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Véga - A real star – July 14, 2013 New Fragrance Listing

Lyra Constellation - Image courtesy of Astroclubul Meridian Zero

I was sitting around the Guerlain boutique one day, shooting the perfume breeze and picking up tips, history and learning surprising things about perfumes I thought I knew all about, when I spied with my little eye a bottle of perfume I had seen dozens of times before, but only really saw for the first time that minute: Véga.  

Yes, I had smelled it on my skin before. Yes, I thought it was FBW, but it never went any further. Life had always intervened. Now, I had the time to not just smell it, but experience it. And once I did, my perfume world shifted on its axis. The SA noticed something because she came right over to me and began telling me about the inspiration for Véga.

Jacques Guerlain, I learned, was fascinated by astronomy, so much so that in 1936 he created Véga - a floral aldehyde inspired by and named for Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra and one of the most luminous stars in the sky.

The SA also gave me some context. Chanel No. 5 was launched for sale in 1922 and the perfume world shifted on its axis. A floral-aldehyde, Chanel No. 5 became so popular - it still is the number selling perfume in the world - it created a real appetite for aldehydic fragrances and perfume houses were scrambling to get a piece of the market. Guerlain himself responded with aldehyde-rich Liu in 1927.

Ah, yes, aldehydes. Think of them as the seasonings in a fragrance. There are floral aldehydes, fresh aldehydes, green aldehydes, anisic aldehydes, fatty aldehydes which have a soapy-waxy-lemony-floral tone and the aldehydes that give fragrances a fizziness.

With demand for aldehydic fragrances still strong, Jacques Guerlain created Véga – his second offering in the aldehydic floral category. In 2006 it was recreated by Jean-Paul Guerlain for the launch of the newly renovated Guerlain store at the Champs-Élysées in Paris, but the changes weren’t dramatic. This is the version I have and love.

So, what’s so axis-shifting about Véga? Let me start with the opening. Fizzy aldehydes are right there with bergamot and orange blossom giving it a crisp floral start. There’s a fatty/soapy note here too, but overall the effect is luminous – the top notes that reveal a rich floral heart rather than yield to it. The heart - I can’t get enough of the heart notes - jasmine and ylang ylang, warm, wanton and narcotic pierced with metallic carnation. Oh, but wait, there’s rose too, a velvety, dark, rich note of rose. And then, just then, vanilla comes forward, creamy and soft, it runs like a sweet thread through the scent while amber warms it up. Then there is the iris - powdery and dirty it gives Véga an animalic dimension, with a subtle woodiness from rosewood and sandalwood, making the dry down sophisticated, dark and just dirty enough for whatever you have in mind.

Jacques Guerlain studied the stars so he would have known about Vega. He would have known that Ptolemy considered Vega a beneficial star that gives refinement and mobility to those it influences, but also wantonness and immodesty. And, he knew how to take those exact same qualities and put them in an axis-shifting perfume.

And, by the way, I own the EdT and it is potent enough. I think I’d burst into a supernova if I wore a higher concentration.

Today we are adding Véga our Decant Store. Véga is an exclusive to Guerlain boutiques. Decants are $6.00.