Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jean Patou Delices: fragrance review & history

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


  1. Rappleyea23:04

    Honestly, I've got to quit reading your beautiful reviews of long gone scents - it just makes me want them! I'm still eyeing that bottle of Coeur Joie on ebay after that review....

    It's really a shame to realize that there are so many, probably superior, scents languishing in vaults when so much dreck is being produced today.

  2. I wonder if Angostura really smelled like bitters? That would make for an amazing scent.

    When I bought some of the reissues at Bergdorfs in the 1980s, they offered the minis separately as well as in a set, so it is possible that there are a few still kicking around. Sadly, I don't even remember what I did with my Patous (Cocktail, Que Sais-Je, and a mini of Vacances) -- what I wouldn't give to have them now!

  3. Sampriti07:10

    Nice to read your blog and the information is very impressive. I visited this bhaidooj gifting site, it has also very unique gifts for bhaidooj festival.


  4. D,

    oh I wouldn't want you to do that! We can always share :-) Coeur Joie is trully lovely and I promise if I find more I will split it ;-)

    You know...it's not that all past releases were masterpieces, but they often had more humour and spirit behind them compared to today's marketing schemes.

  5. N,

    Patou's Angostura was indeed inspired by the famous bitters. There was the concept of the scent bar at Patou and fragrances were thought of in relation to drink (hence the 3 "Cocktails" and the mix and match scent bar), so it Angostura fits that plan.

    Great memory, you're correct: there was a minis coffret with the 12 scents of Ma Collection (but not Delices among them) and it does surface from time to time for reasonable prices: a lovely way to get to know them!!
    Ah... a pity on your Patous. I hope you remember what you did with them and they're only hiding in an attic or something: Que sais Je and Vacances especially are truly wonderful...

  6. Funny how we're connected....

    jarvis first smelt my bottle...and I told him where the OTHER one was.
    When Melissa visited recently, she BOUGHT it ;-)

    A few years ago, I sent it to Jenny of Perfume Making, who adored it.

    Lovely stuff.

    Good to feel the love ;-)

  7. I've managed to get big bottles of both Colony and L'Heure Attendue. I love Colony especially, it makes me smile whenever I wear it. There's something so cheering about the pineapple, yet the base means it's not at all childish or girlie - it's got dark depths.

    I'm torn between wishing the old scents would be rereleased, and glad that they haven't been gutted to comply with modern regulations and fashions.

  8. Baby Bar? TOILET BRANDY?? Oik.

    I picked up minis of Normandie, Chaldee, and Adieu Sagesse earlier in the summer, and Adieu Sagesse is the only one that really works on me. I wish fervently that I could smell Vacances.

  9. Thanks for your quick reply to my question about this lovely fragrance. And great idea to do it as a review. I now own a number of the Ma Collection, including Adieu Sagesse, L'Heure Attendue, Chaldee and Delices. They are among my favorite classic fragrances. Chaya, if you are still reading, thanks for telling Jarvis about this bottle. He passed the secret on to me!

  10. M,

    glad you found Colony to your taste, it's surprisingly delicious and "modern" in its use of the fruity notes.
    As to the dilemma of "rescuing skewed or letting die an abrupt death" I am equally torn... :-(

  11. I,

    amazing! Love this story of serendipity!! :D
    It's indeed a lovely scent, as most of those old Patous are and I knew I could count on you on knowing it and loving it!

  12. M,

    yeah, they do sound weird, but bear in mind some of them were geared towards the French market and some towards the American. I guess the Toilet one was aimed at the former ;-)

    Chaldee especially is gorgeous to me (and on me, I'd hazard). Sorry it didn't work for you.
    Vacances is greener, with light florals and one of the most lovely renditions of hyacinth in existence.

  13. M,

    you're the one to thank for giving me the incentive to go get my bum down and actually review it!! I hadn't secured enough when I was doing my Ma Collection reviews, and later I forgot to tackle it.
    Your collection sounds exquisite! (Chaldee is one of my favs in the lineup!)

  14. E and M-

    One of my pleasures is having friends "sort, snort, and sniff" through my 40-odd years' worth of bottles and vials, LOL....

    Jarvis and I hadn't had time to work through all ;-)
    [We'll have to rectify that soon !]

    Love to share.
    Live for it.
    And such good friends !

  15. Oh my, another Patou to lust after! My favorite line of all time, and now I have to want yet another lost beauty?

    Recently a perfume friend sent me small samples of two others on your "lost" list - Cocktail Dry and Lasso. The former is so very like a dry martini it's amazing; Apothia's Velvet Rope is a pale imitation next to its expert construction. And Lasso - I had no idea that Patou had a leather chypre in its back catalog, and after trying it I would crawl on broken glass to have a bottle of my own.

    I just found a couple minis of the woody Normandie, which I love, and I own full bottles of my very favorites, Colony and Vacances. I am trying not to think too much about a future world without these perfumes.


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin