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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Perfume Review: Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles

Michael Edwards’s site Fragrances of the World Online offers a wonderful service that is as useful as it is fun. Click on the name of your favorite perfume and Michael Edwards will recommend you three scents that you might also like. Bal à Versailles is one of the fragrances that the site always insists I am guaranteed to adore. Michael Edwards certainly knows best. After having been recommended this scent so many times, I finally got a sample and I do love Bal à Versailles.

Launched in 1962 by Jean Desprez, Bal à Versailles is a Floral Oriental with notes of jasmine, rose, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber, and civet. Those notes suggest a dark, rich, and powerful scent. And it is. What I did not expect based on that list of ingredients is how soft and strangely comforting this fragrance really is. Bal à Versailles starts with jasmine whose indolic darkness is almost impenetrable and very agreeable. I am not a jasmine lover and I usually shy away from jasmine’s indolic side, but I absolutely love it here. According to Jan Moran, three rose species were used in Bal à Versailles, Bulgarian, Anatolian, and May rose; based on that I expected the rose note to be more pronounced, and the rose is there, but it only serves as an understated background, which allows the dark jasmine note to flourish more effectively.

The middle stage of the fragrance is sweetly woody and ambery and not especially remarkable, but it is over very soon, giving way to the most scrumptiously animalic drydown. It is resinous and pitch black and it makes my knees week and my mouth dry. What with the indolic top note of jasmine and the civet in the base, Bal à Versailles is positively dirty. It is dirty, ravishing, sexy…and very soft…it is shocking really how unexpectedly velvety this scent is. Bal à Versailles would be a great accomplice if you wanted to seduce, stun and enslave somebody, but it would also work great as a warm comfort scent to wrap around you on a cold, dreary winter day.

For those familiar with Anne (Sergeanne) Golon’s book Angélique and the King (or any other books in the series and/or movies based on them, starring Michelle Mercier), Bal à Versailles is a perfect olfactory equivalent of the dirty world or love, lust, and intrigues depicted in the book. Bal a Versailles would have fitted Angélique, the brave, passionate, romantic and warm-hearted beauty that she was, like a (soft, expensively perfumed) glove.

Bal a Versailles can be found at Scentiments, $9.73-29.94.

*The photo of Angélique is from this site. You can read more on the World of Angelique here.


Blogger andy said...

Dear Colombina
Thank you very much for your post which was wonderful, sexy and very inspiring. Michael Edwards Fragrances of the World is a book I consult at least once a week but I was not aware of his e-service. I have to try it out, soon. Now that I know you like Bal à Versaille.........

a shy question from my side: Interested in trying a sample of my composition, referring to Luca's post about it?

3:38 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Firsty, oh come on!
Secondly, its sex-appeal to put is not over the top, not "I am a woman hear me roar" kind of appeal, you know? A quiet appeal.
I think you might like it!

9:21 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

V, I had no idea Mercier was going through abuse in her life. that is just awful. She was Gorgeous.

9:22 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Andy,
I would love to try it!! I read so many wonderful things about your perfumes, on Scentzilla and on Luca Turin's blogs.
Thank you so much for offering!!

9:24 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

V. is dangerous indeed. No one creates lemming quite like she does :-)
The good news about Bal a Versailles - in all concentrations- is that it is strangely cheap. I beleive I saw parfum on eBay the other day for some very little money.

9:26 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

A gorgeous scent that always makes me feel underdressed -- it calls for an evening gown and gloves. Or serious lingerie, perhaps. Anything but the jeans & fleece sweatshirt I'm likely to have on ;-)

11:20 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Hmm...I can wear it with practically anything. Somehow it happened several times now that I have Bal a Versailles on whenever I go grocery shopping at local Acme. LOL. Tres chic.

11:23 AM EST  
Blogger Caitlin Shortell said...

Thank you. I am now obsessed with the e-service. What fun! I guess I have to tear myself to court but I would much rather endlessly enter the perfumes I like and see the suggestions. Bal a Versailles is incomparable. My mother had a friend when I was a child who remains absolutely gorgeous and I always remember her wearing this velvety beauty.

12:58 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Cait, that "click on the fragrance" site is addictive LOL

1:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nonna Gorilovskaya said...

from the Moscow Times:

"Leading cosmetics retailer Arbat Prestige is gearing up for an initial public offering next fall, to raise cash for tapping booming consumer demand outside Moscow..."

9:48 PM EST  
Blogger andy said...

Dear Marina
I think my post got lost yesterday.
I am honored and happy and kindly ask you to just send me an e-mail to with your coordinates.
Enjoy your day

12:48 AM EST  
Blogger AnyasGardenPerfumes said...

I agree with R -- this perfume seems to demand I only use it for very dressy occasions, or a night at home with silky, slinky bits on ;-)

My stash is gone right now, and I believe that is the first time since I was 15 -- your review reminds me I must replenish this staple of seductive Femininity.

(Since I have recently registered for a blog, I think my blogger name may show up instead of what y'all know me as -- Anya)

10:14 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Andy,
You are very kind. I just emailed you.

10:33 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I will be waiting for your posts in your new blog. Would you mind if I put a link to yours on my blog?

10:34 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Since they are saying they are interested in cities with over 1 mln people, they will be difinitely coming to Samara, woohoo! :-)

10:36 AM EST  
Blogger katiedid said...

Oh this is truly one of my favorites ever to wear. There's nothing else quite like it, and certainly, nothing else that quite satisfies me when I'm in the mood for a honeyed musk and wood scent. I too find it's a dirty scent, but one that is impossibly smooth and also circular in nature. You've written a wonderful take on it, thank you for the read.

3:54 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Circular- that's a great word, circular, just like its lovely bottle!

5:32 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bal a Versailles...I look back at my 30th birthday from 20 years later. A scandalous black silk cocktail suit, spike heels, and Bal a Versailles. Combine that with a 6'4" black Irishman, a five star restaurant, and fireworks to follow. I'm willing to bet he still remembers me, every time he smells that fragrance.
I still wear it. (Of course!)

5:23 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Whoa! Very hot look indeed. Fitting for a very hot fragrance.

5:24 PM EDT  
Blogger ninja said...

I just received this sample from The Perfume House in Portland, bundled in with my Adieu Sagesse purchase (they are so good to us at The Perfume House! LOVE them.) It surprised me how much I loved it. To me, the musky residue brings strong evocations of another favorite, the esteemed MKK...there is something similar in tone and palpitation...

12:48 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fabulous review - so much better than the usual website stuff, ie "all my friends ask what I'm wearing". Thanks for talking about the actual scent. It takes intelligence to do that well!

10:35 PM EDT  
Anonymous Jeanne said...

I have recently heard that Michael Jackson adored this scent late in life and actually wore it on a regular basis. I would love to find a good bottle of BAV, if I only could!

My signature fragrance has always been Guerlain's Mitsouko--for many years now. If Michael Jackson were still alive, I would have loved to have gifted him with a full bottle of the parfum. You see, MJ just adored Charlie Chaplin, and Mitsouko was Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin's signature fragrance. The House of Guerlain can do no wrong in my book.

Jeanne Regan

11:08 PM EDT  
Blogger beatriz said...

You can buy it at Amazon

10:45 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you recommend, EdP or Edt is just enough to start? Thanks...

2:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Review. Jean Desprez (creator of Bal a Versailles) is finally releasing a new fragrance (Bal a Versailles was first released in 1962). You can get more info at the website

5:31 PM EST  

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