Thursday, October 08, 2009

Le Jardin de Max Factor (Vintage Perfume)

It's always interesting to note how the idea of a youthful perfume changes with time. Of course, it's very different to test and comment on the fragrances of yore when you weren't part of that era, and a bit alarming when the dinosaur in question is yourself.

1982. Junior high. You couldn't pay me enough to go back there even for one day, and yet I willingly bought a small bottle of vintage Le Jardin de Max Factor parfum extrait, the first fragrance I officially owned and was allowed to wear out of the house. One drop was enough to take me right back. Michael Jackson, The Eye Of The Tiger, Fame, Total Eclipse Of The Heart, my seventh grade teacher, my old cat Mad Max, having the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong everything, really. All the parties I wasn't invited to attend, insults and injuries. It was like smelling teen angst in a bottle of super frilly floral juice that has never suited me but was the idea of what an innocent twelve year old should be like.

Le Jardin de Max Factor has no edge and no sense of humor. It just sits there being pretty and pastel-colored, daydreaming who knows what about. It had a sort of romantic image (and ad campaign starring Jane Seymour), but only in a clean, hypothetical way- no men were allowed into that floral fantasy. It was completely safe.

And suffocating.

I can't help it. I'm not into pink floral scents (and apparently have never been. The first perfume I bought myself was Paloma Picasso). Things improve when Le Jardin moves to the drydown. It becomes smooth and a more cream-to-powder, which feels almost grown up. The sweetness helps, and I remember actually enjoying the perfume once it settled, though I was happy to graduate towards something more interesting.

Searching online I found two sets of notes:
1. Top notes are mint, green notes, tarragon, fruity notes and bergamot; middle notes are cyclamen, magnolia, tuberose, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose; base notes are sandalwood, amber, musk, civet, oakmoss and cedar.
2. Top notes of neroli, honeysuckle, peach and bergamot, heart notes of jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, geranium and ylang-ylang, on base notes of amber, cedar, myrrh and musk.
I lean towards the second one, as I definitely smell honeysuckle, and lots of it (probably the reason I'm uncomfortable wearing it). Orris root? Civet? Oakmoss? I highly doubt it.

Growing up isn't so bad, after all.

The Max Factor perfumes license has changed hands several times (as did the company itself, now owned by P&G). Le Jardinis still on the market (there were even a couple of flankers. Obviously it was a success) as a super cheap drugstore scent (not that it was ever a luxury product), but it was obviously been reformulated and cheapened even more. It's recommended to seek out the older bottles that were actually made by Max Factor.

vintage ads:


  1. Oh wow. I had almost forgotten about Le Jardin! Who knew Max Factor even made an extrait?! No extraits in drugstore perfumes today.

    By 1982 I was wearing Opium but one of my best friends wore this, I remember the frosty *romantique* bottle on her make up table. Thanks for sharing this- considering my own sniff back in time now :)

  2. I used to have a bottle, but even back then it just wasn't complex or 'dark' enough for me. I think I gave it to my mother!

  3. i just bought a bottle at a thrift store, was my old favorite,
    sprayed it in the car, oh my i forgot hou strong it was, but took me back to my first "real"perfume, even if i did buy it at kmart in the old days


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