Balmain Vent Vert

I’m working on a couple of projects and have Buckethead at home with a fever blah blah.   The weather’s so odd – it was nice and cool and fallish, and now we’re back to mid-80s.  Which in theory I should be appreciating – objectively, the weather’s gorgeous.  But I was ready for fall, and this isn’t cutting it.  I’m bored with the summer scents, and it’s too hot for the fall scents.  It’s times like these I reach for something totally counterintuitive, just to see what happens.  Vintage Balmain Vent Vert turned out to be pretty much perfect.  Not perfect for me, mind you.  Germaine Cellier’s much-loved Bandit and Fracas aren’t really things I tend to want to wear either.  (Jolie Madame’s another story).

Vent Vert was created in 1947, and according to LT in The Guide it was reformulated, decently, in 1991 by Calice Becker, modernizing and simplifying it while still retaining quality.  Let me quote: “The 1991 Vent Vert, while less symphonic than the original, had some of the charm of familiar music played by a smaller ensemble: the newfound clarity made it possible to appreciate the tune to the fullest.  Not the real thing, but a very good effort.”  I don’t know how “vintage” my vintage sample is; it may be the first reformulated version but I suspect it’s the original version only because the top notes are a hair off and it’s got that sort of drydown I only get in things like vintage Femme – whatever it is they put in those bases, they’re not making that stuff any more.  Unfortunately, Vent Vert was re-reformulated in the late 90s, and for all I know the version today is even worse.

Vintage Vent Vert (say that three times fast) is so uncompromisingly galbanum-bitter-green at first taste it makes my teeth hurt.  And yes, that was a typo – I meant “at first sniff” – but left it because Vent Vert is one of those scents that seem connected to taste – a bitter drink, one that makes the eyes water but proves impossible to set down.  The vintage version of Vent Vert I have features a long stretch of florals at the heart and a little powder.  It’s a bit of the Chamade effect – the drydown’s so different from the grassy top that you’d be forgiven for not realizing they’re the same scent, although the top of Vent Vert is green and crisp rather than weirdly screechy (sorry folks, and I do love Chamade, I own a bottle.)  There’s something about Vent Vert that feels spare and timeless.  I’d fit it into the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, between Therese and Lipstick Rose, and nobody’d bat an eye.

I’ve tried new Vent Vert a couple times in the last three years and can cheerfully report that it’s ghastly.   The sharp, grassy bitterness is ugly instead of arresting; the drydown is completely different now (LT calls it trashy green chypre) and redolent of hairspray.  It’s also monotonous – what you get in the first 30 seconds is it, more or less, and like all scrubbers it is never going to depart.  It’s one of those perfumes that, reformulated, gives classics a bad image and must quietly break the hearts of ladies of a certain age every day, and I don’t mean in a good way.

Of the three, Fracas seems most like the vintage original.  Bandit is composed differently, the base ingredients having changed (and if you’d like to read something really interesting, check out Bandit in The Guide, where LT explains how Cellier drove everyone crazy by using manufactured bases in her fragrances, and how the Bandit effect is still achieved.)   In contrast, the current version of Vent Vert is much worse than nothing.  Balmain Jolie Madame (also done by Cellier and still in production) is somewhere between success and failure.  If you bought a bottle at TJ Maxx, it’s a score, and probably better than much of what else is there, at least at my neighborhood store, which always seems to be full of CK Be and Britney and Caesar’s Man.   It’s possible to love that bottle of Jolie Madame unless and until you smell the vintage, at which point all bets are off.

Opening it to the rogue’s gallery – how do you feel about current vs. vintage versions of any of these, or any other related scents?  Do you hate the new Jolie Madame?  (I know plenty of you do!)  How about Balmain Ambre Gris or Miss Balmain?   Can I make you cry if I mention Lanvin Rumeur or Chanel Bleu, or is that just cruel?

sample source:  private source

79 Comments
Carla October 17, 2010

I think I just lost my comment, so I'll repeat...I am not well-versed in vintage scents yet. I enjoy my Jolie Madame, which I suspect is a recent version, because like Chamade, it changes over time, going from plummy violet to leather. This keeps it interesting. Do the mainstream brands still do perfumes like that?!

Jane October 15, 2010

I have vintage Vent Vert parfum and the present Vent Vert (with the leaf on the lid) in parfum and in edt. I love them all and don't get the hate for the new Vent Vert. Its better than 99% of what is released these days and I wear it happily. It also is one of my biggest compliment getters if you can believe it. The vintage VV is so over the top galbanum heavy it almost smells dirty. I don't really wear it, but keep it as more of a curiosity. Once it dries down, there is a similarity between the present and the vintage versions. I also have vintage Ivoire parfum and recent Ivoire edt. Love them both, actually prefer the newer Ivoire. Still complex and interesting with a lovely woody dry down. Bandit, new and/or old, is so vile it amazes me anyone can wear it. That one taught me to never blind-buy. Again. Oy.

AnnieA October 15, 2010

I liked Futur, if not for me to wear. It has a great "wasn't tomorrow wonderful?" ring to it, just the thing to wear while taking the heliplane to work. I remember the original Ivoire and sadly the new one is quite the snoozefest in comparison.

rednails October 14, 2010

BTW, I also wear both vintage and modern Femme. The vintage is disturbingly animalic -- but I am into disturbing people. The modern, redone in 1989, is a reframing of Femme as a big, spicy '80s scent. If you like those -- I collect them -- it fits right in with Fendi, Trussardi, Coco, l'Arte, etc.

Ann N. October 13, 2010

Would that by any chance be the Paco Rabanne scent? If so, I remember wearing it and loving it way back when, but haven't smelled it in ages ...

rednails October 13, 2010

I have JM EDT in a 1950s and a modern version; I wear them both -- the older is much deeper and more animalic, but the newer has its charms: an intense, candy-like violet. Vintage Cabochard ruined the modern for me; I gave my bottle away. I have a vintage VV parfum mini; it's heaven. Will not try the modern. For a modern equivalent of VV EDT, try PR's Metal, now sadly discontinued.

maidenbliss October 13, 2010

forget that last line, it didn't delete. Reference to putting the nose directly onto VV-- smells identical to Private Collection up close.

maidenbliss October 13, 2010

Hope Buckethead is better soon! Recently scored a vintage bottle of VV on eBay. The opening was like a jolt of high summer. Green green grass, sharp, quite reminiscent of Estee Lauder Private Collection (which I wore in the 70s). Agree this is a good autumnal change-up. I have a small sample of MJ, will have to try soon. Haven't tried vintage MJ, but did get a bottle of Arpege a while ago, (eb) and it's stinky cat pee, rank...it was 'alleged' to be vintage. Yes, I'm sure it is, left out in the rain under a hoe for 2 decades. I adore Chamade, a lovely scent, another vintage to try. I prefer vintage anything, esp the Chanels and Guerlains. I finally bought Theorema-whoa! Beautiful. , esp if I put my nose right into my wrist

Musette October 13, 2010

Re Fracas, they would have to take an ICBM to that gal to change her overmuch, I think. That's my GAL!!! I have been wearing her since 1980 or thereabouts - and still have a bottle from then - and it v. the current crop? Not much difference. Before 1980? Dunno. Vintage Femme and Femme are wholly different - I have a Mighty Mouse bottle of the VF perfume that is absolutely lovely - somewhere between the knife-edge goodness of the vintage edt and the current reform. The current one is lovely but a bit pillowy - I can wear the vintage anytime/anywhere...heck! I think I'll wear it today. It just dropped 25 degrees here (mid-50s now) with a brisk wind. Perfect. JMadame - I have several iterations of it. One is totally 'off' and smells like turps. The others are variations of leather and violets and are absolutely gorgeous. Given the choice between a good vintage bottle and lots of currents I think I would go with the one good vintage bottle oh! I meant One good vintage bottle of EACH! /:) of course I did. My VV is the 1991 reform. Very nice. But missing that ooomph that the earlier stuff (I wore it lots in the 70s) had. xoxo >-) ps. hope Buckethead gets rid of that cough soon! That's hard on both of you!

DeniseH October 13, 2010

I have a Germaine C. bottle of Vent Vert EdT that is a big fat green hosing of galbanum. It's perfect for summer. The vintage extrait is much richer and complex and works well on these days when we're balking into fall. If the EdT is GREEN! then the extrait is opulent greenish-yellow-orange pollen. There are certainly echoes of VV in Chamade. I'm staying away from the contemporary version but perhaps layering Jacomo Silences with Chamade would approximate vintage VV today? I find I often prefer the vintages because there are aromachemicals in some of the modern versions that get my ruff up. I thought I disliked Shalimar, for instance, until I smelled vintage extrait. Now I'm also enjoying exploring vintage Shalimar EdC and EdT.

Rappleyea October 13, 2010

Heh, heh, heh... I wore Vent Vert in high school, and being a 'woman of a certain age', I promise you, it would now be classified as the vintage version. I can still remember that lovely, sharp (but not nose singeing) green. I can't comment on the other Balmains, having never worn them.

Ann N. October 13, 2010

Hi March, I'm with you on this weather -- come on fall, already!!! Oh well, that's the South for you. I have not tried Vent Vert but feel I need to remedy this very soon, as I do love me some green. Hope young Buckethead feels better soon! BTW, did you ever get your Cartier Must II from your drunken eBay bidding, and what was the verdict?

Wendy October 13, 2010

There is no comparison between old Calèche and new.. i have two bottles of the old stuff (from the late eighties )and GOD, is that gorgeous or what! the new stuff is indeed wan, and pale. i actually wrote to Hermès once,asking if they had any old bottles laying around as they reformulated the stuff. I received a prissy reply, that they had not reformulated anything. yeah right! A question about Ivoire: I just got a new bottle, never smelled the old formula. On me the green burst passes realy quickly, and settles down to something quite spicy… loads of cumin… I got visions of some nice Indian dish.. no soap, no squeeky clean...is it just me, or should it smell like that??

ladida October 13, 2010

I don't even want to know from vintage! I usually can't afford it, anyway, so I'll just stick to buying what smells good now (and there really are lots of good things!) and try very hard to not lament over that which is beautiful but essentially gone. That said, just this morning I received a big bottle of Shaklee Love Talk in the mail. Does anyone know anything about this stuff?Sniffing it now...it reminds me of one of the Chanel's...Can't find any info on it...hmmm

Jirish October 13, 2010

It is cruel to mention Chanel Bleu! It's releases like that which make me consider going down the vintage rabbit hole. However, I have not yet had any luck bidding on vintage. It's hard to know how high to bid on things I've never even smelled before, much less tried on, yet believe I might love. I'll keep trying tho, and maybe someday I'll understand what the fuss over vintage Jolie Madame is all about. In the meantime, I think Miller et Bertaux's Greenx4 is my vintage Vent Vert. Lately, I've been wearing it layered with Sonoma Scent Studio's Fireside Intense.

pam October 13, 2010

I have never smelled Jolie Madame vintage, but recently bought a bottle of the new stuff. I like it quite a lot. Maybe I should never smell the old stuff. My experience with reformulations concerned Dioressence. I bought a bottle many years ago, before I began collecting, and wore it (and loved it) until I used it up. When I tried to buy more, it was no longer in stock. Finally I found some a few years later at a discounter. It was NOT the same perfume! I believed the store was selling knockoffs, until I began to read up about perfume and now know it was reformulated. It was a crime.

Mrs.Honey October 13, 2010

I have a micro mini of Jolie Madame that is clearly vintage. The leather note reminded me of Tauer Lonestar Memories, another scent that I just can't wear. I've never seen these anywhere, but I would be willing to try them on paper, I suppose. Regarding reformulation, I have modern Shalimar in the EDP and a bit of vintage, bought at an estate sale. Frankly, I find them both weird until drydown, but in different ways I like the modern version and find it more wearable.

Olfacta October 13, 2010

I have a large bottle of the modern Ivorie -- some kind of sale -- and it's one of my "gym" scents as it's soapy, green and clean-smelling. It's strictly that and daytime warm-weather. I have a dim memory of what Ivorie used to smell like in parfum -- very challenging and sharp and French. Jolie Madame I only have in vintage EDT, one of those "measured spray" things in a black bottle. Since I'm not a fan of Isobutyl quinoline unless used very sparingly I don't wear it much. This last year I've been trying to get as many of the vintage classics as I can. The "new" (corporate) Patous and Lanvins-- I am staying far away, as I don't think there will be much good there.

Melissa October 13, 2010

Unlike Louise, I will discuss the modern Lanvin Rumeur. It doesn't just does make me a bit teary-eyed, it makes me fume. Does that even count as a reformulation? Wait, how about we just call these soulless creations "pod perfumes", like pod people? Fragrances with the same names and outward appearances as their former selves. But you just know that something is wrong the second you smell them. "They're here already! You're next!" I know that there are a few decent reformulations of some scents, but I'll continue to buy bottles of vintage on ebay as long as they're available.

Francesca October 13, 2010

My heart cracked when, a few years ago, I smelled new Vent Vert and new Caleche (damn you iPad for the no accents!). Those were two of my go tos back in the seventies. Now I have some vintage, and you know what? I've been afraid to try them. I think I must have tried new JM, too, because I recall thinking, Another one bites the dust. I have some vintage JM (though have not opened my Very Special Bottle yet) and that's wonderful, and seems very much as I remember it from back in the day. Hope Buckethead is feeling better.

Wendy October 13, 2010

Regarding Jolie Madame: apparently there are two reformulations around.. there is one with a tassle (square bottle) and one without. the one without is really quite nice (lots of violets!) , the newest one is a pale version without any violets at all (so what's the point....). of course the old stuff is verrrry yummy! Still, i would not sniff at a FB of the "tassle" version... As for Bandit, well, there are of course many threads on all the different blogs (check out the discussions on basenotes, very enlightening), and there seem to be two versions, one sharp and green (and most like the original version) and a very sweet one with a definite mariuahana note (which i do like very much actually). Just my two cents worth :"> Cheers Wendy

Louise October 13, 2010

I have neglected my vintage Vent Vert, and will remedy the situation today ; ) I do find it a fantastic galbanum hit, though among my greens, I prefer my vintage Ivoire-just pure grassy goodness. I do think the modern versions of Green Wind just, um, suck, to put a fine point on it. You know the tragic fate of vintage Jolie Madame on my skin-it goes to iodine. I imagine the modern would be worse, and still keep some Jolie to sniff out of the bottle. The rest has gone to friends who wear it well. I've not tried the newer Bandit at all-and have a powerhouse tiny vintage parfum. It's not very wearable, it's so agressive as hell, but again, the first hit outta the bottle is wonderful. Fracas of any period is just ghastly on me. My only real tuberose friend is Carnal Flower, and shall remain so. I like the Ambergris well enough, but usually dab a tiny bit of Madinin Ambar Gris oil with it (thanks, Chaya!) to de-citify it. I will Not Discuss the modern Lanvins. Not while my fridge veggie compartment holds a nice set of vintage Scandal, Crescendo, and their sibs.

ChickenFreak October 13, 2010

I find the modern Vent Vert to be Perfectly Nice in a very dull way, just one of the crowd of fairly inexpensive vaguely floral fragrances. Inoffensive but ever so boring. IMO, it has no resemblance to the vintage at all - it's an entirely different fragrance that happens to have the same name. The modern Ivoire, on the other hand, I like very much. (But I haven't smelled the vintage, to compare it to.) I love the modern Fracas, but again have never smelled the vintage. I'm puzzled about the modern Bandit. Again, never smelled the vintage, so I don't have any proper context. I liked a sample from about a year ago - lots of nice leather - and bought a bottle about three months ago, and was thoroughly disappointed; the bottle just seemed vaguely spicy and with very little leather.

Madea October 13, 2010

I'm with Jared. I hesitate to try the originals. Also, even if the reformulations aren't perfect, sometimes I feel like they get dismissed out of hand, when they might otherwise be deemed adequate or even good. One of the things I love about the Posse is that people don't seem to automatically turn their noses up at things that have changed--I can accept that a lot of reformulations are vile, but people here give them a fair shake, at least. My personal journey started with a bottle of Laniappe Oaks' 'Laura's Violets' which has since been discontinued. I got some 'Russian Violets' oil by CherryBlossDiva on Ebay, and...it's almost identical! I smell like Choward's Sweets and couldn't feel happier :)

Jared October 13, 2010

Well I can't comment on any vintage versus new, and frankly I almost don't want to know. I will prefer to stay in the "ignorance is bliss" category. I know that if I ever smelled vintage Mitsouko I'd probably throw myself off a bridge. I am still having the battle with Bandit. I have a bit of the parfum, which I really enjoy. Turns out I am a huge fan of galbanum, so the more the better. I do still need to try some Bandit EdP. Odd how Calice Becker has come up today...I'm wearing DK Gold right now. Anywho, I've been feeling rather retro anyway since I've been wearing the Bal a Versailles. I'm gonna bring them back.

Natalie October 13, 2010

I haven't smelled the vintage Vent Vert (must remedy that -- "bitter green" sounds like just my cup of poison), but I agree that the modern version is an insipid snooze-fest. Bandit, however... ay-yay-yay. I love it so gosh-darned much that I have no plans to seek out the vintage; how could it possibly improve upon the modern version's icepick-to-the-nostrils fabulousness?