Unobtanium: Guerlain Sous le Vent

The discussion the last week about what to wear to court (I wore Derby, an also discontinued Guerlain that a commenter wrote might be reissued) made mention of Sous le Vent, which was a reissue I purchased at the same time. SlV seemed to get more interest than even Derby did, so I grabbed my bottle from the dusty reaches of the back of the hall closet where it lives, in climate-controlled (well, as much as my climate is controlled) darkness in it’s box, decanted some into a travel sprayer and went to town.

Sous le Vent  was originally issued in 1933 and was created by Jacques Guerlain for Josephine Baker. It was in production according to this site until 1972, and was reissued in around 2005 along with a few others (like Derby, and I think, Vega) as limited editions. The reissue was created by Jean Paul Guerlain. I first tried it at the behest of my pal The Non Blonde (her site seems to have gone away) who I had met several times and with whom I shared a very similar skin chemistry. Things on me smelled remarkable like they did on her and vice versa. I certainly enjoyed the idea that I might have had some of that exotic, sloe-eyed Israeli DMA floating around in my pasty waspy self, why she, being more pragmatic thought of it as that much more testing real estate. In any case, when I was in NYC we were at Saks, I tried it, loved it, and bought it as soon as I got back to Beverly Hills.

Being a reissue I am sure there are people out there who knew and loved the original who will lament this as a pale ghost of what came before- I have certainly been that person myself more than once. The IFFRA regulations that seemed to ban everything from Oakmoss to air resulted in some really dire reformulations- the first draft of Annick Goutal Eau de Hadrien come to mind (subsequent ones were far, far better) This version doesn’t list galbanum (according to Guerlain Perfumer) which was something that absolutely made the original Miss Dior- it gave it that hot breath of wind, that almost harsh, dry herbal rattle at the start before the lush flowers came. Like the timpani at the start of the concerto. This reissue of SlV gets that effect (perhaps with the tarragon?) and I love it- it’s like visiting the gardens at the Huntington Museum in San Marino on a summer day: you walk through the bone dry heat smelling the herbal hit of those SoCal shrubs then turn the corner and suddenly the flowers hit you. You have to be close in to smell them in this heat but they’re there. You can’t wait until after your tea and your return when the sun is over the yardarm and the day has cooled. the evenings bring out the mossy, herbal greenness and makes the slightly dirty jasmine sing. To paraphrase Chandler, if the day’s heat makes meek wives finger the carving knife and contemplate their husband’s neck, the sultry, jasmine-scented evening make them contemplate even the meekest of husbands in other, more carnal ways.

Now Sous le Vent is a Guerlain and in no way vulgar, but this is a quiet wowser of a scent. I wish they’d reissue it again (with Derby and Vega, and lord help me, Djedi, which I have never smelled) and preferable in full-on perfume strength- a little more longevity would be welcome. Pretty please Guerlain?

Sample is from my bottle, purchased at Saks years ago. Photos are Pexels, Wikimedia Commons, and my iPhone.

  • March says:

    What a wonderful description! I hope they do a reissue as well, wouldn’t that be fabulous? And I love any mention of Gaia.

  • Dina C. says:

    Thanks, Tom, for giving us a review of this wonderful scent. I’ve only ever sampled it, but that was enough it make me put it on my wish list. I’ll sign that reissue petition!

  • cinnamon says:

    I would love a bottle of this to pop up in a charity shop — and Djedi as well. I don’t however get this limited time re-release thing. It sort of means you have to buy like six bottles of something so you don’t run out.

  • alityke says:

    Oh how I yearned for SlV but it seemed in stock then poof….. all gone!

    • Tom says:

      I could cope with it having come in and out if they’d promise it would really come back..

  • Neva says:

    Oh, how I wish I could have tried any of these old Guerlains! I really love the galbanum and oakmoss loaded perfumes.
    It’s so nice to hear you mentioning The Non Blonde. When I make brownies I always take the recipe that she once posted.

  • Portia says:

    Hey tom,
    There are wisps of Vega and Sous le Vent in my bottles. Sadly they are not perfectly airtight and evaporated. Sad face.
    Portia xx

    • Tom says:

      Oh nooo!

      Even more of a reason to reissue. Honestly people on eBay are getting stupid prices on them.

  • Maya says:

    It’s no secret that I love the old Guerlains. There is nothing that Jacques Guerlain created that I don’t love or at least like to some degree and I have sniffed a lot. Sous le Vent, created by Jacques Guerlain for the fantastic Josephine Baker – I need smelling salts. lol. If I had the money, I would happily blind buy a bottle!
    OMG I love your paraphrase of Chandler!!!

    • Tom says:

      Thank you!

      I wish I could smell the originals. I wish they could sell them, maybe with a warning label, like cigarettes “WARNING: this formulation contains ingredients that may cause skin irritation, the urge to pose sultrily by a piano, and/or shoot Van Heflin. Use with caution.”

  • MzCrz says:

    Have not been to Huntington Gardens in decades. The olfactory picture you painted had me swooning.

  • Tara C says:

    I have half a bottle of Sous le Vent left. Admittedly I don’t wear it a lot as it’s drier than I generally like. I liked Derby better than Djedi, personally, but then I’m not a big vetiver fan. I’d prefer to get another bottle of Attrape-Coeur.

  • Pam says:

    Oh! I do so agree! I love the older Guerlains and would buy Sous le Vent in a heartbeat.