Today's guest is composer / producer (and fume-head) Morton Wilson. Originally from New Zealand, lived in Hong Kong 30 years. His main projects include 'The Original 1930's Shanghai Divas Redefined' album with EMI, 'Shanghai Tang Lounge Collection' and other Remix work commissioned for David Bowie, Gorillaz, Robbie Williams etc. Morton contributes to Basenotes as mr. reasonable and follows Grain de Musc, 1000 fragrances, Monsieur Guerlain, Bois de Jasmin, Sorcery of Scent and Nero Profumo blogs.
Mr. Wilson's gift to Nero Profumo is...
Sous le Vent. “And where were you during that long, lost summer?”
There are some that just click. It’s that simple. I’m not sure whether it’s a mix of cues from my past coalescing in this one composition, or just pure serendipity, that has caused a re-interpretation of a perfume made for a raunchy cabaret artiste from 1930’s Paris to catch me so off guard.
The chypre accord was still very much in evidence in the 60’s and early 70’s when I was growing up and I suspect it has somehow impregnated a sense of innocent security on my own subconscious. When I experience that tactile structure of crisp citrus and forest floor oakmoss I slip into a sense of things being okay – as a teenager, meeting my father for a drink overlooking the harbour after his Saturday game of golf, or, even further back, catching a cloud of grown-upness as my mother and her sister headed out for some shopping and a Pimms, leaving us kids to our surfing and sunburn during the school holidays.
Sous le Vent conjures up a mood, a time and a place - bare foot in cool, damp grass, a westerly breeze, and above all, the sun hitting off the languid swell of the ocean on a lazy afternoon. It’s a breezy scent, the pun is inevitable, and once you have felt its cool caress its hard to forget.
The opening is bright, tart even, with a citrus, verbena and galbanum sting that recalls Eau de Guerlain and Philtre d’Amour. For a few seconds this could be a classic citrus Eau de Cologne, but then that notion is dispelled as it unfolds. Lean in very close (if you dare) and ask yourself what is that tough edgy sheen you sense? An almost alchemical mix of oakmoss, aromatic herbs, some clove and the slightest touch of civet (I swear I can detect it hidden in there), gives a ‘no-nonsense’ demeanour to this personality, an echo of Jicky, perhaps? Then, as you take all this in, lean back a little and a gentle floral bouquet opens up and hovers above the proceedings with a seductive ‘take a slow, deep breath’ mood.
“Keep your distance, no, come closer, look at me, no it’s okay, you can close your eyes.” There is never an apparent cue or clue to what this scent is saying. It keeps you guessing as to its true intent, all the while infusing the air around you with a sense of ‘let it go, relax and enjoy the ride.’ And then you’re caught. Later you may ask yourself what exactly happened there? And you have to revisit it, again and again and again.
It’s not a citrus eau, although it calls the best to mind. It’s not a hale and hearty aromatic, although you can run your hands across the leaves of the herbs and shrubs. It’s not a ballsy chypre, drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘cross if you dare’; perhaps because it lets so much light in - you don’t actually realise you’re ensnared with that balmy breeze blowing through.
The current EDT is surprisingly light structurally – it’s almost as if a conscious decision was made not to let this one really touch the ground. Of course I would love to experience the original from the 30s, which by all accounts has a heft more akin to it’s predecessors from Jacques Guerlain, Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit, but the knowledge that this was once something with some heft (and no doubt a decent slug of oakmoss) doesn’t distract at all from the pure enjoyment of this version. It is my Hong Kong summer staple, perfect when the temperature is 30+c and humidity is soaring – it walks with me, reminding me of a time when things were less complicated, when everything was okay.
And that’s the enigma that is Sous le Vent.
Morton Wilson, June 2012
Rating: 9/10 (Excellent, but not for everyone).