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.
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.