I’m working on a couple of projects and have Buckethead at home with a fever blah blah. The weather’s so odd – it was nice and cool and fallish, and now we’re back to mid-80s. Which in theory I should be appreciating – objectively, the weather’s gorgeous. But I was ready for fall, and this isn’t cutting it. I’m bored with the summer scents, and it’s too hot for the fall scents. It’s times like these I reach for something totally counterintuitive, just to see what happens. Vintage Balmain Vent Vert turned out to be pretty much perfect. Not perfect for me, mind you. Germaine Cellier’s much-loved Bandit and Fracas aren’t really things I tend to want to wear either. (Jolie Madame’s another story).
Vent Vert was created in 1947, and according to LT in The Guide it was reformulated, decently, in 1991 by Calice Becker, modernizing and simplifying it while still retaining quality. Let me quote: “The 1991 Vent Vert, while less symphonic than the original, had some of the charm of familiar music played by a smaller ensemble: the newfound clarity made it possible to appreciate the tune to the fullest. Not the real thing, but a very good effort.” I don’t know how “vintage” my vintage sample is; it may be the first reformulated version but I suspect it’s the original version only because the top notes are a hair off and it’s got that sort of drydown I only get in things like vintage Femme – whatever it is they put in those bases, they’re not making that stuff any more. Unfortunately, Vent Vert was re-reformulated in the late 90s, and for all I know the version today is even worse.
Vintage Vent Vert (say that three times fast) is so uncompromisingly galbanum-bitter-green at first taste it makes my teeth hurt. And yes, that was a typo – I meant “at first sniff” – but left it because Vent Vert is one of those scents that seem connected to taste – a bitter drink, one that makes the eyes water but proves impossible to set down. The vintage version of Vent Vert I have features a long stretch of florals at the heart and a little powder. It’s a bit of the Chamade effect – the drydown’s so different from the grassy top that you’d be forgiven for not realizing they’re the same scent, although the top of Vent Vert is green and crisp rather than weirdly screechy (sorry folks, and I do love Chamade, I own a bottle.) There’s something about Vent Vert that feels spare and timeless. I’d fit it into the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, between Therese and Lipstick Rose, and nobody’d bat an eye.
I’ve tried new Vent Vert a couple times in the last three years and can cheerfully report that it’s ghastly. The sharp, grassy bitterness is ugly instead of arresting; the drydown is completely different now (LT calls it trashy green chypre) and redolent of hairspray. It’s also monotonous – what you get in the first 30 seconds is it, more or less, and like all scrubbers it is never going to depart. It’s one of those perfumes that, reformulated, gives classics a bad image and must quietly break the hearts of ladies of a certain age every day, and I don’t mean in a good way.
Of the three, Fracas seems most like the vintage original. Bandit is composed differently, the base ingredients having changed (and if you’d like to read something really interesting, check out Bandit in The Guide, where LT explains how Cellier drove everyone crazy by using manufactured bases in her fragrances, and how the Bandit effect is still achieved.) In contrast, the current version of Vent Vert is much worse than nothing. Balmain Jolie Madame (also done by Cellier and still in production) is somewhere between success and failure. If you bought a bottle at TJ Maxx, it’s a score, and probably better than much of what else is there, at least at my neighborhood store, which always seems to be full of CK Be and Britney and Caesar’s Man. It’s possible to love that bottle of Jolie Madame unless and until you smell the vintage, at which point all bets are off.
Opening it to the rogue’s gallery – how do you feel about current vs. vintage versions of any of these, or any other related scents? Do you hate the new Jolie Madame? (I know plenty of you do!) How about Balmain Ambre Gris or Miss Balmain? Can I make you cry if I mention Lanvin Rumeur or Chanel Bleu, or is that just cruel?
sample source: private source