Perfume Review: Balenciaga Paris

I had wanted to try Balenciaga Paris shortly after it came out last year. I like violets, and the bottle is pretty, and most of my regular blogs that had reviewed it mentioned that at least it wasn’t a fruity floral. In short, Not As Bad As It Could Have Been. Or, Could Be Worse. I finally got my hands on a sample (my thanks to Undina!) and immediately sprayed it on, to see what I thought.

The ad copy calls it a floral chypre and its creator (Olivier Polge) says of it, “It’s here. When you wear it. You smell it.” A lot of the original release material concerns its “face,” Charlotte Gainsbourg, about whom I know just a teaspoonful more than nothing. Also, I don’t think I’ve tried many Olivier Polge fragrances. I didn’t like Polge’s Pure Poison or Dior Homme (yeah, yeah, so sue me), or either of the Viktor & Rolf fragrances Polge authored. Also also, I like Le Dix and Rumba, but I’m not a big Balenciaga fan so I knew I could manage to be objective about this scent that ‘fume bloggers spent a lot of time discussing last year and into this.

The issue that seems to be getting in my way here is not Balenciaga or its fragrances, but the other scents called Paris. Coty had one, a soft floral focusing on a powdery rose-violet-lilac accord, with accents of carnation and heliotrope, released in 1921 and discontinued at some point before Yves St. Laurent released its behemoth floral of the same name, the vehemently-pink, loud and cheerful yet romantic rose-violet scent that embodies the 1980s so well. I like both of those fragrances, though I’ve only worn the Coty from a dabber vial (thanks, Donna!). I do understand that this fragrance is meant to be the embodiment of the Balenciaga house of fashion, but because I don’t follow haute couture fashion – or, indeed, any fashion at all – the reference is really lost on me.

Balenciaga Paris – hereinafter referred to as B. Paris – is very, very different from those two scents. It’s relatively quiet, and its violet accent is very pleasant, but it’s so… beige. I don’t understand it. A comment on Now Smell This suggests that B. Paris is something like Cashmere Mist, and although they do not smell alike, there is the veil effect that Cashmere Mist does so nicely. I don’t care much for Cashmere Mist myself, since it seems highly chemical to me. B. Paris escapes that chemical aura and smells fairly natural except for its basenotes.

Bergdorf Goodman calls B. Paris, “a lovely paradox. A demure violet with airy blossom and delicate peppery notes. A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.” Fragrantica lists notes of violet, violet leaves, carnation, patchouli, and Virginia cedar.

I’ve worn B. Paris several times over the past few weeks and each time I have enjoyed the scent quite a lot in its opening stages. It is clearly violetty, a sweet fruity violet that I think is adorable. There is a fresh green cast from the violet leaves. It is a little frustrating to me that this stage doesn’t last very long, because it’s my favorite part of the scent. Although the violet is sweet, it’s tempered by the violet leaf and that dry cedar, as well as some not-listed but clearly-present musk that goes on and on and provides the longevity of B. Paris. I don’t get much carnation, which is a shame. I love carnation.

It’s funny… the more I wear B. Paris, the less I have to say about it, except that it is quite pleasant. I don’t perceive a lot of sillage with it, and the musk portion lasts a long time, albeit very close to the skin. Do I love it? Do I want a bottle? Nope. It’s a little… dare I even say this?… boring.

I mean, I geddit, okay? It’s a violet skin scent. That in itself is really fairly nice; I like violet and I’m happy to see a mainstream fragrance highlight that most old-fashioned note. I have no complaints about it. I’m just not compelled. And forget the description of “modern floral chypre” – I don’t even get a lot of patchouli, that linchpin of “modern chypre” fragrance. It just isn’t a chypre. It is a floral woody musk, with a faintly earthy cast deep into the drydown, like dry clay. I like it. I think it would be impossibly to hate it. I just don’t long for it the way I do some of my other Scent Veil fragrances such as Mariella Burani, or the scent most ‘fume bloggers love to make fun of, Marc Jacobs Daisy.

Other reviews: Katie Puckrik Smells, Robin at Now Smell This, Patty at Perfume Posse, Dane at Pere de Pierre, Brian at I Smell Therefore I Am, and Abigail’s separate review at ISTIA, Grain de Musc, The Non-Blonde, That Smell. Reviews range from “This is growing on me,” to “Nice, but not something I have to have.”

Image is from Fragrantica.




12 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Balenciaga Paris”

  1. I hear you, Mals! I found it very pleasant and would undoubtedly wear it often if I had it. Love that bottle. But I’m not sufficiently motivated to buy it at current prices.

  2. Have you had a chance to try either of Laurie’s violet scents for SSS? I’m not the biggest violet fan, but these are both very nice, if a bit “quiet,” and not terribly sweet, which is my usual complaint with violet scents.

  3. I’ve got a friend who asked me to help her find a new signature scent (she’s now thinking a small wardrobe of fragrances is more to her liking, since I’m a bad influence ;)), so we’ve been getting together regularly and sniffing from my stash.

    One week I introduced her to some violet scents, including BP and SSS’s Voile de Violette and Wood Violet. She commented that if she’d smelled BP by itself, she would’ve thought it was really pretty, but comparing it side-by-side to Voile de Violette and it just seemed “meh.” (I wish VdV smelled on me like it does on her – it’s been fascinating to find out how very different fragrances smell on the two of us. She’s almost like my Evil Fragrance Twin!)

    1. A bad influence? Never! You’re just… opening doors. Yeah.

      I feel the same as your friend about BP and VdV. BP is pretty, but so, so pale. (What did you think about BP, if she’s your EFT?)

      1. We’re not complete Evil Fragrance Twins, as our reaction to BP was about the same. In fact, if my understanding is correct, a true EFT is someone who loves what you hate, and hates what you love.

        She’s more like my Evil Skin Chemistry Twin, because those notes that work really well on my skin, like incense, spices and woods, go really odd on her but she loves them on me, and she can wear light floral fragrances that read as sour and sharp on me, but I think she smells great in them. For instance, she can totally work Laurie’s Velvet Rose, which is vinegar-y on me, but Vintage Rose, which is lovely, nuanced and full of depth on my skin, is nothing but a big ol’ pile of 2D hamster cage shavings on her. (We have each professed envy at what the other can pull off.) It’s been fascinating to compare how a perfume develops on our respective wrists.

  4. Not just pale, but sour. It turned nasty on me when I tried it after it first came out. I’ll give it another go, now that I’ve seen your review. Could have just been a bad day.

    Speaking of the YSL Paris, oh how I loved it and wore it in the 80s! Those beautiful ads! And then – suddenly – I found it hideously synthetic and unreal. I’ve never worn it since. Strange. Maybe I should give it another go too!

    1. Uh-oh, sour. I have had that happen to me with things I didn’t expect to go in that direction (Paestum Rose, for example), and it’s so frustrating.

      I like the YSL very much, though I never smelled it in its heyday.

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