Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles (Vintage Perfume)

Smelling Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles it's hard to believe this is a relatively young classic, only launched in 1962. It belongs right next to Tabu with its secrets, promises and raw sensuality. Tabu was created in 1932 and I can easily picture the women of that era wearing Bal à Versailles. This perfume possess a certain darkness I often associate with the 1930s.

As for fancy balls in Versailles, I'm sure a lot of perfume was involved to mask the unsavory smells of the era and its questionable hygiene. Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles could have done a marvelous job muting and taking over whatever was going on between the powdered wigs and layers of clothes. I'm not a big advocate of moderation in the use of most perfume, but this stuff should come with a warning label lest it takes over the entire ballroom, cling to the tapestries and wall paper and make the chandeliers shatter. It's that aggressive, that sexual and that good.

Bal à Versailles is decidedly animalic. It's civet in all its glory under piles upon piles of creamy flowers, powder and ambery resins. And then more civet. The carnality of Bal à Versailles feels to me less like the ornamental and gilded halls of the palace and far closer to the ceremonial masked orgy of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. That movie creeped me out beyond words and I still can't re-watch it. This Jean Desprez perfume can be just as menacing and oh-so-wrong. Especially if you wear it under the wrong circumstances. Honestly, I'm not sure what are the right circumstances for vintage Bal à Versailles, unless one's life have a gothic dark side and include sex rituals that require the use of elaborate masks. The rest of us will dab a tiny drop and revel in all the naughty things we might or might not do.

Notes (from Jean Desprez website): rosemary, orange blossoms, Cassia, Jasmine, Rose, Neroli, Bergamot, Bulgarian Rose, Lemon, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Lilac, Orris Root, Vetiver, Yiang-Yiang, Lily, Tolu Balsam, musk, Benjoin, Civet, Vanilla, Cedar, Resins.

This review was based on a vintage parfum de toilette bottle.

Don't miss Beth's wonderful review of Bal à Versailles on Perfume Smellin' Things.

Top image: a shot from Eyes Wide Shut (1999) .
Jean Desprez 1977 Bal à Versailles perfume ad from


  1. Honestly, I can't live without this perfume. It's what I wear on most days and of all the perfumes I have it's the one I feel most comfortable in. It's unlike any other perfume I have or have tried. When I wear it, it's like part of it sinks in my skin -like a perfume should- and part of it is alive and floats around me evoking the most pleasant images. It makes me feel so secure and is a constant reminder of who I am and who I want to be.

    When I went to London last year and found the perfume Shangri-La that is Roja Dove's Haute Parfumerie they had this enormous display bottle of it and I couldn't stop staring at it. I did try other perfumes there and I could have loved them more, had I not seen Bal as soon as I entered. None can compare to the love I have for Bal à Versailles.

  2. I have this tiny parfum sample of Bal à Versailles and I'm gathering up the courage (and the cents) for a whole bottle... I definitely get a sexy vibe from it, but it's kinda subdued; then again, I also find MKK an almost "cosy" scent (I sometimes think I must be anosmic to some elements in these scents!).

  3. Thanks for the wonderful review Gaia! Anything with Tolu Balsam and I'm there... I have never had the joy of trying this fragrance, I think a sample of Bal a Versailles is in my future.
    patuxxa, I actually agree that MKK has something cozy about it. When I wear it, I get the whole "menagerie at the circus" vibe that so many others get, but there is something under the surface that feels almost like a warm blanket to me...

  4. I found a bottle at a discount pharmacy as a teenager in the 80's and instantly fell in love with it's softness and animalic underbelly. I've had a bottle in my collection ever since.
    To me, it is one of the most perfect scents, it blends perfectly with my skin. Thanks for the lovely review.

  5. What a coincidence, BaV is my scent of the day! One of my favorites, and I LOVE skank, so it doesn't scare me at all. I agree with Odyssey that it has the most beautiful bottle as well.

  6. I have worn Bal a Versailles for years. Love it. No sex tricks with masks (or without) here, but the perfume is one of my favourites.

  7. I received a beautiful vintage sample, so gorgeous, I can see from the other comments people really understand the beauty of this perfume experience

  8. I just recently sampled this one. It smells very "1960s" to me-- perhaps I'm remembering something from my childhood?

    It does smell quite daring to me. I tend to gravitate toward bolder fragrances, but this is one that scares me a bit. :)


I love comments and appreciate the time you take to connect with me, but please do not insert links to your blog or store. Those will be deleted. The comment feature is not intended to provide an advertising venue for your blog or your commercial site.

Related Posts Widget