Perfume Review: Jean Desprez’ new fragrances Gold and Platine

A couple of months ago, I got an email from jeandesprez.com, announcing the upcoming release of a new Jean Desprez fragrance, and half-off deals on Bal a Versailles, the amazing, old-school floral oriental that has a list of notes a mile long, and that is famous among perfumistas for, in certain concentrations, being full of skank. I like BaV a lot and own a small bottle of PdT (ebay, about $4) and one of parfum (won from Fragrantica) that I don’t wear often because it’s full and rich and tres Francais, and, to be honest, a little bit demanding to wear.

The new Jean Desprez fragrance retains the “sexy allure” of the past with a hint of independence.  Please help us evaluate several formulations.

So of course I was interested in testing anything released by the makers of Bal a Versailles (famously worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, just to name two). The deal was, the JD people were field-testing multiple variants and getting feedback from bloggers who’d mentioned it and members of Basenotes.net before deciding on the final formula. Testers would not know the fragrance notes for the scent they were testing until after feedback had been given. JD was continuing the tradition of excellent perfumery, yada yada, courting the fragrance community, yada yada, making perfumes that could stand the test of time, yada yada, the testers would be collectors’ items, yada yada. I bought this hook, line and sinker (well, except for the “collectors’ items” bit, I’m not that dumb). They make BaV, I said. Of course it would be great, I said. I signed up for a bottle. I announced it on the blog.

I was naïve.

Parfum de toilette bottle of Bal a Versailles, from perfumezilla.com

In due course, my box arrived, and it was attractive – a neat, closely-fitting white box containing a nice heavy round bottle wrapped in layers of white tissue paper, with Jean Desprez “Gold” hand-written on the bottle in gold paint pen. The bottle is the standard one used for Bal a Versailles EdT, the current iteration, which I wasn’t familiar with until researching later. My small bottles are rather different.

When I sprayed “Gold” on some paper, my first thought was “Angel!” After the second spray, I thought of Xerjoff Elle, that rich heady floral-caramel thing that costs $600 a bottle, except with cotton candy instead of caramel. Upon the third spray, I thought, “Neither one – it’s Brut + Juicy Fruit.” Upon the fourth spray, my thought was, “You know, I give up. I don’t care what the structure of this thing is, it’s dreadful.”

And I haven’t budged from that point of view since.

Gold starts out with a big burst of cotton candy – which is why, I suppose, I immediately thought of Angel – followed by a delicious mixed-fruit note. Think Hawaiian Punch, and you’d be close. But under the fruit is something very traditionally masculine: lavender and coumarin, I’m guessing. It’s sort of a Carmen Miranda-Brut-Angel*, and if you sniff too close, your stomach will turn. From a distance, say from arm’s length, Gold is less disturbing but still has the gender-bendy weirdness of Angel, what with the fruit, the ethylmaltol, and the… whatever that shaving cream thing is. There are also some dense florals (rose and jasmine, definitely) in there, and they’re the best part of the fragrance, but they’re completely overshadowed by the fougere/ethylmaltol. [*Slightly disturbing side note: I think Brut Angel would be a fabulous name for a rock band.]

I hate it. And like every scrubber that ever existed, it lasts for EVER. I got nine and a half hours from one spray on my wrist, and since overspray went onto my shirt, I actually smelled like this for twelve hours, until I just couldn’t stand it anymore and took the shirt off. Then I took a shower. I could still smell Gold afterwards, but at least the level had been knocked down to “bearable.” Worse, I put that one spray on and went down to the computer desk, and a week later, the desk smells like Gold. The stuff has the half-life of plutonium.

I saw a mention of the JD fragrance from a fumie friend on Facebook (Hi, Rustic Dove!) and started discussing it with her. It turned out that she’d gotten a different formulation, called “Platine” (Platinum), and didn’t like it. We exchanged samples.

Rustic told me that Platine was not her thing. She also comments that she smells a pipe tobacco note in Gold, which I didn’t get, but that might be because by the time she mentioned it, I was trying to wear Gold without actually smelling it or have it touch my skin, and that’s not optimal testing conditions. It’s possible that I might have been prejudiced against Platine from the start. However, I don’t think so. The best thing that I can say about Platine is that at least it doesn’t last as long as Gold.

Mee-owww.

Platine starts out with some bright, fruity citrus notes – and I mean fruity citrus like as in orange Life Savers, not fruity citrus as in freshly-squeezed lemonade with a slice of carambola on the side of the glass for decoration. It also contains some Yankee Candle-grade lavender, and, I think, some jasmine ingredient that never saw sunshine but was concocted by people in lab coats, as well as that overdose of citrus alcohols familiar to us from, yes, Light Blue. Platine lasts slightly less than forever; on skin it sticks around about 8 hours. It is tenacious as heck, but to my mind not nearly as annoying as Gold.

The first peony to bloom this year in my yard.

I think, also, that there may be a peony note in the mix. How do I know? Well, I confess that in the years immediately before my perfumista days, I was a big fan of peony-type fragrances like Victoria’s Secret Pink and The Healing Garden In Bloom (Coty), and wore only “fresh floral” scents. Peony, I know now, is strictly an aromachemical, not a natural fragrance material. Which is a shame because real peonies, like the Sarah Bernhardts blooming now in my front yard, smell wonderful, and I have yet to find a fragrance that smells like the scent of real peony: soft, petalled, fresh, green, with a hint of rose and another of berry jam. (No, Histoires des Parfums Vert Pivoine was Not It. I have hopes for Parfums de Nicolai Rose-Pivoine, though.)

I think I’d rather have Victoria’s Secret Pink than Jean Desprez Platine, to tell the truth.

After being terribly disappointed by both of these scents and starting to write my disillusioned reviews, I went digging around on the fragrance forums (fora?) to see if anyone else was disappointed. I uncovered these discussion threads on Basenotes and Fragrantica (click through for the threads) that indicate that nearly everyone who is currently a fumie is disappointed as well.

In case you can’t see these, the general consensus is that these are awful fragrances, and I’ve heard from no one who has seen any formulation other than Gold and Platine. One fumie had a friend who really liked Platine, but the other comments tend to be negative, with the most positive ones being only neutral (“Eh, it’s nothing special.”).

From Rustic Dove on Platine, feedback sent to Jean Desprez:

Platine was not my style at all. I was quite disappointed in the fragrance especially given that Bal a Versailles is one of my all time favorite scents. Platine seemed very synthetic and I had the impression that it’s aimed at the fruity floral loving demographic. As a perfume enthusiast, I prefer well crafted fragrances composed of quality ingredients. I love notes of sandalwood, patchouli, rose, iris, amber, incense and so on. Platine had a ‘fresh’, candy like and artificial aspect that I don’t care for.   There seems to be a ‘dumbing down’ trend in mainstream fragrances – so many of them smell alike and I find the trend to be frustrating and tiresome. If the other new Jean Desprez scents are still available for review, I would love the opportunity to test and compare them.

And then Dee of Beauty on the Outside posted her review of Platine the other day, and her reaction toward it was even more negative than mine. (Ah, but she hasn’t smelled Gold!)

I now believe that Jean Desprez has been bought out by some opportunistic marketing people who knew that they had a good thing going, and decided to capitalize on it by selling cheap chemical dreck on the strength of the Bal a Versailles name, while clearing the warehouses of BaV stock. I’m annoyed about it.

I still think it’s genius to court the perfume bloggers and the people who belong to fragrance forums; I’m just snarked that JD didn’t offer a sampler set, and even more snarked that the fragrances they came up with were so awful – derivative and clearly cheap.

Anybody else tried a formulation of the new Jean Desprez fragrance? Please comment, and feel free to tell me I’m nuts if you think so. I might be wrong. (I don’t think so, but it’s not impossible.)

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22 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Jean Desprez’ new fragrances Gold and Platine”

  1. I saw you mentioning this on your blog so I ordered and got a bottle of Platine.
    Well, I did try to get into the reviewing spirit and sprayed it on a couple of times.
    I guess it is a fruity floral but I got hit by the fruit and couldn’t really bring my attention back to the rest (so I don’t remember any floral hints). I don’t hate it, but I was very disappointed – it’s not even close to what I was expecting.
    It’s perfectly wearable if you’re very young so I plan on giving my bottle away which is a shame because I like it (the bottle I mean).
    That’s the best thing I can say about the whole experience.

    1. Ines, I’m sorry. Really, really sorry.

      Yeah, the bottle’s nice. And I think I got less fruit, or maybe it just zipped through the fruit stage on me, because it was mostly like Light Blue with fake florals. Grr.

      1. No reason to feel sorry. 🙂 I was very optimistic when the whole project started off, thinking I’ll get sth in the manner of the BaV for a minimum price.
        Well, I can’t help it – I’m always optimistic that way. If another project like this comes to life (not by JD house though), knowing me, I’ll probably participate again. 🙂

  2. Hmm … as an experiment I went to the JD website and added an item to the cart, really just to see what the shipping would be. I immediately got a warning that my confidential information might not be secure. Not good, huh.

    Still, was it fun to be part of the new perfume experiment? The bottle is nice, reminds me of those old Guerlain EDC bottles. I disliked those when I first saw them but now I admire their simplicity.

    1. Oh dear… I paid for mine with PayPal, which I know doesn’t expose my financial info. (If somebody hacks PayPal, though, I’m in trouble.)

      Well, I’m still annoyed that the two I tested were so asinine. And that they didn’t just send out a generous sample pack of all (four, apparently) variations for, oh, $10. THAT would have been worth it, even if they stunk.

  3. Hello there Muse. FYI – evidently there are two other fragrances that were sent out for review; ‘Silver’ and ‘Saphire’. I wonder if they’re just as terrible as the two we had the misfortune of sampling. I was looking forward to your review and was hoping it would be even more scathing. 😉 The only point I differ on with you is that I found Gold to be less offensive than Platine. Well, we really fell for the con didn’t we – hook, line & sinker.

    1. Yeah, apparently we fell for it. I am gullible.

      MORE scathing than “I hate it”? Whoa. That’d be pretty scathing. Hmm, that might be fun. I might have to get all nasty in my actual feedback.

      But you thought Platine was worse than Gold, huh? Could be I hate fougeres more than you do – because while I like smelling them on guys, I truly hate wearing them.

      Wonder who’s tested the other two?? I couldn’t find any comments on Basenotes or Fragrantica or the FB group that mentioned anything other than Gold or Platine.

  4. “…I was trying to wear Gold without actually smelling it or have it touch my skin, and that’s not optimal testing conditions.”

    bwahahahahaha! excellent. 🙂

  5. I was pretty brutal, but I also would like to mention that I did hold back! I’m astonished that we’re all smelling these—we really did fall for it!

    I think we would do better to all go out and buy a Brittany Spears fragrance and talk about it—at least our expectations would be low, and we could be pleasantly surprised rather than unpleasantly surprised, a la Jean Desprez.

    (Cranky anyone? Yes, yes I am!)

    1. You held back? WHY? How forceful were you in your feedback response to Jean Desprez? Because I’m planning to tear some strips off them.

      Yep, I’m feeling pretty dumb about now.

      You know, the last cheapie thing I tested at the drugstore was S by Shakira, and although it smells cheap (clearly the so-called jasmine was lab-created), it actually hung together nicely. I didn’t hate any part of it, and the worst thing I could say about it was, “This smells like an Avon fragrance.”

      1. I haven’t responded yet to the evaluation (not sure if I’ve even gotten it yet), but I dis respond to the email they sent me about my blog post— I said that I hoped they would continue to read the blogger responses, and listen to them!

        I just don’t know about this whole deal. I am so mad that I bought this instead of Silences, which might be the source of some of my hostility. Hopefully there will be some interest in these “collector” bottles, because mine will be going up on eBay after the mainstream launch!

        The last drugstore things I smelled were Halle Berry Reveal and Kim kardashian’s frag: both more interesting to me than Platine!!!!!

  6. OK!! I chuckle- I`ve Gold, and an Angel for a new era it is! I even asked them how many others compared their Gold to Angel. (I LIKE Angel in the smoother Parfum) I told them that the lessening of the red fruit notes plus the smooth incense/woody/vanilla aspect was a positive part of the scent.Also asked about trying/buying the other 3 scents – no word back. Thank you for the Platine imput! The bottle is a classy beauty for one`s collection 🙂 Has anyone heard what dept stores will carry the winning scent?? Yt always looks for the silver line-ing in the clouds :-0

    1. The bottle is the nicest thing about these, IMHO, Linda…

      … of course, I don’t like Angel at all. (Although I will admit to a sneaking fondness for Hanae Mori, but I only wear that *inside* the house, as a comfort scent.) It’s the sweetness level combined with the masculine elements that just drives me nuts, so Gold was doomed to failure for me.

      You know, I don’t think JD has stated which stores will be carrying the new scent. That’s a good question.

  7. Well, it is certainly comforting to know that I am not alone in my disappointment with the “new” JD fragrances. I received Gold and Silver. Agree with your assessment of Gold – it was indeed a scrubber, having descended to the level of the current “fruity” notes that seem to be the trend.
    Silver was my second disappointment….again, it was a synthetic, garden-variety trying to be trendy mix …not QUITE as pungently bad as Gold, but certainly not something that I would buy or indeed even try again.

    I had high hopes from the JD name, creator of one of the most interesting orientals out there!

  8. I agree pretty strongly with you, Catherine (and welcome, by the way!) – Gold is awful. Fruit that won’t die, amber that tries to kill you… urgh.

    I haven’t heard from anyone else who tried Silver. So it too had lotsa fruit?

    I was extremely disappointed in JD. Bal a Versailles is not only a rich formula, it’s a coherent one, and very distinctive. I think most perfume fans who have tried these variations were expecting something wonderful and didn’t get it. Big fat raspberries to those JD guys…

  9. I was skeptical of Zombie Bal a Versailles, and from your description, Mals, I had good reason to! And what’s up with the scrubbers that last for-evah! Why is that combination hand in hand? Synthetics, maybe? Sorry you had to go through such olfactrauma.

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