These nights, I’m haunted by dreams of aviation. Flying small primitive aircrafts of not-particularly functional structure; descending overtop clouds, green lands and fields of ice stretch beneath me; arriving at unknown continents in unpredictable timing.
In the days when aviation was used mostly as a method of combat and breaking human records, the metallic frame of an aircraft symbolized not a commodity but an experiment on breaking the bounds of the human body and descending into the future. The destination to which the airplane arrived at was less important than the airpath itself. Clouds, winds and painful, misty frosted death were all obstacles that could be felt through the bones rather than speculated by the faint of heart at the leisure of the passenger cabin…
Perhaps this is what brought me to pull out the sample of En Avion I had buried for quite some time. I have never quite given it a try for a prolonged period of time. Perhaps it is my love affair with Vol de Nuit that prevented me to really experience En Avion until now. It’s as if there is room only for one aviation perfume at a time.
There is something particularly fascinating about female aviators – take mankind’s artificial abilitly to fly, independence and femininity and put them together on the horizon where a great ocean meets the even vaster skies… That is where magic and mystery prevails. Add to that the interesting life stories and achievements of women aviators such as Adrienne Bolland (1896-1975), the first woman to fly over the Andes; Hélène Boucher (1908-1934), a pioneer French aviator who broke several records including altitude and speed and was one of the first women to perform aerobatics; and Maryse Bastié (1898-1952), the first female aviator to cross the Atlantic ocean in a solo flight. There are many honours after her name
And of course there is the mythological Amelia Earhart (1897-1837), the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928 (and the second to fly it solor after Maryse Bastie), and who disappeared in her flight above the Atlantic but despite her many other accomplishments as a aviatrice, she’s most famous for her mysterious disappearance towards the end of her flight around the world. She disappeared somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, between Lae, New Guinea and Howland Island – the destination Amelia never reached. Of course, this lead to many conspiracy theories, most of which rely on a firm belief that Amelia was in fact a spy, who’s disappearance was either staged by Roosevalt’s administration as to not jeopardize her operation; or, alternatively, was in fact caught by the Japanese while on her espionage mission.
And last but not least, my classmate from high school, who played the accordion and the piano, the beautiful Anat Kalechman, the talleset, shyest and longest-haried tomboy I’ve ever met. She lost her father (a combating pilot in the IDF), and felt compelled to follow his footsteps and become one of the first few young women to train for flying a combat jet plane in the military, and along with 4 other female comrades of that year - defy the many stereotypes about the abilities of women to function in battle. Rather than cutting her career as a pilot short because of sudden death during training, Anat exit combat airforce was through the gate of the most lively dramas of them all – she fell in love with another pilot and got married; an act that many real-life Diana-like goddesses fall for at one point or the other... Instead, Roni Zuckerman has become the first Israeli female fighter pilot in 2001…
So what’s with that and perfume you ask? Well, in the first decades of aviation, when we were all blinded by the glare of heroism and miraculous ascent of human spirit above the clouds, defying gravity and other enemies – aviation has inspired art – including books (Antoine de Saint Exupéry, an aviator, spy and an author, has written several books inspired by the topic). And lastly there are two grand perfumes inspired by aviation – En Avion (Ernest Daltroff, 1932), dedicated to the pioneer female aviators mentioned above – Bolland, Boucher and Bastié; and the infamous Vol de Nuit (Jacques Guerlain, 1933), inspired by the book of the same name by the abovementioned aviator-author, which I have already reviewed on this humble blog.
En Avion opens dark, like all Caron extraits, and with a certain bittersweetness that does remind me somewhat of Vol de Nuit (though I have to admit, the only reason I compare the two is because of their common theme). While Vol de Nuit is green and sharp, herbaceous at first – En Avion starts off more spicy and floral. Carnation is apparent immediately, but so is orange flower, which smells like an echo of l’Heure Bleue with pilot-hat and goggles… Although Vol de Nuit has the signature powderiness from the classic Guerlinade and iris notes engrained within its structure; En Avion takes powderiness nearly into central stage, and in a far softer and lady-like olfactory context: rose, lilac and violet, and underlined with powdery opoponaxs which almost instantly bring to mind the scent of vintage face powder. As for the base of En Avion, it is redolent of Atlas cedarwood with its suave, polished olfactory-texture, a bittersweetness of tonka bean (again, a reminder of of Vol de Nuit; but let’s not forget that En Avion preceded Vol de Nuit’s launch by a year…). There is, however, a subtle presence of burnished leather at the base, however it is not as animalic or leathery as other Caron creations (i.e.: Narcisse Noir, Tabac Blond), it is almost as soft as suede… If Vol de Nuit is a wild, ambitious woman with restrained emotions and top-notch professionalism; En Avion is not any less ambitious woman that secretly displays her femininity even when boarding an airplane for what might be her last flight ever… Underneath the pilot jumper, she is still wearing silk stockings and laced lingerie.
Perhaps En Avion is a bit like Mml. Boucher, who interestingly enough, started her career as a dressmaker, which led to her designing leather gear and accessories for pilots; she than became so fascinated with flying she felt compelled to pursue this dangerous field. I wonder if she was the kind of lady who would take her maquillage with her to the aircraft to get all perked up before performing her aerobatics…
According to Perfume Addicts database, the notes of En Avion include:
Top notes: Rose, Neroli, Spicy Orange
Heart notes: Jasmine, Carnation, Lilac, Violet
Base notes: Opoponax, Amber, Musk, Wood
To that I would add that in the top notes I can smell orange blossom rather than neroli (there is a different between the two!), I can't say I'm particularly smelling orange (there is a citrusy freshness, but it is well hidden with all the additional dense notes); and there is definitely a dry allspice note weaved in, as well as cloves and perhaps even a hint of nutmeg. While I can't say I smell much of the lilac (I would have to go back to it once I'm fully recovered from my cold though...), violet and rose have a strong presence, and so is the carnation. The base is neither particularly musky nor ambery; but there is certainly the animalic powderiness of opoponax weaved into a dry tobacco-leather base that might include castoerum, and the woods in question are the beautiful Moroccan cedarwood from the Atlas mountains.
To read another review of En Avion, visit Perfume Smellin’ Things