Monday, March 28, 2016

Balenciaga Paris and Balenciaga L'Essence

Balenciaga Paris was the fragrance of the moment when I attended my first and only Sniffapalooza event in May of 2010. The way the violet was handled in this fragrance by the perfumer Oliver Polge was something unique. Violet had previously appeared as sweet and powdery or maybe very woody, but never this green and with a silvery metallic note. Wearing the fragrance for the first time, what struck me most was the restraint of the perfume. It was elegant and polished but in a quiet and refined way. The powers that be at Balenciaga, including presumably their designer Nicolas Ghesquiere, chose Charlotte Gainsbourg as the face of the perfume, and while she is a perfectly lovely young woman, I am recasting Cate Blanchett as the leading lady for Balenciaga. Lovely Cate, she of the chiseled jaw and luminescent SKII skin, perfect hair, and always dressed impeccably. She is who I see as the obvious choice to represent this classy scent.

The following year Mr. Polge created the first flanker, Balenciaga L'Essence, and while the majority of the time I find flankers redundant, this one presented an equally interesting facet and exploration of the original. On Fragrantica some people use the term "grandmother perfume" to describe both of these scents. I find this term to be dismissive of a wide swathe of the female population, but if your desire is to smell like cotten candy and Skittles, then yes, you may be in for a disappointment.

On the opening spray, Balenciaga Paris and Balenciaga L'Essence are almost twins on my skin, but after the first moment they begin to show their distinctive personalities.  B Paris feels like violet petals scattered in a rain puddle, while the opening of B L'Essence is one of the driest, greenest violets I've encountered.  The violets in B Paris unfurl with a touch of opulence, a hint of the fact that this is a floral chypre. Carnation is listed as a note but to my nose it is only fleetingly identifiable, and the powder that can sometimes be identified with carnation is just as tightly reined in as the powder of the violets. The patchouli and cedar ground the perfume but they also are a muted presence. The floral presence in B Paris never goes big; all the notes blend to make a harmonious cool veil of scent.

The violets in B Paris are a little darker and deeper then those of L'Essence, but still stick exceptionally close to the skin. It is a softly subtle violet with absolutely no sugar or powder. It is musky and soft. This would be a great everyday scent, but it is sophisticated enough to rock the formal occasion. It does not announce itself and may go somewhat unnoticed until you lean in close, but then this slip of a perfumed bouquet will make your companion feel as if they are sharing a fragrant secret.

B L'Essence is classified as a floral green fragrance, and initially the green takes precedence. When the violets come out they are soft with only a whisper of sweetness, and the addition of vetiver and sandalwood accentuate the green woodiness. The vetiver gives a slight citrus feel to the scent. B L'Essence makes me think of sheets hanging on a clothesline and basking in the sunlight, or a white starched shirt as the hot iron glides across the fabric. However don't think that this is a boring laundry scent like the Clean perfumes; there is much going on here, even though the presentation seems simple and straightforward. Cool Cate, unwrinkled and unruffled, would feel very at home in this scent!

Both of these perfumes are unisex, in fact I find it hard to decide whether a man or a woman would smell better in these. They have a similar vibe to Prada Insusion de Iris. You would never feel out of place in either of these Balenciaga violet tinged perfumes. When summer comes I will be trying to stifle the heat by amping up my perfumes to more cataclysmic levels. But in spring, at least early spring, I like to tiptoe into my florals. These pretty understated but never boring scents will make you feel like spring has sprung, even if winter is still wearing out her welcome.

The photo of Cate Blanchett is from an unidentified source.

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