Just when I was worried spring would never arrive, we are having a gorgeous, sunny day, almost warm enough for shorts. To celebrate, I am wearing Balmain's Vent Vert, the classic green floral fragrance created by Germaine Cellier and released in 1947. Like just about everything else, this was "reworked" to appeal to modern sensibilities; the reformulation was done by perfumer Calice Becker, and I believe the relaunch was in 1990. The notes for the new version are greens, orange blossom, lemon, lime, basil, rose, galbanum, lily of the valley, freesia, hyacinth, tagetes, ylang-ylang, violet, oakmoss, sandalwood, sage, iris, amber, and musk.
Vent Vert starts out a strong, bitter, slightly perfume-y green. After a few minutes the bitterness calms and the citrus notes and orange blossom take the stage, later still, the citrus notes are replaced by the other florals. Throughout, it retains a strong undertone of crushed stems, leaves, and grass, just slightly bitter and dry.
It is fresh and light, a summery meadow kind of thing, very beautiful, very calm. The far dry down is simply lovely, with just a hint of oakmoss, and just before it fades away I can make out the iris and sandalwood as well. Happily for me, I don't smell any amber. I have the Eau de Toilette, and the lasting power is reasonable but not spectacular.
The original version of Balmain Vent Vert is said to be far superior, and last year I finally bought a vintage bottle from ebay. Of course, it is hard to say how accurately it represents the "real" original, given that the bottle I purchased must be well over 10 years old, and it is likely that some of the ingredients had long since been replaced by cheaper alternatives by the time my particular bottle was produced.
At any rate, I suppose it is heresy, but I prefer the new version. The old is more uncompromisingly green and bitter, and there is a darker edge to the florals. It does, however, seem more in keeping with Germaine Cellier's other perfumes, such as Bandit and Fracas, which tend to have a disquieting effect.
Note: image via Images de Parfums.
Update: I recently had the chance to try the original version again, this time from another bottle. It was far superior to the bottle I had purchased on ebay, and I liked it much better. It is still so different from the reformulation that they might as well have been given different names.
You've awakened my lemming! I've really liked all the Balmains I have sampled so far.
Hi R! One of my mom's perfumes – nice enough but not for me. Your review is great (as usual!).
And sad to say, Vent Vert is the only Balmain I've tried so far! I wish the line was easier to find — do you know of any department stores that carry it?
Thank you N! Hope you are well & not working too hard…
you are particularly acute in your descriptions of green notes in fragrance … especially that frequent bitter tone. I love green notes in the drydown, but can't wait to get past that bitterness. I probably feel toward “bitter” the way some feel toward “powder”: a necessary evil. anyway, wonderful review — and I actually am encouraged that you favor the new!
I bought Ivoire from eBay and have seen it lots at TJ Maxx. Plus, I see all the others (that I'm familiar with) on eBay pretty regularly, and at many of the online discount shops (like parfum1, etc.) — all can be had for very little $$$.
Thanks G, I'll keep an eye out at TJ Maxx!
M, I wonder if I just like the new because it is what I tried first? Sort of like: I know Sean Connery is the best Bond, but I like Roger Moore because I saw all his movies first. Ok, weird analogy. Maybe I need a nap.
I was eager to try Vent Vert again – I remember it from a purchase I made in France about 35 years ago! The new version, however, is disappointing in that it doesn't seem (to me, anyway) very close to the original — seems a bit heavier, sweeter … though I am beginning to like it for its own qualities.
Can anyone recommend a truly light, green fragrance to try?
The new version is bound to disappoint if you're used to the old, I completely agree. I tried the new one first, so didn't have the comparison & liked it very much.
Are you looking for a green floral or just plain old green? If the latter, try Miller et Bertaux no. 3, or if you can get your hands on it, Gobin Daude Sous Le Buis. Other possibilities: Sisley Eau de Campagne, Diptyque Virgilio.
Many thanks for the suggestions! I've bought the M & B (found a great price on 3.4 oz) and samples of the others. They sound like just what I'm looking for.
Hope you will like it, it is one of my favorite greens! Very summery & lively.
I love it! By chance, a seller on eBay from whom I'd ordered a couple of other scents included a sample of the M&B with the order. It came yesterday & I'm enjoying it today.
Would you also recommend a couple of your favorite green florals? I received also a sample of the Dyptique, and while it's intriguing, it's a bit TOO purely green for me.
There are quite a few listed here:
For floral, Annick Goutal Camille or L'Artisan Jacinthe des Bois might suit you.
My mother gave me a bottle of the real Vent Vert in 1964. It smelled the way a French perfume should,cut through the sickly, candy/powder/stifling scents worn by the girls at school and created a pleasant, green, biting* aura around me. The 'Vent Vert' on sale these days I do not recognize.
*When I say 'biting' I mean it as a compliment. Not every perfume smells 'romantic' or 'sweet' – even in a pleasant way. My mother often brought back perfumes from Paris and I recall their unusual compositions so different from what was being sold here. I am still see-sawing over Bandit.
Ah, that is just how I used to feel about Jean Couturier Coriandre. I can't say I don't recognize it now because I try not to smell it when I see it…which is rare, and usually for 9.99 at TJ Maxx.
Although I have never tried Balmain's Vent Vert, I am intrigued, for I have been searching for a substitute for my beloved “Vetiver” by the House of Carven. Is anyone familiar with both? I would like to receive any comments of comparison.
Hmmm…I have not smelled the Carven, but rather doubt Vent Vert would be a good substitute for a mostly-vetiver scent. Are you just not happy with the newer formulation of the Carven? And what other vetivers have you tried?
oh dear i'm a little late to the party….i adore Vent Vert, have and love the parfum and the edt. its a sweet-ish green for sure, the parfum being rich as well. Ivoire is an HG- odd, woody, clean and my husband loves it too. it's just perfect. may i recommend Carven's Ma Griffe. once read it described as a “pointy” green fragrance and that is a perfect description. off the common scent path for sure but may be perfect for someone searching for a special green frag.
Better late than never! I don't love Ivoire myself but I do like Ma Griffe
Ivoire is a funny one, a good thing it doesn't have mass appeal as i would be sad to sniff it everywhere…Ma Griffe, Vent Vert & Fidji are my summer go-to scents. the VV parfum i have is the same bottle as the photo above, came in a tiny green hatbox with tissue and polka dot ribbon, so lovely
may i ask you about Ma Griffe, there seem to be 2 bottle styles “out there', an angular plain glass bottle with a green plastic lid, and the squat square glass bottle with the small lid. do you think there is a difference in the scent? wondering if mine might be vintage-ish.
I'm sorry but I had to delete the MUA quote you had posted below…that is copyrighted material and you'd quoted more than would be allowed by fair use laws.
I have seen at least 3 different Ma Griffe bottles, but I've no idea how they're dated, sorry!
oh! sorry about that!
well i guess i will just have to keep sniffing. thanks so much.
Just tried a parfum version packaged in the square bottle with label on the edge – called vintage on ebay, but I don’t know how vintage it is. Perhaps it’s the ’90 version. Gorrrrrgeous. I do love a green floral – I was expecting more of a blast of galbanum, but only got enough to make it fresh as cut grass: perfect, in other words.
Yeah, have a feeling your bottle is not terribly old: the vintage ones I’ve smelled are very galbanum-heavy, esp. in the opening.
I just got my sample of Vent Vert , and it seemed strangely familiar. I tried it next to Chanel No. 19 and that was it. VV is like a slightly airier version of 19 on me – does anyone else get this?
They have similar notes…wonder if they were more alike in their original forms?