Thursday, January 08, 2015

Balmain- Monsieur Balmain (Vintage Perfume)

Do not stand between two fragonerds and their vintage loot.

The story of how the Blond and I acquired our bottle of vintage Monsieur Balmain is almost more interesting than the perfume itself. It involved a long drive at inhuman o'clock to an estate sale at some remote corner of the Tri-State area. We had a plan, based on photos we had seen of the house and the estimated location of the pile of perfumes, and it involved not taking any prisoners. Apparently, we weren't the only ones with the same idea.

There were elbows involved, and some growling. Someone might have tripped down the old carpet on the staircase (I deny any involvement), and I know I gave a death stare (my specialty as a former teacher) to a man that was standing in my way. My big advantage (other than a tall and determined husband) was being able to identify bottles at barely a glance. I didn't have to stop and check if it's Avon or a rare Guerlain (it was a beautiful vintage Shalimar). One of the other pickers who grabbed a bunch of stuff I couldn't reach for started sorting the stuff out and actually returning most of it, to my delight. And there it was, an old bottle of Monsieur Balmain.

So what does this 1960s classic smell like? It's cleaner and fresher than another beloved masculine from the same year, 1964, Monsieur Lanvin. But it does share a blast of citrus in the opening. A really big blast. What makes Monsieur Balmain stand out are the green  aromatic, mainly lavender and lemon verbena. They're more refined than sharp, but feel like you're putting your face in a giant bouquet of just-picked herbs. It's fresh yet very satisfying, and like many lavender-rich fragrances, it also has an old-world refinement.

The dry down is smooth and musky, with a touch of what I'm willing to bet is good old  oakmoss. If that reminds you of  Eau Sauvage you're not mistaken, though I find the Dior both airier and somehow edgier, while Monsieur Balmain has kind of an old school country club feel (Dictionnaire des Parfums de France recommends it for use "après le sport"). In any case, it's a delightful fragrance (and not just for men, obviously) and worth seeking in vintage formulation, even if it takes some pushing and shoving to reach.


  1. Oh man, did your story about the estate sale bring back memories for me! My late husband and I used to have a small antiques/collectibles business and if a sale that was coming up had a preview, then we would go to the preview to see where everything was and plan our strategy for the next day. Sometimes I had to use my contortionist abilities to reach around a person who was between something I wanted. We always used to say: "On estate/tag sale day, all good manners go out the window!"


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