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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Perfume Review: Jean Patou Joy, Ma Liberte, Cocktail and Pan Ame

Review by Tom

Today, I am going to review a few fragrances of one of my favorite houses, Jean Patou. The reviews are going to be pretty random, since they are reviews of beensy bottles I got on eBay for about six bucks apiece.

I'm not going to write a real review here of Joy, since I don't have it and don't feel the need to actually go out and smell it to refresh my memory (My friend Johanna wears it beautifully and often). It's of course a perfect frisson of jasmine and roses, its opening with a bright shock of green, its drydown with a darker shock of civet. It's perfect, it's classic, it's criminally overlooked. Sad that so many women today eschew these fragrances in the pursuit of ever-more frilly and sparkly little-girl fragrances: ladies, little girls do not have power, or magic, or allure (if the man you're dating disagrees, RUN), WOMEN do. Joy, and scents like them are scents for women: utterly feminine, but with the strength and allure that adulthood and experience brings.

Ma Liberte

Created (according to Basenotes) in 1987, and since killed off, Ma Liberte opens with a soft lavender cut with the slightest whiff of tobacco: the kind in Tabac Blond. There's helitrope and citrus in there as well, and as it dries, there's a very powdery patchouli (don't be scared, it is faint) as well as cedar and sandalwood. Reading what I have written, this reads like a mens cologne, but that's totally not the case. It's very feminine, but I can see where it may have been lost in the sea of new releases: this whispers when most other fragrances of that decade shouted themselves hoarse.


Launched in 1930, this chypre apertif opens with a sparkle of citrus and lavender, every bit as crisp and refreshing as a martini made with one of those trendy bespoke vodkas. Honeysuckle, hyacinth and clove come in as the scent becomes more of a chypre and less of a cocktail. The drydown is very dry indeed; the flowers are never overpowering. This smells to me what Myrna Loy would have worn for drinks on the terrace at the Hotel Bel-Air. It's, well, classy: the female equivalent of Royal Bain du Caron, which is what William Powell would be wearing as he refreshed Myrna's vermouth-cassis and lit them cigarettes. Needless to say, this one I'd buy a full bottle of. (in a small voice) I could get away with it!

Pan Ame

Fruity floral? Arrgh! Right?

I should hate this, but somehow I can't: the fruit note really is true to the slightly sweet woodiness of the way the pear smells, and the floral is more like a leafy greeness (it's supposed to be "violet leaves). Sandalwood and musk (surprisingly musky) ground the scent. It's not me at all (and I actually am not sure that it's going to be the bulk of the commenters either) but I do like it's spunky, happy fizz.

Joy, is of course available at fine deparment stores. Personally, I say damn the torpedoes and go for the full-on perfume versions. The older Patous (which I would love to sample) were available at the now sadly defunct Bullocks Wilshire, which had a truly spectacular first floor fragrance department (an atop which the climax of "Ghostbusters" was filmed). That they are not all more widely available to appreciate is very sad indeed.


Blogger Madelyn E said...

Dear Columbina,
Hi ! Remember the song : There's nothing like the real thing ,
There's nothing like the real thing..
Well, I for one agree with you -
With these classics of classucs- h\just go for the real thing..
I have in extrai, Joy, and 1000 -Patou.
Have not sample these lovlies as yet
M- are they available inany stores ( I;m not comfortable on ebay)?
Are these available in te Paris boutique ?
You are writing better than ever - you are inspired ..and so utterly creative - it Is a "Joy' to read you -

1:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right, Colombina. Some fragrances say WOMAN, and we should consider very strongly wearing them often--nice as the unisex fragrances are. Nothing says WOMAN like a fine chypre. To wear it you have to be grown up and *know* you are grown up.

It's a shame I've never tried Cocktail--or met Nick and Nora Charles. What fun they'd be.

1:41 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I can only hope that these are in tha Paris boutique. If they are not, they should be: Patou deserves (as so many other houses do) their own museum. General Motors apparently has a wonderful museum with loads of cars from over the years as well as their concept cars. I think perfume houses should do the same. Personally, I'd pay to have the Patou "E" ticket tour!

2:51 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

maria b.:

Even as a (some would say resolutely) gay man, there is nothing more exciting than a woman in touch with her WOMAN. Mostly it has to do with her carriage, the way she goes through life, the way that time and experience and intelligence and spark have burned off a bit of the puppy-fat and left creatures of wit and smarts and cheekbones and challenge. I am proud and happy to be included in the lives of several women in this group from 37 to 92 and I bask in their reflected glamour, and strive to keep up.

3:01 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

And to the both of you:

You could not pay me more of a compliment than mistake me for our dear Columbina, and for that I sincerely thank you! Another woman (although really a child, compared to me!) who is a constant source of surprise and not a little bit of envy.

*Yes that's me in the corner with Danielle, nervously smoking...*

3:05 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Tom, I do read the bylines so I knew it was you, and couldn't agree more on Joy and Cocktail -- haven't sniffed Paname, which is, by the way, the argot name of Paris. Patou, the fashion house, has an interesting history as initially, in the 20s, it produced not only gorgeous and simple sheaths for eveningwear, but rather sporty and dégagé daywear. In its last incarnation before shutting down its fashion production, it was headed by Christian Lacroix and featured his first uber-eighties pouf dresses.
Now the scents... I own two Ma Collection in their 80s re-editions, Cocktail and Colony, and what I feel about them is their essential *wit*. Unlike their current classics 1000 and Sublime, which have more gravitas.
I believe the discontinued scents can be sniffed on the first floor of the Parisian flagship store, by appointment only. I've yet to make it there, but I will.

4:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Colombina --

heh heh. Just teasing you, T.

Well, why wouldn't you like all of these, including Pan Ame? Even if it was called "Le Fruit d'Floral" it's a vintage Patou, and that stuff *rocks.* BTW I think at some point dragonfly00 on eBay was selling sets of the Patou Ma Collection samps.

Joy is a masterpiece that, I think, is associated mentally with women of a certain age. I guess Patou tried to make EnJoy the gateway drug? Or maybe just get some younger clients. But it's so completely different to me... wonder how it sells...

8:18 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

So glad you've reviewed some of the Ma Collection scents. Love them! And they're amoung the very few scents where I think the boxes are almost more amazing than the bottles. *Fab* patterns. I need to retry Pan Ame, but Cocktail is pure elegant perfection. Of *course* you could wear it!

8:31 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


I am so glad you reviewed the Patous. It is such, such a shame many of their wonderful scents are gone. If you look at their website, all they show is Joy, 1000, ENjoy and Sublime...I mean, these are great scents, and I adore 1000, but....they could have had so much more!

The Other Colombina.

8:56 AM EDT  
Blogger fmd74 said...

I love Joy! It is a beautiful, beautiful perfume. It's the ultimate floral fragrance, what a perfect blend! To me all the concentrations are wonderful, the pure perfume of course being the best. I am never without a bottle.
I feel the Patous don't really get the attention they deserve in the perfume market, often overlooked, difficult to find and in general kind of forgotten. I'm glad to see them reviewed here.
I have never tried Cocktail but now I am very interested in it - and yes, I too think that nothing says "woman" better than a very elegant chypre.

9:37 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Thanks for refreshing my memory- I'd forgotten that Lacroix worked for Patou.

I may get to Paris this summer myself, so I might be sniffing as well!

11:41 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I have to confess that I have never smelled enJoy. I figure, why? I like the original. The lite version can't help but disappoint.

11:44 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Since you say so I will!

11:45 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


When I think of all those wonderful bottles that were lined up on those shelves at Bullocks Wilshire I could sob. They had Normandie in the boat-shaped bottle (which I am sure was a factice, but might have been there since the depression.

Were that I was there the night of the riots. I would, with a sense of duty accomplished have lifted a bunch of them. Aren't I terrible?

11:48 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


They don't and I wonder why. Perhaps they don't advertise enough? I hope they don't get swallowed up by LVMH or Dow or someone and start having the problem of having the capital to advertise but having products that make me retch..

11:50 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Hello, honey bunny [NO this is NOT 'Pulp Fiction'!]-

So, you loves you some WO-man scents, yes ?
Me, too.
Love that sexy thing that happens when you embrace your experience...
Totally wondrous.

So, you're channeling Marinushka today ?
How does it feel to be a petite Baltic blonde ?

I hope that Lollipop girl is feeling better...
[That's YOU, my other Baltic Beauty]

11:55 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

No, not least not if you promise to share the loot with me :-D

11:58 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you for calling me petite :-D

11:59 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I was blond for a while (dating a colorist can do wonders) but I'm afraid petite I left behind at about 12. Best I can hope for is rangy

12:32 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I'd share. And how!

12:33 PM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Tom, please don't be a stranger when you come to Paris (that goes for all you people, of course). We'll do us some serious sniffing!

1:17 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think you should go sniff again. It's wonderful.

The MA's have to come back.

1:23 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I am keeping my fingers crossed that the project I would be working on works out and that I will be able to take that trip.

Of course I'd want to meet and do some serious sniffing- even unto the Marais!

Jeesh, I need to remember to load some French discs on my iPod- I haven't spoken it since high school!

1:26 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A thousand apologies, Tom! And for me to do that after you had paid my group of humanity such a compliment! I guess the cowardly way out would be for me to blame my confusion on my maturity? Alas, I wish cheekbones came with the package. Beautifully written, Tom.

2:02 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


No apology necessary!

3:49 PM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

Damn, MORE scents you make me want to smell! I do not often feel, nor want to feel, womanly (not girlie either for that matter) but I'm falling hard for the vintage chypres...

5:42 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Sorry! (tee hee)

9:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a collection of 12 original Patou scents from 1925 to 1964 available now (October 2007) in minis from, at least in Washington State, Perfume Hut and such outlets. Worth it to get to smell them--it includes Cocktail, by the way.

12:28 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tom,

I've used Joy for more than twenty years, and kept wondering if I was beginning to smell like an old decaying woman and ought to try something more current. Thank you for your lovely review; I'm inspired to maintain my relationship with this lovely scent.


4:35 AM EDT  

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