Twenty three years after the sinking of the Titanic, ocean liner Normandie made its maiden voyage from Le Havre, France to New York. It was a luxury ship, meticulously decorated with everything art deco, and designed to accommodate a massive first class of rich and famous passengers. To commemorate the event, Jean Patou launched a perfume, Normandie, composed by his in-house perfumer, Henri Alméras.
Jean Patou's Normandie is a full-bodied and elegant floriental with an emphasis on carnation and spice. Some compare it to Bellodgia, and as a matter of fact if I were blind-testing I could have easily mistaken Normandie for a Caron perfume. It's probably a result of the way the composition employs oakmoss for bitterness and grounding without the chypre structure. I also find Normandie related to Guerlain's Vol de Nuit, especially in EDT, with similar high cheekbones and casual elegance.
Normandie's opulent flower notes are abstract in the best possible way. The carnation stands out because of the spicy pairing with its sibling, clove. The oriental base is tightly restraint by dry wood and oakmoss that lend it the crispness and what today we'd probably consider a unisex appeal. If Jean Patou's Ma Collection perfumes were still available, that is.
The disappearance of Jean Patou's classic fragrances from the shelves has been lamented here and elsewhere for years. The abuse this perfume house suffered by the hands of Procter &Gamble, its previous owner, did nothing to endear this company to perfume lovers. It was announced last year that P&G sold Jean Patou and its catalog. It is yet to be seen if Ma Collection perfumes will be resurrected. One can only hope.
Notes: fruits, carnation, jasmine, rose ,vanilla, benzoin, oakmoss, cedar, woods.
Images of 1935 travel posters from hprints.com.