5/5/12

Green Valley (Creed)

I always think of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola's masterful period piece, whenever I smell Green Valley by Creed. It is easily one of the finest of the masculine Millésimes, a triumph of Ango-French perfumery, and one of the greatest chypres ever made - and then forgotten about. For some reason it often gets compared to Irish Spring soap, but Sung Homme has that market much better cornered; Green Valley is a verdant field of wildflowers and dewy grasses, like those of the Petit Trianon, where Kirsten Dunst's ill-fated character skips and traipses about with her children. This fragrance is the embodiment of all that can possibly be "green" about a perfume, from its cool minty bite on top, to its ginger-laced violet leaf and vetiver heart. This scent is perfection.

Am I the only one who feels this way about it? Hardly - peruse the internet and you'll find many glowing reviews, usually rueful of its commercial demise. The greatest mystery in the modern Millésime lineup is why in God's name Olivier chose to discontinue Green Valley, a fragrance that is arguably much better than Green Irish Tweed, and unarguably more timeless. There have been rumors about its viability in the face of recent IFRA regulations, with some hints that its reliance on oakmoss was excessive by current standards in the EU. I'm not convinced of this. Green Valley has a dab of oakmoss in it, set against a vanillic bergamot/ginger combination, but it's the blackcurrant that lends this scent its prominently bitter greenness, not oakmoss. I simply don't smell that much moss in there. If it was closer in flavor to, say, Grey Flannel, well then I suppose I could cede the point. Alas, there is no such earthiness to be found, but rather a crystalline, grassy greenness, with moorings in breezy fruits and spices.

January's review of EROLFA mentions how you can quiz Creed salesmen on their wares and probably knock them down a few rungs on the attitude ladder. With Green Valley, you can ask a rep why it spoils after a certain period of time, and see him scramble to deny it, and then change the subject. I've owned two bottles of GV in my time, one from the early 2000s, and another from 2006. The older bottle was purchased from a mall kiosk, and although it was definitely genuine, it contained soured juice. The opening was a pretty blackcurrant and ginger medley, followed by the smell of Jesse Owens' sneaker after a 200 meter dash. It smelled rancid hellish. I gave it to a friend who knows nothing about Creed, in the mean-spirited hope that he would think it was how extremely expensive, Anglo-French, green-themed niche perfumes ought to smell. My 2006 bottle of GV smelled just fine, and it helped that I bought it directly from the Creed Boutique in New York City.

Fumeheads have argued extensively about which of Creed's two green Millésimes is better, with most favoring GIT by a hair. There's actually a third green - Original Vetiver - but this is obviously a clone of Mugler Cologne, and not really in contention. With GV and GIT, a question regarding the usage of violet leaf comes into play. GIT's violet leaf is very deep and purple-hued, while GV's is lighter, and more silvery in feel. The violet leaf of GIT is very much an '80s note, full of synthetic bombast, but GV's is more '90s, very ephemeral and sheer. One problem people face with Green Valley is that it's very difficult to sample, now that it's not being made any longer, and it's hard to trust people's written opinions when weighing the purchase of a $285 perfume. Fortunately, you don't have to go by reviews alone - some Saks and Neiman Marcus locations still stock testers of Green Valley. But if you can't find a tester at the nearest of those two stores, is it safe to trust reviews, or better to hold out and base the purchase on what you smell?

Trust your nose only. Wait until you find that tester, sample, and go from there. If you live near a Blue Mercury, try them for a sample. Green Valley is very bitter, and contrasts fresh green notes against an inedible vanilla base. It's the soapiest use of vanilla I've ever encountered in a fragrance, and it's definitely not for everyone. I sometimes wonder if this is why the fragrance is so often compared to Irish Spring soap, as Colgate uses a rather vanillic, lye-type scent in its formula. Aside from those two similarities, these fragrances have nothing in common - Irish Spring is a juniper/vetiver/vanilla, while Green Valley is a mint/grass/blackcurrant/vanilla. The Creed is significantly less "friendly" than any other interpretation of "green" that I've encountered, with very little overt sweetness, and scads of bitter pungency in its "fresh-fruity physiology," as Andrew put it.

N°19, Silences, Vent Vert, Diorissimo, all share a table with Green Valley, yet somehow get talked about a hell of a lot more than the Creed by comparison. I've never understood why, when someone asks for names of great green frags, Green Valley gets short shrift. I kinda-sorta half understand it - there's a negative bias toward Creed for being so popular (niche fragrances aren't supposed to be popular), and so expensive (which is fine with everything but Creed), but still, this scent needs more recognition. Perhaps with renewed appreciation, the Creed family will feel compelled to resurrect their lost masterpiece and stick it back on shelves. I can see it in my mind's eye, with its snappy new pastel-green label and matching cap. As things stand, it's worth seeking out, but definitely sample first, to avoid buying a green that might be too bitter for your tastes, and also to avoid buying something that smells like spoiled garbage.

One more thing about Marie Antoinette: in the film, Kirsten doesn't come into contact with toiletries and personal hygiene products very often, which seems accurate for the time period. However, she expresses an affinity for everything green - in her desire to plant trees, return to nature with her children, and enjoy summer nights, in fields, under the stars, with friends. If I'd been on Ms. Coppola's set, I might have snuck a little 1-ouncer of Green Valley onto Kirsten's copy of the script, as a paperweight, and also a little message suggestive of so much more about her character than any script could give.
















4 comments:

  1. Great review. I get "Irish Spring Soap" from this, which makes me smile because it reminds me of my big brother, but doesn't make me want to wear the perfume. :)

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    1. Thanks - if you haven't already, try Sung Homme. After trying that scent, you'll never think anything else smells like Irish Spring again, TRUST me.

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  2. I'm afraid to admit that I never actually got a chance to try this one out, but I've heard good things about it online as you mentioned. Quite a shame! Can't help but wonder why they would have stopped making it, especially if it seemed to be so highly regarded by people.

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    1. Something about not being able to source ingredients in the face of regulations . . . it's more likely there was a flaw in the formula that caused this scent to spoil more frequently, and sooner, than any of the other Creeds.

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