Friday, February 22, 2013

Le Galion Snob: fragrance review & history

Many state that Snob by Le Galion is a poor man's Joy, referencing "the costliest perfume in the world" ~as the Patou perfume was being advertised post-Crash~ as the litmus test for understanding the lesser known fragrance. It's all because Le Galion (Neuilly, France), a brand founded by Prince Murat and acquired by perfumer Paul Vacher, was engulfed by the passage of time; all but vanished by 1990, and its remnants vintage palimpsests crying out for a studious scholar. If we simply go by Snob's name, nevertheless, the literal scholar might as well be in absentia.

It is perhaps as well that not many people are keenly aware that the word "snob" began as a notation on English colleges' records, notably Cambridge, of entrants who were devoid of an aristocratic strain circa 1796. "S.nob" supposedly signified "sine nobilitas", "of no aristocratic bearing". The exact etymology is lost on us, though it was originally used for shoemakers and local merchants. The lauded democratic inclusion of more people gifted in the head department rather than in the name & pocket department in those bastions of class distinction is of course the basis of modern civilization as we know it. Yet, that very distinction was not amiss to those who were participating side-by-side with those possessing "nobilitas" for many decades to come; hence the deterioration of the word to the one  signifying the aping of aristocratic ways and its further decline into its modern usage of one who shuns anything they consider low-class.

It is this very element, re-appearing in a perfume name from 1952 and coming from an aristocrat originator no less, which makes me think that there's either a heavy-handed irony of the Parisian clientele choosing it or it was primarily aimed at the American market to begin with. If names of Le Galion's other long-lost perfumes, such as Indian Summer (1937), Shake Hands (1937), Cub (1953), and Whip (1953) are any indication, their perfumes were certainly not only reserved for continental Europe, but whether they succeeded abroad hinged on complex parameters as we will see further on.

Snob was composed by perfumer Paul Vacher, famous for his hand in the original Miss Dior in 1947 (with Jean Carles), and Arpège for Lanvin in 1927 (with André Fraysse), as well as for Diorling, but Vacher also worked for Guerlain). Snob is a "flower bouquet" perfume, a mix of several floral notes which intermingle to give an abstract impression in which one can't pinpoint this or that blossom. The rose-jasmine accord in the heart is classical for the genre and in good taste, with the opening displaying intense, sparkling, lemony-rosy aldehydes. The more Snob stays on skin the more it gains the musky, sweet & powdery timbre of classic ladylike Chanels, like No.5 and No.22. The fusion of vetiver and sweet musk plus orris gives a skin-like quality that remains oddly fresh, especially in my batch of "brume". The fragrance was dropped almost immediately, making it a rare fragrance collectible. The reason? Fierce antagonism with none other than...Jean Patou!

Parfums Jean Patou had registered a trademark for a Patou "Snob" fragrance in the United States as early as 1953 (just months after the Parisian launch by Le Galion the previous year!), a venture resulting in less than 100 bottles sold in total, but effectively excluding the Le Galion fragrance from the American market. Importing any infringing trademark was naturally prohibited and this exclusion lasted for almost 2 decades, thus blocking Le Galion's perfume chances in the vast USA.

Snob by La Galion was launched many years after Patou's Joy, a bona fide inspiration, unlike Patou's own practices, in an era that clearly exalted the ladylike florals with the fervor of newly re-found feminine values of classiness, obedience, elegance and knowing their place; the New Look mirrored this change after women's relative emancipation during WWII.
In that regard Snob is something which I admire, but cannot really claim as my own in the here & now, much like watching reels from the 1950s, when the Technicolor saturation conspired to an almost unreal quality of the people on screen; such was their visual perfection that they stood out as Platonic ideas rather than actors playing a role.

Notes for Le Galion Snob:
Top Notes: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli, estragon, hyacinth
Heart Note: rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, carnation, lily of the valley, orris
Base Note: vetiver, musk, civet, sandalwood, cedar, tonka beans.

(added notes with the help of 1000fragrances)


  1. I am lucky to have snapped up a full bottle of EdT at the German Ebay. It is a lively, balanced and jubilant scent. Nothing vintage here. Much better than any modern Joy I ever had (bought my first bottle ca. '800.
    If you find some, grab it.

  2. Sorry, it was more in the 1980's....

  3. I received a very small bottle of Snob in the mid 70s. I loved it but as a pre-teen, I think I loved most everything I smelled on my mom and aunts. I smelled Snob before I ever smelled Joy and I think Snob was the reason why I loved Joy years later. Last year I bought a bottle of vintage Ode by Guerlain and immediately reminded me of Snob. I guess all those were products of the 50s and 60s femininity standars, rose, jasmine meant to be pretty. I would love to own a bottle of Snob, but I am affraid I will be disappointed somehow. I rather keep my happy memories of one of my first perfumes.

  4. It's so nice to see some love for Snob! I bought a couple of bottles of this a few years ago (different concentrations). It wears on me as a bright aldehydic, rose-jasmine. I especially like to wear it in the summer, when it seems to sparkle in the heat. Yes, despite the powder in the drydown, it retains a freshness, or brightness, as you mentioned. Thanks for reviewing it.

  5. What a lovely etymological note at the start.

    Another use of snob - now largely archaic - was a certain kind of glass shutter in public houses that allowed the person requesting a drink from the bar man or maid to be seen in privacy by swivelling it on its axis to prevent others from witnessing the transaction.

    I wonder if this was known to the creators of the brand.

    Your description of the perfume as being a 'platonic ideal' can but start the olfactory equivalent of salivation whatever that might be.

    I feel a wild goose chase coming on...

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Andrea,

    thanks for the interesting comment! Especially the comparison with the modern Joy.

  7. Arwen,

    wise thinking on your part. Sometimes revisiting something we're especially attached to sentimentally is a risk.

    Ode is a very good comparison, indeed. Yes, there are some common threads in these 1950s fragrances with their feminine romantic floral heart.

    Thanks for commenting!

    1. Anonymous15:37

      Where can we buy this

  8. M,

    hi there darling, thanks for giving your own review on the scent, especially since you're a fan!
    It's quite pretty and not musty at all, which is a feat for something vintage and in this particular mold; vivacious and bright indeed and now you have me eager to try it out again in the dead of summer to see how it behaves!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Anonymous10:40

    Hi there,

    just for those who didn't know. Le Galion is producing again - the old recepies from Paul Vacher means they relaunched all famous parfums! just saw it here: or


  10. Anonymous02:32

    I was wondering if I find a bottle of this Is it worth any money? Bought a bottle maybe the size of my eye and it is empty. But surely I can get a better price on it than what I paid for. (25 cents)

    1. Sure, it should be worth some money! It definitely should be worth 100 times more than what you paid for. (that's $25 right?) More if there's rekindled interest.


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