First Eau de Parfum fragrance notes

  • Head

    • aldehydes, mandarin, blackcurrant, peach, raspberry, hyacinth
  • Heart

    • turkish rose, narcissus, jasmine, lily of the valley, carnation, orchid, tuberose, orris
  • Base

    • amber, tonka, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, honey, civet

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Latest Reviews of First Eau de Parfum

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First isn't so much a pyramid as a Nile delta of notes, fanning out as it does from mandarin and peach to a multi layered masterpiece.
It starts with a quote from Roudnitska's Femme, but any sense that it's an homage to Ellena's teacher is soon put aside. The pupil doesn't follow the master but begins his own journey - which heads away from the chypre, and towards a milky-soft floral. Sumptuously done, you may not want to wear this, but any perfume lover should try it at least once
(in vintage of course.)
23rd January 2022
An absolute masterpiece. First is such a cushion of elegance and beauty, a buffer against a world filled with tattoos, Wal-Folk and fast food. A romantic & sensual scent. Imagine Olivia de Havilland mixture with Ava Gardner! A strong feminine white floral without the sharp aldehydes. First on healthy, blood-nourished, unbathed skin, becomes an alluring creamy floral perfume. It's black merino-wool turtleneck jumper perfect for holding a mug of coffe at a chic cafe.

It's very floral but not too heady. Once you get over the intoxicating peachy aldehydes in the beginning, it develops into a floral and feminine scent. Ylang ylang is kind of the princess above them all. I get hynocenth here as welltwirl into some darker activities with the dissolutes: powdery musk, sandalwood and vanilla makes a soft powdery, but secure scent that embodies it's wearer with dignity and femininity in a way that many fragrances fail to de currently.

The aldehydes are sparkling, and could be a perfect example to noses in training as an ultimate example of possibly the most successful use of such ingredients. If you're someone who's put off by big aldehydes (Chanel No.5) then First is a great starter into the aldehydic olfactory group. This is definitely no modern fly-by-night fragrance, this girl has got the confidence to go the distance. Old lipstick with high heels and elegant trench coat maybe sexy black dress and perfect winger eyeliner. In colder weather though, especially on an evening out, this makes you believe you are a classy seductive parisian woman in 1976.
10th January 2021

What a gorgeous scent! I have been collecting samples this week, and so far this is the one that has made me sit up and pay attention - I really must get an FB when my sample is finished. Other reviewers have commented on the way this scent reminds them of wealth and power, and is not aimed at a younger market but for "an older woman with a Pekinese" (as one review said). Well, I don't have a dog at all, I'm mad about cats and am definitely in the older category, but I remember falling in love with First for the first time when it was released, in the late 1970s, while I was still young. What most impressed me then, and still does, is that it is a supremely romantic fragrance. I don't get the allusion to money or bossiness that others have noted. Instead, I get the feeling of intense, romantic longing - that feeling that you get when you ache for someone or something, the emotion that, in fragrance, corresponds with, say, "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" in music. Romantic, passionate, longing, intensity - that is what First is to me. I absolutely love it.
17th July 2020
I knew a woman who worked in Wall Street some years ago. She was intelligent, smart, beautiful, and determined. This was her perfume!

No need to rehash what Jean Claude Ellena has done with Frederic Malle and Hermes, in his signature "aquarelle" style, ghostly wisps of odor floating on air, beautiful but fleeting and devoid of "form."

This one has big-boned "form." Everything here is over-the-top. This is perfumery in the grand manner. There is an excess of aldehydes, flowers, woods, and a menacingly animalic dry-down caused by civet.

This is a perfume for intimidation. More dense than Chanel No. 5, and less joyful than Joy, with the bite of "1000."

It is a masterpiece!

14th May 2020
Van Cleef & Arpels First (1976) is the aptly-named debut perfume for the house, and second composition released by perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena of eventual Cartier and Hermès fame. Ellena stayed within the lines of convention with First, as he hadn't yet devised his hallmark transparent citric style at this early stage, but ended up making a landmark aldehyde floral chypre which put VC&A on the map perfume-wise. There are a lot of similarities between First and classic mature perfumes like Jean Patou Joy (1930) and Lanvin Arpège (1927), but First shows an exercise in blending that is arguably a cut above even some of the biggest "dames" of all time like Chanel No. 5 (1921) or Guerlain Mitsouko (1919) and the reason is in the dry down. Van Cleef & Arpels First does what other aldehyde florals in this category fail to do: Showcase a consistent accord from start to finish. In the modern age people might complain this is being linear since we're used to aromachemicals accomplishing a certain banal sameness from beginning to end, but First still allows progression through layers like any good classic perfume but with a beating heart that continues the entire way.

The opening of Van Cleef & Arpels First features the prerequisite aldehydes and bergamot for the style, but a smooth three-fold raspberry/blackcurrant/peach fruit keeps the aldehydes from being too sharp, a lesson learned from the sunny tomboy drugstore chypre Revlon Charlie (1973), but applied to a higher-budget perfume. The rose and jasmine sit somewhere between Chanel No. 5 and Jean Patou 1000 (1973), but there is a bit of tuberose like that of Jean Patou Joy mixed with a clean white floral bouquet of narcissus, lily of the valley and iris, keeping the indoles in check. The impeccable balance and blending continues into the base with just the right amount of civet stirred into a creamy foundation of musk, sandalwood, tonka, and oakmoss, with dry pangs of vetiver to once again keep the overall accord from being too rich or heavy. The end result is a familiar golden floral glow like other perfumes of the same ilk, but without any seams showing. The voluminous aldehyde push of No. 5 is controlled, the fleshy simplicity of Joy reigned in, the raunchy animalic undertone of Arpège buried in creamy clean. First is a one-stop-shop for the aldehydic floral, and one fans of the time-tested genre will likely wear as a signature in all seasons.

The generalist perfume as we know it in the 21st century didn't exist when Van Cleef & Arpels First emerged on the market, because guys and gals just wore wherever whenever, but if there was ever a generalist in the aldehydic floral genre, I'd nominate Van Cleef & Arpels First to that title. This stuff is just fantastically diffuse, never heavy, but always full, like the transparency of Jean-Claude Ellena's later perfumes but without such apologetic sillage. There is strength and delicacy in Van Cleef & Arpels First that few other florals duplicate without fancy chemical tricks or a loss of complexity. The style is woefully out of fashion especially in a post-IFRA perfume industry that seeks to outlaw all natural ingredients in the name of patented chemicals that firms can use to wrest control away from the houses who hire them, but a person of any gender who appreciates friendly and radiant perfume with a definite old-time "perfumey" air about it will love Van Cleef & Arpels First. This is simply one of the best in the genre I have smelled, and the "First" anyone should sample from the category. Thumbs up!
21st May 2019
Stardate 20180913:

When I was a newbie, I got a bunch of these from Target to give as gifts. I liked the shape of bottle,its name and it smelled decent though a bit old school.

With time, as I tried more fragrances, I thought this is a knock off of other aldehydic florals. Stopped caring for.

A month or two ago I came across vintage version on eBay for cheap and snapped it up. And I am glad I did cause this version is simply amazing.
You can smell the whole floral symphony with 3D effect. But that is not even the best part. The drydown is where you see its beauty in full. Soft, powdery sanadalwood.

It is hard to describe how good this is. I have Arpege and Joy in vintage formulation and I find First to be superior. Arpege is too indolic, First goes low on indoles and uses civet to add the funk. Arpege blinds with aldehydes while First uses it for a shimmering glow.
Joy is a great white floral but it is simple. Lacks the evolution First has.
I have not tried vintage No 5 but the current No 5 is nowhere near any of these 3 vintage florals.
All I can say is that this is Ellena's best work and he should have stuck to this style.

Vintage Version is 5 stars. Current is 3 stars.
13th September 2018
Show all 48 Reviews of First Eau de Parfum by Van Cleef & Arpels