The green reaper… Vent Vert by Balmain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter 


“It will be mostly, well almost entirely green”


As she spoke she looked defiantly passed, no, more accurately, through, the assembled women of the horticultural society.

A gasp as sharp and cool as the Sirocco itself emanated from their collective lipstick-ed mouths.

A rumble of wet whispers like a gathering storm just audible somewhere off on the Med:

“But it’s a flower show” “The defending champion is expected to outdo herself” “It must be a riot of colour and gaiety” “There must be blooms in abundance”

Finally, a committee member in a powder puff pink twinset, pearls and with lips pursed enough to crack a walnut cleared her throat and spoke.

“Is it to be only green?”


“Pretty much.”

This time the defending champion spoke without raising her gaze from the perilous task she was engaged in: winding wild stinging nettles around a trellised column that marked one of the four corners of her sixteen metre square show garden.

“So no flowers at all?” the former treasurer persisted.

“There are green flowers you know. Certain kinds of wild iris for example… ” replied the gardener.

Then looking up and straight into her arch enemy’s eyes, “…and green carnations of course”.


At this a slight embarrassed laugh rose from the crowd of women and those who understood explained to those who didn’t in terms of Oscar Wilde.

Undaunted, the elected member pressed her case uneasily though even she felt perhaps unwisely too:

No dash of colour? A bright red rose? A few of those amazing azure azaleas that drew such admiration last year?”


“An aster perhaps?”, and then in desperation… “For heaven’s sake a dahlia or two wouldn’t kill you!”

But, the ex-chairwoman suddenly worriedly thought, perhaps the look fixed on her by her adversary now might just do for her.

The competition winner, rose to her feet, a full near six feet in fact, about five of them resplendent in a chartreuse satin-like jump suit.

“There could be a chrysanthemum…” she began calmly …”but I doubt it.”

“Mainly we will be showing leaf this year. Violet, orange, basil, sage, oh and some mosses as ground covering. I might run to a blue hyacinth out of season as surprise, but that depends on… well that depends…”


“You may be interested to know I have some pins too, of the coniferous kind and some fruit….”

“You are aware there is a fruit and vegetable section…?” came the faltering interrogative.

“Limes, of course, quite inedible, exclusively for the colour” the green goddess continued without missing a beat, her eyes fixed again on some indiscernible and distant point above the coven’s heads.

“And lots of wild things, grasses, brambles, hawthorns, nettles….” She gestured to her handiwork.


At this final explosion of unkempt matter the official felt almost faint…

“Nettles you say? Of course marks are awarded as much for skill in cultivation as mere arrangement!”

“But the lawn grass I shall be using is beautifully grown, manicured you might say. It makes wonderful material for the vertical elements of the display.”

A general silence descended.


The one time general secretary was bowed and beaten, the other members of the collective too confused to consider further remonstration.

Then the towering Amazon in forest hues asserted that she “must be getting on with my work”.

They departed with the almost grateful air of a defeated army in retreat.

On the day the display did nothing to disappoint expectations.

It was exactly the densely packed abstract cube of foliage devoid of flowers that they had all feared and dreaded.

A melange of textures shapes and every shade of one single colour.


All was green, save for a row of inexplicably sourced blue hyacinths that sat atop a seven foot wall of lawn.

And that was not all, for the ‘entered environment’ as the ‘author’ entitled her show garden, was suffused in a chill mist that emanated from behind a basil and sage sphere.

Not only was this cloud cold, but it smelt like distant polar ice.
In flaming July, the effect was magical.

Heat-wearied show goers tired of the gaudy confections of over inflated flora on display elsewhere queued patiently to get their moment out of the sun.

To relax and revive in a sanctuary of temporary serenity.
Though none dared stay too long as they found the cool soon became uncomfortable to the their warm-blooded sensibilities.

The judges, a sculptor from the local art school and an out of town landscape designer, were moved, and could not be emotionally moved on from their moments in the mist.

Full marks duly awarded, they presented the prize, an awful cut glass bowl and a comfortable amount of cash, with great aplomb and air kisses to the defending champion.


She stood radiant in a floor length fern coloured kaftan her long hair blowing in the green breeze coming from her garden.

Vintage Vent Vert by Balmain is as close to iconoclastic feminism as fragrance gets.

On its release this searing, adventurous and uncompromising scent must have cut a swathe through not only smoked filled rooms but preconceptions of what a woman should smell like.

It is a bracing bolt from the green.

An amorphous, abstract yet geometric gesture in shamrock.

To describe and dissect the principle note or accord seems almost pointlessly reductive.

It contains grasses, nettles, citrus leaf and moss but is not solely defined by any of them.

Beyond this there is fruity acidity set off by a softer florals that appear and then disappear repeatedly in the heart.

Like the summer wind the name suggests.

Chief amongst these floral elements is a hyacinth that retains a degree of hauter, the slight detachment of that note smudged by a friendlier lighter muguet.

The base is another convergence of not only notes but tone, galbanum against amber, sandalwood and cedar, oakmoss and herbaceous border.

The effect is entrancing yet at the same time a little alarming.

Indeed, this is not a perfume with which the word comfortable can easily be associated.

It is too urgent, too agitated, has a point to make even to the point of a certain cold aggression.

I can’t help but adore it for its restless boundary-testing taut beauty.

If Vent Vert were a painting it would be a cubist Picasso from his lost green period.

Sadly, as for the latest iteration, complete with its golden golf ball lid, whilst it is far from a truly bad perfume, it drifts too much into the territory of easy musk-bought cleanliness and could be mistaken for good scalp-saving shampoo.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.
The Perfumed Dandy


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15 responses to “The green reaper… Vent Vert by Balmain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter 

  1. Funnyboy

    Truly fascinating,
    I was waiting for your review of Vent Vert as I remember it from years ago and it was truly Magnifique.
    From what I remember it was in the same vain as vintage Givenchy 111 and the old formula as Chanel19 but quite a lot “greener”.
    I am also pleased that you sampled the new formula so it saves my pennies!
    Have you tried balmain Ambergris<I cant remember if it has been on your list.I love its understated elegance which is perfectly suitable for all sexes! Also La Mome by Balmain which is more floral but in my eyes quite unique,

    Regards and keep reviewing the Classics until your supply is exhausted.

    • Dearest Funnyboy
      Helo dear friend!
      Vintage Vent Vert is truy magnifique, but The Dandy only had the tiniest of samples and so all amazing things must pass… and so this fair wind has blown away until perhaps our paths will cros again some day.
      As to the new version? I wouldn’t go big on it unless you’re a fan of musk white cleanliness (nothing wrong with that) and quite fancy a brisk green hue to lift your wash.
      Strangely no one has suggested Ambre Gris until now, so it’s another one we can consider added to the list, the same goes for La Mome, though finding that might be the ultimate challenge.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Lilybelle

    That review was so cool and green my mouth is puckering with that slightly painful salivation just from reading it. Like smelling a lime. There are times when we want (need) an extravagant greenness. Like today (it’s hot!). I suppose I’ll take a pass on the current version. Thank you, Mr. Dandy, for the review. I enjoyed it.

    • Dearest Lily
      What perfect words ‘there are times when we need an extravagant greenes’ and today, though the temperature may not have been soaring here has certainly been one.
      I hope you managed to find something to keep you cool there too,
      As for the new Vent Vert, it really isn’t awful but as the sone goes ‘if I hadn’t had such riches I could have lived with being poor’.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. What a story!
    I haven’t tried this perfume in its vintage formulation (and I wasn’t impressed by the modern one) but I’m glad that it existed – if only to provoke such beautiful reviews.

    • Dearest Undina
      Why thank you! I’m so glad you liked the tale.
      No the modern Vent Vert is nothing to write home about, not good, not bad, a middling mint rather than a lucious lime as greens go.
      If you get to try one of the older versions then do, I’m sure you’ll find it an entirely enchanting and enervating experience!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Mary E.

    Lovely review and as you noted–only the vintage version is worth pursuing which is quite amazing.

  5. Is there anywhere where this gentleman can get his hands on the elusive Vent Vert? I loved the story by the way…what a woman!

    • Dearest Mr Lanier
      Oh but I wish it were more available… the last version before the golf ball is not bad, but the old one in the chemistry set style flask is the best.
      I just tried a tipple and now I think I have a ques on my hands!
      Your ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. batkitty

    Wonderful review of a stunning perfume. It sounds like a quest for some vintage Vent Vert is in your future!

  7. A story that brought my body temperature down – and in this heat – that’s a blessing. My goodness. I think I’ll read it again!

  8. Alice

    I’ve been trudging round London to meetings in this heat… what a refreshing review, it did make me chuckle! And I see lots more was posted yesterday for me to look forward to, you are a real tonic!

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