Aristocratic expressions of… Joy by Jean Patou The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

How can a woman so cleanly, clearly beautiful be so irredeemably and irresistibly impure?

For make no mistake, resistance, in this case, is utterly useless.

She is the latter day Lavinia Fenton.

Intent, with guile, a winning smile and her favours to climb every greasy pole, ascend every golden stair.

To gain preferment, forge friendships, collect hearts and break them.

Look at her.

At first she appears an art deco styled Duchess of Cleveland.

Arms and neck architectural in their elongation, movements languid yet elegant: expressive in their extension.

Her costume, no mere clothes for her, is remarkable.

She is dressed in a contemporary parody of a 1970s pastiche of jazz age ‘bright young things’ got up as Stuart and Georgian anti-heroines.

She is the culmination of all things courtesan.

An apotheosis of polite near prostitution.

A perfect specimen of a kept woman set free by her own cleverness and incredible good looks.

The shrew too shrewd to be tamed.

She may enter a room alone, but she is never unaccompanied.

Invisible courtiers go everywhere with her to carry an unseen train of ermine and shower her procession in white flower petals on the cusp of putrefaction.

The peerless peeress of the plausible arts of the flesh, her function and her triumph is to beget pleasure.

Sullied, superior, imperious, delirious.

She is the bringer of Joy.

Joy by Jean Patou is all fur coat and indolic white flowers.

The perfume that claimed once to be the world’s most expensive remains, at least in versions more than a couple of decades old, one of fragrance’s most expansive contradictions.

A collision of sharp edges at the opening with a Rubenesque surfeit of fragrant flesh lying within.

We start with a slightly mentholated tuberose, not quite camphorous, bleached ylang ylang and razor aldehydes. There may even be a hint of high pitched musk here too, though I would not declare with certainty on this point.

Then the fat ladies arrive and dominate the tableau fragrant.

Yes, there is the legendary civet note, not nearly so dirty as some unaccustomed to it would have one believe, merely sexily unwashed. But also the turning, part faecal, part fecund jasmine that permeates all parts of the perfume and is at least the equal signature.

Another force to be reckoned with is a slightly rotten rose. A bloom late in the season, when the ripeness of the scent and the decaying greenness of the leaves come together to create a decadent accord that is appealing but deathly.


Appropriate really, for this is unmistakably a femme fatale fragrance.

Indeed it has the endless staying power of a legendary lover whose amorous advances have the capacity to kill.

Joy is no common trollop to be cast aside once momentary passion is spent.

This is a scent with grand designs on a lasting tryst: remaining powerfully on the skin for a dozen hours, veering from floral to animal, but never straying from excess.

Yes, excess, paired with restraint.

There we have it, that contradiction again, the paradox perfume:

Joy is a smell for the badly behaved that is ever so, ever so good.

An uncrowned Queen of an aroma.

What of the latest formulation I hear you ask?

I’m afraid it seems to have been washed detergently bland.

It offers a laundry fresh opening that is too literal and harsh, and frankly done better elsewhere for much less money.

In the heart it opens up into a well-meaning and broadly drawn floral with considerable aldehyde heft…. But where is the animal?

All the fur, fun and life is gone.

Stick with the vintage, if you possibly can.

It’s good to be back.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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21 responses to “Aristocratic expressions of… Joy by Jean Patou The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Lilybelle

    It’s so to see you back, Mr. Dandy. Thank you for the review of one of my very favorite fragrances. You nailed it perfectly. I haven’t tried the current version, and I’m glad to know I can pass it by.

    • Hello Lillybelle
      I can’t say how good it is to be back!
      Finally proper broadband… and the rain that has beset us in Britain this January stopped (at least in London) today too! Bravo. Bravissimo!
      Joy, in vintage is a wonder, truly magnificent. The late Stuart and Georgian period from which many of the wonderful women pictured above come is my own favourite in history and somehow the perfume transported me there, or at least to the version of it acted out first in the ’30s by ‘the smart set’ and then again in ’70s when period costume came briefly back into vogue. Something voluptuous and very, very sexy, yet speaking at once of a darker side too and then on the turn of a heal all brightness an sterilising aldehydes. A truly remarkable and many faceted fragrance.
      The latest, quite pricey (about $180 for 3.4oz) incarnation, is disappointing. That floral grandeur, almost still life in its extent, has been re-instated, but all the voles and other wildlife that should be popping their heads up behind wigs or out from darkened corners have been erased. No civet whatsoever! Shame.
      So splendid to talk again after this enforced separation, but I must go and get some Dandy beauty sleep before catching properly with correspondence tomorrow…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Lilybelle

        It is the whiff of overripe decomposition at the heart of Joy that makes it irresistibly intriguing, and the seductiveness of civet, those darkened corners you mention, that make it so sexy. Joy without civet? No voluptuous mystique? Then it cannot BE Joy, whatever they may call it. Period. How very sad that our old favorites have been eviscerated and white washed.

      • Dearest Lily
        “Then it cannot BE Joy, whatever they may call it.”
        I could not have put it more succinctly myself.
        Joy without civet like Miss Dior without oakmoss is, no matter its virtues, an imposter, a dupe, a drag artiste of an aroma.
        The strange thing is, whilst one knows the real thing is very limited in its use, at the prices being charged here perfectly good animalics could have been deployed… it was a decision to launch a different perfume and cash in on the name!
        Pshaw. The cheek of these people!!!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  2. rosestrang

    Lovely to have you back Sir Dandy, and back on form too! You describe Joy brilliantly, I’ve only tried the current version which I recognised as complex, grand and ultra feminine in a way that, sadly, seems of a past era.
    They all seemed to be having a lot more fun back in the days you describe. There’s a difference between hedonism and dissipation, and a difference between snobbery and discernment too – the idea of Joy as a perfume seems to capture all of that. I absolutely must buy a vintage sample!

    • Dearest Rose
      It is errr… a Joy, to be back! Oh dear, I suppose it had to happen.
      The current version of the perfume is indeed ultra floral and rather grand when one reaches the heart. I just wish I could get past that opening which I find too reminiscent of soap powders,. and not in the way in which they are done so well, almost sardonically by others.
      Yes, they were, here, as in so many other fragrances, having much more fun in the old days. I’ve no doubt the civet has been deleted to satisfy modern tastes as well as regulations, which is a shame, for that precarious balance between ivory skin and sensual pleasure is what this perfume is all about.
      Yes, you put it perfectly dissipation and hedonism are different, snobbery (or prejudice) and discernment, worlds apart. Though I mention Rubens here to indicate the mass of the central accords in the original, there is also an attitude of Greuze, specifically those eyes at work here, falsely innocent and deftly alluring.
      So good to talk again.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. ‘Detergent’ describes the modern versions 1000 and Joy perfectly.

    You describe the vintage version with equal excellence. On me it is so wrong it beggars believe, Joy, but how I wish I could smell it on another. …

    • Dearest Ginza
      Wasn’t it owned by sopad suds giant P&G for a little while? I have a feeling it might have been, if it was so then they certainly left their mark!
      The vintage version of this is a perfume I can imagine causing something bordering on afront in Japan, is this so? It’s enormity and physicality would seem almost entirely at odds with a culture reticent of scent to start with and then fearful of the unclean and animal beyond that.
      Yet, and I go here purely on the basis of your own fascinating writings in the past, might the Japanese have been drawn to Joy as a status symbol in the past? Prey to it’s self-declared uber deluxe delusions of grandeur.
      If so I can imagine (perhaps this is fantasy on my part) that there are an awful lot of bottles floating about across the sea, desperately unwanted.
      Now, I’m wondering why it is sooo very wrong on you!?! The aldehydes, the civet, the indole… many possible reasons, which could it be….
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. SallyM

    So glad you have returned! Oh yes, it has to be vintage. I am lucky enough to have 2 of the little black bottles of Joy (and one of the jade green bottle of 1000) and there is no comparison with the veritable imposter of today. I must admit, I don’t wear it very well- it’s just too loud all the way through from the aldehydes to the absolute florals to the civet bomb. I can certainly appreciate this grand dame though, and am happy to have the vintage over the reformulation.

    • Dearest Sally
      I’m so pleased to have returned, and have some special plans up my sleeve for this month too that I’m delighted not to have to shelve!
      Two bottles of vintage Joy!?! To own one may be regarded as good fortune. To own two begins to look like avarice. As Lady Bracknell might have said! Tee hee.
      Nothing like today’s (in some way, at least in the middle, likeable) scent is it? Though, to be fair it isn’t the most wearable creation in creation either.
      It is one of those olfactory oddities that animalics that scream on others are quieter on The Dandy’s skin (sweet perfumes and vanillas have the absolute opposite effect). So Bal a Versailles is almost well mannered on me, Habanita can be taken home to meet mother and even Paco Rabanne’s La Nuit is relatively tame. That said Joy is a challenge, but in the manner of a high spirited conversation with a quick mind and sharp tongue that likes a debate. It is not a perfume to be worn passively. Certainly not a scent for every day!
      Yes, you have it there precisely, she is a grand dame and demands appreciation, perhaps even adoration!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. Mary E.

    Mr. Dandy, it’s a joy to have you back. Like SallyM I have a little black bottle with Joy and the jade bottle with 1000. I’ve only smelled the new version at the store but won’t buy it. For me, it’s as you say the Rubens/Grueuze vintage that has always captured my heart. A Joyous thank you. Mary E.

    • Dearest Mary
      I’m with you. I can’t see why one would bother with the ‘new’ Joy if one had fallen for the original, they are entirely different beasts.
      What is currently on the shelves is actually more interesting than so much of what’s on offer today (that detergent opening out of the way), but it is not Joy.
      It lacks that voluptuousness, those concupiscent curves and feral fragrant swirls of the alarmingly beautiful odour that captured the world’s imagination.
      I’m glad that’s what has you heart, it has mine too!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Spectacular read, from start to finish. The comparisons, photos, and imagery convey the essence of vintage Joy so well. Utterly brilliant, my dear Beau, utterly brilliant. I’m going to make my mother read this, and NOT merely because Joy was one of her scents back in the day. Rather, because of how perfectly you’ve summed up the perfume:

    “She is the culmination of all things courtesan.
    An apotheosis of polite near prostitution.
    A perfect specimen of a kept woman set free by her own cleverness and incredible good looks.
    The shrew too shrewd to be tamed.” — Capped off by the ultimate line,
    “Sullied, superior, imperious, delirious.”

    For me, that last line says it all.

    On a separate note, welcome back! You were sorely missed. No, I mean it, you really were.

    • Dearest Kafka
      It is so incredibly wonderful to be back… I shan’t dwell, because it is unseemly, but how someone who lives very near the centre of one of the world’s great cities can be left without modern technology for nigh on a fortnight because of the vagueries of telecoms company is quite beyond me!
      Now , the rouge that minor ire has raised into my cheeks has expanded into al all-encompassing crimson glow with your compliments.
      I know how much this perfume means to you and your dear mother, so I feel your kind words all the more keenly.
      The original joy is a truly amazing piece of work, no, work of art: for it has at its core the complexity of conception that marks art out from craft. It is a great perfume that I should say takes a great woman to wear it as her signature.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. Nena

    Now I really want to try some vintage Joy. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about buying vintages, so I have no idea where to get some.

    • Dearest Nena
      The internet really is not a bad place to start, despite what many say, I have found the majority of sellers of vintage fragrance to be either honest perfume fans seeking to raise a little ready money to sustain their scented habit or people relatively unaware of the precious cargo they are selling.
      Are there any restrictions posting perfume to fair islands?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  8. The only version I’ve tried was a modern one and I didn’t like it at all. But since I like The Wyndham Sisters in Beaton’s interpretation much more than in Sargent’s I shouldn’t probably even attempt testing the vintage version.

  9. rickyrebarco

    Oh dear, I really hate Joy. It smells like a horse stall that hasn’t been cleaned in a long time to me. Just horrid.

    • Dearest Ricky
      Hahaha! I have been waiting for someone to call in the horses Ricky so thank you.
      Yes. Joy, the old Joy at least does have a heavy dose of ‘skank’ and no mistake and on certain skins that can have the unfortunate effect of making one smell like a stable hand!
      You might get along better with the new version, which is very floral and completely horse free!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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