Laboratory Royalty… Balmain de Balmain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

She is the undiscovered royalty of the fragrance laboratory.

The Marie Curie of the sweetly scented branch of industrial chemistry.

She is the most beautiful of all ball gowns though her beauty by habit remains hidden beneath a white coat and horrid blue hairnet.

She spends her sterilized days, so people imagine, enrapt in endless games of molecular quadrille.

In truth, she runs wild.

Her mind will not have its horizons trimmed by test tubes, its considerations cut short by condensing pipes, its brilliance scorched back by bunsen burners.

Where others perceive formulae she drinks in blackcurrant bush leaves broken by urgent brutish hands.

The colourless liquids frothing up into clouds in conical flasks are putative rains for dark, lichen-mapped forests as yet unleashed.

She will see measuring cylinders stuffed with irises and glass beakers fulled to the brim with green galbanum before day ends.

Her chemist’s kitchen thus transformed to wooded wonderland, she will imagine herself a savanna to surround her magic kingdom.

This sorceress is sovereign over the sense whose memories last longest.

She needs no acts of exuberant appreciation, no adulatory audience.

Her majesty is the air around her.

Balmain de Balmain is not so much a forgotten masterpiece as a triumph never known to the crowd at all.

In parfum form, this is a brave and emerald brilliant latter day chypre.

Wasting no time on ceremonial openings it immediately erects an expansive architecture of oakmoss, vetiver, cassis leaf and black pepper.

Between these great steal vaults of scent creep slow swathes of green glass galbanum: filtering the sun’s light and lending a slight bitter hue to fleshy iris, feint rose and just visible jasmine.

It is a structure built to last.

The overall effect at once luxurious and imperiously restrained.

She is a still young beauty lamenting her dead and gone beloved, but she is not yet ready to be a dowager.

The King is dead.

Long live the Queen Regnant of aromachemistry.

Had the roles been reversed and the King been made a widower, this would have made as handsome a scent for him in his sorrow.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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22 responses to “ Laboratory Royalty… Balmain de Balmain The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Quite briliant, hilarious, and extremely curiosity-inducing. I haven’t even HEARD of this one, having spent all of my Balmainity on Jolie Madame, Miss Balmain and Ivoire. How did this creature slip through the (horrid, blue, hair) net? x

    You are a gem, Mr Dandy.

    • Dear G
      It came and went within a decade – born in 1997 and retired around the middle of the ‘noughties’.
      Well worth seeking out, though I can only comment on the parfum, which is intense and incredibly self-possessed.
      Some people the EdT and EdP to be much more fruity… hmmh.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • 1997?!!

        I am even more intrigued now. A neo-classical failure in a laboratory coat. Is it vaguely similar to anything else so I can get a mental picture?

      • Dear Ginza
        I’m struggling with this question of similarity…
        It is a blackcurrant chypre, in the parfum at least.
        But not a fruity chypre as such as we’re talking cassis leaves. It is a smell I remember most distinctly from my grandparents’ garden.
        Does this help at all.
        Oh, I shuld also say that it’s not too heavy on the oakmoss, veering more towards the green side of things.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Cairo Rose

    Ohhh another jewel to add to my “wish to sample” list. It sounds like a gorgeous, regal beauty.
    I imagine if we were all in a scent laboratory concocting delicious brews The Dandy would make a chypre of the highest caliber. A bit of bergamot, a splash of labdanum, Mediterranean herbs, Turkish rose, wisp of musk and a drop of leather for that English touch. But what would you name this Dandy of a creation???
    Splendid review, as always you draw the reader a colorful picture of an elusive scent.

    • Dearest Cairo
      What a lovely little day dream… to be all together in a laboratory.
      You have The Dandy’s taste (at this time of year) to a tee: a leather and rose tinged green chypre… though I am mighty fond of the carnation too..
      A name? Now you have set my mind racing.
      And what I wonder would dear Rose choose… perhaps her very own flower, with a little lotus, some spice and of course the cast iron reliability of an Estee Lauder!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. A chypre….I am swooning (catch me Mr. Dandy while I faint!). I have heard of this one and probably sampled it many years ago…seems that the bottle has changed?

    • Dearest Brie
      This one has been and gone in a very short period of time, but even in that short life it seems indeed to have had a few different flacons.
      Do try and seek it out, I feel this is a masterly chypre that a kept coming back to over and over – a real ‘wrists to the nose’ aroma.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Lilybelle

    I’ve seen Balmain de Balmain here and there online, but I’ve never tried it. I haven’t tried Balmya either. Thanks for another fun review, Mr. Dandy!

    • Dearest Lily
      It is my very pleasure. If you are ever tempted, I would steer you towards the parfum as it’s intensity is delicious without being overpowering, I also suspect it is a truer chypre with less of the fruitiness that the other concentrations might have.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Lilybelle

        I’ll keep the parfum in mind, dearest Dandy. I’ve become a bit fatalistic about certain fragrances – if it’s meant to be, then it will make itself available. If I happen to run into any Balmain parfum I will GRAB it. 🙂

  5. That’s it – I’m just going to wrap myself in your prose. I can’t think of anything more enchanting… Oh, and I have a mind like a sieve but you might like this place: http://www.magnolias-blossom-cypress.com/cypress.asp?catID=20434 (apologies if this is a duplicate)
    Yours truly,
    V

  6. Ah, a fellow Balmain fan, such a delight to encounter. I am a Miss Balmain gal, but I do own a little bottle of this fruity chypre gem. I don’t wear it often, because when I’m in the mood for fruity I tend towards Molinard de Molinard and when I’m in the mood for chypre, there are so many choices that spring more readily to my hand. I shall have to revisit. Thank you for reminding me, Monsieur.

    • Dear Lisa
      Balmain, I have yet to try a bad one yet and “hint to all” Miss Balmain and Vent Vert have not even reached my nose (officially speaking yet).
      I’m fascinated by your finding this fruity, I get a very distinct smell of the blackcurrant bush (my grandparents have one in the garden), but nothing of the ‘Ribena’ note that is delicious in a drink but the curse of modern perfumery.
      Is this the same as you?
      I also wonder how different the concentrations are… fascinating as is this scent , do dig it out and try again soon.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Dear Mr Dandy,

    You have reviewed one of my favourite fragrances, and that’s saying something. It was Balmain de Balmain that converted me forever and made me go out and buy a bottle of Cabochard, as I finally learnt to understand Leather and chypres. Cabochard is sadly (in its modern guise) only a distant cousin of B de B, but I was desperate. Do I think I have to disguise my handwriting and make up fake addresses so that I can write thousands of letters demanding they bring this beauty back?

    Your friend
    IScent

    • Dearest Iscent
      Do write do!!
      Balmain are reviewing their fragrance range and have relaunched Ambre Gris, Vent Vert and are looking at Jolie Madame, so maybe if enough of us demand B de B’s return it will be forthcoming…
      In the meantime, there’s quite a lot of it around on the internet still… but for how long?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  8. Pingback: Avon Week: Timeless | iscentyouaday

  9. Pingback: Of peacocks, palaces and pagodas… Incredible Kew Gardens The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Day Out: Part I | The Perfumed Dandy.

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