Few know that Jacques Guerlain had a significant interest in astronomy, and that he frequently pored over published dissertations on the subject. It is no surprise then, that in 1936 he came to draw inspiration from the 5th brightest star in the night sky, and one that has been referenced in ancient mythology for millennia: Véga.
Originally released in the iconic Baccarat "inkwell" flacon, Véga typified the new and innovative perfume stylings of the Art Deco age. Only 15 years earlier, Coco Chanel had released her aldehydic beast Chanel No.5 onto the world stage to great acclaim, which resulted in a mass tendency towards the use of aldehydes in perfumery. In answer to Chanel's ground-breaking creation, Jacques Guerlain released the aldehyde-rich luminous floral Liu in 1927, and revisited the aldehydic theme in Véga; though this time with a masterfully measured hand. Véga presented aldehydes in a vastly different manner - somehow scattered and diminished - as if the scent itself, much like starlight, had travelled for millennia across space and time.
Véga has all the markers of a classic aldehydic perfume but for one thing: a generous dose of vanilla. It opens with a sharp floral crispness that rushes to dry the back of the nose... bright neroli and ylang ylang accompany strong aldehydes through the topnotes, but a denser velvety heart of rose rests just under the surface. This strokeable rose accord harmonises with the powdery aspect of the aldehydes, and the whole heart of the perfume suddenly becomes very tactile. A dewy, thick vanilla note materialises, and adds a feeling of creamy, ambery warmth. This is where I feel Véga and other classic floral aldehydes diverge in style... it feels as if with Jacques Guerlain's interpretation, he has shifted the radio transmission a little 'off' to receive signals through a screen of white noise and static. The white/yellow florals are still there, but seem to be flourishing under a cream-coloured blanket of cashmere-soft vanilla. There is a lingering trail of subtle woods in the drydown: dry vetiver and what I expect might be fragrant sandalwood.
When pitted against the 2006 reissued version, the vintage Véga edt wins me over just by a hair. There just seems to be a celestial harmony between the notes that makes it slightly easier to wear than the modern release. As with the heavenly body itself, I feel the light of 1930's Véga might have changed ever-so-slightly in the time it has taken to reach us here in 2010.