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.
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.