Monday, June 23, 2008

Patou Ma Collection: part 1 ~Amour Amour,Que Sais Je, Adieu Sagesse reviews

With poetic and mischievous names such as Adieu Sagesse (goodbye wisdom) or Divine Folie (divine folly) the twelve fragrances comprising Jean Patou’s “Ma Collection” pose their own little enigmas for the modern perfumphile to decipher. “Ma Collection” consists of twelve perfumes originally launched between 1925 and 1964, then re-released in 1984 under the wing of Jean Kérleo, then in-house perfumer at Patou (1967-1997) and now president of L’Osmothèque.
The formulae were reputedly reproduced faithfully to the degree that it was realistically possible, making them fascinating facets of their era in more ways than one, but earning them alas the misfortune of ultimately getting discontinued.
Despite Patou’s fame for perennial Joy, the house’s history mainly stood upon his amazing grasp of the mood of the times, translating into fashion visions, a trait also eminently apparent in “Ma Collection”. Many of the "Ma Collection" perfumes along with other 20s fragrances share an aromatic base which threads common tonalities among them. Although olfactory gems, these are scents very much embedded in their time frame. A vast ocean of difference divides them from today's fragrances.

Born in 1887 in Normandy and dead in 1936, Jean Patou was the son of a tanner and nephew of a fur-maker, joining the latter in 1907. In a few years he had moved to Paris at the small Maison Parry where he became a dressmaker earning the loyalty of a devoted clientele and opening his own house in 1914. After a stint as Captain of Zouaves during WWI, he launched his first couture collection under his own name in 1919. Success prompted him to open a New York office to cater to the demand of his numerous American clients. Impressed by the long legs of the Americans, he brought back with him 6 models (after auditioning 500), causing uproar in the French press. Later he expanded into a Coin des Sports in 1925 (with a separate space for each sport), as well as shops in the resorts of Deauville and Biarritz.

Understanding the 1920s ideal, youthful and physically fit, and admiring the American simple cuts and architectural seam lines, he was the first to introduce the casual elegance of sportswear for women and complementary accessories with his JP monogram outlined on pockets. Suzanne Lenglen, tennis Wimbledon star, wore Patou clothes on and off the court, while Ruth Elder, the American aviator, was another client. Women everywhere suddenly wanted to emulate the new lank look. But his flamboyant interpretation of contemporary art movements, such as Cubism, was the headstart for imaginative creations such as the iconic cubist sweaters. His younger sister Madeleine, an active, modern woman, also provided inspiration. His rivalry with iconoclast Chanel was of epic proportions, becoming a legend, yet it was Patou who dropped the hemline and raised the waistline, with Coco following suit.

Patou like Chanel was also among the first couturiers to include perfumes as part of a collection, a vehicle to instigate a sense of coherence to fashion houses, founding the fragrance division in 1923. He introduced his first three together in 1925, with the help of Paul Poiret's perfumer, Henri Alméras. According to Jean de Moüy, Patou’s great-nephew, they were inspired by the stages of a love affair and interestingly each was conceived for a woman of specific hair colour: Amour Amour, symbolizing the whirlwind start when heart first beats, was created for blondes; Que sais je? (What do I know?), intended for brunettes, represents the questioning whether to act upon one’s feelings; while Adieu Sagesse (goodbye wisdom), fit for redheads, signals the decision of abandonement into eros.
The bottles were designed by architect Louis Süe who also created the bottle of Joy while illustrations were by André Mare.

Upon encountering the romantic nature of Patou's Amour Amour one realises that it serves as the precursor of the floral symphony in Joy. The similarity is more pronounced at the start, with the dominance of sweet jasmine and delicate rose, while later on Amour flies into brighter, soapier arpegios of lily of the valley with a slight touch of Hesperides and salty ambergris recalling a striking gouache in sunny colours.
Although it was allegedly claimed by Marcel Billot, its true creators are Alméras and also Marius Reboul from Givaudan who contributed with the 30% inclusion of one of his bases*.
Notes for Amour Amour: bergamot, strawberry, lemon, ylang-ylang, rose, lily, carnation, heliotrope, vetiver, civet, honey, ambergris.

Que sais je? would be my choice out of this magnificent trio by Patou and not only for chromatically matching reasons; a decadent chypre with a peachy-plummy opening and a nutty aspect. Discreet touches of gourmand delights err on the side of honey and spices with a heart of generous orange blossom seguing into mossy and animalic notes which hint at some naughty affair. Resembling liquid citrines or ambery topaz mounted in gold, Que sais-je is a luxury that should be savoured in measured quantities like exquisite jewels that exhibit themselves best on black velvet.
Luca Turin likens it to Gianduja, a type of nutty chocolate candy first prepared by Pierre Paul Caffarel and recommends it for those who dislike the vanilla in Shalimar. However it is mostly reminiscent of Femme, especially the reformulated version with its sexier character including sweaty cumin. Was Olivier Cresp, responsible for the latter, inwardly influenced by Que Sais-je? I can also see it being a distant inspiration for the playful hazelnut accord in Deci Delà by Nina Ricci.
Notes for Que sais-je?: peach, honey, hazelnut wood

Dabbing a little Adieu Sagesse is akin to forgetting my everyday existence and imagining myself as a heroine in "Tender is the Night", replete with villa at the South of France and a disturbing yet intriguing background story. A crisp floral centered on the headiness of narcissus with a generous spicy eugenol accord recalling cloves and carnations and warm powdery notes due to opoponax, Patou's Adieu Sagesse shares a mysterious quality with the other two fragrances and dries into a sexy odour like a fur stole that has been kept at a carnation-filled boudoir.
Notes for Adieu Sagesse: bergamot, blackcurrant, daffodil, neroli, lily, jonquil, lily of the valley, carnation, tuberose, rose, jasmine, vetiver, musk, civet.

The "Ma Collection" fragrances are now sadly discontinued, but some of them appear online from time to time (such as on Fragrance Globe), or in shops with overstock. Eaux de Toilette come in splash or spray. The Parfum comes in 30 ml/1oz. flacon wrapped in a silk pochette. All twelve of the fragrances are sold together as collectible Eaux de Toilette minis.

Readers who will comment on the posts of the Patou “Ma Collection” Series enter the draw for a complete set of samples of all 12 fragrances.

To be continued...

Pics from ebay,1st perfume, perfumeshop.com and fragranceglobe.com.
*Info & ad provided by Octavian Coiffan


  1. I never knew there was such a collection of scents by Patou!
    I am so sick of all the celeb scents and if the companies could just see what a bonanza re- releasing their old historical scents could be - Oh hell, who am I trying to fool - they would rename them after Britneys babies!

  2. Now, here's a draw I love to take part in! What a shame Ma Collection has been discontinued.

  3. Octavian let me smell some Que Sais-Je and I must admit I was smitten -- I'm always a sucker for a good fruity chypre! I've been dithering about buying the Ma Collection sampler. I'm so afraid I'll fall hopelessly in love with several and spend hours hunting them down! Ack, the torments of the vintage perfume lover!
    That said, the history of Patou is amazing -- he was the total modernist -- and it's a shame that Procter & Gamble aren't doing more to exploit it.

  4. The idea of making perfume for women with different hair colours strikes me as strange and brilliant at the same time.

  5. You're simply making my mouth water. I've only tried Normandie, among the Ma Collection, and would be insanely grateful to be considered for the draw. I love Jean Patou's aesthetic, it is so just, so impeccable, but I haven't really found "the one"--the current ones tend to play up the contemporary mania for sweetness. Truly, I wish chypres would reemerge full force.

  6. maitreyi197811:22

    I love Joy, and when I found Enjoy at the Marshalls I don't know why I didn't buy it. I kick myself now. It's not part of this series, but it's DE PATOU. If I find any of these I'll snatch them up. Does anyone remember Paname by the same company? I rather liked it. Please enter me in the drawing

  7. Your descriptions are delicious, and the fashion info is fascinating, too. My summer reading is centered around American authors in the 1920s, and I can just see those posh tennis togs :)

  8. stella polaris13:31

    I almost feel I haven't enough experience in the world of fragrances to be entered in the draw, but can't resist! Of these fragrances I have only heard of Que Sais-Je, but didn't know it was part of a triology describing the stages of a love affair :) Nice! I really like the idea of a sequence of scents ordered narratively. The name Adieu Sagesse I find particularly tempting!

  9. Dear M,

    see what a bad work they're doing at Procter & Gamble (who now own Patou) not to make these available once again?
    Not everything is great in any given house's archives, but considering the sameness of the market they would seem completely novel and exciting. Well, hold the Britney's babies' names, of course :-)

  10. Bradamante,

    it's a shame indeed! You're in the draw of course.

  11. Dear D,

    I obviously agree with you that Que sais-je? is opulence incarnate, it almost talks to you with a husky, come-hither voice.
    You should probably get to test them, though I can see you liking quite a few. I highly recommend Chaldee,Colony and Cocktail for you.

    For such an historic house and with such attention as hiring another in-house perfumer after Kerleo, the esteemed Duriez, I sure hope they reconsider bringing back some of their archived scents. I am interested in their Makila and Lasso (now there's a name!)

  12. Dear Lianh,

    it's a concept that was not unheard of at the times: Guerlain did a comparable thing with their L'heure bleue for blondes and Mitsouko for brunettes etc.
    I also find it strange yet fascinating as well. I think it might contribute to a certain mystique that would convince the customer that it would suit them better or that it was conceived with their special needs in mind...

  13. Thank you for reviewing this trio of Patou scents. I am smitten with this house. My favorite of these three: Amour Amour and I did not know about the hair color connection but I am a blond. I can't wait to read your review of Colony, which is my personal favorite of the Ma collection! (Please do not enter me in the drawing, I have samples of these 12.) My next goal is to sample some of the more modern, off-beat Patou perfumes since they seem to have many fans as well.

  14. Dear Dain,

    of course! Normandie is so much a concept of the times: naming a scent after a liner..ah, those were the times when travel was a luxury and a pleasure. Compare with the harsh reality of rigorous controls of today...

    The Patou aesthetic is thoroughly modern and I wonder why they haven't exploited it more.

  15. Dear J,

    I can visualise EnJoy as an introductory step to Patou, so if you liked it you should get it.
    I do recall Paname, I see minis of it online a lot.
    You're in the draw :-)

  16. Dear Anita,

    thank you for the compliments and glad you're enjoying the fashion info. I felt it needed including.
    I feel the same way about your impression and authors like Fitzerald, for instance, make for wonderful summer reading.

  17. Dear S,

    please, there is no requisite experience needed in order to savour something! :-) You're included of course.

    Isn't the "love story" of those three so romantic? *sigh* I
    I believe you will like Adieu Sagesse (fabulous name, I agree!) with its spicy character.

  18. Dear Milla,

    thank you and welcome. Please feel at home!
    I can understand how you feel that this house has something more to give than what it's given credit for. I suggest sampling 1000 and Sublime if you haven't: they're both great and easily available. Then of course there are numerous others...and so many which could be re-issued.

    Hope I won't disappoint on the Colony review. :-)
    It's truly astounding and unusual.

  19. Oh please enter me Divine Madame Helg! I have a tiny sample of Chaldee floating around here, I'm going to have to wait til you reviewit to wear it for a 3D effect :)

  20. So interesting...I love the history. I am intrigued by the coloring concept, though it of course begs the question of whether you match to natural or created color, if one chemicals/hennas/lemon juices in the sun. (I'm inclined to think you wear according the the color you currently have on...after all, you put the color "on," too.)

    Would love to be in the draw...as I am "drawn" to your description of these scents. *groan...but true!*

  21. Naturally I am including you Perf Queen! Madame Helg sounds so decadent!! (love it)
    Chaldee was one of my favs so I am going to rave: sort out your sample!

  22. SLFerguson,

    welcome to Perfume Shrine! ~btw, love your personal motto! ;-)
    Good point about the hair colour: I think they were going by the skin chemistry issue (?), though of course there is the subject of "image" ~different hair colours having different images attached etc.

    Thanks for the compliment and I have included you.

  23. brian16:14

    thanks for this. Weirdly, I'd decided this morning to track down everything I can find on the Ma collection. I have Normandie, which I like. I have a feeling I would like some of the other better, but don't know which. Now I can at least make a somewhat informed unsniffed purchase.

  24. Brian,

    welcome and thanks for stopping by!
    You're very welcome on the series on Ma Collection.
    By all means wait until the completion of the series before your unsniffed purchase: I hope to be able to provide lots of info on them. Then you can jump from the cliff unattended! LOL!

    Seriously, I do hope you find things to like. Normandie is very nice and so are others as well (Colony, Cocktail, Moment Supreme which is more "unisex"...)

  25. What a lovely post - and I'm still entranced by the Guerlain ads as well. Here I am asking myself - are you her type? Which type should I be? As I waver between red-brown and blondish summer hair...what I can say for certain is, I would love to try the magical potions. Thanks for the drawing!

  26. Silvia17:17

    Lovely post, look forward to the next installment! I have not tried any of the Ma Collection scents and would love to be entered in the draw please.

  27. Ooh, enter me. I am rather intrigued by the note of hazelnut used in Que-Sais Je? And also as a brunette it gets my interest. The truth is though the one time I have smelled gianduja used in perfumery it left me a bit on the gaggy side, the infamous Missoni, but then again I believe that is because it is mixed with freesia. Two notes I like on their own but together create something akin to hell on earth.

  28. Wow, these sound wonderful! Tres chic!

  29. Thank you Hvs!
    Here I am asking myself as well: am I that type or that one? LOL Guerlains speak to me...

    Of course you're in for the drawing!

  30. Dear Silvia,

    thank you for your compliment and hope you will enjoy the next entry just as much. I have included you :-)

  31. Oh Jen,

    I can relate! Que sais-je is wonderful alas and no relation to the combination in Missoni. That release however has me puzzled: how could Roucel produce something so...{hmmm}? I find that no scent replicates freesia quite the way it was intended to be in nature.

    You're in!

  32. Dear Karin,

    they're very chic indeed!
    I think it was a mistake that they were discontinued: a small production for collectors at select doors could earn a little space.

  33. I find so ironic that Turin actually likes Missoni, when I consider it to be such a scrubber.

  34. rachael19:04

    they all sound good, bnut I think amour amour would suit me best

  35. There's no account for taste and to each his/her own, Jen.
    He must have his reasons for this opinion, which I believe he states in his book.
    Myself I wasn't too keen, although the Aqua version I found rather more wearable (less sweet?).

  36. They are indeed lovely Rachael. Perhaps it would! I hope you find out.

  37. This is such an interesting post. The only one from the collection that I have had the opportunity to try is Vacances. I found a mini for too many $$'s. Lovely, lilac, Mmmm.

  38. Hi Kathleen and welcome :-)

    Glad you enjoyed it. Vacances is wonderful, trully a gem, a rich lilac and hyacinth scent that is so gorgeous: I have loved it ever since I first smelled it. It's such a pity it has risen in price, the rarer it became.

  39. What a treasure I would love to receive so I could personally relive all the wonderful descriptions you have written and to say thank you! How I remember as a child burying myself under the furs the ladies would deposit on the bed during my parents parties in the evening . . . and the feel and scents left behind on each one of them.

  40. I was only ever aware of Amour Amour and did not know there was such a history to Jean Patou fragrances. Thanks for opening my eyes!
    And of course I would like to be included in the draw.


  41. Anonymous04:50

    I didn't smell the similarity between Joy and Amour, Amour till I read it in a review, but then... yes, it's there. My Amour, Amour decant is a bit faint, but the sweetness of the floral was charming; I get no strawberry, but perhaps that's a quickly fading topnote. Que-Sais Je: I remember finding a strong lily note the first time I smelled it. I don't find that now, nor do I get peach. What I get is a clarion clove note with a lovely, slightly burned dry edge. Adieu Sagesse, sigh... balsamic. The opoponax is extraorily rich and resonant. The gestalt for me is essential oils -- do you remember V'tae's Sacred Fire? While they're not, per se, "smellalikes," I found that same resin/spicy quality -- maybe the eugenol accord you mention? I wore it on vacation, and people were asking about it constantly (not, I devoutly pray, because I had too much on but because it was beautiful). It is SUCH fun to have such a rich backstory to share. Lord but I wish perfume houses would put money and work into keeping such beauties as these instead of launching Paris Hilton forgettables. A common complaint, I know, but thank you for blogging on these beauteous classics.

  42. Nancy,

    thank you for stopping by and commenting. Of course I have included you!
    Your memory is one I am sure is shared by many of us perfume lovers: the remnants of scent and the natural smell of fur are particularly wonderful, I agree. Isn't it fascinating how we cheish those memories?

  43. Mark,

    I am very happy to provide new info and lure you in the world of Patou! You're in for a treat because I will cover all 12 of the Ma Collection scents, so hopefully you will know what to seek for if interested.
    Yo're in the draw!

  44. Dear E,

    thanks for stopping by and for your most interesting comment!
    You're very welcome, it's an absolute pleasure for me to blog about these.
    Indeed -like you, I presume- I try not to go by notes (although I list them for reference) because not all of them are perceptible or even crucial enough in the development.
    I get quite a bit of spices in Que sais-je? which probably accounts for my likening it to the reformulated Femme. And I agree that the clove-y aspect of Adieu Sagesse is wonderful, although I haven't used Sacred Fire; but maybe I should since I am a sucker for anything pimento.

    If only houses drew upon their history...how many wonders we could have seen!

  45. Anonymous09:40

    Thanks for the wonderful post!
    I am taking a holiday in France these days, and as you can guess I am in the midst of a Grasse pilgrimage, but I have to confess I am a little disappointed with the thinness of all the Fragonards and the like... Actually I take most perfume-related pleasure from revisiting as many Guerlains as I can at the local perfume shops. So yesterday I let a very nice SA shower me in JICKY...;-)
    I enjoyed your article even more because I know so very little about Ma Collection. I'd be very curious to know how they compare to the Guerlain style of the same period...

  46. Would you know, posts like these make it awful hard to stick to a "no unsniffed bottle purchases" policy!
    Que Sais-je sounds positively scrumptious.

    If only Patou could relaunch all of the Ma Collection as full bottles, as they did in the 80s! Alas, I doubt P&G, with their constant trimming of the Patou line, would ever consider anything of the sort...

    Also, I can trash that draft about the Patou house I was working on, you already said it all! ;)

  47. Hi Helg --

    Thanks for another fascinating and educational post. I love reading your thoughts here and on MUA. What an interesting conceit, to have designed fragrances for women of different hair colors. I wonder what each implies about the purported characteristics of blondes, brunettes, and redheads?

    Please enter me in the draw.

    (jtcomboy on MUA)

  48. Dear Olga,

    the Grasse firms are very nostalgic but sometimes they do make things for the "tourists" rather than for "history" (I mean, something to withstand the test of time). Maybe that's it?

    Jicky is fabulous: especially in Parfum de toilette and pure extrait de parfum. (mmmm)

    I find that the Patous of the period have common elements in the bases used which link them somehow (at least those from the 20s and 30s). The Guerlains are a bit more differentiated and they have a sweeter, more heliootrope-vanilla aspct to them which I don't find in the Patous as much. Of course that's the short version of it, one by one comparisons are more interesting.
    Hope that helps a little.

  49. Oh, S! By all means, I am sure you have lots of things to say about Patou!

    I wish they would realise (P&G) what a treasure they're sitting on and act!

    Regarding unsniffed purchases, I am against them as well (very much so) but when it comes to gems like those which often go for a small fortune, when you find them for a reasonable price you have to get them. They're getting rarer and rarer...

  50. Jarvis,

    thank you for your kind words and you're in the draw!

    Good point: Indeed it makes one think what stereotypes there are for women! I guess they thought that red-heads were the most reckless of all, LOL!

  51. Anonymous10:53

    Of course it helps! Thanks for the answer. I can see how the Guerlains display a very strong identity, even in later scents say from the 60's and onward. I played with a sample of Habit Rouge next to Jicky and it was almost shocking to think of HR as a masculine, it is sooooo sweet! Vetiver might be the exception to the rule. And of course there is that awesome 'vanilla & everything else' pillow on the base that is hard to miss.

    You have made me curious to get to know the Patou trail now...


  52. Dear Olga,

    I am very happy I helped :-)
    Habit Rouge was conceived as a masculine counterpart to Shalimar: the powderiness is so evident, the vanillic plush...
    Vetiver is crisp of course.

    I hope you get to know the Patous really soon.

  53. I am thoroughly enjoying your Patou Ma Collection posts! Please include me in the draw. :-)

  54. Your wish is granted Claudia and thank you for your kind words, I appreciate the support :-)

  55. They sound delicious and would love to be included.

  56. I have worn Amour Amour since the 1980's. However, it has become impossible to find here in the States. A friend in Paris found the bottle I am hording.

    If anyone knows a source, please send me the information. Thanks.

  57. kathleen16:03

    Hi Nancy,

    Did you look here:


  58. I have always loved Joy. I did not know about these jean patou fragrances. I am new to perfume blkog and look forward to learning more about perfumes. I would love to win these fragrances and compare them.


  59. Sandy Vasalos00:31

    What a elegant house Patou. I love reading this blog and the descriptions of the Patou Ma collection. As a redhead I am so wanting the Adieu Sagesse. Are you listening Santa?

  60. Sandy,

    thank you! Welcome to the Perfume Shrine and hope you feel like home :-)

    And hope santa with his numerous helpers might be able to secure a bottle for you!


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