Perfume Review: Guerlain Vega

Vega, named for that bright star in the constellation Lyra , was composed by Jacques Guerlain and released in 1936.  It was reorchestrated by Jean-Paul Guerlain and rereleased in 2006.  It is an aldehydic floral with notes of rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, iris, and sandalwood.  I’ll go ahead and say what you’re already thinking: Yes, you’re right.  It is indeed Chanel’s iconic No. 5, done up Guerlain style.

Okay, okay, it isn’t exactly No. 5.  The aldehydes have much less of that brilliant glare of sunshine-on-snow than No. 5’s do; the jasmine is sweeter and more prominent than No.5’s, and the ylang more buttery.  Iris is not the cool, chic Chanel style here, it’s more of the satin ribbon tying the bouquet together, and to be honest I don’t smell a lot of sandalwood in Vega.  The sandalwood is present, but to my nose is utterly eclipsed by that dirty-sweet Guerlinade that I like so much in L’Heure Bleue parfum: woody vanilla, with musk, amber, and tonka, as well as whatever-it-is in Guerlinade that reminds me of cat fur.   The opening is a little soapy, particularly near the skin, but the waft in the air has a juicy, peachy sweetness to it that I like very much.  It’s a happy sort of smell for me – it smells like perfume and it smells like flowers, and after awhile it smells like vanilla.  Gaze gave this one two thumbs up:  “Smells like Nana,” he said.  “Except, you know, it’s sort of fruity.”  The floral blend (rose-jasmine-ylang) is so beautiful that it’s been used in hundreds and hundreds of fragrances, which is why this trio of floral notes is a true classic. 

So, basically… um… fine, I’ll say it again.  Vega is No. 5, Guerlain style.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Vega is a lot like No. 5 with her hair down, lounging on the mussed bed and considering a cigarette; No. 5 sitting on the deck in the sunshine with a lemonade, with her top button undone, laughing and dabbing sweat away from her temples and cleavage; No. 5 at home after she’s wrestled her four kids into bed and read stories and given kisses and fed the dog and collapsed on the couch to have her feet rubbed by her adoring husband.  No high heels, no uncomfortable couture party dress with underwear armor, no diamonds: Vega is beautiful and relaxed and really, really friendly.

Mind you, I think No. 5 is absolutely wonderful, and one of the things I like best about it is that it can be appropriate for all kinds of situations, from fried-chicken picnics to the opera (um, applied discreetly, of course. Dabbed from the parfum bottle is best).  Vega is similarly versatile.  And to me, No. 5 is the comforting, welcome smell of my mother.  Yet for years I found it too cold and a bit harsh, like those TV studio lights that can wash out facial tones.  It’s only within the last year that I’ve begun to appreciate its  bouquet-on-a-marble-stand perfection, and learned that I truly love its sandalwood-iris-musk base.  Had I smelled Vega first, I’d have fallen for it immediately.  Most of the things that people tend to find challenging about No. 5 have been softened in Vega, and I’d bet if No. 5 is hard for you to deal with you might do better with Vega.

Now for the bad news: Vega is hard to find.  Really, really hard to find.  Right now on ebay there are two 4.2 oz tester bottles, being sold at $400 a pop, and one bee bottle of the same size (125ml) for $350.  The Guerlain website lists it in a 60ml bottle in the “exclusive fragrances” line.  I managed to jump in on a bottle split, and I have a 5ml decant that is rapidly disappearing.  That’s the other part of the bad news: Vega is EdT concentration, and it’s got standard EdT lasting power – about three hours on me.  I have recently begun following the “spray until wet” technique for lightweight scents and getting better staying power from them, but I cannot do this with Vega.  Spray Until Wet leads to aldehyde headaches, even though Vega’s aldehydes are fairly gentle for an aldehydic floral.  Therefore, I’m stuck with reapplying every three hours if I want to keep smelling Vega, which I do.

Oddly, nobody seems to be talking about this one in recent days.  Fragrantica doesn’t even list it.  Nobody mentions, “Oh, I’m wearing Vega today,” at the lazy weekend polls at Now Smell This.  Or maybe it isn’t so odd: Vega isn’t new, it’s pricey, it was released four years ago, it’s a boutique exclusive and hard to find.  Also, lovers of aldehydic florals have plenty else to wear: No. 5,  No. 22, Liu, Chamade, Caron Nocturnes, Divine L’Ame Soeur, White Linen and Pure White Linen, L’Interdit, Le Dix, Arpege, My Sin, Climat, L’Aimant, Calandre, Rive Gauche, Je Reviens, Madame Rochas…  the list is long.  I’m finding that with few exceptions (the Lauders, of course, and the sugary disaster of No. 22 on me), I really love aldehydic florals.  You’ll be seeing more reviews of these sparkly gems here as time goes on.   

Other reviews: Bois de Jasmin, Patty at Perfume Posse, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things, Victoria’s Own.  Brief but telling description of Vega in Angela’s post at Now Smell This.

Top image of the Vega bottle is from the blog Victoria’s Own.  (Isn’t that gorgeous? The bottle is really beautiful.)  The vintage Vega ad is from Perfume-Smellin’ Things.  It doesn’t really get across the soft, approachable smiling nature of Vega, but the rays of light fit very well.


9 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Guerlain Vega”

  1. Vega! Never tried it, don’t know if I ever will have the chance, but I have always wished for a “friendlier” No. 5; I find the Chanel to be very detached somehow, and too powdery for me too. Vega sounds more like my style, and I am not even a Guerlain groupie; I came over to its appreciation very gradually.

    1. HI there! Hope you can get your mitts on some Vega sometime; it is No. 5 all unbuttoned, which is nice. I wouldn’t call myself a Guerlain Ho, since Shalimar is only wearable for me in certain weather about two weeks out of the year (TAR-SMOKE-EEK), and I cannot do Mitsouko at all (problem seems to be that peach lactone), but I do really love that Guerlain base, and it seems to love me back.

      You like aldehydes – what are your favorites? I’ve been wearing L’Aimant and L’Ame Soeur recently too. Bois des Iles and Arpege are for cool weather, I think.

  2. Wouldn’t be wonderful to wander into the Champs Elysees store, gesture nonchalantly at Vega, have a sniff and test of a few other beauties while you wait for you package, and then wander out again. What a life. My life is kids, work, paying the rent, washing the dishes, laundering the clothes, making the school lunches, remembering to buy the special cat food, getting my son’s glasses fixed AGAIN, driving my kids to footy training/art class/maths tutoring/friends houses etc. Sound familiar? Oh man. No wonder I need a whiff of perfume quite often. It’t better than turning to drink!

    1. Anne, that would be so great, wouldn’t it?? My life sounds a lot like yours. All three of my kids wear glasses, but my youngest is really hard on his – he’s had three pairs in the last two years. Expensive because he has ridiculously bad eyesight…

      Angela on NST commented that she spritzed her scarf with Vega during her recent trip to Paris, and said it was wonderful. I should do that. Actually, I should wear a scarf more often, too.

  3. My first Sniffa event, years ago-
    I purchased Vega and Sous le Vent.

    [ It DID cost less then…but it was a significant birthday present to myself, from DH, bless his soul 😉 ]

    I explained it away, by referring to it as ‘liquid history’, LOL.

    It sings on the skin [ if it sings for you !], and makes the eyes roll back in the head.
    No regrets.
    Enjoy yours !

    1. Aw, Chaya, how sweet of your DH!

      Vega does sing… I’m just a little sad that I’m only getting, oh, one act instead of the entire opera. Or maybe it’s like watching a rebroadcast of the entire opera, at a faster speed. I think it needed a parfum concentration for the rerelease. In any case, I’ll be enjoying it until it’s gone. Sigh.

  4. I like both Vega and Sous le Vent (for different reasons, of course). You can get both @ N-M in Chicago – at least you could last time I looked, which was about a month ago. They have this charmingly odd little display of a lot of the oldies, Vega, Liu and SlV amongst them.

    You have stirred me to try Vega on one arm and No5 on the other – perhaps on Saturday (wearing Lys Med today and tomorrow I have an all-day client meeting. Not the time for experimentation)


    ps. N-M – oddly enough, they have a tester of Habit Rouge extrait (my fave iteration) but no stock. Only the HR Sport, which is vile. Odd..

    1. Still haven’t sniffed SlV. Which, I admit, is not *likely* to be my thing.

      I have been lonnnnnnnging to smell Ode and Liu. Still stalking them on teh bay… and wearing aldehydies a lot: Ol’ 5, Mariella Burani, L’Ame Soeur, Baghari (which I can’t make up my mind about). Today is L’Aimant – which I know you love – in pdt. Nice. If Vega is friendly, L’Aimant is even more relaxed. It’s sweet on me, too, and I probably don’t wear it as often because of the sweetness.

      1. That L’Aimant is a funny one. I spritzed it a couple of weeks ago (transitional weather) and it smelled like rotting meat! That’s aldehydes run amok!

        I think you might be surprised by Sous le Vent.

        Baghari is a bit of a rough ride at first but you learn to love it. It’s like putting a cute little kitten in your breast pocket but the kitten not only has claws, it has a little shiv and it keeps stabbing you with it. Ow!ow!ow!

        I am still laughing over ‘sugary disaster’ re 22. I quite like it but I get that little hit of powdered sugar – ick. But just a little, unlike Lorenzo V’s Teinte de Neige, which feels like you fell into a vat of powdered donuts.


        ps. send me a note – we’ll talk (Liu)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *