2005

Fragrance review: Guerlain Vol de Nuit (New and Vintage)

Vdn

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

A gem of Guerlain’s classical collection, Vol de Nuit is a miniature universe. Smelling it, I am transported to a wood-paneled library. The gilded leather bound books, the honeyed scent of beeswax candles and the warmth of the fire are evoked by its balsamic and leathert notes. The baroque oriental base of Vol de Nuit cradles a luminous orange blossom and narcissus. 

Jacques Guerlain created Vol de Nuit, “night flight”, in 1933 as an homage to the brave aviators of the 1920s. The French company Aéropostale was one of the first operations to fly the mail from continent to continent. The chief pilot of Aéropostale's operations was Antoine de St. Exupéry. After serving as a French combat pilot during World War I, he wrote several books, among them Wind, Sand and Stars, Night Flight and The Little Prince. He disappeared during World War II while flying a reconnaissance mission in 1944. Vol de Nuit was named after a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The bottle is emblazoned with the shape of French Air Force wings and has a dark amber color.

The extrait de parfum is my preferred concentration for the richness of its accords. The eau de toilette is thinner and fresher, but still excellent.

On Reformulation (added 12/17/10): 
Vol de Nuit is a shadow of itself, from the rather flat citrusy start to the pale musky-mossy drydown. While the original is tinted in dark greens, rich browns and ochre, the new one is grayish-brown. In the late drydown, the sweet cinnamon note provides most of the tonality. Will update later with a review of EDT which is somewhat differently balanced than the parfum. The interesting thing about Vol de Nuit Eau de Toilette is that while thin, it gives me a better sense of the original Vol de Nuit structure than the parfum. All of the elements are in place, and while they are lighter, the beauty of Vol de Nuit is evident. In any case, I have a hard time liking the new Vol de Nuit because it is so far away from what it used to be. Given the new restrictions on materials, I can only imagine what an impossible task this reformulation must be.

Guerlain Vol de Nuit includes notes of orange, mandarin, lemon, bergamot, orange blossom; jonquil, aldehydes, galbanum, vanilla, spices, oakmoss, sandalwood, orris and musk.

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