Balmain Jolie Madame

I´m sure many of you remember when Bois de Jasmin was blogging regularly.  She was my nemesis.  There I´d be, an adult completely in control of my environment and behavior.  And I´d saunter over to her blog, read a beautifully written review of some obscure scent (new, niche, classic) and then, in a trance, head to a perfume etailer or eBay and buy it unsniffed.  She could have written a review of, I don´t know, Merde de Chien and I´d have whipped out my MasterCard.  It was infuriating.

And thus it was that I found myself frantically bidding on a vintage bottle of Jolie Madame shortly after her review.  I won it.  I waited, glowing.  It arrived. I tore open the box, popped the bottle open, dabbed (sprayed?) it on triumphantly, and … sweet mother %*#$%*)$*) why don’t you please go ahead and kill.me.now.

Jolie Madame was the nastiest, skankiest piece of liquid hell that had graced my wrist until another BdJ review made me buy Jacomo Silences (another shout-out to you, V!)  I tried Jolie a couple more times but that was all I could take.  If I recall correctly, I wrapped it up and sent it as a surprise gift to the only person on the planet who might inexplicably, conceivably like it – Bois de Jasmin.  She was thrilled, and that was that.

Regular readers have already sussed out where this is going, because I am so predictable it´s a joke.  Two weeks (?) ago I said something like, leather fragrances – love to smell them, but wearing them — meh, not so much.  But this Lancome Cuir thingummy – this I like!   Then someone mentioned Jolie Madame.  Then Louise said she could hook me up with a sample of the vintage, since she owns some, and everyone else on the planet including you and your hamster already bought up the new bottles of Jolie Madame at TJ Maxx for $14.99, so all they have when I go is Caesar´s Man and Liz Claiborne, and what is up with that?  Is it some karmic thing?

Jolie Madame is, in essence, violets and leather.  I can´t remember what the new smells like, but I´m assuming it´s a little more polite, although serviceable.  The vintage bottle Louise has is violets and leather in the sort of base that causes less … discerning people to step away quickly in alarm.  Ah, the beauty of vintage fragrances.  The top notes may have wandered off or turned rancid, but frequently what you get at the bottom is extraordinary.  Back in the day they really made some musky, animalic wonders.  Jolie Madame’s notes are gardenia, bergamot, coriander, orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose, rose, jonquil, orris, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, musk, castoreum, leather, civet… yeah, I know.  Read those base notes and weep, whether with desire or repulsion.  To smell that in a vintage iteration is to get an obscene amount of pleasure in a smell.  I just had to give my nose three years to come around to it.

The weird part is, this particular vintage bottle goes all wrong on Louise, although her others are fine. I won´t describe it further, in case you are eating breakfast, but it´s the sort of vaguely organic smell that would have you sprinting for the liquid Tide on the double.  So it was win-win all around – I bought her bottle, which smells great on me (if I do say so myself) and she got a little cash out of the deal to spend on makeup.  Which she did (and have you seen those new Lancome glosses?)  And then we all sat down for a cuppa joe in the basement of Saks and lived happily ever after, The End.

PS  This time of year always gets me down a little.  I spent last night watching The Women (the original, not the recent remake) — speaking of Dames!  And the clothes!  Those gowns by Adrian!!  And I love that the nail polish they’re wearing is … Jungle Red.  And perfume even has a role, what more could I want?

Jolie Madame ad trademark, courtesy of wipo.int; Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, The Women

 

73 Comments

  1. Oh yeah, baby! I love this stuff, only wish I had known about it a long time ago so I could have at least tried the vintage – then again, I may have done exactly what you did and not been ready for it. On the other hand, vintage Femme and I could have easily run away together had I been able to buy it at the time, so who knows. Jolie Madame is probably the dirtiest perfume I dare to wear to office other than Bal a Versailles – I should probably avoid wearing either of them to work but life is short and and that is way too much fun to stop doing. 😉

    • So, you wear the new one? How do you find it? My vintage is pretty concentrated on me, I’m trying to decide whether I ought to buy the new online (there’s a million of ’em) as a kind of easy day scent.

      You wear Bal a Versailles to work? 😮 /:)

      • Yep, I sure do wear Bal to work! Maybe that’s why I did not get the promotion I was hoping for; my boss is female. :d

        I don’t really get violets with the new Jolie Madame – it’s narcissus and moss and filthy, dirty jasmine, underlaid with all those animalics, civet and castoreum and musk. I am a narcissus freak so that’s just fine with me. I wear it when I feel the need for perfume “armor” and it does the trick.

  2. On the eve of my self-imposed perfume-free Hiatus Month, you write about an old love of mine. You evil temptress. And I just put my bottle in a tote in my wine cellar where it shall remain for one month.

    I don’t know what to say about Jolie Madame except that its named incorrectly because Men wear it best. There, I said it.

    Come on’a my house and smell it on me.
    You’ll swoon.
    I wore it last week – its divinity, bottled.

    It made me think I might be a Balmain Boy. I’m not, as it turns out. The rest of them do nothing for me. Jolie Madame is where it’s at.

    • May I cuddle in for a sniff? I can only imagine the pleasure 😡

    • Yeah, I saw your note on facebook. Dude. Are you sure you want to do this? Why? (haven’t checked fb yet)

      I can see JM would smell amazing on a man.

      • I congratulate MD on his decision. I might need to follow his example soon enough – late winter is when my own scentnui kicks in…

        • You never cease to amaze me, March! You tackle the most bizarre fumes (most of which would terrify me!) with aplomb….then you are undone by Jolie Madame…..

          Of course, now that you are done up again, all is forgiven 😉

          El O and I are meeting a colleague/client for dinner in Peoria. It’s 14 degrees here. I was going to wear Femme…..but I think I’ll wear Shocking! It’s either that or Bal. I need something classic to smack down the cold weather (Fracas is just a tad too ‘too’ I think)

          What say you?

          xo>-)

            • Babycakes – it’s FOURTEEN DEGREES here. There isn’t anything pretty that works with fourteen degrees.

              However, I did pull on a Shocking Pink cotton turtleneck (Target 99 cents on sale – no foolin’ – a few seasons ago. I bought every single one they had, in every color. I have enough cotton turtlenecks for everyone on the Posse!) in honour of the scent. Paired with some suede jeans and a black nubby jacket …all I need now is a bright white scarf to look almost exactly like a box o’ Good ‘n Plenty!=))

              And what could possibly be wrong with that?

              xoxoxo>-)

              ps. medium-sized handbag:-)

  3. I do remember when BdJ was blogging regularly, and I have to say it was a very good thing that I was a poor student then (instead of a poor employee – doh) because there were a great many things that would have been purchased immediately otherwise.

    I haven’t smelled the Jolie Madame in any incarnation, although I should as I seem to be on a violet kick since the Stephen Jones number.

    And, lo, the mid winter depression. I know it well. If it is any consolation to you I’ve been considering moving into the realm of red lipstick which would be somewhat hilarious as I barely wear lipstick as it is and when I do it’s always a shade of “naked lip.”

    • Well, if you are on a violet kick you really owe it to yourself to try this one. I *think* people find the new one okay, as long as you aren’t comparing it directly to something older, which in any case is true of almost any classic fragrance i can name.

      • Attack of the Lipstick Zombies! It sounds like a film staring one of your Dames from yesterday.

    • Christine,

      I’ve been on a violet kick meself. Hanging tough with Violets and Rainwater and Verte Violette. Strange choices for the winter (though V&R is a bit dirtier)…but I gave up trying to figure it out.

      Besides the Jones, what other violets are you wearing?

      xo>-)

      • I bought a couple of samples recently and the S.Jones and Les Nez (am so late to this party) were my violet choices. I think the Les Nez will see a bit more play when it isn’t absolutely dreary outside. So do tell me more about the V&R? I was just eyeing it on the Liz Zorn site yesterday. Is it the Voleur de Roses of the violet world or more aquatic and less dirt?

  4. I remember vintage Jolie Madame fondly, mostly because a friend who had a VERY DELICATE NOSE (one that would go into shock over my application of Eau Sauvage) who loved this scent. I loved it too, but really, it was violets that had been been b&^t-f&*@ed in by cats.

    I sincerely wish there were more scents like it today.

    • Well …. me too…. of course I tend to bring out the skank in vintage bottles, I have civet and musk enhancers or something. Hausvonstone gave me the nastiest bottle of Bal — that one’s funny, I think I have three versions, and that one is hilarious. I wonder if they read the formula wrong. And btw… do you still have your CB Musk? I have 1/4 bottle left, maybe, and was amused to discover that last 1/4 is marinating itself down into something fierce. /:)

      • Oh, yes. I still have that one. And like yours it’s getting more and more fierce. I expect in six months it will be hogging the remote and drinking all my scotch.

  5. “… sweet mother %*#$%*)$*) why don’t you please go ahead and kill.me.now….”

    LOL. I’m not sure I’ve ever had THAT strong a reaction to anything, and I’ve bought a LOT more than I should have unsniffed. Have had pretty good luck so far. I think I really need to dive into the skank end of the pool one of these days. Head first.

    I just spritzed a little Musc Ravageur on my wrist (the second time I’m sampling) and I’m finding it a bit tame. However, I had decided even before reading this post that I’m wearing Rose Poivree tomorrow — it’s finally gotten chilly (for California) and it somehow feels right. I might even bust out the Kouros in a couple days if the cold snap keeps up.

    • I think Kouros on the right skin would be amazing. I can’t pull it off, it smells like urinal cakes on me with more than a touch of the rest of the men’s room, but I still try. Musc Rav is to me not that skanky – more sexy. But I think I’m anosmic to some of the musk, so who knows? 🙂

      • Every time you say that it makes me worry that I am anosmic to all my musk-y loves (including Musc Rav) and that my colleagues are making faces behind my back :d My DH says he thinks I smell good, so I’ll just have to trust him 🙂

  6. I so know what you mean about reading all the wonderful reviews and the need to get the juices, unsniffed. What is truly fascinating is that in spite of very detailed reviews and knowing all the notes, actually smelling a scent never fails to surprise! Some will be sooo much more amazing than the sum of it’s notes and others-what on earth were they thinking and what am I missing or what am I smelling that I wish I wasn’t???

    BTW, I thought I was the only one disappointed at the discounters with finding only drek as of late. Never mind though, I’ll keep looking (have scored in the past a few time and the hunt at these places is half the fun).

    A benefit of your intriguing posts and of our addiction is that we all are doing what we can to stimulate the sluggish economy, so keep all those enticing remarks coming!

    • Hey, anything I can do for our fellow man and woman to aid the economy… yes, it doesn’t really matter how detailed a description is, does it? Your experience is still entirely your own and profoundly personal. I’ve seen a million gorgeous pictures of the Taj Mahal, but none of them will prepare me for what it will be like when I finally get to stand before it. Someday…

  7. This sounds like heaven; love the “nastiest, skankiest liquid hell.” The Women is great too; I was appalled when they remade it. I hate when they do that.

    • Hon, remaking The Women would be like rewriting the Bible. … oh, wait, they did that. It would be like re-building The Parthenon? Updating The Inferno?

  8. Well, March, that post made me run right to my perfumes and open up the decant of vintage JM that I’ve been waiting to open til, oh, I dunno, 6:45 on a Wednesday morning. I used to wear Jolie Madame all the time when I was in my twenties. It was one of my faves. Sniffing my wrist now, I get musky violets, quite sexy. Not getting the nasty, skanky liquid hell, but maybe that’s because I’m a nasty, skanky kind of girl???

    And that answers the question of what fragrance to wear (sparingly, mind the seatmates) to Il Trovatore in a couple of weeks (though too bad I’m not seeing Adriana Lecouvreur, in which the heroine is murdered with a bunch of poisoned violets).

    MarkDavid’s right–I bet this *would* be great on a man.

    • Oh, so glad to have inspired you! I may well wear it today as well, it’s definitely a vintage-y gray day. It was only nasty skanky hell because I was so unprepared and my nose so virginal. Now, of course, it’s heaven.

      Although you are a nasty, skanky kind of broad. 😉 I wonder if you ended up buying more Party in Manhattan?

      • Not yet, but soon! Meanwhile, I’m hoarding the bit I’ve got. And that, I would *not* wear to the office!

        • Well, if you wear it to the office you have to take static from Mr. So-and-So who doesn’t like it. But I bet it smells tremendous on you.

          I want your life. Parts of it anyway. 😉 😡

  9. Ah, Marchie…this one did indeed go so rotten on me :-&
    I am so happy it went to such a good home, and skin!

    I went home after smelling the delight J.M. is on you, and checked the few drops of some other vintage J.M.s, and lord, the problem persisted now. Only the bath oil is tolerable on me. What was that foul note, iodine? Shudder :-s

    These are the Dog Days of winter, for sure. My solution-shopping??? :p

    • Yeah, the Big Cheese is digging my car out right now, how sweet is that? He said (doubtfully) you going anywhere?… you could skate down the driveway, and the sand trucks are AWOL. He slid coming up the hill in the van.

  10. I am on a bit of a violet quest at the moment, so thanks for the reminder. Must get my hands on some of the good vintage stuff though as don’t want to repeat the Vent Vert experience… the new reformulation is just vile. 8-x

    • Well, if you like galbanum, which I don’t, you should try that Jacomo Silences too. The new Vent Verte and Ma Griffe… they are like …. when we went to Thailand, in desperate boredom one day, we bought these bootlegged movie DVDs one day for 25 cents or something, to watch on the laptop. (I still feel shame about this.) The quality was so awful, in some cases laughably so — e.g., the movie was hand held video of a movie screen somewhere. Some current iterations of classic scents are like that to me — they are still quasi-recognizable in their dominant notes and orchestration, but it’s all gone horribly wrong in the quality control department. All nuance is gone.

  11. Ah, BdJ – I couldn’t write like that if I hooked up jumper cables to my earlobes.

    You think you’re the only one who has skid marks on her credit card? About three years ago, I thought I found vintage Vicky Tiel at FragranceNet and ordered 4 bottles of it. Turned out to be a reformulation. I drove that crap back to their warehouse, I was so PO’d. Good thing they were only about a half hour from my house.

    • Hah! And this has happened to me a time or two when the bottle pictured on the site is the old version, but what shows up in your mailbox is the new crap. And those get returned as well, even if they fuss about it.

  12. Well, darling, I’m glad L gifted you with this, and that you love it !

    Along with Mitsouko and Femme, this completed my triumvirate of signature scents; really, I wore this and Mitsouko most. Extrait is definitely the way to go with this- you can ‘control’ it better, LOL.
    Overdosage can slay all your friends and lovers…

    • Well, I have fewer friends every day 😉 and they all smell as weird as I do… extrait must be pretty glorious. I am sensitive to overdosage and try not to wear sillage monsters to torture other people.

      • I am honored to remain among the select few:-&

        That bottle is extrait, sweets. Tread lightly!

        • Oh. DUH, as we perfume professionals say. I was thinking, dang, if it’s like this in an edp the extrait must be ridiculous. :”>

  13. I bought Jolie Madame cheap from an online discounter purely on reputation and absolutely hated it. I find Bandit more wearable. Still, I persevered and found, after loving the violet note in Caron French Can Can, I could cope with it occasionally. Then recently I had a bad virus, and afterwards the one thing I wanted was Jolie Madame! I think the virus altered my nose.

    • That’s funny. We should do a post on that. Sometimes I crave particular fragrances the way I craved meat when I was anemic — it’s like they’re filling some huge need. And I have changed my feelings about scents (for better or worse) after illness as well — and not because I threw up while wearing them either. 🙂

  14. I sprayed a jolt of JM on my husband a few weeks ago, and it was SCRUMPTIOUS. He likes it on me as well, but it’s such a delicious experience to get a whiff of a great fragrance on someone you can snuggle with. He also smells divine in Chanel No. 19.

    I don’t understand Bal a Versailles. I wore the extrait in high school (25 years ago) and never got a skank note out of it; it was just a rich amber on me with a warm, powdery drydown. I bought a small bottle of EDT about eight years ago, and got the same effect from it. Then three weeks ago, I nabbed a bottle of the Eau de Cologne at Marshall’s for $6, and I feel like I now know what an bowel-incontinent old man smells like, sans the experience of whiffing his trou. YIKES. It is still glorious on my skin, but it’s so odd that to me that the more concentrated versions are less skanky than the Eau de Cologne. I wonder what’s up with that noise?

    • YES!!!!!!!! That’s it exactly!!!!! That’s what Hausvonstone sent me, she got an EDC!!! And she and I would describe it just as you did. It was waaaay over her line, and not quite over mine 😉 but I don’t throw it on without contemplating the repercussions. OTOH my vintage extrait smells glorious — like incense, mostly, candied incense with only a drop of skank.

  15. If watching classic perfume movies cheers you up, I nominate the early ’50’s movie, The Star, even though it’s sort of a wallow in pathos. Bette Davis is the lead as the washed up movie star Margaret Elliott, who works as an SA in a department store when she can no longer find work acting. You know that she’s really down and out when she steals a bottle of perfume, saying to herself, “Who needs perfume? No one needs perfume!” To make matters worse, the perfume bottle turns out to be a factice.

    After your discussion of perfume dames, I’ve been trying to find out what perfume Bette Davis wore in real life. So far, what I’ve come up with on the web is that she wore Le De by Givenchy which came out in 1957. From what I can gather, it was an aldehydic floral with a big dose of civet. But I would love to know what she wore before that. I hope something with leather.

    • Our dame post got me jonesing for some old movies, thanks for the recommendation. Btw I also watched The Big Sleep — it’s hilarious, I forgot how everyone smoked! In The Women too. Unfiltered … camels? Not just the evil women. 😉 There should be a Former Smoker warning label on those movies, I was dying for a cigarette.

      • Awhile ago someone said to me, in the old movies everybody smoked and nobody had sex ( or at least they didn’t show it) and now it’s just the opposite.

    • PS They reissued Le De recently and I heard (although don’t know firsthand) it smells very like the original. It’s lovely but I too would have chosen something with more teeth to it. Bandit is an excellent choice. And stealing a factice is just … sad. Poor darling.

  16. I used to not be a fan of leather scents, but about three or four years ago I had a complete, radical conversion and have been mainlining them ever since. *Love* vintage JM! But I also adore (as in have purchased 3 back up bottles) Lancome Cuir, which most fellow leather lovers have expressed nothing but utter disdain for. Consequently, was thrilled to read just now that you like it! 🙂

    • Honey! Smooches, I miss you. I’m running out to play on the ice with Louise (husband rolling his eyes 8-| ) but popping in quick to say check the archives, I did Cuir a couple weeks ago? Head over heels in love with it. I actually bought a bottle, which as you know is fairly unusual for me. 😡

      • We have 70 degrees here in central NC. Bizarre weather! But I have to say I prefer it to the snow – which I enjoy seeing on TV, but the reality of slippery roads never thrills me. Besides, my fingers turn blue and my speech starts to slur (embarrassing!!) as soon as the temps go below 50. Anyway, had some unexpected, rugged twists and turns in life that kept me from the blogs, but I’m definitely happy to be back to my daily reading of them and wearing perfume again! 🙂 Just read your Cuir de Lancome post – wonderful! For me, it’s just one of those snuggly comfort scents – reminds me of an extremely soft, oversized, unstructured cream colored suede bag. And must immediately go track down that AG candle.

  17. I think you’ve hit it just right, linking Jolie Madame to “The Women.” Red-clawed cats in sweet violet with inky leather underneath. I have a bottle of JM vintage EDT that I bought at a flea market last summer. It’s difficult on me because my skin sweetens the violets, and there’s no much in the middle (could be the age of the scent) until you get to the biker-boot base. Still, I hang onto it — not sure why. I guess because it is, of all the vintage bottles I own (actually only a few) the strangest and the most unlike today’s perfumes.

    • Clearly some people play up the violets (and it could just be whatever vintage you get). If I got nuthin but a big fat violet it wouldn’t be much fun at all. It IS strange, because of the sweet/biker dissonance you point out.

  18. My dear Aunt, who always had a dressing-table overflowing with wonderful scent bottles, gave me a bottle of Jolie Madame when I was about 15 (back in the Olden Days). I thought it was absolutely marvellous and frightfully grown-up. Then again, I am of an age which thinks all “proper” perfume should smell skanky; that’s what it’s all about. None of this namby-pamby “clean” modern stuff for me, thank you. I love my animalic bases!

  19. I am giggling over here because it was BdJ who did me in on Jolie Madame, too! I have a tiny, very pretty vintage metal purse spray and I find it completely unwearable. The violets are very strange one me. A vintage loving friend came over the other night and it smelled just as I thought it should on her. But I’m not giving up just yet. [-(

    Do keep us posted on your movie watching! I’m so curious to see what you think of them.

    • Yeah, keep it around. It might be love someday.

      Up next on the movie docket – the Thin Man! Or All About Eve. Which? 😕

      • Oh I LOVE The Thin Man (all of them)! Haven’t seen them recently, but recall that the mysteries are not that good, but the rapport between William Powell and Myrna Loy is wonderful.

  20. Well, brace me, because I have a FB bottle of Silences headed my way…yes, V turned me on to it a while back (this archiving thing can make an old review fresh as day), and I’ve been playing with a mini for over half a year. A couple of weeks ago, I totally got it, and fortunately, the online market yielded product at inexpensive rates.

    I have been a fan of Jolie Madame since nearly the start of my odyssey…I don’t know why, but even though it didn’t totally click for me at first, I thought it might. So I held on to my incredibly cheap FB and waited to see if I would like it. I don’t even think I entered the violet door; I’d describe it as the first leather I liked. But I kind of fell into JM and Bandit in the same cluster of time, so I must have been of a mind for it.

    As Musette knows, I’m still askeered of Fracas, but that’s a tiger of a different stripe…

    • There’s nothing to be ashamed about fear of Fracas. That’s a whole lot of look, fragrance-wise. And good for you for Silences! It’s not that it’s a terrible fragrance, obviously – just doesn’t work for me. :)>-

  21. Lordy! Unless it’s a snow day, I think you need to high tail it out to La-La land sooner, babe!

    Ah…snow days…I remember those…Now I will forget them. :)>-

    Hugs!

  22. I really like Jolie Madame! I found a little sealed bottle with box at a vintage thrift store for $10 bucks! SCORE!! I use it only once and awhile when I’m feeling “saucy”. On me it only lasts a few hours. Apparently my skin thirsts for leather. Oooo, won’t go there! And I’m one of those people that doesn’t get skank from Bal. It’s just orange blossom & amber on me, but yummy all the same. I did purchase a bottle of Bal lotion though & it doesn’t smell anything like the perfume. Any of you had that problem or was it just my bottle?

    And I LUV the original WOMEN! I wanna dress like that now without looking like a “nut”. TCM is about the only channel I couldn’t live without. And I must be perfume crazy because I can’t watch an old movie without looking for perfume sitting around in stores or dressing tables. It really makes me wish for “smell-o-vision”!

    • I’ve never smelled the Bal lotion, so can’t speak to that, although I can’t imagine that it should smell completely different than the perfume. And the Bal Conundrum seems to be that the parfum is in general less skanky than the Eau de Cologne, which makes no sense at all. Bal is glorious in all its many guises. 😡

  23. You and BdJ together ALMOST make me want to try Jolie Madame for the skank and the leather–if only there were no violets! Violet is one of the few smells I.cannot.abide; for some reason they smell wretched on me. I’m chiming in as one of the habitual skank offenders though, having worn everything from vintage Bal parfum to MKK to work, with nary an eyebrow raised. Stupid de-skanking skin chemistry! As a result I don’t feel like there are any perfumes that are off limits for any particular occasion, but some go better with my mood, my outfit, physical activity required, etc.

  24. Oh, this is a new love for me too! The new stuff is prim, sunny leather, and I love it as is (in spite of how reformulations are maligned), but I also like to layer it over La Nuit by Paco Rabanne for some skank.

    I believe NARS makes a polish (and lipstick) called Jungle Red. 😉

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