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Vol de Nuit Parfum Extrait – Enigmatic, timeless, and extraordinarily beautiful – April 20, 2017

Guerlain Vol de Nuit Parfum Extrait bottle -

I first tried Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit parfum when I was about six years old. The square-shaped smoky glass perfume bottle with the deep grooves on the front was on my mother’s dresser so one afternoon I thought I’d give it a try, see what perfume could do for me. It was obviously something she enjoyed, along with my Dad, who always nuzzled her neck when she wore it. Maybe he’d like it on me, too!

I took out the stopper, stuck my finger over the top and tipped up the bottle as I’d seen her do many times, but the result was a bit of a surprise. My little six year-old finger left a large gap in the opening and the very expensive parfum extrait gushed out of the bottle directly onto the top of the mahogany dresser. Whoops. I was in trouble.

I don’t know which was more upsetting to my mother - the large white mark on her antique dressing table or the loss of almost one-quarter of her most favourite perfume, which at the time was irreplaceable because it was only available in Paris, but I clearly remember the experience as being the low point in our relationship up to then.

It marked me. I didn’t go near her perfumes for years after that, not until I grew into an obnoxious teen and the world of romance became my reality where her Shalimar lured me with its siren call. But even then, I definitely never considered even trying a single dab of the verboten Vol de Nuit.

However, all that changed over ten years ago when the world of perfumes lured me in again. It turned out that my BFF Gwen was also a lapsed perfumista – who knew? - and we began to explore niche perfumes, which led to the two of us starting this blog in April 2010…… which BTW is exactly seven years ago!

Happy 7th Birthday to us - time flies when you’re experiencing the world through incredible fragrances!

Now back to our scent story….

Together, Gwen and I re-discovered the wonderful world of Guerlain fragrances. Guerlain, the French perfume house which started in 1828, the dynasty of four generations of talented Guerlain noses who have created hundreds of remarkable olfactory compositions. In Paris, New York, Toronto, and anywhere we could find them, we dabbed and spritzed then purchased many Guerlain fragrances, old and new, women’s and men’s, classic and modern.

We’ve written our stories about these fragrances, which we’ve listed in our Decant Store so you can try them - from those which were created over 100 years ago, to those that were launched this year - Apres l’Ondee, Jicky, Shalimar, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Habit Rouge EdP, Heritage, Vetiver, Derby, Terracotta Le Parfum, Mon Precieux Nectar,  Cuir Beluga, Samsara, 02 Paris-New York, Arsene Lupin Dandy, Songe d’un Bois d’Ete, Mon Guerlain, and yes, even Vol de Nuit.

In 2011 I wrote about Vol de Nuit EdT, the Eau de Toilette version. Here’s an excerpt:

“Luca Turin in Perfumes the A-Z Guide says that he and Tania Sanchez use Vol de Nuit to “ recalibrate their olfactory apparatus” after a hard day of perfuming, and says “God bless Guerlain for still doing this stuff”. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I purchased a bottle of the eau de toilette, which is now half empty, and I am dying to get a little sniff   - no, make that a big INHALE - of the pure parfum, which is said to be extraordinary, but is hard to find.”

The pure parfum, the parfum extrait WAS hard to find, but I found it, and bought it. A 30 ml. bottle of parfum extrait. An extravagance.

So what makes a parfum extrait, or pure parfum, different from an EdT or and EdP?  It’s the concentration of aromatic compounds in the juice versus the solvent, which is usually ethanol (ethyl alcohol) – see below**.

Vol de Nuit is an aromatic oriental chypre, and Vol de Nuit EdT opens with a rush of green lemony citrus followed by sweeter orange and mandarin notes. It has a lush quality, amped up by the aldehydes as it moves into the heart, where the lovely florals and vanilla are detected. The scent is soft and clear, and darkens as the spices, sandalwood, and iris adding an interesting dryness in the drydown, and musk adding softness at the bottom. It isn’t a scent that features weird notes or strange accords, or is shocking in any way. The Vol de Nuit EdT scent line flows like a smooth river in the dark of night, creating a cool atmospheric rather than edgy quality.

Vol de Nuit Parfum Extrait as the Guerlain website says, is orchestrated differently than the Eau de Toilette, which gives it an “absolute presence.” Less brash in the opening notes than the EdT, the citrus is replaced with soft green galbanum and violet, the individual notes flow in perfect harmony through the heart of carnation, jasmine, rose and vanilla into the woody musky powdery drydown, a subtle orchestration that shifts the meditative quality I felt in the EdT into a higher smoother gear. Rather than on a river, we are in the air.

Everything about the parfum is more nuanced, deeper, longer, darker, smoother and more sophisticated, which demands attention. I feel as if bathed in a warm amber light, hearing the most beautiful music as I experience this enigmatic scent. Is it green, is it floral, is it woody, am I floating, am I flying, where am I going? Vol de Nuit, Night Flight, is taking me somewhere I’ve never been before.

Vol de Nuit Parfum Extrait is an incredibly composed fragrance, enigmatic because it has no clear focus, the notes flowing together seamlessly. Composed by Jacques Guerlain in 1933, it was considered a modern scent inspired by trans-Atlantic flight, which was ground-breaking at that time. To me, it still feels ultra-modern as it conjures the feeling of travel through Deep Space, dark, soundless, mysterious, where Time changes and there is no end.

Vol de Nuit Parfum Extrait is extraordinary, and worth every penny.

Vol de Nuit Parfum Extrait is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $20.00 for 1 ml.


**EdT = 5-15%, most around 10% aromatic compounds – usually bright and sparkly, light waft and low duration, less expensive. Good for daywear.

EdP = 10-20%, most around 15% - heavier and more complex on the skin, powerful waft, more expensive. Good for eveningwear.

Extrait de Parfum = 15-40%, most around 20% - complex and sophisticated, creates a subtle intimate aura which is very long-lasting, most expensive. Good for glamwear, which is anytime you damn well please!

Also, perfumers often change the formulae between the different concentrations, so that different notes or accords are featured.