Well now, we are getting into the way-back machine..
Someone on here happened to mention good old Jean Naté, which is something I haven’t even thought of in decades.
According to the interwebs, Jean Naté was created back in 1935 by Charles of the Ritz. Not quite sure whether it was originally supposed to be a cologne, or always the “after bath splash” that I remember from the bathroom I shared with my grandfather Leo when I was a kid.
Grampa Leo was, it was explained to us, not our actual grandfather. He was my paternal grandmother’s second husband, her first having been killed in a road accident in the early 30’s. They were married in the late 30’s and he raised her children from her first marriage and had another with her. Upon Grandmother Sarah’s death in the late 60’s Grampa Leo came to live with us (oddly rather than his own child, but hey.) Grampa Leo was given pride of place in our household: I learned to like his beloved Polish food since at least a few times a week it was what was served for dinner. I still have a taste for the occasional Kielbasa and Pirogi are always welcome at my table- pan fried and served with sour cream and applesauce, please. I never learned to like the wrestling shows he enjoyed, although you would think that scantily clad sweaty men rolling about while trying to “pin” one another would have enthralled, it didn’t, perhaps because the Nautilus machine and back-waxing had yet to be invented.
In any case, Grampa Leo loved his Jean Naté. He was a very natty fellow, and would always splash some on after his bath. The bathroom always smelled of fresh lemons and Grampa Leo always smelled powder-fresh.
Having been reminded of it’s existence and cruising Amazon, I discovered that it was still out there, still in the ginourmous splash bottle, and under $15. How could I resist? Would it take me back? Would it seem the same as my dim memories of the early 70’s? Are you all still awake?
The notes from From Fragrantica:
Top notes are Lemon, Bergamot and Lavender; middle notes are Geranium, Spicy Notes, Rose, Jasmine and Lily-of-the-Valley; base notes are Musk, Virginia Cedar, Tonka Bean and Sandalwood
Is it like I remembered? Yes, and no. It’s actually a lot more complex. The initial lemon blast is there, raspy and a bit Pledgy, but that burns off fairly quickly to get to the lavender and the flowers. Some random spices follow and the musk, if that’s the drydown, is of the powdery order. The spices and the flowers, while not really identifiable individually are certainly there. Not overpowering, but enough to say “why yes, I did bathe today, thank you for noticing. A little extra too.” I think that is what Grampa Leo liked about it: it is an “after bath splash” so could be construed as just another step in one’s bathing ritual, nothing as self-indulgent as perfuming yourself. My problem is, that since it does leave a discernible scent, I am not sure that I would want to put anything on over it. I certainly get why Grampa Leo adored it: on a hot, humid New England summer day in a house without central AC, one of those days where five minutes after leaving the shower you feel like you need another one, this final cooling step would feel wonderful. If I had teen boys I might have it set up as a final rinse in the shower like the wax sealant at the car wash.
Now, those tests were on bare, not-out-of-the-bath skin since I wanted to do what I pretend to be a scientific deep-dive on this (“how you all work me”, as Lucia would say) in the two days I have had it, So I am not sure if the one thing that I do remember about this still holds true: on freshly bathed (rather than just showered) skin it will strip off dead skin like old paint. This may not be a selling point to you. It works for me.
Jean Naté is available at various places on the interwebs for shockingly low prices. I purchased my giant bottle at Amazon for around $15. Photo of the bottle is my own.
What a lovely story about your grandfather. I distinctly remember seeing bottles of Jean Nate in the bathroom at a couple of friends’ houses as a girl and thinking it looked wildly sophisticated, being French and all! I probably unscrewed the cap and dabbed some on furtively.
I really think that among a certain set it came with the bathrooms- like pink toilet paper to match the tile. (yes, guilty of that one, at least in the powder room)
My mother – and, later, both my sister and I as teens – wore Jean Nate. I’ll have to check it out again!
I was kind of surprised at how much I liked it. Of course, the price point certainly helps.
huh. original comment got eaten.
I think I was the Jean Nate’ gal – I live in that stuff, especially in Summer. It’s very refreshing. It layers well with everything because, after just a bit, it becomes Nothing But Fresh (not calone-fresh… just a concept of fresh). I wear thin citruses atop it as well as heavy hitters like Carnal Flower and Amouage Tribute attar, both of which just stomp all over Nate’ – and she. don’t. care.
I would think it’s great in summer: if I were still living in New England I would want a slip and slide filled with it.
that would be LOVELY!!! xoxox
Jean Nate after bath splash was my maternal grandmother’s signature scent. She also was from New England in the days of un-air-conditioned houses. I never knew her to wear any other perfumed products — she was super thrifty. Like you, I bought a bottle in recent years to see if it smelled the same. Yup. I use it rarely — only in summer. But it’s nice to have the scent memory of her. Your Grampa Leo sounds like a treasure, Tom.
I think I will be living with this bottle for a long time- I like it, but I think it’s going to a summer pick-me-up
I don’t have a Jean Nate memory- I’m thinking my grandpa wore Old Spice. (All of my childhood scent memories are of my mom who is the only person I remember wearing perfume regularly.) My “fresh scent” memory is of 4711. In 8th grade (1980 or so) my youth orchestra went to Europe. Last stop was Brussels and we went out to spend the last of our fun money. Found a shop selling tiny bottles of 4711 so I bought a handful. They had red caps and the elaborate label design. I found one when clearing out my parents house in 2011, but wasn’t yet into perfume and I think it got tossed with other piles of old stuff. I bought a bottle a few years ago for nostalgia’s sake – I’m also intrigued by the newer Acqua Colonias). I like to put it in the fridge in the summer – super fresh when cold!
4711 is one I have to retry. It’s also one that I haven’t had since the 70’s Another perfect summer scent to keep in the icebox.
4711 is/was my summer go-to and I had this enormous bottle which I am very much afraid somehow failed to make the move … it was JUST the ticket in steamy mid-Atlantic summer. I used to keep it in the fridge and put it on a wet cloth over my eyes if I was feeling headachy.
I hope it made it- I’ve thought of getting one of those gallon-sized ones just because I love the packaging so much.
Pirogi … sigh. My father made them every once in a while on the every once in a while nights he cooked. During lockdown, the Polish chef at the local pub made them once (during only takeaway food) and his were sublime. Think he did his own pasta and filling. Really don’t understand why they didn’t stay on the menu but he may well have returned to Poland. Jean Naté was one of my mother’s scents (4711 and l’Air du Temps). I have no desire to wear it but it always makes me think of her.
Lucky you- I have never had home-made (although I am sure the ones we purchased must have been made by someone..) I do remember ordering them late at night at Veselka on the lower East side after nights out..
Not being in the US Jean Nate holds no memories for me. My Nan wore Tweed when I was a child in the 60s. Still I’m going to have a furtle round & see if I can find it. It might even be inexpensive in the UK.
I wish I could find some eponymous Charles of the Ritz. Seems that “house” made some beauties & I adored it in the late 70s & early 80s
I’ve never smelled anything of theirs except this one. I didn’t know they were so long lived- from 1927-2002
And another Tom lemming is born.
Did you ever smell DIOR Granville? Are they much alike?
Ok I really need to hit Rodeo, pandemic or not. Too many Diors and Chanels not sniffed. Hey, Monday is Presidents Day!
OH MY!!! I haven’t thought about Jean Nate in a very long time. My memory of it was from my Grandmother and that when she would come and visit or we would be there she would splash some on me after my bath. Ooh…I felt so grown-up! Thank you for bringing back such a special memory.
And of course, now I’m wondering if perhaps I should revisit it.
Honestly I think everybody’s grandparent might have had a bottle in their bathroom. Says “early 70’s” more than avacado shag carpeting and harvest gold appliances.
Should you buy? At that price how can you not?
and I doubt you will regret it. It’s still a great pick-me-up! xoxox