Bal à Versailles 
Jean Desprez (1962)

Average Rating:  91 User Reviews

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Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

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About Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

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Jean Desprez
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Bal à Versailles is a women's perfume launched in 1962 by Jean Desprez

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

There are 91 reviews of Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez.

I have two bottles BaV. This is the current version of the EDT, and it is truly incredible. I also have a vintage EDC, which I’ll post about at some point as well. Civet has gotten a bad reputation in the current perfume community. Modern noses are so afraid of anything that isn’t squeaky clean, but there is so much fun to be had in the raunch of something like this. This perfume smells like an afternoon delight: Total smut for an hour or so and then you’re delightfully glowing for the rest if the evening, and no one around you can quite put a finger on why.

Bal A Versailles is a very good patchouli/woody/musk/floral perfume. Comparing it to Lauder Youth Dew is apt. People who talk about how "animalic" or "raunchy" it is are smelling the toilet water or cologne. The perfume is rather ladylike, although performance is HUGE. I remember Bal A Versailles smelling sweeter and more floral on my mother than it does on me, but my bottle is very vintage and perfumes do oxidize with time. On my skin Bal A Versailles is mainly a patchouli/floral bomb, the scent of a 1960s "Rich Hippie" type of girl, like Talitha Getty.

Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez (1962) is a very controversial perfume created by perfumer Jean Desprez, who was originally a perfumer both on his own and at his grandfather's house of F Millot, where he made scents like Crêpe de Chine by F. Millot (1925), although he also made fragrances for other houses as well, if that isn't confusing enough. Bal à Versailles is also the most famous - or infamous - creation of his to ever carry the Jean Desprez name, and one of the last things Desprez composed himself for his own brand, with subsequent perfumes coming from the house being products of other perfumers after the house was bought and sold to different owners (all from the US so far). As such, Bal à Versailles' many vintage formulations come under great scrutiny from collectors wishing to vet those done by the perfumer himself, and those done by later perfumers per cost or ingredients availability limitations, plus adjustment for modernizing tastes. I haven't smelled a bad version of this scent myself, just good, better, best. Your tastes may of course differ from mine. After the eighties is when the formula really started seeing synthetic adulteration though, as the perfume was brought downmarket.

You'll understand all the fuss about reformulations of this fragrance once you see the bit about Bal à Versailles being the first fragrance to out-price Jpy by Jean Patou (1930), a notoriously-expensive fragrance in the age before proper luxury brands like Amouage, Creed, Roja Dove, and the like. Of course, Patou would reclaim the throne lost to Desprez with 1000 by Jean Patou (1972), but that's another story. Bal à Versailles is most notorious for its combination of civet, leather, and indolic florals, all seeking to recreate 17th century aristocratic hedonism at the palace of the France's "Sun King". Of course, this perfume is so much more than teh sell of sex-soiled bedsheets, but I digress. Bergamot, mandarin orange, lemon, and neroli form a classically-sweet citrus opening that lays on a bed of rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang, and a bit of powdery iris. Halfway between Guerlain Shalimar (1925) and Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953), the middle-phase of Bal à Versailles is beaten only by its base of tolu balsam, sour leather, and that urinous civet, all "creamed" by sandalwood and vanilla. I don't really need to mention performance metrics do I? I'm pretty sure I don't. This stuff is nuclear in almost all formats.

This is every bit a dandy's dream, just like Jicky by Guerelain (1989) and Cabochard de Grès (1959), so it's not surprising to hear a considerable number of men wore Bal à Versailles too, including the aforementioned Roja Dove and most famously, Michael Jackson. Once everything actually settles down, Bal à Versailles is much less scary than people think, and is much less "horny monster" than it actually is "unrepentant tease". Granted, if you're a macho manly-man who chews on sawdust for breakfast and practices his monotone speech to avoid revealing honor-compromising emotion, this is not a fragrance for you, although I bet you wear Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent (1981), which is deliciously ironic to me for reasons I won't expound here. Fans of classic French perfumery, and in particular the darker "floriental" chypres like the aforementioned Youth Dew or even the original Chypre de Coty (1917) should feel right at home in Bal à Versailles, which is really just a lusty maiden bound by a breath-constricting corset, bottled. The eau de cologne is the most animalic ironically, with stronger concentrations leaning more on sandalwood and the heavier elements of the base. You may not be a Sex God or Goddess wearing this, but you'll feel like one. Thumbs up

Diehard frag heads know full well the legend of Bal a Versailles, the pomp and circumstance, Roja Dove, Michael Jackson, the whole nine, so I won't regale you as to all those details. You'll easily find them elsewhere...

I am just going to give my very own personal response to this icon: marvelous.

I can't compare to older formulations, I won't bemoan performance of "SPL" because that's not how I roll. I know full well now that a lot of this has to do with perception, and often perception is flawed or swayed, or the individual develops this almost pathological obsession of preposterous proportions, sort of akin to the "FMO" malaise. However, in my mind, in my heart, I smell the depth, spirit, and history when smelling this, even in, dare I say, this current formulation.

The sacred and profane collide here: roses, lilac and jasmine gussied up, leathered up, then dirtied up. These flowers have entered the 'back room,' if you catch my drift. It is as if Knize Ten and Royal Bain de Caron had a gay marriage. The civet note is a trained kitty but still gets its tail into some business, and the old fashioned rose note is a keystone to all the tension and release, dissonance and consonance in the development of Bal a Versailles. The dry down is a sheer, smoldering, yet animalic base of resins.

I definitely recommend that serious fragrance enthusiasts invest in a bottle, even if for reference.

Conniving and vulnerable, ravishing and monstrous, she wears many hats, and one amazing wig, lots of makeup, bracelets, to cinvince an overconfident insurance agent to kill her husband. Playing a frustrated housewife, a damsel in distress, and a heartless villain. Because a femme fatale is defined by her duality, and one of the greatest Femme Fatale of all time is Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944).

A vintage scent with timeless relevance. It smells nostalgic like antique stores and reminds me of scratchy old records, old books, old 60's shag rugs, autumn colored furniture, and dusty Tiffany lamps. This is everything a perfume should be:sultry makes a strong presence, and lasting. it's like a folk music festival campground in a bottle. Deep lush citruses, an almost liquor-like vanilla, and a powdery, smoky chypre finish. It reminds me of Tabu.

The opening notes include citruses, with a fragrant lemon grass type of smell, some neroli and freshness. The leather notes emerges slowly before it takes over in the dry down. Before you there you smell powdery&balsamic some vanilla, amber and musk. The civet is a good note for the cold winter months. It envelops you in the warmth of It's animalic embrace.It's a 1960's women's, lib,I-am-woman-hear-me-roar scent. Like. It's not feminine it's womanly.

If you're a little shrinking violet, unsure-of-yourself wallflower, this is absolutely not the fragrance for you. It has too much presence and makes no apologies for veing either female or powerful. One of the sexiest women's perfume. Longevity is astonishing.

I have been wearing BaV since the early 80's. My current bottle is from the early 2000's. The top has an aldehydic buzz even though none exist. I think it's the blend of all the top notes, that creates this vibe. It is bubbly, champagne-like, well-blended. The civet from the base notes, appears shortly after the top begins to settle. It has no sweetness on top. It has an almost earthy mood.

Rose and muguet appear. Ultra sheer lilac. Mellow jasmine - ladylike. A layer of leather lies just beneath. A layer of ylang ylang makes its presence known after a time.

The base is not sugary sweet. It is a muddy sweetness with again, an earthy appeal. Expertly blended cedar, sandalwood, boozy vanilla, civet (still here!), benzoin, and a fuzzy balsam. Worn out in fresh air, BaV totally reveals her charms.

The base grows more intense after a time. A very adult perfume.

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