Balmain Vent Vert: Green Goddess

It’s been a brutal, long winter here in Northern Europe. But, this week, one word has been on everybody’s lips: Spring.
Snowdrops hang their heads in modest clusters around the tree trunks; egg-yolk and violet croci point their glossy petals skywards, like so many stubby paint brushes dunked in the jolliest paint.
And, once again, the world is hinting at the appearance of an abundance of gorgeous green.
Restless as a willow in a windstorm, The Scentimentalist has been dabbing at her most beloved of verduous scents: Balmain’s achingly tender and complex Vent Vert, created in 1947 by the incomparable Germaine Cellier. And what a noteworthy year for perfume that was, birthing alongside Vent Vert the estimable (and similarly green) Miss Dior, Caron’s Farnesiana and Balenciaga’s Le Dix.
I speak here of the vintage formulation of Vent Vert in the aromatic extrait form, no less a goodly splash of which currently nestles in the crook of my left elbow, still exuding a supple, emerald-green sillage some five hours after its application.

The original Vent Vert is a dusky green paean to the Middle Eastern resin galbanum, and reportedly boasts a mammoth 8 per cent of this balsamic gum in its formula, serving to impart a mildly savoury, lightly musky accord.
And, as this perfume’s poetic appellation suggests, this is possibly the greenest green a scent could ever be: it is bruised foliage and forest floors, melded with coarsely snapped stems, oozing sap and the darkest chlorophyll. It is styrax shrubs and velvety moss, vetiver grass and the tender underside of newly stripped bark.
And from beneath this foliate canopy scented sprigs peek shyly out, most beautiful being the graceful, scented bells of springtime muguet, pungent hyacinth and the sweetest, most indolic narcissi.
Intriguingly, as the topnotes of vintage Vent Vert dry down, the faintest aroma of lemongrass and coriander leaf emerges. This is surely plant life in perfume form at its very dreamiest and most inventive.
As is widely known, newer formulations of Vent Vert are different species entirely. While I have never smelled Calice Becker’s (purportedly very good) ‘middle’ version, I do possess a mini of Nathalie Feisthauer’s 1999 formula. Roundly maligned by so many (among them Luca Turin), I nonetheless find a great deal left to enjoy in this chartreuse concoction: it is altogether fresher, louder and brighter – if somewhat ‘pissy’ at an early juncture in its development.
Hence, it is to vintage Vent Vert that we must turn to find green fragrance at its greatest and most inspirational. And so, to close, with the words of Federico Garcia Lorca:
‘Green, how I want you green.
Green wind.
Green branches.’

The Scentimentalist thanks Frances Gapper for the gift of the vintage Vent Vert, and Bonkers About Perfume for supplying the Feisthauer mini.


  1. WOW!!! You just put Spring into words, dear Scentimentalist! I'm reeling...

  2. Gosh! Did you like that, then, Fan? I hope you saw your namecheck at the bottom, there! xx

  3. Thank you dear Scentimentalist. You have woken up my brain with spring. You are an inspiration.

  4. I've been feeling spring-like lately wearing Vacances and Bel Respiro, Jardin Clos, Eau de Camille, Fleurs de Bois etc.

    I have not smelt the vintage Vent Vert, but even the more recent one I found quite zingily green. And I had never heard of Feisthauer - it is clearly in much better hands now...

    : - )

  5. Love the pictures, too - the lady with green hair and the botanical drawings! xx

  6. Well, Flit, Vacances is very, very beautiful, and I am a huge fan of Bel Respiro, but I can honestly say that, alongide the old VV parfum, Bel Respiro smells positively coarse. Imagine!

    And, Frances, the green-haired lady is a Gruau, who did much of Balmain's and Dior's advertising during this period. Gorgeous, huh? The botanical drawing is of galbanum, which is stunning stuff: green, but with inflections of spice, smoke and musk!

  7. I absolutely LOVE this post...Yes, it's still cold, but spring seems just around the corner. I had some Vent Vert c. 1990 and adored it: but it's long gone. Now I'm wearing Chamade, and alternating it with the new Goutal (Ninfeo mio). Oh, and the Rene Gruau is delightful!
    Thank you so much: and a small plea - think of me glued to my laptop this Saturday (Vacances...)