Monday, May 10, 2010

Bal a' Versailles -- A Look Back

This week and next, I'm going to be busy with relatives and/or away. Hence two reprints from the early days of Olfactarama, which you might have not read. Hope you like them!

Don't forget: the drawing for four samples of Liz Zorn's Soivohle fragrances ends Monday, May 17th, midnight US Eastern Daylight time. Leave a comment to enter.

Below is my very first post, about Bal a' Versailles.

"In 1978, I visited Andorra with my parents. Andorra was, and I’m sure still is, one great big duty-free shop. I remembered something I had read in a fashion mag, or maybe God-forbid, Cosmo, about a certain perfume. It was the pinnacle, they said. The best. So of course I wanted it. I found it in one of those big-box duty-frees and brought it home, a tiny round bottle enclosed in a brocade pouch.

It became my signature night scent for many years. I was just past college then, and no one I knew had ever worn perfumes like this. So, I thought, it distinguished me as worldly and complex; uptown, different in every way that mattered from the patchouli-wearing sprouts-eating no-makeup post-hippie girls I knew at school.

It would bitch-slap you silly with that first flat note, that definitely-not-American slam. And then it would quickly bloom into florals, jasmine and rose. But it wouldn’t leave you comfortable there. Under all those sweet and pretty flowers flowed the heavy, musky, unmistakable note of...what was that, anyway? I didn’t know the words then. Civet, musk, ambergris – and, in the Seventies, they were all real.

It smelled so foreign! I wore it whenever I went out, not sure of what might happen (as in anything can.) Of course, I reserved my ladylike Chanel No. 5 for work. But when the sun sank, out came the little bottle I'd bought in Andorra.

I've been through a number of them since then. Even now, when it feels like it's going to be an interesting night, I wear it. Sometimes, I wear it to sleep, too.

The expert Luca Turin has called it “circular,” I've read, explaining that it settles, then rolls back and forth between the sweet and dirty, the florals and the civet, what they call "skank" now. Another perfume writer called it “comforting.” In a way it is.

I guess I could call myself a semi-perfumista now, with many bottles and even more samples, some niche, some corporate, all recommended. But the Bal is still special. It makes me feel more...well, let's just say more. And there's a bottle of the vintage, coming in the mail."


The Left Coast Nose said...

I feel lucky to know this scent personally, due to your generous swaps policy. (Thanks again, O!)

For me, this scent is almost like a parody of French perfume-- it is so French-- nothing is left out-- the florals, the musks, the powders. "L'Eau d'√Čvier de Cuisine" ("L'Eau de Kitchen Sink.")

It smells full to me. Complete. I can certainly see why you love it.

Mals86 said...

Oh, exactly, SO FRENCH. SO NOT AMERICAN. Every raw material in the world shoehorned in there.

And that beautiful warm candle-wax drydown. Bal is wonderful.

Vanessa said...

I own a bottle of the EDC of this, which is potent enough for me, given my lily livered alter ego of "VM I hate civet" over on Basenotes. Weirdly, irrationally, this is the only perfume containing civet in any discernible quantity that I like. And that inconsistency appeals to me somehow, so BaV has a special incongruous place in my collection. : - )

Unknown said...

I'm so glad you recycled this earlier post, for otherwise I would have never known ab. Bal d'V. The power of your writing is strong--I've never so wanted to sniff! Perhaps I can find some in the duty-free shops during my summer travels. Thank you, Olfacta!