Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jean Patou Ma Liberte - The Lost Perfumes

Ma Liberte from Jean Patou was launched in 1987, a year that saw Glenn Close boil a bunny, Jon Bon Jovi livin' on a prayer, Bono still not finding what he was looking for, and the major events in my 17 year old world were acquiring and losing my first boyfriend and lamenting the disbanding of my beloved Smiths.

Other perfumes from that year include my long time favorites Panthere de Cartier and Tiffany, LouLou by Cacharel which my sister used to fumigate her bedroom, the classic elevator clearer Passion from Elizabeth Taylor and 66 others, most, just like Ma Liberté, are now discontinued.

If it were launched today (probably not by the fallen house of Patou, now part of Proctor & Gamble's toothpaste empire), Ma Liberté could have easily been a unisex niche scent. It completely lacks the shoulder pads or any of the characteristics of that decade and there's no way you'd imagine Nancy Reagan wearing it.

Ma Liberté has an elegant modern feel and a perfect balance of a crisp, almost light top and a warm, slightly dirty base. I get a lot of lavender in the opening, and something green and citrusy. The former stays on while the latter fades as the spicy, somewhat abstract floral notes make their soft entrance. But most of the perfume and what makes the lengthy drydown is a gorgeous leather-tobacco note that stays on forever. I get 10-12 hours of this perfumes (my bottle is the EdP), and while its sillage is restrained, there's no mistaking it in your very personal space.

It's this drydown that makes Ma Liberté both unisex and unique. The leather is soft and the tobacco warm, dry and inviting. It gives a rich and sophisticated feeling, as though you're in the know of a secret or two, but never ever (and I've worn it on a couple of really hot days this month) gets vulgar.

Just another reason to sigh about Jean Patou's fading glory.

Ma Liberté by Jean Patou was officially discontinued a few years ago. Bottles of the EDT are still available online for around $40. I don't know how much they differ than the EDP, which is what I reviewed here. The higher concentrations pop from time to time on various sites like eBay and Basenotes.

Top photo: an 1987 cover of French Vogue, featuring the amazing Christie Turlington
Bottle and Giselle: both photos are mine


  1. I think I remember Panthere having an advertising slogan something like "the fragrance of the 90's". I still have two thirds of a bottle and the fragrance has held up remarkably well.

    It's wonderful for a white floral. The first scent I purchased on the basis of ad copy without having sampled it first was Fracas. It was the worst fragrance mistake I've ever made...essence of public bathroom. Thank God for ebay.

  2. Oh, the late lamented great Patou, my favorite line, gobbled up by a detergent king! It's been awhile but I am still in denial.

    I remember when this first came out, I thought it would be a great success,but I guess it got lost amid all the big perfumes of the day. Too bad. It is really elegant and easy to wear.

  3. Barbara, Fracas can be very uncomfortable to wear. I only like the extrait, and even that in small doses. Panthere is a big love for me. I wore it on my wedding day :)

  4. Donna, you're right. It's so wearable and makes me feel well put together instantly.
    I can't get over the sadness about Patou, but as Barbara said above, thank god for eBay ;)

  5. I love this perfume. Still have a few mls in the original bottle plus EDT bought last year on the Net when I realised it had been discontinued (Why?). I never buy the fly-by-night lookalikes (smellalikes) that you find pushed in your face these days. Some are instantly attractive, then disappear. Ma Liberte is a real perfume, it affects your persona, makes you feel like a woman. Have a shower, do your hair, get dressed up, put on the heels, then Ma Liberte. Out for the evening, beautiful.


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