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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Green Goddess: Vacances by Jean Patou (1936) - And a Prize Draw

By Donna

Vacances was introduced in 1936 by the famous perfume and fashion house of Jean Patou, in celebration of what is now a French and indeed established worldwide tradition – the introduction of paid vacations for workers. It evokes the feeling of a fresh spring morning in the countryside as the windows are opened to the rising sun. This was the Golden Age of French perfume houses, and one of its legendary creative collaborations was between Jean Patou and his great house perfumer Henri Alméras; this fragrance is one of the crown jewels of fine French perfumery. The House of Patou was once more famous for its couture gowns coveted by wealthy society women than it was for its perfumes, but the fragrances long ago eclipsed the fashions; led by the justly iconic Joy (1930). Sadly, Jean Patou died the same year Vacances was released, though the company was carried on by his sister and remained a family enterprise until it was sold to Procter and Gamble in 2001.

Vacances is widely acknowledged by professional perfumers and expert “noses” to be the greatest Green Floral in the history of perfumery. Having tried many others of this style from the finest houses over the years, I must concur. This is a true work of art; and if I had but one perfume to choose to wear for the rest of my life this would be it. (Considering how many perfumes I have tried over the years, and what I currently own, that is high praise indeed.)

It opens with a very sharp, fresh, almost peppery green burst –not black pepper, but rather juicy cut green pepper, as in bell pepper not spice, a quality it gets from a heaping overdose of the plant gum Galbanum-accompanied by the intense freshness of stunningly heady Hyacinth, twiggy/earthy Hawthorn and deeply verdant grass notes. As the opening subsides, something else wonderful happens – the arrival of soft, wispy Mimosa and the most ethereally lovely Lilac imaginable, an eternally fresh Lilac that never fades or becomes musty. This lingers a long time as the fragrance finally dries down to subtle woody notes. The lasting power is excellent, even for the EDT. It is a relatively simple combination of accords, but elegant in its perfection. To me it is not only green but all the colors of the rainbow, the essence of Spring itself.

This is a fragrance of happiness and exuberance, but also of memory and intense longing. It has been known to elicit an unexpected emotional response when experienced for the first time. It was the first perfume that to which I ever had such a strong and visceral reaction that tears came to my eyes and I knew I had found “The One.” For one thing, it reminded me of the great hedge of purple lilacs that grew outside my childhood home. After a rain, the delicious scent would drift through the air, and I would shake the sweet drops that clung to the heavy flower heads onto my face and drink the perfumed water as though it were the nectar of the gods. That, mingled with the aroma of freshly cut grass (we never had a gas mower, so there were no fumes to ruin it), the damp earth and the rising breath of other spring plants as the sun broke through after the rain, is the soul of Vacances.

This fragrance, along with eleven other historical perfumes from the Patou line from the 1920s to the 1950s, was re-released in the 1980s to celebrate the history and success of the Patou house. The gorgeous bottles were all of a similar style but had different color themes and package designs, and each bottle contained a matching silk pocket square. The reintroduced scents, known as Ma Collection and also once available as a coffret of miniature bottles of all twelve perfumes, are sadly now all discontinued again. This is very likely the last bottle I will ever have. Its like will not be seen again. I know I said I would stop reviewing discontinued fragrances, but I must pay tribute to my most beloved perfume before it’s gone forever and only its memory remains to me. All the scents in Ma Collection are very good to great, but to my mind this is far and away the most original and beautiful of them all.

To honor this wonderful perfume, I am offering a sample of the Eau de Toilette. It was the last formulation offered when the scent was reissued; for a glorious time there was also Eau de Parfum, and a Parfum that defined the very idea of Beauty. Now they are all gone, victims of the times and the sale of the Patou company to Procter & Gamble, to my profound horror. Some of Patou’s recent offerings since this happened are nice enough, but nothing approaches their earlier releases, and the last really good ones, in my opinion, were Sublime in 1992 and Patou For Ever in 1998. If the new owners had any sense at all these classic perfumes would be brought back in all their glory along with the rest of the Patou back catalog. (You can still find them online, but bottle collectors have driven the price up to about $400 or more each and I would personally be very wary of eBay or other independent sellers claiming to have unopened bottles for sale, especially at a low price.)

If you want to be entered in the drawing, please say so in the comments, and the winner will be announced the week after this post appears.

Image credits: The beautiful Vacances bottle and box from Artistic rendition of the Elven Queen Galadriel (as portrayed by Cate Blanchett) from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy from



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sounds lovely. Please enter me in the drawing.

12:17 AM EST  
Blogger Madelyn E said...

Hello there,
I would L O V E to win a sample of this treasure Vacances!
Please please - enter me for the drawing.
I adore green florals. Diorissimo, Miss Dior , DSiorella are green florals or chpres.Is there any other perfume that reminds you of Vacances ?

1:46 AM EST  
Blogger rebella said...

Sounds like an amazing fragrance. I would love to be entered in the drawing.

2:10 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Patou, all the ones I've tried anyway. I would love to try Vacances. Please enter me in the drawing.

2:51 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to try this fragrance, thank you for entering me in the drawing!

4:27 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to test this fragrance, pls enter me in the drawing! Thank you very much. Alica

4:27 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had a rough night and would love to win a prize of some nice smelly thing

5:49 AM EST  
Blogger Isa said...

Oh my God! I had never heard about this fragance. This sounds as the perfect green scent I have been looking for all my life.
I would love to smell it. Please, enter me in the drawing.


6:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an inspired review! Thanks for such a lovely start to my day.

~~ dea
ps. please enter me into the draw :)

7:40 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the lovely old Patou fragrances are no longer around. I have a mini of Caline that is wonderful. Please enter me in the drawing.


8:33 AM EST  
Blogger Aimée L'Ondée said...

Ohhhh dear, green florals are my kryptonite, so I probably need this. Would love a sample, please enter me in the draw. Thanks so much for the lovely review!

9:07 AM EST  
Blogger saralevy said...

Once again M, a lovely review of a lovely fragrance--it's the best green floral ever--the only scent that ever truly captured springtime and lilacs. I have a Ma Collection bottle so let someone else have a shot at trying it through the drawing--I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog!

cheers, Sara

ps for green floral fans, give Jacomo's Silences!


9:24 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful review. Please enter me in the draw. Betty S

10:09 AM EST  
Blogger the oblitterati said...

What a heart-breakingly lovely review. I've been very interested in trying Patou Forever, and now Vacances sounds like a must try. Please enter me in the drawing.

10:23 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

merci pour Jean Patou's Vacances. Very lovely review (

10:41 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this lovely and tempting review. Please enter me in the drawing.


11:10 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The memories evoked by lilacs are
very special to me. Big billowy bushes of purple wonder and soft fragrant white lilacs!! I would love to be entered in the drawing.
Thank you.

11:24 AM EST  
Blogger Ducks said...

Donna, this sounds just heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your love of this fragrance. Of course, I would love to be in the drawing.

11:26 AM EST  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

Just reading your review was a bit of a vacation...thank you for that. Since green is right in my wheelhouse, as the saying goes, I would love to be included in the drawing...with another round of thanks for your generosity in sharing.

11:30 AM EST  
Blogger Pauline said...

I am new to the world of perfumes and I love your blog. Please enter me in the drawing for a sample of Vacances. It sounds lovely.

11:40 AM EST  
Blogger Julie said...

I would love to try Vacances!

11:48 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't need to fall in love with any more discontinued fragrances, but still. . . please enter me in the drawing.

11:53 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a beautiful review. I would love to try a sample of this. Thank you.

11:55 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had me at "great hedge of purple lilacs..." Sigh... why must these scents be discontinued?

Please enter me in the drawing. Thank you.

12:36 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

I would LOVE to be entered in the draw.

12:37 PM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Lovely review, Donna! A word to those looking for Vacances--while the bottles are exceedingly rare, the "Ma Collection" sets, which include Vacances along with, I think it's 9 or 11 others, are sometimes a bit easier to find, and they come with a nifty booklet and everything. I've just been exploring mine this morning so I was very happy to see this review. Now if only I can get the top off the Vacances mini...

Personally, I just want a poster of that marvelous box. LOVE that print...

12:57 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very moved by your description of VACANCES. Please enter me in the drawing. Thank you so much for your beautiful reviews! I always look forward to reading them.

2:04 PM EST  
Blogger Sophia said...

I love green.."Y" is my Holy Grail of green chypres, EL Private Collection is close second. Bandit, a naughty green :) follows. I would love to try Vacances, so please enter me in the drawing!

2:29 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post makes me a little sad - but it's so nice your being so generous as to give away a sample of your last bottle. I would love to be entered in the drawing.

3:00 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

I do have this, so don't wish to be in the draw, but just wanted to say what a lovely review this was of this gorgeous scent! And I would SO have loved to smell it in parfum form. I can't even begin to imagine how perfect that must have been. I also wanted to say that I very much welcome and enjoy reviews of discontinued scents since there is always ebay and some other sites which carry them - yes, at shocking prices, but...I have to confess that I think they're worth it. I'm increasingly tired w/ new releases and literally crave the quality of these older scents.

4:48 PM EST  
Blogger martini said...

What a moving tribute to this scent! Please enter me in your drawing.

5:40 PM EST  
Blogger Kristen Marie Hannum said...

You have a real gift of describing scents. Vacances sounds wonderful - I was at the Perfume House in Portland yesterday - wish I'd read this and would have asked to smell it.

Please enter me in your drawing!

6:40 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow.Fall always makes me feel nostalgic. Would love to be entered into the drawing and a chance to sniff :-)

9:00 PM EST  
Blogger ahsumaker said...

I had no idea this was now so hard to find. Please enter me for the sample draw!

9:07 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I would love to try this!

9:22 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

You make this sound so lovely! I'd love to try it.

12:21 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you ALL for your kind comments, you can tell how much I love this perfume!

And Madelyn, no, there is nothing else that reminds me of Vacances - parts of it, such as En Passant's lovely lilac, but no other fragrance combines all of the elements so perfectly - the green grass, the lilac, the hyacinth, it's just one of a kind.

All of you who want to be in the draw, good luck!

12:28 AM EST  
Blogger Michelle said...

My goodness. Your review - I want to be able to have that strong of a reaction (a positive one) to a scent. Sure, I have ones that I love, ones that take me back to certain times in my life, but nothing that has ever spoken as this does to you.

Please enter me in the draw. I would love to experience it.

1:44 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful review! As I was reading it I thought I MUST find Vacances--purple lilacs are my ultimate favorite. Now that I know this scent is discontinued I would love to be in your drawing. Thank you--Jen

8:10 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope I'm not to late to be entered in the draw. I've wanted to sample this scent for a long time.

8:23 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, NO one captures the essence of essence as do you. Please add my name to the draw. FERDIE

8:54 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been longing to try this scent for ages, please enter me in the drawing!

Thanks, Farah

9:43 AM EST  
Blogger Abigail said...

OMG! How is it that I have never heard of this fragrance?! I'm wanting it bigtime right now. Please enter me in the drawing and I'll be on the hunt for it now... (so thanks for enabling doesn't take much) :-)

11:07 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your reviews always tempt me! This sounds so beautiful!
Please enter me in the drawing.
I would so love to try this fragrance- it has all of my favorite notes! Thanks much.

11:27 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How I would love a breath of lilacs and spring on this cold, rainy day! Though there's no hope of a vacation in sight, a sniff of Vacances sounds as though it would be a lovely and worthy substitute ;-)

Thank you for the daydream-y review!

2:16 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please enter me in your drawing...and thanks. karen

3:25 PM EST  
Blogger Janet said...

oh this scent sounds lovely! I adore lilacs, please enter me in the drawing. Thanks :-)

4:26 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds heavenly. Would love to try it. Please enter me for the draw.

5:28 PM EST  
Blogger Arlena said...

I would love to enter your drawing.
Please count me in.

9:59 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds stunning! I would love to be entered in the draw. Thanks, ChantillyLace

11:41 PM EST  
Blogger saffrongold said...

This fragrance sounds divine I would love to be entered into the draw. Can we use blog power, or create an electronic petition to keep the historically important Patou fragrances alive. I think they know not what they do! Perhaps we could educate them. After all money does follow quality, they have nothing to loose!

9:35 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for alerting me to this lovely perfume. Please enter me in the drawing.

9:30 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please enter me in the draw:)


10:33 PM EST  
Blogger Norma said...

Hi! I would love to try this, please enter me into the drawing as well!

Erica Y

10:39 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oooh. would love to smell. please enter me in the drawing.

5:11 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Holidays, and please enter me in the drawing! Thank you!

5:20 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This review must be the first perfume review I have ever read that brought tears of happiness and wistfulness to my eyes. Your memories of bathing in lilac-bush water was told so beautifully that I just had to post a reply to tell you thank you for sharing that, and thank you also for starting me on reminiscing about when I was young and the grass had just been cut and my friends and I would run outside and start playing with the clippings :) I feel almost guilty now for requesting to be entered in the drawing after such loveliness.

5:08 AM EST  
Blogger Dain said...

I would love to be considered. I hope I'm not too late!

5:54 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to be entered in the drawing!

1:28 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donna -

Just wanted to say what a lovely review! I always think of Cote d'Azur in mid summer when I smell Vacances... for a minute it brought summer in all its glory, even on this cold, dark Midwestern night. I wish I'd had the sense to hang onto my bottles 'back when'.

No need to enter me in the drawing as a lovely, generous person recently renewed my acquaintance of this incredible fragrance:-)

xo Musette

9:22 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

The Vacances prize draw is now closed - thank you all for your incredible response! I wish I had enough to share with everyone.

(This blog will be on a break for a few days, but when it returns the winner will be announced, so keep checking back!)

12:09 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To win the contest would be as good as going en vacances. What a lovely review.

11:24 PM EST  
Blogger Andrea Karim said...

Think I'm a bit late to be entered, but thank you for the review. What a stunning description!

8:02 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

This sounds very interesting. If I'm not too late, please enter me in the drawing. Thank you!

1:54 PM EST  
Blogger Angeliska said...

Magical! Am I too late? I would love to try it!

2:03 AM EST  
Anonymous marcy goldman said...

What a lovely tribute to Vacance, one of my own favorites, along with Patou's famed, and long-gone, Caline. Vacance was just a wee touch soapy but forgiveable, for all the attributes you noted, in particular, its winning treatment of the lilac element.
Masterful. What about Cristalle and Ma Griffe? Or more woody than green?

8:18 AM EDT  

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