Never ever second class, always… First by Van Cleef & Arpels The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Never mind the soap, she’ll take the opera.

Grand Opera.

Polyester is for the proletariat, she bathes herself in silk.

Her life is lived in velvet.

Let the little people fuss about the morality of fur, her mink comes by the metre.

She is a jewel and so must shine.

And if it requires a little chemical assistance to achieve that polished perfection so be it.

She owes it to her audience.

She owes it to herself.

And the poor fortunate interviewer who kneels by her feet to ask a few questions?

He will be overcome by her beauty and the floral abundance of her fragrance.

Bigger than the largest bouquet thrown to her on stage on an opening night.

Larger than the immense arrangements that adorn her dressing room.

Greater than all the displays that greeted her at her most recent final gala performance.

For this is how it should be.

For she is the prima amongst donnas.

Unique and without equal.

Sometimes foolishly dismissed as a facsimile fragrance by people who really ought to know better, First by Van Cleef & Arpels is no impersonator perfume, it is a magical work of jaw dropping, awe inspiring majesty.

A diva in the soprano style.

As opulent as an opera box, it is a high octane, top ‘c’, top drawer masterpiece in a class of its own.

Opening with an aldehyde accord vast enough to fill la Scala, it then rolls out a civet note so luxurious and expansive one would think the auditorium’s plush had been replaced with pure sable upholstery.

What follows is a carefully arranged architecture of flowers, principally jasmine, hyacinth, narcissus, carnation and rose, impressive enough not to look out of place in a salon at the Palais Garnier.

As we near the finale, the fragrance takes a turn towards Covent Garden: the florals gain an indolic air, something of decay and sex and death, a history of flower and human meat markets resides here.

Throughout, eccentrically, a note of honey and bumble bees, as though perfume took etherised specimens of these most industrious of insects for a walk on the end of cotton thread leads.

Sublime, stupendously sexy, sensationally enormous this is a scent in a grand manner rarely if ever seen these days.

It doesn’t really matter if one likes it, that’s quite irrelevant.

Like all great art it demands to be appreciated and admired.

A First without equals.

For the record The Dandy doesn’t like First, he adores it.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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18 responses to “Never ever second class, always… First by Van Cleef & Arpels The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Lilybelle

    I love First. It has a wonderful perfume magic of making you feel like a sexy diva when you wear it, whether or not you really are.

    • Dearest Lily
      Yes! First is a transformative fragrance. One can’t but help walk a little taller, make one’s just a little grander and speak more elegantly when wearing it.
      First makes Dowager Duchesses of all of us!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. You are a master of emotive writing! I first experienced First when I was relatively new to the whole perfumery thing. It took me a while to be used to First, but once I got to know her, she became an intimate lover, although you are right, she is the prima amongst donnas. I absolutely love the civet in here, the richness and the opulence. I only wish JCE had continued in this baroque tradition rather than the modern étudettes (not a proper term, but I want to convey something that’s even more sparse and less detailed than an étude) he composes today. First is a masterpiece indeed, and you’ve inspired me to write a haiku about it! 😀

    • Dearest Vagabond
      What a splendid recollection!
      First is an intimate and intimidating lover in all her baroque finery.
      The animalics (so sadly absent from nearly all contemporary perfumery) are key here. They take a statuesque ballgown of a scent and wrap a sable stole around the shoulders.
      Etudettes is a lovely term, and I’m all for neologism where necessary, I’m also, perhaps, a little more enthusiastic about the perfumeur’s current work than you… but his early classics First and Eau de Campagne are true masterpieces.
      Now… I must go in search of that haiku!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. The picture is so beautiful I daren’t read this properly yet. You know what this means to me.

  4. AH. I am back, Perfumed Dandy! I can’t stop thinking of your opening lines: “Her life is lived in velvet.” Sigh. This will be my new mantra! I will my life in velvet. I will bathe only in silk. Lovely! T.

  5. rosestrang

    Beautiful, and Janet Baker singing Purcell, unsurpassed!
    I agree with Theadora – lovely description – ‘a life lived in velvet’, and I also agree Sir Dandy – First is first among all the aldehydic, animalic florals – an absolute diva, yet also controlled somehow, I prefer it to Patou’s Joy. I admire it but am not enough of a diva to wear it I fear! I do think it’s more Janet Baker than Maria Callas, Callas I’d somehow imagine wearing something more feral, but did she wear First? Would love to know. It’s very very classic. I remember an ex of mine whose Mum wore it and I felt it announced her status and classic style before anything else – clothes, manner and so on. I might buy a sample just to enjoy at home..

    • Dearest Rose
      Yes dame Janet’s Dido… so very controlled at the same time as being the performance of an indisputable diva.
      Just, as you say, like First.
      Now Callas… I’m sure it’s on record what she wore, but I think of her in Bal a Versailles!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. batkitty

    I’m not usually a lover of aldehydic florals, but First will not be denied, the diva WILL be loved, and I do love it! It’s wonderful, lush, and definitely operatic, and I am very glad to have a little tucked away for special occasions. Wonderful review, Mr. Dandy!

    • Dearest Batkitty
      It’s fascinating, but First does seem to be the aldehydic floral that people who don;t like aldehydes can abide. Something about the confidence of the composition, the luxuriance of the experience. It is pure plush!
      Definitely a scent for special occasions!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Dear Mr Dandy,

    I have a deep fondness for First. Like Arpege, it seems to bloom and grow as I wear it. A few dabs to the neck in the morning and it’s still there in the evening, warmed by skin and even more glorious. Great review.

    Your friend

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