Much like Joy (1935), "the costliest perfume in the world" was launched just when the Great Depression was hitting Jean Patou's wealthiest American clients the hardest, the delicious Délices, also by Jean Patou, was issued in 1940, smack when World War II had shown its ugly face. Perhaps to divert attention from the difficult days ahead? Or in an (alas vain) attempt to exorcise the demons of war which were only too fresh in the memory of its contemporaries? In 1940 few were willing to believe the monstrosities would last for long and Jean Patou had died 5 years before, leaving the house to his sister and her husband Raymond Barbas. Some decades later, few are willing to believe that mementos of that era have resonance today; yet they do. To this day this Patou fragrance remains one of those Great Unknowns of Perfumeland, being one of the more elusive fragrances in the Patou portfolio, but also in the collective perfume vaults. In vain would one search for notes or family classification, as they are not listed anywhere, and I was prompted to tackle it by the timely question of one of my readers and friends in scent, , Melissa, so I am tentatively trying to give you my own view of its delicious, decadent character.
Délices strikes me as spicy, with a light and fresh bouquet of lavender and aldehydic notes for pizzaz, murked by an amber bottom that reminds me of classic orientals and chypres of the 30s, by Patou or otherwise. There is also a kinship with 1000, a later floral chypre woody (1972) by Jean Patou which looks like it has been inspired by its ancestor because of its chypré tonalities and rosy nuances which hide in the heart of both perfumes. Although its time of composing would tie it to perfumer Henri Giboulet, resident at Patou since 1940 and most famous for the soft floral Gin Fizz for Lubin (1955), the style and architecture of Delices personally reminds me of Henri Alméras's opus (both for Poiret and Patou).
Délices was re-issued by Jean Kerleo (in hose perfumer from 1968 till 1997) in the collective opus Ma Collection (Parfums d'epoque, 1925-1964) for Jean Patou in 1984, a lineup of poetic names such as Adieu Sagesse (Goodbuy Wisdom), Que sais-je? (What do I know?), or L'Heure Attendue (The Long Awaited for Hour) among others. However Delices was not included in the box-set of minis issued as a commemorative gift package for that relaunch, making it really hard to track down a bottle of the scent. In general if you find big bottles from that time-frame, consider yourself very lucky indeed as they were reinterpretations that followed the original formulae as closely as possible and were constructed with the utmost care by the in-house perfumer, before Procter & Gamble bought the house of Patou, putting the illustrious archives into oblivion.
Some of those forgotten, vintage Jean Patou scents include (in alphabetical order):
Ambition( 1953), Angostura (1922), Anything Goes (1955), Aparte (1928), Baby Bar (1931), Bar A Parfums (1929), Cocktail Dry (1930), Cocktail Bittersweet(1930), Cocktail Sweet (1930)Companion (1950), the first duo presentation For Her....For Him...(1931), Heureaux Amants ie.happy lovers (1930), Holidays (1934), Invitations (1932), L'Amour Est Roi , ie. Love is king (1930), Lasso a leathery chypre (1955), the innovative unisex Le Sien (1928), Lift (1930), Love Appeal (1930), Makila (1961), May-Be (1925), Ole (1954), Patou's Own (1930), Snob(1950), Toilet Brandy (1935), Tout Va ie. everything goes (1955), and Vin de Toilette (1935).
Let's hope that these treasure of yore find an historically sensitive management that will ressurect them, even if only briefly and for a limited distribution.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Jean Patou Ma Collection ~all the scents reviewed
Pic via overstockperfume.com
Ref. Ken Leach, Perfume Presentation 100 Years of Artistry