Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jean Patou Joy: fragrance review

The archetypal example of a smooth, beautiful jasmine that could be worn sufficiently well without evoking particularly dark tendencies yet without being pointless is Joy by Jean Patou. It remains something of an icon in the status of luxe perfumery, partly due to its initial advertising campaign in the economically hard year of 1930, coined by Elsa Maxwell (“the costliest perfume in the world”), and partly due to its unparalleled standards of raw materials. According to perfumers' lore, the designer Jean Patou, side by side by doyenne of café society Maxwell, went to Alméras to find a new formula for a luxury perfume to be launched. But nothing really grabbed them and, exasperated, the legendary perfumer showed them something he thought unmarkeable anyway: a costly fusion of the noblest floral materials. They both became entranced at this and Joy joined the ranks of Patou scents in 1926 for the loyal customers, while made available widely four years later, at the throes of the Great Depression.

Patou went to great lengths to assure us that 1 ounce of Joy demands 10600 jasmine blooms and 28 dozen roses to be produced. This would be not as impressive, hadn’t those flowers been the venerable jasminum grandiflorum of Grasse in the south of France and the two crown glories of rose varieties: Damascene rose (Rosa Damascena) from Bulgaria and Rose de Mai (Rosa centifolia), the latter again from Grasse. The in-house nose for Patou since 1997 Jean Michel Duriez has monitored the fields and crops to ascertain that the end result rendered out of those two rose varieties meets the quality control criteria demanded by the house of Patou. Now that the Jean Patou house has left P&G hands (a company which didn't particularly care for luxury, it seems, judging by the lack of promotion they did for it), while Duriez stays behind, it's anyone's guess what happens; it remains to be seen whether Joy will be revamped, twisted or forgotten.

Whether the quality has gone downhill in recent batches, as with most commercial perfumes of today, in comparison to the vintage is a matter of dire attention and discussion on several fora. Some people have expressed a concern that the richness of the floral ingredients has been a tad jeopardized, however for what is worth Luca Turin insists that the quality of the end perfume remains unchanged and his info and sample batch comes staight from Patou headquarters. Since I do not have different batches to compare and contrast, because my bottles come from the mid-90s, I cannot speak with authority on the matter. The testing I have contacted in stores in different concentrations and places did not leave me with serious doubt as to the up keeping of the formula, however I repeat that I could not possibly ascertain this beyond any doubt since I do not have comparable material at hand from different eras; on top of that, ascertaining when a particular bottle was actually produced is so very hard, since perfumers -unlike wine producers- do not label the production year on the bottle (which would make our life so much easier, had it been the case!).

At any rate, Joy unfolds majestic proportions of floral grandeur with a nobility and restraint of hand that points to a very skilled perfumer indeed: Henri Alméras. Keeping the noble nature of the two focal points of the suite intact and singing in a melody of thirds, he garlanded them with the merest touch of honeysuckle, ylang ylang and tuberose, anchored by a very light sandalwood base which manages to smell opulent yet beautifully balanced. A grand dame  in a youthful setting, Joy smells translucent and at the same time durable and substantial.

It is my impression that there is a difference of emphasis on the two different concentrations of eau de toilette and eau de parfum. The former is characterized by a more pronounced jasmine intonation, like a solo aria in the midst of a lively Mozart opera, while the latter is a bit more powdery with accents of rosiness that permeate the whole with a softness that resembles a Schumman lullaby. In fact the Eau de Parfum is repackaged Eau de Joy which was a different perfume than Joy in parfum, as per Luca Turin. Given my proclivities for jasmine over rose, I opt for the eau de toilette, however both concentrations are sure to please the lovers of fine perfumes. The parfum is assuredly more animalic in the civet direction (a wonderful characteristic and thus the one which I always prefer over other concentrations) and stays close to the body with an elegance that speaks highly of its aristocratic pedigree. The vintage specimens that display the best quality are the ones in the black snuff bottles (prior to 1990), while the rectangular ones with the gold edges are newer.


  1. Thank you for this review - I adore Joy in the EDT during the cooler months. Nothing better than jasmine indoles to keep you warm!

  2. The parfum is exquisite. Like drowning in a sea of flower petals.

  3. Kym must be warmer-blooded than I am! I wear Joy in spring and summer--in cooler months, Joy smells unpleasantly sharp on my skin.

    I was relieved to read that Luca Turin believes the quality is so far unaltered.

  4. annemariec03:23

    Thanks for a really enjoyable review. I bought Joy in the early 1990s as a gift set. I got a 30 ml EDT and some dusting powder. I wore it quite a lot without really enjoying it hugely.(I'd spent serious money on it so felt obliged to wear it ...,). It seemed in the dry-down to turn a little harsh and bitter. But I kept the bottle and got it out today for a test. I still get that harsh effect a little, although warmed under a layer or two of clothes (it is winter here), it has been very pleasant.

    On an impulse I included a 1 ml sample of the EDP in an order I just put into TPC. That might suit me better.

    I wonder if Joy has retained the high glamour mystique that it once had? I think maybe not. But it is still lovely.

  5. I have had many iterations of Joy over the years - at one point I was so louche as to scent my sheets with it! My favorite is a bottle of parfum from the 70s. It's been boxed and hidden away and remains largely unchanged. I wear it with great pleasure. It's scary to think that 70s = vintage but there you have it. My 70s edp is still pretty. The 80s edt has suffered just a bit - but not too much.

    All in all, it's still one of the most beautiful scents out there!


  6. Kym,

    thanks for chimming in!
    I think you might be getting a hotter winter than I do? I get no warming up from Joy, prefer it in springtime or summer. It's a chameleon, though, judging by comments below. That's a good sign!

  7. Dain,

    hello darling, how are things?

    Your image is glorious. Indeed the parfum is the best there is.

  8. Amy,

    we're alike, I use it in warmer weather as well. :-)
    But that's mainly because I turn to orientals in winter, because really, that's the only season I can wear them with impunity. 35-40C does not allow for most of them (a couple like Ambre Sultan or Dune are exceptions, knowing how to behave in heatwaves)

  9. Annemarie,

    it sounds like you made a worthwhile investment, but perhaps you need to find the proper circumstances to "get" it fully. I think if you like it enough, there should be some ideal moment when it should shine brightest. If you didn't, then...

    Hope the edp proves to be your thing, even more so than already!

    As to mystique, I can hardly see that for any P&G company honestly (they don't promote luxury; either they don't know how, or they're just not interested!); but now that Patou changed hands I hope Joy gets revamped, regarding its image/promotion (let's hope the juice doesn't get wrecked!)

  10. Musette,

    I just love this kind of splurge!! :) Enjoy your precious perfumes, life's short.

    Yup, 70s (or 80s) in tandem with vintage sounds funny., all right, but there is some truth in it, because there seems to have been some seismic shift in the 1990s (doesn't it?). Plus, don't vinoculturists refer to vintage per year? Let's petition such a move for perfumes too! ;)

  11. Mimi G06:34

    I love Joy the fragrance- of all types- including the P & G version. I love the parfum the best and wait with great interest to see how the future of Patou unfolds now P & G have released the house. I hope and pray Joy remains the same , Elena. Thank you for talking about this treasure ! :)

  12. M,

    you're most welcome! Thanks for chimming in. I sincerely hope that Patou gets the attention it fully deserves; they have masterful things in the archives. :)

  13. Anonymous04:14

    I have three vintage JOY Parfum bottles, one had turned when I received it sealed, old bottle wrapped in original Patou giftwrap, it smells like kerosene and skank. The second one smells perfect, the full spectrum of jasmine from fresh/green to indolic, one drop only and men compliment you all day! I won't say which type of bottle it is bc they're all going to hunt it down on ebay haha! The third has more amber and rose, I don't like it, smells more old-fashioned too, Compagnon bottle 6ml.

  14. Anon (or is it Em?)

    thanks for the detailed mention of all your Joy purchases; I find it very useful!
    Enjoy your treasure, it's a good one to keep.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Greetings,
    Would you be able to explain the difference (if there is one) between Joy parfum & En Joy parfum please? My father bought mom a huge splash bottle in the '60s that came w/ a small black round bottle w/ red string and both were carrying the insignia of JP and individually boxed. Both were 'Joy'. I came across eBay fragrance sellers that tell me that En Joy is the same product and in my research across the web, I have discovered that I am perplexed and w/o a conclusive answer. Would you be able to clear this up for me please? Thanks for this consideration

    1. Hello Gelly and thanks for coming on board!

      Your question is a very good one!
      En Joy is a newer perfume in eau de parfum concentration, released in 2002 and composed by a different perfumery, Jean Michel Duriez, than the classic Joy by Henri Almeras. They just both share the "joy" name in the presentation as well as the style of bottle, packaging and typeface (isn't that habit annoying and confusing! but all companies do it, alas, recycling names...)
      The newer En Joy is a contemporary fruity-floral "chypre" rather than an outright traditional floral. It has intense "notes" of blackcurrant, rose, patchouli, banana and pear. It's ever so slightly pinkish tinted (the box is lilac and the bottle has a lilac label sticker) and is a completely different scent than the old straw-coloured Joy.

      Please be aware that is also an Eau de Joy (you might sometimes see this short-coded as EdJoy. It is the eau de parfum concentration of the regular Joy. It also smells a bit different than the Eau de toilette and the pure parfum version but not wildly. Just the balance of rose vs. jasmine is given a twist.
      See pic:
      Also circulated in this black bottle (as did Joy parfum):$_35.JPG

      The "snuff" black bottle of Joy you have is an edition that circulated well into the 1980s, early 90s. I remember magazine clippings I used to collect with it from that time frame most distinctly.

      Be aware that the classic Joy has been reformulated last year (in 2014) and has been called Joy Forever now to distinguish from the previous edition.

      The sellers on Ebay are sometimes confused or ignorant themselves. It takes a bit of searching I guess to know for sure, so thanks for trusting Perfume Shrine as credible source of reliable info.
      I hope this helps and you have success!!

  17. Thank you and yes you've helped immensely w/ bonus information & w/ this added info I've further research to get underway.
    One other item, perhaps you've knowledge of, I prefer a splash on fragrance yet, it seems that spray is the mode of essence, would you by chance know of a product that allows transference of spray to splash? I have seen an attachment of sorts that allows one to transfer a fragrance spray from larger bottle to a smaller purse size spray. Haven't found anything under my own steam yet then again, your knowledge far exceeds my own regarding fragrance and I thought to ask.
    Thank you again,

    1. You're most welcome Geely, a pleasure to help if I can. :-)

      Alas, there is no special device as of now that can be easily used to transfer from a spray to a splash. One has to manually spritz onto a vial... (mountaineer climbers' fingers, here I come!)
      However, be on the lookout for refill splash bottles in your preferred fragrances (not sure if they make one for Joy, but worth asking at the Patou boutique in Paris, phone is visible I believe on Google). These usually come in splash form in order to easily refill purse sprayers. Worth making a specific question!

      Hope you find a solution and thanks again for coming onboard and asking!

  18. My first impression of Joy was Eau de Joy in the early 80s. The scent of sparkling jasmine was etched in my mind forever, like expensive champagne. I've loved the smell of jasmines since that day. The first time I bought Joy however, was the extrait in the snuff bottle, about a few months later. Upon opening the stopper, I was a little surprised when I got a whiff of a very rich rose instead of jasmine. It didn't take me very long though, to fall in love with the extrait. Since then I've only ever bought parfum Joy in the 7.5ml size. I don't think the formulation has changed much.


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