Jean DesPrez Bal a Versailles – Perfume Review

bal a versailles - marie antoinetteI want my daughters to have a sense of history, so I took them to see Marie Antoinette, because what could be more historic than watching Kirsten Dunst and her posse of giddy courtesans try on satin mules while Bow Wow Wow sings “I Want Candy” in the background? Add some M&Ms and a 20-oz. Coke smuggled in your handbag, and the experience is perfection.

If that movie had a perfume, it would be Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles, created in 1962, a fragrance that manages the rare feat of seeming both older and more modern than its vintage. Notes are: jasmine, rose, orange blossom, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber, and civet.

I find the EDT  of Bal a Versailles to be a bit sharp, and it´s missing the velvety depth of the EDP, my preferred concentration. (Where, you ask, do you find this? You can usually buy dinky little bottles of the EDP online for less than $10, which isn´t much of a risk). The top notes smell like Martian candy – the odd, cinnamon-menthol whiff of Necco wafers – before the florals waltz in, and then the floor drops out and you’re into a deep, dark musky incense base. Bal a Versailles is the smell of high artifice – the girl dressed for the ball who will, if you ask nicely, join you in the back seat of your car for a sip from your flask and possibly something more.

I’d put Bal a Versailles on my Required Smelling List for perfume fans, and any nice girl (or boy) who is looking for something darker than a mass-market fruity-floral could get away with the EDP. But I´ve now had a nibble of the parfum, and the parfum … well … the parfum is only for those who´ve turned pro. I could smell it before I popped the vial open, and the base smells of unwashed panties. There, I said it. I´m guessing it´s the jasmine, which is less indolic in the EDP, and maybe they add more of the civet as well. I´m going to quote commenter Maria B. from last week:

“Last weekend I put on for the first time the full-strength extrait version of Bal a Versailles. I didn´t get even a hint of the…female…odor Patty and others have mentioned. No. What I got was straight animal butt,´ gender unspecified. Perhaps you´ve had experiences of quietly sitting, minding your own business, when a cat or dog suddenly shoved its butt in your face. That´s what it was like. In fact, the image I kept getting was based on my friend C´s story of humiliation: of turning over in her sleep and kissing her cat, only to find she had kissed her butt. I was nauseated, but I stayed with it. I have learned to do that from all you wonderful perfume instructors. Eventually the butt notes mellowed, and what wafted up instead was a reminder of CURED horse manure that has lain about in the sun for days and become mostly sweet. This calls up some pleasant childhood associations. Eventually what I was left with was an amazingly smooth and strong musky amber. Will I be willing to go through the animal butt accord to get to that payoff? Because of all of you, I probably will, but I´ll keep my arms at…well…arm´s length during the early phase.”

Now, you see, this is why I love Maria B., although I haven´t met her. Maria is a true perfumatrix. She smells something that goes from cat butt to cured horse manure, and does she burst into tears? Run away screaming? Saw her arm off? Nope. She takes notes and waits for the drydown, “an amazingly smooth and strong musky amber.” My tiara´s off to you, Maria B. I still get unwashed panties, rather than cat butt, but either way – the drydown´s worth it.

PS My daughters deserve their own blog nicknames, just like their younger sibs Hecate and Buckethead. March the Maleficent decrees: henceforth the elder daughter shall be called Diva, and the younger daughter shall be called Enigma. Diva is in the doghouse because she’s discovered my makeup, so she takes my Chanel pressed powder and my brand-new bronze Laura Mercier eye pencil to a friend’s house and comes home with some Wet n’ Wild crap from CVS. (The difference between cheap makeup and expensive makeup? Losing expensive makeup makes Mom ‘get all up in your face.’) Enigma is: just that. She is delicate and tiny and adorable and charming, and she would make an excellent ruler of a small country with a sufficient national treasury. I admire her pluck while hoping secretly that she ends up not being the kid deciding which nursing home I’ll wind up in. Anyway, I’ll be away from this afternoon to Saturday, celebrating a major birthday (not mine) with a friend. See you when I return!


This is Patty pigggybacking on March’s post — hey, she’s away, she’ll NEVER know, so shh, nobody tell her.

chanel les exclusifs - perfume reviewChanel Les Exclusifs finally showed up at like 5p last night. What fun!

The oddest thing is, as I go around the blogs and see reactions to Chanel Les Exclusifs, everyone is picking a different favorite. And for six scents released at the same time, that says something. Do I think these are ground-breaking, earth-shattering scents? No. And I do wish they would eventually come out with parfums in some of these. So quick, really late at night hits:

Bel Respiro — love, love, love, love, gorgeous at the start, dries to a really clean, crisp, elegant scent, perfection.

Eau de Cologne — if you love SMN Eva, you will love this. Since I adore Eva, I can’t wait for summer so I can spritz this on wildly. This is definitely the lightest of the bunch and the least ground-breaking, but I like it for what it is.

28 La Pausa — the iris scent. This isn’t doing much for me right off the bat, so I’m thinking I need to spend more time with it.

No. 18 — Disappeared! Put it on, digging it, then it was gone. Maybe because I have been wallering in Chanels all night. Will test again later. Could be an anosmic problem to some note in there. (Later) I do get the ambrette. I need to do this one alone, it seems to be one that can easily get swallowed, but it surely is interesting.

Coromandel — I had no idea if I would like this one or not, but I adore it. It smells like the most wonderful, gorgeous earthy hay. Best done patchouli ever. I don’t like patch, except in SL’s Borneo, so this is an accomplishment. The whole time I was decanting this one, I was in heaven. Early favorite for me

31 Rue Cambon — The most complicated of the six, and the one I would most like to see as a parfum. Can’t do a quick impression of it, I need to wear it alone and spend more quality time with it, but I definitely like it, it’s just more of a challenge to get to know, but lots of quirky, fun corners in it.

Samples of Chanel Les Exclusifs and Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles available at Surrender to Chance.

  • hausvonstone says:

    march – thanks for the post, tho’ it has not helped my confusion. i started wearing Bal as a
    teenager – my friend’s mom wore it and we bought some on a school trip to London. One
    could easily find it in discount places for a while, but i only ever loved one concentration.
    But I can’t remember which one. To my memory, Bal was sweet with an odd note, like Dr. Pepper
    or something (maybe this is your Martian candy note), and a warm dry down. High school boyfriend loooooved it too. Not flowery, not skanky. Well, the friend sent her remaining EDT to me last year, and it didn’t smell right. I decided it must be the EDC, tracked it down online, had her ship it (internationally) and got MKK-quality SKANKORAMA in the open. Cough. choke. Now, my theory is either the recipe has been changed (box of edc admits to being bottled in USA, marketed from Florida!), I’m crazy or have forgotten the smell (possible), or it was the EDP which I will never track down in Deutschland. All I know is it came in a beautiful white and gold bottle spray with a gold cap back in the day. would love theories!

    • March says:

      Haus — I am at work, believe it or not, on this conundrum of yours.:-? Stay tuned.

      • March says:

        PS — yeah, that Dr. Pepper note could definitely be the Martian candy. It’s sweet, but a weird candied sweet.

  • evilpeony says:

    hmmm… gotta get me some unwashed panties :d… errr… i mean BaV… although i thought violette precieuse was unwashed panties, or held the promise thereof… in any case, i will leave it up to my dealer patty to score me a hit :d:d

    gee… all this talk about vomit and unwashed panties… people would think we perfumistas love to wallow in stink in our copious spare time 🙂

    pass me the buttcrack, sisters.

    • March says:

      Peony — It’s that stanky time of year, isn’t it?

      I get a lot more interested in clean scents once the weather warms up.

  • Tigs says:

    March, late to the party as usual, but just wanted to let you know that I love the descriptions of your daughters, particularly that of ‘Enigma’. What a wonderful mom you must be. Your blurbs on them demonstrate what has turned out to be the most accurate parenting truth anybody has told me: my own mom told me when my daughter was born “They are all different.” Its something I learn anew every day as I watch her “play” with other kids, and I imagine I’ll have to learn it over again every day if we have more children.

    • March says:

      Tigs — I *know* instinctively that they’re different. The hard part for me (being serious for a change) is sorting out how to apply that knowledge. The truth is you *can’t* treat them all the same; but still trying to be fair and equal, you know? I struggle with that a lot. My dad says he always figured he’d balanced things when my sister and I BOTH complained whatever he was doing was unfair.:)

  • minette says:

    i fell for 31 rue cambon immediately. and i would love to have it in parfum, as well. it is a gorgeous, classy scent.

    28 la pausa vanished from my skin within minutes – but while there it was quite pretty.

    coromandel reminded me a whole bunch of a lot of zino by davidoff, which i already wear, and it’s a touch too sweet for me, but i can see its appeal.

    no. 18 had a bitter quality that kept me from loving it, but i was still intrigued enough by it to want to go back for a real skin test.

    the eau de cologne is lovely for an eau, you’re right – but i’m not much into the type. if i were, it would be high on my list.

    it’s nice that the girls even have their own perfumes already available to them – diva and enigma.

  • Elle says:

    I have to confess that I’ve not tried the edt or edp of Bal, but I do own and adore the parfum and really don’t get an excess of animal derriere (if any at all). I get a definite animalic kick, but of the loveliest sort. Have a fab trip!!
    Earthy hay and patch? Yikes! That seals my fate w/ Coromandel. Sounds like heaven!

    • March says:

      Hon — I am very, very early on in the Exclusifs — am predicting with almost 100% accuracy that you are going to LOVE Coromandel.

      Wow. You don’t get the butt in Bal? It makes me giggle. It does subside, though.

  • Lee says:

    Totally off topic, but I have to say I’m loving the google ads at the moment. I’m being told to remove cat urine odours or buy a bizarrely perverted looking candle.

    Keep it up google!

    • March says:

      That thing gives me the creeps. I know it’s hitting on keywords in the text, right? Even so…:-ss

  • violetnoir says:

    March, why have I not tried BdV? I have to admit that the defiant part of my personality became quite interested when you mentioned unwashed panties. Hmmm…what does that say about me? 😮 What does that say about both of us???

    Anyway, I love the names that you gave your daughters, especially the Diva one. I may have been an “Enigma” to many when I was a kid, but I have definitely become a “Diva” as the years have passed. :d

    Have a great weekend!

    Patty, love ya! I can’t wait to test these. I’m not a Chanel fan by any means, but maybe there’s one in there that will appeal to me, and if not…that’s okay, too.


    • violetnoir says:

      I meant “deviant,” not “defiant,” although I have been known to be that, too. I think I am both! 😉

      • March says:

        Vi — I dunno, “defiant” works pretty well there, too. I think Enigmas often grow up to be Divas…

        Really, you should try the EDP or (what the hell) the EDT. If you dilute the skank, it’s very pretty — I think you might like it very much. I do NOT think you’d like the parfum, though!

  • March says:

    Well, I Am The Queen when I wear Jicky parfum. But I guess I’ll admit that there is a whiff of vomit in there. It does pass quickly, though.

    It’s a wonder anyone reads this blog. Patty, are you paying people to comment?

    I want every shoe in that freaking movie. I actually, uh, own a couple pairs like that — I need a low heel for my back, so a satin mule (or a velvet mule) with a low or Louis heel is perfect.

    • patchamour says:

      I hafta confess to being intimidated by the new process here, but I’m taking the plunge. Having loved the BaV EdT, I ordered a little of the perfume from Fragrant Fripperies, and boy it is a different story. That opening — cat butt or whatever — did not go away to leave any nice musky amber, but maybe I didn’t wait long enough. I’m off to search up that little sample to try again. Good laughs from all these posts.

      • March says:

        Patch — how did it go? Better the second time? I’m not sure I’m woman enough for the parfum, but give it another six months…

  • Maria B. says:

    :”> Aw, gosh, shucks. And I love you, March, Patty, and Lee. And I love this blog. Such wonderful people come and hang out in it. :x:x:x

    I think Chaya’s comment about “wanting to be fair” when trying on apparently vile scents sums up a true perfumista’s attitude. Before I am inducted into the perfumatrix society, I’ll admit that there are scents I’d just as soon let others experiment with (Secretions Magnifiques comes to mind).

    I also tested Jicky parfum recently. The opening was even more nauseating on me. (May I be frank? It smelled of vomit.) On the other hand, it was more short-lived than BaV’s and the payoff was also smooth musky amber though maybe not as velvety. As donanicola points out, one at least knows how much time one has to allot for application before an event.

    Patty, I don’t know how you can keep all of those scents straight. Anosmia would have set in for me after three. The Coromandel has wearable patchouli? I have trouble with patch. I certainly can’t stand it in Voleur de Roses.

    I want the pink shoes in the picture!

    • March says:

      whoops — your reply is below! thanks for being you.>:d<

    • Lucy says:

      Hi, been lurking a good while, but rarely post . . .

      I had a similar experience with Jicky with the opening — it smelled like vomit shortly after applying and that bit lasted about an hour on me. It then morphed into a stunning . . . something. I spent the afternoon wandering the streets of New York, sniffing my wrists and mumbling grammatically incorrect sentences. Well worth that weird opening!

      BAV was another love affair way back when and then it seemed to fall off the edge of the earth. Bought the EDP recently. Not remembering just how over the top this one can be, with the big florals and that “ripe” base, I impulsively spritzed myself, left for the office, and . . . um . . . ah well! What a great day!

      • Maria B. says:

        Welcome, Lucy. You’re a brave woman. I hope your co-workers appreciated that they were smelling a masterpiece. 🙂

      • March says:

        Lucy — thanks for commenting! It does morph into a stunning something, doesn’t it?

        I’ve heard that Guerlain is reformulating a lot of their frags, and I hope nothing changes too much.

  • Marina says:

    *Please* don’t make me associate the beloved Bal with the much disliked (by me) Dunst. Please, I beg you! :d

    • Lee says:

      Marina – are you a tiddly bit fwightened of little miss tiny teeth?:-ss

    • March says:

      Okay, I’m not the biggest fan of La Drunkst either, and they probably could have picked any other actress who looked good in a corset. But really, the movie was a hoot! From a total eye candy perspective. The costumes were particularly amazing. I thought Bow Wow Wow was the perfect touch.

    • Dusam says:

      Oh, come on guys, KD wasn’t that bad as MA! Would you have preferred *shudder* Lindsey Slutteena Lohan instead? Has anyone of you seen “Drop Dead Gorgeous” with KD and Kirstey Allie, who ends up stealing the show? No?! Tsk-tsk
      My mother-in-law-to-be’s best friend (!) has got a pretty big collection of vintage fumes, BaV extrait of some 35 years being the one she’s most proud of. I’m yet to be allowed into her boudoir but I’ll be happy to report on the state of the “puckering sphincter”!

    • Patty says:

      No kidding! Dunst is not hot at all, and I do not want to think about her unwashed panties. Ew!

  • trinity says:

    Good moring, Patty! SO glad to hear the Chanels finally made it. You must be in sensory overload from all that decanting last night- you probably looked like a mad scientist with all the little vials scattered everywhere, LOL!

    I’ve also noticed varied reviews of the Exlcusifs- can’t wait to try them myself. I am planning on trying no more than 2 per day, just so each scent has a chance to reach its full potential without having to compete with all the others. I ALMOST hope I don’t like any of them, not so much because of the price, but more due to the sheer size of the bottles- no doubt some nice splits can be arranged from the boards, no?

    Thanks for the shipping notice! Can’t wait!!!

    • Patty says:

      I have a hunch that most people will find at least one clear winner for them in the Chanels, and I expect it will be different ones for everyone, which is pretty cool!

      I’m Chanel’d out temporarily this morning, so need a nap, a shower, and then I’ll tackle at least a couple of them tonight for tomorrow’s post.

  • Flor says:

    There must be a way to get to the “musky amber base” without going through the :-& faze poor Maria B. had to go through, although she was very brave. I think I’ll pass, at least for now, deep down I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to helpful descriptions like “animal butt”. Those words are usually red flags along with “buttcrack accord”, etc.

    Patty, I can’t wait for your reviews on the Chanels.

    • March says:

      Flor — I promise, I’m going to browse Ma Collection and come up with something that doesn’t smell nasty — yes, those things do exist! — and review a couple.

      In exchange, I want you to consider trying the Bal a Versailles in the EdP version. Really, it’s manageable skank, whether you like it or not, and it’s an amazing scent. Very unusual — the top and the base are so far apart, but it really works.

  • donanicola says:

    Hahaha! Cat butt – my ginger boy used to like lying on my pillow at night with his butt in my (now x) bf’s face so he would be an expert on the BAV parfum. Must try that – smelt the EDT last week and didn’t get it. Should have learned my guerlain and caron lesson and gone for parfum. I have learned (through instructive blogs like this one and SL’s creations) to sit out “unwholesome” aspects – at least you know how long to wear the stuff before you can put your head out the door! So glad the Chanels turned up! It was getting tense yesterday. Are you all snowed in?

    • March says:

      Definitely try the EDP! The EdT smells a little … cheap to me, and it pains me to write that. In the EdP you get that weird sweet richness, but the Skank-o-meter isn’t too high.

      Patty will probably reply (after she’s made her 900 decants or whatever) but I think the problem was the weather in the Midwest, not where she is. All’s well that ends with us smelling the Chanels, though –@};-

    • Patty says:

      Not snowed in here at all. Just a skiff yesterday. It was the EAst Coast bad snowstorm that caught the Fed Ex plane it was on in Indianapolis. But they got here last night, and I almost tacked my wonderful Fed Ex guy.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Good morning, Sweetpea !
    How I long for your daughters…sigh.
    But with you for their mater familias, there’s not much I could supplement !

    I’ve been a BAV devotee since childhood.
    You have to give it to true lovers of fragrance-
    We will actually wallow in the vilest of substances for prolonged intervals,’in order to be fair’…
    Others would have desquamated themselves hours ago !

    The Cambon takes awhile to warm up to.
    My girlfriend and I had given up hope on it, it took over an hour to get home [that puts us at a total of 3 hours post spray], then I washed my paws…

    Damn !
    I was WRONG… it was really good.
    Who knew ?

    Btw- Mr. Turin can think what he likes, and so can we.
    Pish tush .

    • March says:

      Chaya — I am soooooo excited about the Chanels! Actually, all of them sound worth smelling. And my package will be on its way today.<:-p Bal a Versailles EDP was my first skanky love, so it holds a special place in my heart. That parfum, though ... wow.;))

    • Patty says:

      Yeah, I have a hunch the Rue Cambon is a sleeper and will wind up being the classic of the bunch. I’m actually pretty pleased. Nothing could have lived up to the hype and anticipationg, but to have six really good/great fragrances, with people quickly settling on different favorites, Polge did a lot of things right there.

  • Lee says:

    Have a rockin’ weekend, March. Thanks for the tales of your kids (love ’em) and dirty gussets. Not that those two things should really be put in the same sentence… And I love it when your irony is in full flow. What, it wasn’t irony?

    And I too want to send out props for Maria B – a scented marvel. We love your comments, whether they involve puckering sphincters or not.

    Patty – I reckon you have Chanel poisoning after the decanting hell you must have been through last night, poor wee poppet. You’ll have to resniff today. And fwiw, I trust your word over Luca Turin’s….^:)^

    • March says:

      Lee — it occurs to me that maybe we should clean up the blog and start writing about the stuff at Sephora before our entire readership evaporates.:-?

      I can see YOU in BaV (EDP) trolling for trouble.

      • Lee says:

        March – I think half of ’em only come here for the smut. The others are just waiting for you to use twee and verklempt…;)

        And, just so as you know, I’m long past my trolling for trouble days. But you never know, with a dab of BaV between the… ears, I’d probably be good to go. I know, I know… :@)