Scent Sample Sunday: Bal a Versailles

Scent Sample Sunday: Bal a Versailles

Having read so much about Bal a Versailles in recent years, written about by everyone from Luca Turin to favorite blogs like The Black Narcissus, CaFleurebon, and Kafkaesque (and she’s BACK, even if only briefly!), I knew I would want to try it some day. I wasn’t in a big rush because even in its vintage form, it seems to be widely available for less than soul-crushing prices, and it honestly didn’t sound as if it would be a love for me.

But I came across an online auction for a full 4 oz. bottle of the vintage eau de cologne, which seemed as if it would be more approachable, and no one else had bid on it, so I did. And won it for a very reasonable price, less than one would spend on many forgettable modern fragrances at Sephora, Ulta, and elsewhere. It arrived a few days ago, and I’ve been trying it out since. I like it! My bottle looks just like this (except the label on mine is perfect):

Bal A Versailles by Jean Desprez; image from http://www.fragrantica.com

It is very interesting to me, because at first sniff, I definitely smell it as “perfumey”, which to my nose often means aldehydes. Yet there aren’t aldehydes in BaV, at least none are listed for it. So I’m concluding that another note that smells “perfumey” to me, probably based on my late mother’s perfumes from the 1960s and 1970s, is civet, which was used in varying amounts by the classic French perfumers to bring warmth, radiance, and sensuality to their creations such as Shalimar, Chanel No.5, etc., during decades when women were supposed to charm and seduce.

Probably because I have only cautiously dabbed small amounts of BaV on my wrist, I don’t find its notes unpleasant or overwhelming, or even, as so many have written, “skanky.” As expected in a bottle that probably dates back to the 1960s, any top notes that appear briefly are faint, at best, and blend easily into the middle notes that are more apparent to my nose. So I smell jasmine and rose, but they accompany heart notes like sandalwood, patchouli, leather, ylang ylang, and a hint of orris root.

I definitely smell the animalic note that I assume is civet, right from the start. Vanilla also makes itself know early in my wearing, and a very grown-up vanilla it is, smooth and warm without being sweet. As the drydown continues, the vanilla becomes more and more evident on my skin. And believe it or not, it starts to smell like a longtime favorite of mine, Anne Klein II !

And maybe that isn’t as kooky as it sounds, when I look at the notes for AKII. Its heart notes include jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, and orris root; and its base notes include musk, sandalwood, patchouli, amber, benzoin, vanilla, and yes — civet. Wow. I had never put these two fragrances together in my mind, but the list of shared notes, especially in the base, is remarkable and I doubt it is coincidental.

So while I continue to ponder my new (to me) vintage fragrance, here is some great news. I was already delighted when AKII was reissued last year as a bargain beauty, given that the original from 1985 was fetching absolutely ridiculous prices online. While the reissue smells very close to the original, it isn’t as rich and warm, as I noted, probably partly because my vintage AKII has aged well, but also because ingredients that were allowed in 1985 are no longer used in most modern perfumes. Like civet. But if you crave a richer, warmer AKII, I suggest you seek out vintage BaV eau de cologne. It is much easier to find online and much more affordable.

Celebrities who have worn BaV include Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on.

Movie star Liz Taylor with bottle of Bal a Versailles perfume by Jean Desprez.
Elizabeth Taylor and Bal a Versailles; image from http://www.townandcountrymag.com.

What do you think of Bal a Versailles? Love it? Hate it? Which formulations have you tried?

Perfume Chat Room, September 4

Perfume Chat Room, September 4

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, September 4, and for once, I am on time with the Friday Community Project listed every week on the blog “Now Smell This.” Today’s theme is: “Zest and Smoulder…wear a fragrance with citrus and smoky notes, or, layer two fragrances to achieve the same effect, or interpret the theme in whatever way works for your collection.” What a great theme for the first Friday in September, the start of Labor Day Weekend in the USA, and often considered the transition from summer to fall. (That’s true in New England states and other more Northern parts of the US, but here in the South, September will still be hot and humid, and schools have been back in session since early August).

I thought it would be hard to find a fragrance in my collection, including samples, to fit that theme but it turns out that Frost, by St. Clair Scents, is exactly right. Come back on “Scent Sample Sunday” if you want to read more about it!

Do you follow NST or take part in its Friday Community Projects? Are you doing today’s? And do you have any special plans for Labor Day weekend if you’re in the US?

Cocktail glasses with charred citrus garnish
Cocktail with citrus and smoke
Perfume Chat Room, August 28

Perfume Chat Room, August 28

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, August 28, and I am ready for August to end. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Diorella

Scent Sample Sunday: Diorella

Christian Dior’s Diorella was created in 1972 by the legendary perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, a sibling of his masterpiece Diorissimo. It is one of the fragrances awarded five stars by Turin and Sanchez in their book “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” Although they docked one star from it in their 2009 update, they still found it excellent. I have a bottle of Diorella that I think dates to 2002, according to the guidelines described in the “Raiders of the Lost Scent” blog (a great resource).

It smells great! Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, August 14

Perfume Chat Room, August 14

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, August 14, and I’m late posting this because we moved our youngest child into his freshman college dorm today! Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, August 7

Perfume Chat Room, August 7

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, August 7, and it is HOT where I live. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, July 31

Perfume Chat Room, July 31

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 31, and the tough month of July is over at midnight. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: Beach Hut Woman

Scent Sample Sunday: Beach Hut Woman

We’ve been at the beach this past week, and I took with me a few beach-appropriate fragrances. The one I wore most was Amouage’s Beach Hut Woman. It wasn’t exactly that I loved it so much, though I do like it a lot. I was trying to figure it out. The company website lists the same notes as Fragrantica: top notes of a mineral accord and bergamot; middle notes of  a “driftwood” accord and a molecule called “lisylang”; base notes of patchouli and cashmeran.

First, what is “lisylang”? Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, July 17

Perfume Chat Room, July 17

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 17. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, July 10

Perfume Chat Room, July 10

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 10, and we are going to the beach! Continue reading