Guerlain Sous le Vent and Plus Que Jamais

I´ve been sniffing my samples of Guerlain Sous Le Vent and Guerlain Plus Que Jamais, from Patty (thanks, P!)

As I expected, I loved one and thought the other was just okay.

In one of life’s little surprises, I got the order wrong, however.

Guerlain Sous le Vent has been described as “herbal” and “green,” words that ring my warning bells. Green frequently means vetiver, which smells awful on me, or some other note that basically smells like (sorry) urine. Green can also be too bitter –  the in-your-face pugnacity of Balmain Vent Vert, or the greens, galbanum and clary sage in Ma Griffe that send me screaming out the door.

So I was hoping, at best, to tolerate Guerlain Sous le Vent (which translates as leeward or upwind, according to my French dictionary.) Instead, I adore it.

I´m going to crib here from the estimable Octavian on 1000 Fragrances, who explains the scent so beautifully:

“Sous le Vent was named after some islands around Reunion, the source of beautiful ylang-ylang and vanilla essences used in all Guerlain fragrances. This chypre is rather austere and dry with vanilla and amber without beeing sweet, sticky or creamy. It has some exquisite powderiness (not the cosmetic one) but that suggested by a delicate granulated sand. It has some Amber83 and a little indolic nuance.”

Let me go out on a limb here and say it reminds me a bit of Djedi – it is clearly a first cousin, with a dollop of Djedi´s haunting spice note but without Djedi´s supreme strangeness. (For one thing, it doesn´t remind me of meat stew with cardamom.) It is spicy/sweet chypre rather than green, and it is strong but not overly assertive. Yes, it is dry, but dry like the high desert of New Mexico in June rather than the surface of Mars. It doesn´t remind me of any of the rest of the Guerlains, except at its base. Because waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy down there at the bottom, after you´ve danced the fandango with the vanilla and amber and the floral notes, that “indolic nuance” is lurking there, waiting to pinch your fanny. This thing? Is pure heaven.

The Guerlain Plus Que Jamais – I am not going to rag on, because, objectively, it is gorgeous. I wrote a small review earlier but ultimately I felt I needed a bigger sample I could really soak myself with in order to make an informed decision. Well, I´ve been soaking, and my decision is: this is a Guerlain perfect for those people (like Patty) who aren´t huge Guerlain Whores in the first place.

Remember, Guerlain Plus Que Jamais is the scent humorist Gene Weingarten flipped over as he was searching for a fragrance for his wife that didn´t make him think of, as he put it, “streetwalking skanks.” So. The closest comparison I can make is Apres L’Ondee without its floral sweetness, and with a much richer creaminess, and that is high praise. Guerlain Plus Que Jamais is tasteful in the extreme, elegant without aloofness, a very expensive-smelling skin scent that is the sort of thing you’d be wanting to wear to bed with your sweetie. It could be described with words like creamy, delicately musky, gentle, polished, expensive, silky, smooth – you get the picture. It is a sublime, unadorned composition. It is the most expensive cashmere you can buy.

But  here´s the rub – I don´t buy my Guerlain for subtle, expensive simplicity. Give me the baroque strangeness of Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit, the animalic fug of Jicky, the bite-my-ass bouquet of Chamade, the floriental sucker-punch of L´Heure Bleue, the sultry, shocking rose of Nahema, the — I could go on and on, you get the idea. Who the hell wants a subtle Guerlain? Well, Gene Weingarten did, and maybe you do too. Patty thinks it is breathtaking, supporting my theory. If you have been trying (and failing) to find a Guerlain to love with, this one’s for you.

So don´t let me stop you from buying that tasteful cashmere. But I´ll stick with the Pucci print shift, the leather shorts and and the fishnet stockings, thanks.

Reunion Island volcano,

Elodina perdita miskin,

  • March says:

    Carmen — when I am queen, I will pour money into Coty and instruct them to dig into their vaults and re-release their classics, starting with Chypre, which I can only dream about … I have a vintage bottle of L’Origan which I think is lovely, even though I suspect it retains only some of the glory it had when it was new.

    I put on Sous le Vent today, again. I cannot think of the last fragrance that had such an effect on me. I am still shocked.

  • March says:

    Beba — you’ve listed some of my Guerlain favorites.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I go back and smell PQJ in a month and think, wow, that is just amazing!! I have changed my assessment regarding all sorts of things at later times. I also may decide it’s the perfect fall fragrance, it has the kind of subtle richness that seems right for that season.

  • carmencanada says:

    To March:
    I have vintage Coty l’Emeraude. Not green, despite its name. Like Chypre and Ambre Antique, it starts with a generic “cotyness” and develops into a very soft amber with a dash of mint, and perhaps some orange blossom/jasmine. Of course, the amber being pre-1950s it is, at the very least, ambrette (perhaps not ambergris).
    As for Sous le vent, it’s so unusual and elusive (I don’t mean its availability but its complexity) that I’m smitten…

  • Beba says:

    Last night I tried Sous Le Vent and will try it again tomorrow, because I hate to regret a wrong first opinion. Minutes ago I tried PQJ and….loved it!! I am third generation of a four generation Guerlain addicts and I have placed PQJ in the range of preference of Vol de Nuit, Attrape, Metalys, Cuir, Mitsouko and L’Heure.

  • March says:

    Vi Noir — honey, just want to make sure you knew I was funnin’. I’m used to teasing Patty and Marina, and I guess I figure you’re family too.

    I love all your loves except Precious Heart (which is just okay to me.) I am always trying to talk people into Meteorites, which is dirt cheap on eBay and so underrated. I have never smelled Voile d’Ete… I have 6 or 7 samples unsmelled from a Fellow Guerlain Slut upstairs that I’ve been saving for a day my nose really clears up.

    I too love the smell of their Vetiver — on anyone but me!;)

    Huh, what a great way to think about it: perfumes that hit the ol’ G-spot…

  • violetnoir says:

    Ooooh, March…Did I hit a nerve??!! Peace, baby.:)>- I love me some Guerlains, but I guess Sous le Vent just didn’t hit the G-Spot. LOL!

    While PqJ is a lot classier and better made than Collection, I guess, after all the hype, I just expected MORE.

    And, while Jicky and Philtre d’Amour ARE beautiful, my favorite Guerlains (which may not be yours, which is cool) are, in no particular order:

    Attrape Coeur, Mitsouko, Shalimar (parfum), Apres L’Ondee, Parure, Voile d’Ete, Meteorites and Precious Heart. And I love the smell of their Vetiver…on a man.


    Heck, I even liked Pampelune for a minute.

    So, see–we both agree, just from a different Guerlain perspective.

    Peace out!


  • March says:

    Vi Noir — you … you disAGREE with me?!?!


    Heads WILL FLY!!!!

    No, seriously. I’m gonna argue back about the PQJ. Okay, it wasn’t breaking any new ground, but to me it smells very Guerlain-ish and a lot more attractive than the Escadas. Cashmere sweater.

    Mitsouko, Shalimar — how many times do you expect Guerlain to build the Sistine Chapel or the Parthenon, woman?! Sous le Vent is the most interesting thing they’ve done recently, way better than Beluga and … whatsis. The other two (three?)

    Don’t be trash-talking my belovely Philtre or Jicky (my favorite smooshy little civet parfum death-ray.) I will send Kimora to put the hurt on you. Funny, though — it doesn’t remind me of either of them….

    Green frags — you know what I would give my eyeteeth (whatever those are) to smell? Coty Emeraude, the original, fresh. I bet that was a show-stopper.

  • March says:

    Cait — P and I are hoping it becomes part of the regular Guerlain lineup. I think it should — it’s unusual and unisexy.

  • violetnoir says:

    Well…I am not so sure, March. 😕

    PqJ was definitely not for me. In fact, I think Guerlain ought to be slapped for releasing a fragrance that is wholly UNoriginal. It smells like a better version of Escada Collection.

    On the other hand, Sous le Vent is very special indeed. I’m just not sure if it is full bottle worthy.

    When I compare it to the heart-breaking beauty of Mitsouko or the magnificence of Shalimar parfum, I feel that something is lacking.

    I expected a dry green fragrance. Oh my do I love green fragrance, love the color, love everything about green. I expected SleV to shimmer like a fine Colombian emerald. Instead, it has an herbal undertone that is mildly disconcerting. Maybe it reminds me a bit of Jicky, a bit of Philtre D’Amour, both of which are, while lovely, not my favorite Guerlains.

    But my husband likes it on me. 😉


  • Cait says:

    Dear March,
    Sous le Vent is heaven, isn’t it?

    To Patty,
    Thank you for tiding me over with the samples.
    You are the best.

  • March says:

    R — I think P sent you some, right? I’ll be very interested to hear your reaction. I DEFINITELY think Marina will like it. I’m giving you better than 50/50. I am wondering whether you will find it too sweet — have you smelled Djedi? I am thinking you will probably hit that spice note in Sous le Vent and think, wow, that’s interesting. Or else you’ll think — eeeeeww, what the hell is that?!? I mean, you don’t smell THAT every day…/:)

  • March says:

    Patty — you are so right. Sous le Vent is a significant departure from the rest of the lineup. I think it would be a great addition to the permanent collection. It would smell like heaven on a man, too (damn — I should have put that in the review!) But their whole marketing strategy and exclusive B.S. is insane. :-w

  • March says:

    Marina — given how much you liked Djedi, I think you are really going to like it — sort of the Djedi Summer LE, you know?

    The PQJ was, truly, gorgeous. It’s nice to have an alternative for those folks who smell our skanky favorites and think: :-&

  • Robin says:

    I did not love PQJ, but Sous Le Vent sounds *very* tempting!

  • Patty says:

    I agree with you completely on Sous le Vent, March.

    Marina, I noted the subtle similarity to Djedi as well, mostly when you first put it on, it’s just not as big a freak, so the drydown is easier to love.

    What is bothering me so much on this, why have they kept this one in wraps for so long? This is one that should have been in the line always. It is a little odd and a touch strange, but incredibly beautiful and has a great appeal for lots of people for different reasons. I hope they add it permanently to the line or I’m going to have to stock up for the rest of my life.

  • Marina says:

    Djedi? Aieee! *bites nails waiting for her sample*

    And I am -so very selfishly- glad that Plus Que Jamais did not rock your world either. I also don’t want “subtle, expensive simplicity” from Guerlain. (that’s why I didn’t like, for example, Cuir Beluga)

    But that comparison to Djedi…I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight. 8-|