The Intriguing case of the......

An Intriguing case for the delectation of Basenotes..............

In the 1970's little schoolchildren all over Europe were encouraged to choose penpals from a list of other little schoolchildren, the objective being that they would learn something about each other. I chose Helmut, a boy from Germany, whom I hope is happy and living well, but my story does not concern him. I also chose a girl from France. Her name was Francoise. Francoise Lelong.

In her first letter she sent a phograph. I can see it now. She was very pretty and bright and I liked her. She told me that her father made perfume. Also in the letter she enclosed a little card. I could tell you now that it was a business card. But at that time, all that I knew of it was that it was a perfumed card. Believe me esteemed reader when I tell you that I can still smell that card. Oddly, I cant really describe it other than to say that it smelled beautiful, powdery, dry, but also with something which struck a high note. I treasured that little card. It kept its fragrance for a long time, or I imagined that it did.

Sadly, as is the way with many childish pursuits, our little literary liaison did not last.

Fast forward, well ... a few years. A lovely friend gave me a special gift. She is aware of my interest in fragrance, my hobby. She lives with a magpie who has been collecting curios, stuff, and odds and sods for many years. She presented me with a little box. I will take you to it. On a sleeve made of black faux snakeskin there is a gold label. On the label we can see "Collection Les Antiques". It tells us that inside there are three perfumes from the 1930's. For two of them the perfumer is Lucien Lelong.

The intrigue deepens in other ways when we open the box because the contents do not match the sleeve. The whole appears to be made up of the remains of two similar boxes. The inside is blue faux snakeskin with a gold tassle. Nestling inside are three litle bottles of perfume, "Balalaita", "Opening Night", both by Lucien Lelong, and "Un Air Embaume", this is by by Rigaud. Are they original? I don't know. Is the perfumer my pretty penpal's grandfather............................................

Footnote; This was a delightful gift to recieve but I would be happy to donate to, swap with, or make some other arrangement with someone if they have a genuine interest. One of the fragrances is still wearable. If you are interseted please contact me and I can describe the contents in greater detail.


Blog Comments


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 26, 2005
Very interesting story indeed. What country are you coming from? As a European child I also had penpals in the early 80s and they were fun. I would encourage you to go through your old diaries or papers, find her address and try writing to her.

Out of the three I am only familiar with LL Balalaika but I would be thrilled getting to know the other two. Could we please see your Wardrobe so that we know what you are looking for in terms of swapping?


Well-known member
Feb 8, 2009
What a great story. Do any of the perfumes remind you of that long ago card? Sadly, my scent memore and my scent preferences change with time and I did not recognize any of my mother's old perfumes when I found them later.


Well-known member
Sep 2, 2006
ECaruthers, you asked the question I was wondering too! Did one of them smell the same as the card?


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2010
Nah, they did not. What a buzz it would have been if one of them had smelled the same!! The old ones, whether genuine or reproduction, all smell dense and resinous, the wee card was oooooh, I just cant describe it. Rememnber too that it would be of a style of almost forty years later. Hopefully some day I will have some kind of epiphany or I will come across something made in a Lelong factory in the 70's, or maybe someone can point me in the right direction......?

Thank you so much for your interest.


Active member
Sep 26, 2010
Wonderful story. The persistence of perfumes in people's memory never ceases to amaze me. Even more so with sensitive people. Is that one of the reason why usually women love perfumes more than men?


Well-known member
Aug 18, 2011
just a quick sidenote, what if the little perfumed card was a sample that was never actually released? maybe something Mr. Lelong was working on? just an odd thought. I hope one day maybe you'll come across that exact scent again. Scent is supposedly by scientist the one sense of smell deeply rooted in memory.


Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2010
Hey Hedi, the wee box has winged it's way over the Atlantic to a venerable Basenotes friend who is interested in vintage, and she is trying to find out what she can about it. What fun!

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