Monday, July 21, 2008

Joy - Jean Patou

In the name of utter self-indulgence, of making this blog all about me and my tastes and my opinions, and because I have about fifty perfumes at home, many of which are in the evaluatory stage, I'm going to post perfume reviews as the whim strikes me. Hans has agreed to help, giving a male perspective.


I am willing to admit I am not sophisticated enough to pull all the notes out of a scent.

But, as the cliché goes, I don't know a tuberose from a carnation, but I know what I like.

Like descriptions on wine lists, the language of perfumery is steeped in self-conscious purple prose and ambiguity. And the longer you live with it, the more you understand it.%

So maybe that's why Jean Patou's Joy, arguably the most famous scent in the world, doesn't trip my trigger. It doesn't "unroll" from crisp neroli through notes of jasmine, ylang-ylang^ and tuberose to the civet finish.§ It simply doesn't live up to its reputation.

For me, Joy is an unqualified disappointment. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it was magnificent. It was unparallelled. It was shiny.

I've read about Joy in novels. Women in novels wear Joy as an indication of how rich they are.@ Middle-class women treasured their one, tiny bottle of Joy and wore it only on the most special of occasions. Their daughters were occasionally allowed to sniff it and to them it smelled of something truly special.

To be honest, I think I thought it would smell brighter. And I hate to admit it, but I think I had a lingering thought of Joy dishwashing liquid in my head every time I "pictured"& the scent of Joy -- lemony, maybe.

This reminds me of Chanel No. 5 mixed with White Shoulders.

The initial blast smelled strongly of carnation. Within seconds, a strong aldehyde, one just like that in Chanel No. 5, wafted up and beat the carnation to the background.

A half-hour later, it was a deep,# sweet thing that has just a glimpse of the original carnation and aldehyde.

Now, nearly five hours in, there's almost nothing left but a grandmotherly powder.

I don't generally like old movies because the style of the day overshadows any good in the story, acting or filmmaking. I don't generally like classic literature because the style of the day obscures the clarity of the underlying story.

I guess I don't generally like classic perfumes because the style of the day overwhelms the cleaner, lighter elements I may like with over-rich aldehydes and overbearing florals.

And apparently I can't tell a tuberose from a carnation.

ETA: Perfumed Court says: "Created in 1930, Joy eau de parfum is a classic, rich floral with notes of Bulgarian rose, ylang-ylang, tuberose, jasmine from Grasse and May rose. A perfume you must smell if you have not."

Hans says: Diaper.††

FOOTNOTE (crossed): Though I have an uncanny knack for picking the tiniest bit of grapefruit out of any perfume that has it. Superpowers activate!

%FOOTNOTE (percented): And possibly agree with it.

FOOTNOTE (double-crossed): Chanel No. 5 being the argument.

^FOOTNOTE (careted): I kinda hate ylang-ylang. Good thing I can't smell it in this.

§FOOTNOTE (swerved): I read this in more than one place. Someone must have kyped a press release or a Nordtrom catalog entry or something.

@FOOTNOTE (atted): Though Joy is far from the most expensive perfume in the world anymore, it was once.

&FOOTNOTE (ampersanded): Is there a word like "pictured" for scent?

FOOTNOTE (paragraphed): You're going to think my experience is really limited. So far, I've managed to bring up White Shoulders and Chanel No. 5 every time (both) I've talked about perfume. It should also be noted that I don't find anything particularly compelling in either CN5 or WS. I think having sort of grown up with them, they are my suburban baseline -- the most banal scents I can think of outside Barbies and baby powder.

#FOOTNOTE (pounded): Which saves it from smelling like baby powder.

††FOOTNOTE (ddouble-ccrossed): "It doesn't really smell like diaper, but that's funny."

"You're not furthering the reputation of men, Hans."

"That's not my job."

With any luck, Hans will get more useful with future reviews.

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