B. Balenciaga : Fragrance Review

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As I take whiffs from a blotter of B. Balenciaga, I think of curves. Or to use French perfumery jargon, gras. Call it whatever you want–richness, unctuousness or fat, it denotes a certain voluptuous quality. Chanel No. 22 has plenty of it. Robert Piguet Fracas is positively wallowing in opulence. Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum, to use a recent example, has a discrete but well-judged dose. By contrast, B. Balenciaga is a slender creature.  Not many curves on it.

balenciaga

The lack 0f curves in B. doesn’t entirely detract from its charm. It’s true that many big launches are so market tested and panel judged that by the time they hit the store shelves, they’re nothing but pale bones. (If you want gras, then you have to explore boutique brands, but that, forgive the pun, requires a fat wallet.) B. is much better than most. Yes, it’s sheer and mild mannered, but it makes up for the lack of lush, soft layers with sparkling accords of green buds, spring blossoms and crisp amber. It has a contemporary radiant aesthetic, and the kind of versatility that makes B. suitable for all sorts of occasions.

The green, cucumber peel like note forms the main impression, with pink rose petals and a few violets framing the composition. The backdrop of B. is a block of dry, crisp amber and woody musk (the type of musk that has baby skin softness but at the same time smells strongly of cedarwood shavings), and you notice this shimmering effect as soon as B. settles on your skin. Think Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, but without the citrus and apples. Their place is taken by lily of the valley and violets.

What you see within the first 5 minutes is what you get 5 hours later. On me, this delicate thing wears like iron and it hums the tune of lily of the valley, violet, and amber with remarkable consistency. B. is enjoyable, refreshing and easy-going, but while I like wearing my sample from time to time, it’s not a perfume for the long haul. After I went on a trip with nothing but a decant of B. in my luggage, I returned home wanting to marinate myself in animalic musks, vanillas and honeyed roses. A perfume may not need Rubenesque curves, but a bit of richness is essential.

B. Balenciaga includes notes of lily of the valley, violet leaves, green accords of edamame peas, orris, cedar, ambrette seed and cashmere wood.

If you have suggestions for fresh florals with an interesting twist, I would love to hear them.

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75 Comments

  • Austenfan: One day of Rien should remedy that need 😉
    It sounds quite nice but probably ultimately not my thing.
    This review reminds me of your MPCPC review where you celebrate the presence of “gras”. February 9, 2015 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Rien is a perfect antidote to these skinny perfumes. Or Chopard Casmir! 🙂 I like B as a light, pleasant floral, and the price isn’t too high, which is another plus. But it definitely makes me crave something rich after a while. February 9, 2015 at 8:37am Reply

  • Alicia: This is not going to be my cup of tea.Give me Chanel 22. As for amber just what I am wearing today, radiant L’Air du Désert Marocain. I love some curves. Thank you for the review, Victoria, otherwise I might have fallen for the Balenciaga, just for my enduring nostalgia of Le Dix. February 9, 2015 at 9:47am Reply

    • Victoria: L’Air du Désert Marocain is the polar opposite of B! 🙂
      Have you tried Balenciaga Paris? It’s no Le Dix, but it’s really well crafted and elegant. The rose version is also very good. February 9, 2015 at 10:28am Reply

      • Alicia: Yes, Victoria, I have tried and like Balenciaga Paris, Since I adore roses I should also try the rose version. Thank you so much for the recommendation! February 9, 2015 at 10:35am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s light and clean as well, but it has a thicker rose note, and the combination with the green leafy accents is pretty. I prefer it to Florabotanica, for instance. February 9, 2015 at 11:01am Reply

          • Alicia: Thank you, Victoria! Light rose among green leaves sounds enticing for the warmer seasons. By then I will no longer be in Upstate NY covered by endless snows, but in my California house, with a garden of vintage roses with their various entrancing aromas. In a side wall of the house bloom two jasmines. I like to combine their flowers with the old roses and fill the house with those bouquets. You would enjoy their smell. As for fresh florals I still have an old bottle of one I like very much, but you must know it well, Cacharel, Noa. February 9, 2015 at 11:52am Reply

            • Victoria: Sounds like heaven! Just imagining the scents of your garden makes me sigh happily. I’m typing a response to you as I sit by my small jasmine plant. Belgian sun is too stingy to make it bloom. February 9, 2015 at 12:46pm Reply

              • Alicia: It is February, Victoria; my jasmines in California are not in bloom either. By April the sun will be more generous, and by May roses and jasmines will offer their chants d’aromes.Your jasmine is now dreaming; let it dream. February 9, 2015 at 1:13pm Reply

                • Victoria: Mine has never bloomed here, but at least, this month it grew one new shoot. 🙂 February 9, 2015 at 3:00pm Reply

                  • bregje: My jasmine plant did bloom last year! In Holland.So it’s possible,Victoria! February 9, 2015 at 7:16pm Reply

                    • Victoria: Do you give it plant food, Bregje? February 10, 2015 at 6:10am

                    • bregje: yes,just Pokon.
                      And it took 3 years before i saw some blossom.
                      But last year all of a sudden it bloomed twice(may and august).
                      The scent was so nice!
                      But mediterranean plants are difficult to keep here. I also love oleanders but almost every winter
                      i lose a plant or two
                      I’ve tried everything:bringing them inside for the winter gave them lice and/or fungus. Leaving them outside but garded from the wind is the safest bet. Oh and my garden faces south-west.so that’s nice and warm(relatively;) )for the jasmine. February 10, 2015 at 8:41pm

                    • Victoria: I see two more new branches on my plant! So, it’s not dead after all. February 11, 2015 at 11:50am

  • Ariadne: Agreed, I think I can say that personally I am obsessed with Chanel 22 and just nothing else will do for me.
    This one might make a lovely gift though for someone just starting to explore perfume. February 9, 2015 at 10:24am Reply

    • Victoria: It would be great for someone who wants a clean, easy fragrance or something to alternate with heavier blends. It’s pretty, but wearing it for several days in a row made me think of eating nothing but salads. I love salads and have them as sides for most meals, but I can’t survive on salad alone. February 9, 2015 at 10:26am Reply

  • Karen: Sounds……nice. Which is fine for some times and some people, but I’ve come to realize that I want that gorgeousness and lushness and beauty in my perfumes (as Fergie sings in “Be Italian”, “When you pinch me, pinch me where there’s fat!”). Ones that aren’t described as clean or light. Even in the summer, there are deep fragrances that aren’t suffocating (hello A la nuit and a very light spray of Fracas). Thanks for the review! February 9, 2015 at 10:36am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a great line! It doesn’t sound like you would be the right candidate for B, then. Can’t find a plump spot on this perfume. 🙂 February 9, 2015 at 11:04am Reply

      • Karen: I had to laugh as my samples just arrived, including Botrytis, True Lust and Putain des Palaces, and Hedonist Rose – all about 180′ from B! (the video of Be Italian from the movie “Nine” is quite good, a bit naughty, but fun). February 9, 2015 at 3:30pm Reply

        • Victoria: For sure! Nothing like B from the sound of it. What are your thoughts on True Lust? February 9, 2015 at 4:21pm Reply

          • Karen: I get a strong leather opening and a powdery floral coconut (a lot going on). My samples included Putain as I was curious after Feb.’s Recommend Me a Perfume where it was mentioned. Not tooooo much difference, although True Lust seems softer.

            I’ve been imagining who would wear what fragrance lately and for both of these I can see a woman trial attorney who needs a close wearing, confidently assertive but interesting fragrance – with no coyness. Strong bones to the perfume without being a masculine scent, and just a few dabs needed.

            However, I can also see me wearing True Lust while at the museum or library! February 10, 2015 at 6:35am Reply

            • Victoria: I like powdery perfumes, because they have such a comforting feel to me, so True Lust is seriously tempting. I don’t think that PdP is such a polarizing scent (the name aside), and it can definitely be worn lightly at work. February 10, 2015 at 10:47am Reply

              • Karen: They are both quite warm – it would be interesting to see how a few good sprays worked as opposed to the little dabs from the sample bottles. But definitely both would work at work, as they weren’t the loud/rash scents their names suggest. February 10, 2015 at 5:09pm Reply

                • Victoria: Etat Libre D’Orange’s marketing is much more outrageous than their perfumes, which are often quite elegant and carefully composed. February 11, 2015 at 11:49am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I love salad as well, but even in a salad there must be some garlic…I guess this B will not be to my taste.
    Give me Femme, even the bottle has curves. February 9, 2015 at 10:40am Reply

    • Victoria: This one is miles away from Femme! Or even Marc Jacobs for Her, a watery gardenia with an unexpectedly buttery slick. This is my perfume today. February 9, 2015 at 11:03am Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Watery gardenia sounds good! I will try that one, thank you for the tip! February 9, 2015 at 5:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s such a good perfume. Another nice fresh gardenia is Ralph Lauren Blue, but it might be discontinues. It really smells like gardenia petals floating on water. February 10, 2015 at 6:10am Reply

          • Karen: I love Marc Jacobs’ For Her, it is a lovely gardenia at a good price. February 10, 2015 at 6:37am Reply

            • Victoria: Michael Kors is another good tuberose/gardenia, but Marc Jacobs, which is thought to be a copy of Kors, is much softer and easier to wear. February 10, 2015 at 10:48am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: I have Michael Kors, love it! The only compliment I ever got on perfume, was on Michael. February 10, 2015 at 12:48pm Reply

                • Victoria: My friend wears Michael Kors, and I was a witness to 3 different people complimenting her on the subway. In NYC! Where people hardly ever look at each other on the train. 🙂 February 11, 2015 at 11:47am Reply

      • Mara: Marc Jacobs for her is my desert Island scent – i’ve loved it for more years than i can count. I’ve never been able to put my finger on what is so compelling within its watery beauty…perhaps it is that richeness – a buttery note you call it. It is a heavenly scent April 20, 2016 at 8:25am Reply

  • Roberta: I got a sample a few weeks ago and I didn’t like it that much. Like you I decided to take it to my vacation to Mexico and I actually quite liked it then. Maybe it was the tropical weather or the fact that I was happy to be traveling.
    But either way people asked me what I was wearing a few times. So I guess it is the kind of perfume that works well in the heat.
    The reference to Light Blue is spot on! That was the first thing I thought when I tried it for the first time. February 9, 2015 at 11:57am Reply

    • Victoria: I got a few compliments on B too from friends, so I suspect it has a good sillage. I will hold onto my sample and will revisit it time to time, especially on days after I overdo it with Rien. February 9, 2015 at 12:49pm Reply

      • Daisy: As a Rien junkie, I do not understand this word “overspray.” 🙂 February 10, 2015 at 1:21pm Reply

      • Daisy: Or even “overdo.” 🙂 February 10, 2015 at 1:21pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re a woman after my heart. 🙂 February 11, 2015 at 11:47am Reply

  • XJ: Great review! I myself tend to like linear perfumes for long hard days because I can trust it to smell nice all day long, but it’s fantastic to wear nonlinear ones!
    What kinds of honeyed roses do you wear in the summer? February 9, 2015 at 12:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: True, it would be great on such days. It’s a good perfume, all in all.

      In the summer, I would go for Annick Goutal Rose Splendide or Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose, which are like a shower of rose petals. But if I want something a bit more substantial and honeyed, then Frederic Malle Une Rose or Guerlain Nahema would be my choices. Or Goutal’s Rose Absolue, which is another beauty. February 9, 2015 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Aurora: I like Balenciaga Paris quite a lot too, for its violet, but it is rather subtle as well, certainly no powerhouse. It is strange that they are releasing another light floral when they were once the house which produced Rumba – now there is oomph in that one and it’s not linear with that marvellous strange drydown! Of course the House of Balenciaga has changed quite a lot since then. February 9, 2015 at 12:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also wish for Balenciaga Paris to be more dramatic, because while I like it a lot, after a while it fades on me, and it’s the end of our story. B, by contrast, lasts and lasts, even though it’s delicate. And I agree with you, Balenciaga changed its aesthetics a lot. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I hope that their next release has more curves. February 9, 2015 at 4:31pm Reply

      • bregje: I feel the same way about Balenciaga Paris.
        Every time i try it i love it(i have a bottle) but i forget about it easily.
        I was very curious about the rose-version(love roses) but that did not come out in the Netherlands,unfortunately. February 9, 2015 at 7:22pm Reply

        • bregje: i’m going to try and sniff B this week;it sounds promissing.(And a lot of my friends call me B so what could go wrong;)?) February 9, 2015 at 7:26pm Reply

          • Victoria: Nothing! 🙂 And it might end up as something smelling great on you. February 10, 2015 at 6:12am Reply

        • Victoria: L’Essence Paris, by contrast, was too sharp for me, and I missed the violet leaf part. I didn’t realize Rose Paris didn’t come out in the Netherlands, but you’re right, I tested it in Paris. I don’t remember seeing it in Belgium. February 10, 2015 at 6:12am Reply

          • bregje: I just went upstairs to try both l’essence and the original side by side;).
            On me l’essence isn’t sharp but rather sweet.
            I prefer the original:it’s more ethereal and soft.
            Yes,i miss the leaves as well. February 10, 2015 at 9:12pm Reply

            • Victoria: I need to try it again, because it’s been a while since I wore it on skin. On paper it develops so slowly. February 11, 2015 at 11:51am Reply

  • MJ: The notes sounded so sophisticated. Unfortunately this one was a “wash off” for me. It was indeed a very cold day when I ventured to my local Nordstrom and allowed myself a sample spray. Just kept thinking of aftershave. Offered it to my husband,but, to his nose, it was too flowery. Guess I will stick to “curves” and garlic in my salads for now. Will remind myself to revisit some hot, summer day. February 9, 2015 at 1:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hmm, I can see what you mean about the aftershave. It has a sharp note in the drydown, which might give that impression. I would be curious if you enjoy it more in the summer. February 9, 2015 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Alicia: Suggestion of a frssh floral. One I truly love is Hermes, Osmanthe Yunnan. If you haven’t tried it,please do. If you have, I’ll be grateful for your opinion. I find it delicious. February 9, 2015 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like Osmanthe Yunnan a lot, and it’s one of my favorite tea fragrances. The problem is that it doesn’t last on me. At all. I smell it for the first 30 minutes, and then poof, and it’s gone. February 9, 2015 at 4:32pm Reply

      • Alicia: Oh, I am so sorry, Victoria. In me it lasts longer,but not quite three hours. I reaply, but for half an hour there is really no point. Alas! February 9, 2015 at 4:58pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love it so much that I reapply, but I’m not sure if I’ll re-buy once my bottle runs out. I also can’t wait for the new fragrances by Christine Nagel, the second in-house perfumer Hermes recently hired. February 9, 2015 at 5:26pm Reply

  • Brenda: Hello. This is just a general “scent” comment. As is my habit, I lit a newly purchased candle after dinner last evening. Not only did all cooking odours disappear…it filled the surrounding area with a beautiful, refreshing scent. It is a Sinclair…natural soy candle…Mudlark-Made in USA. The beautiful glass jar is just a bonus! I burn a candle every evening I am at home….and this will become a favourite. (I also love Cranberry Amaretto from Millhouse Creamery…though it is very strong…only needs a 15 minute burn to circulate). Have a beautifully scented day, everyone! February 9, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like a good all-purpose candle. Is it a light floral scent or something else? February 9, 2015 at 4:33pm Reply

  • annemarie: Thanks for the review. I have not smelled this yet but remember sampling the new release of Balmain’s Ivoire and receiving a similar impression, that of a light and rather thin perfume of almost irritating tenacity.

    Baghari is one of my favourite curvaceous perfumes, although I don’t wear it often. I didn’t care for Chanel No 22 and gave away my sample ages ago, but recently I sniffed it again in a Chanel boutique and liked it very much. I’m sorry now that I don’t have my sample. But if I already own a large decant of Bagahari, maybe I don’t need No 22? Hmmm … February 9, 2015 at 8:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: Baghari is in the same ballpark as No 22, but it’s much sweeter to me. I love the nuances in No 22, including incense in the drydown. It’s such an intriguing counterpoint to the waxy, aldehydic part and the buttery floral part. February 10, 2015 at 6:14am Reply

  • solanace: Well, since you mentioned the great Rubens, that’s the amount of curves that I want, please. Perfume is dreaming, and I want to dream of gods and heroes and women in rich brocades. Shalimar makes me feel so good during my day, even with a bare face, flats and a hippie skirt. It just suffices. That said, I really appreciate that you can objectively review mainstream launches with no snobbery at all. That’s so useful. February 10, 2015 at 3:20am Reply

    • Victoria: The image you’ve painted is fantastic. Like you, I don’t really have many perfumes for which I feel like I need to dress up (probably because my lifestyle is quite casual and if I had to wait for a dressy occasion to wear Shalimar, I’d be waiting for a long time.) Plus, a perfume that fits well can make any outfit feel more glamorous.

      Today, there is so little difference in quality between mainstream and niche launches that it’s hard to keep a straight face reading all of the “exclusive” and “luxurious” claims in the press releases. The main difference is the price. As Michael Edwards said in one of his interviews, 10% of niche perfumes is fantastic and 90% is junk. Overpriced junk, I would add. But if one wants a fresh, clean floral, then B is better than most similar offerings. February 10, 2015 at 6:26am Reply

  • The Blue Squid: Thanks for a lovely review, Victoria. I’ll have to give it a squirt when next in the department store. The fresh-ish floral that I have liked recently is Vanille Galante. I got a nice 4ml sample at the local Hermes boutique when I was buying some body products for Christmas presents for my sister and dad. Fresh and melony lily with sugary and leathery vanilla pod. It shouldn’t work…. But it does!!! February 10, 2015 at 7:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Can’t agree more on Vanille Galante. Yes, it shouldn’t work, when you see it on paper, but when you wear it, it’s really something else! February 10, 2015 at 10:49am Reply

  • Anka: So, B. smells rather skinny? I love your bodily metaphor for this review, a curvy scent is so good to envision!
    I am wearing Villoresi’s Iperborea at the moment, it’s a transparent, light and fresh floral but to my nose it’s nevertheless slightly curvy, I think it’s the mimosa which ads the verve. February 10, 2015 at 8:15am Reply

    • Victoria: I kept thinking about it, but in the end, the body metaphor worked best for me. 🙂 A very pretty perfume, but it needs some fat on those bones. Maybe, they will do an Intense or L’Essence version. February 10, 2015 at 10:50am Reply

  • Aisha: I have a sample vial of this one and wore it yesterday. I had high hopes because of the violet notes, but the fragrance was too
    “clean” for my taste. In fact, on me it smelled as if I had doused myself with a cleaning product because it turned almost lemon-y on my skin after a few minutes. It wasn’t an unpleasant fragrance. It just didn’t “sing” to me. I wonder if it would be different if worn when it’s warmer out. February 10, 2015 at 11:56am Reply

    • Victoria: I suspect that this clean, lemony, green part will feel better on a hot day. The press release describes the accord as edamame beans, and the more I wear B, the more green I get out of it. All in all, nice, if it doesn’t hit the spot quite enough. February 11, 2015 at 11:46am Reply

      • Aisha: I’ll definitely try it again closer to summer.

        So far, of the new-to-me fragrances I’ve tried this year, La Panthere and Stella stand out. Clinique’s version of Calyx is very lovely too. February 11, 2015 at 11:57am Reply

        • Victoria: Oh, I’ll have to revisit Calyx too. What a blast from the past that would be for me. 🙂 February 12, 2015 at 3:44am Reply

          • Aisha: I actually appreciate it more now than I did back when it was a Prescriptives fragrance. I’m sure it’s undergone reformulation — either that, or the juice in my little Prescriptives bottle has turned a little 😉 — but it still smells like Calyx and evokes memories of the time I wore it. February 12, 2015 at 6:45pm Reply

          • Aisha: I should clarify that when I say it still smells like Calyx, I mean it still has that lovely green quality about it. The Clinique version (on me) seems a little sweeter (not cloying, though), whereas the Prescriptves version was more aromatic. But the overall character of the fragrance hasn’t changed, not to my nose anyway. (Unlike “old” Lauren vs. “new” Lauren). In short, I really like them both. 🙂 February 12, 2015 at 7:09pm Reply

            • Victoria: I’m relieved to hear this, because the relaunches can end up dramatically different. Can’t wait to try it! February 13, 2015 at 9:17am Reply

  • Daisy: I very desperately wanted to love this fragrance since I am a giant Alexander Wang fan-girl. There was a pretty awesome A. Wang clutch that was offered as a gift with purchase at Bergdorf’s when it launched. Alas, I didn’t seem to connect with it enough to fork over the cash, thinking it might be a better thing to save the $100 and put it towards something else Alexander Wang.

    Despite how anemic it felt to me too, this review does encourage me to pull out my sample and try it again. It wasn’t a bad fragrance and it might be kind of a nice, light thing to have in the spring. Thanks for the great review, Victoria! February 10, 2015 at 1:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Agreed! Plus, I’m sure you can find it very inexpensively online soon. I will live with my sample and will see in the summer what it might feel like then (will update the review, of course). February 11, 2015 at 11:48am Reply

  • msboujhie: This scent I thought was so delicious and it reminded me of another called “In Bloom”. I was rather disappointed then. I hate when a scent is so closly related to another I’ve used before.. blahhh. March 9, 2015 at 11:43pm Reply

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