Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 2 (Joy)

This is Part 2 of a series of five posts in which I'll recommend variations on a classic. Today it's Joy by Jean Patou. The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Joy, or perfumes with similarities.

(In part 1 I explored Shalimar, you can view the post Here  and in the next 3 posts I'll explore No 5, Chanel 19 and Femme)

Compared with the others I've included in this classic series, Joy by Jean Patou (created by perfumer Henri Alméras) is the biggest divider of taste. This has a lot to do with the inclusion of civet, which when added to a high percentage of high quality jasmine, equals musky!

Reputed to contain 10,000 jasmine flowers (both Sambac and Grandiflorum) and the petals of 300 roses, Joy is the opposite of minimalist chic. Launched during the depression in 1929 its lush decadance and high price was a counter-intuitive move by Jean Patou (who already had a high profile as a fashion designer).

His designs were popular with American high society, but when the Wall Street Crash hit hard, his fortunes plummeted.
But it was perfume (as a taste of slightly more affordable luxury) that kept the house of Patou afloat, and given that Patou died in 1936, not long after Joy's launch, perhaps creating this excessively rich perfume (described by fashion columnist Elsa Maxwell at the time as as "the costliest perfume in the world") was his swan song.

1933 - the end of prohibition on alcohol in the US

Looked at from this perspective, Joy might not be so much a vulgar statement of status and wealth, as a gesture of carefree, even reckless joy in the face of his own loss, which was reflected in the lives of many, rich and poor, during the depression of the 1930s. Whatever the case, it worked, since Joy was extremely popular

I must admit that my first whiff of joy was not exactly, erm, joyful! I'd sprayed a little on my wrist as I perused the gleaming shelves of Jenner's perfume department in Edinburgh and I'd forgotten all about it, distracted as I was by various new and intriguing perfumes to sniff. 

Then something caught my attention..'is that the smell of a men's urinal'? I wondered to myself, before locating the origin of the offensive odour to my wrist. I muttered to myself  'so this is what they mean when they say 'animalic''

Patou coat design
My experience of perfume told me that these civet notes would calm to a warm hum, blending with the abstract floral bouquet (which includes subtle notes of fresh honeysuckle and tuberose, with sandalwood emerging into drydown)

It struck me as the perfume of a very wealthy lady, bedecked in ankle-length furs down to her crocodile skin shoes, impeccably, if scarily well-groomed. The one thing Joy is not, is casual.

Like many rich floral classics, I can appreciate its complexity and quality. Also there's nothing of Chanel's bourgeois minimal tight-lipped aura here either. Joy clearly doesn't give a shit how others perceive her!

Humour aside though, the version I'd tested was the eau de toilette, and it was only when I tried the eau de parfum that I got the full sense of Joy. There's always noticable civet (noticable that is, if your nose isn't anosmic to it, many people simply don't smell musky notes). The edp drydown is lovely - long, long lasting velvety rose/sandalwood/musk. And in fact the touches of honeysuckle, lily and rose, all quite soapy florals, counteract civet and rich jasmine in the heart of this generous and abundant perfume.

Contemporary perfumes similar in style to Joy..

There are, as with most classics, many varieties of Joy, not just edt, edp and parfum, but new riffs on the floral bouquet such as Eau de Joy and Joy Forever. They could be of interest for different seasons, since Joy edp is probably too heady for summer (or certainly for hot summer days). 

Similar classics include Van Cleef and Arpel's First - another aldehydic ladylike floral which could appeal to those who enjoy Joy!

Thinking about a contemporary equivalent is interesting, there's not really anything comparable exactly. However, I'm thinking of warm, floral ladylike perfumes with a musky element, and Annick Goutal's beautiful Songes springs to mind. It's more relaxed than Joy, perhaps one to wear on holiday, especially as its white floral bouquet includes exotic florals such as Frangipani and ylang as well as jasmine. The jasmine is quite animalic, not so much urinous, as slightly humid or sweaty in feel.

If it's the rich civetous floral abundance of Joy you seek, try Amouage perfumes such as Ubar, or Gold, both of which feature rich complex floral/musk bouquets. Gold is more ladylike, plus it echoes Joy's rich rose/jasmine/musk blend, Ubar is more animalic and woody, both are perfect dressy-up evening perfumes. Or try the animalic, heady Rubj by Vero Profumo (though it's spicy as well as floral)

If you crave high quality jasmine (and it must be said that to enjoy Joy you must love jasmine since it contains a high percentage of both grandiflora and sambac varieties!) then you might like to experiment with perfumes such as A La Nuit by Serge Lutens (a bright, yet slightly fecal blend of authentic jasmines) or Bruno Acampora's Jasmin T (the more urinous Grandiflora).  

Jasmine T is a one-note sort of perfume, it's probably worth trying a sample just to experience that aspect of
animalic jasmine in isolation. Of the two I prefer A La Nuit, but though there is a lot of jasmine at first spray, it does calm to a pleasant jasmine musk with a hint of clove.

For an uplifting, yet heady jasmine, try Montale's Jasmine Full - it's mostly about authentic jasmine, but contains the brighter, soapy notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom

Another perfume perhaps worth trying in this vein is Amaranthine by Penhaligon's - a musky, milky white floral with hints of green leaves.

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