Jean Patou Vacances : Fragrance Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Prompted by a question about a fragrance I would associate with Matisse, I began to reflect on what perfume would capture the strength of the lines, the vibrancy of the colors, the alluring delicacy of the finished composition as well as the Mediterranean feel pervading his works. If there is one fragrance that contains all of these elements, it must be Jean Patou Vacances.

Vacances was created in 1936, alluding to the introduction of the first paid holidays in France. Its vibrant spicy opening shimmers like sun rays hitting the water, before rich greenness softens the sizzle of carnation. Galbanum with its scent of sliced green peppers is a perfect counterpoint to the wave of honeyed powderiness that emerges next. The breath of lilac wafts in like a scent carried by the wind through an open window. At first, it merely teases, weaving gently through the heart of the composition, until finally it solidifies, resting on a soft musky base. The colors of the composition are hardly subtle—the intense verdancy of hyacinth and galbanum, the dark powderiness of mimosa, the rich sweetness of lilac. Yet, the resulting fragrance is a perfect juxtaposition of delicate peppery and green sap notes folding into honeyed sweetness. In my romanticized vision of a town on the Mediterranean coast, this is the scent that would be filling the air.

Painting: Henri Matisse. Woman before Aquarium. 1921. Oil on canvas. Barnes Foundation, Lincoln University, Merion, PA. Thank you for a great question goes to my painter friend Laura, whose site is such an inspiration for me.



  • parislondres: Dear V! I have to try Vacances again soon if I can get hold of some, as it is sadly discontinued. A while ago, a dear friend used to wear it and I really cannot remember this well to be honest. You description of the fragrance makes me want to get hold of some very soon. Thanks for the review and good choice of painting.

    Have a fab weekend.

    Mwah! August 5, 2005 at 2:38am Reply

  • Sisonne: Hi V, your perfume description made me feel as if I was on vacations in France. France to me is the best country for vacations, to me it has a “special something” that I can´t describe, it´s a certain feeling that I only have when I´m there 🙂 Your review is really great, though unfortunately I don´t know the scent – but you´ve made me want to try it. Is it really discontinued? August 5, 2005 at 7:52am Reply

  • Liz smellslikeleaves: “Sweet,” “powdery,” and “mimosa” (with few exceptions) are words that usually scare me, but the mention of Matisse certainly piques my curiosity. I saw an exhibition of his Morocco-inspired work at the Institut du Monde Arab when I lived briefly in Paris, which was spectacular. He has since floated near the top of my list of favorite painters. As for Patou, the only JP fragrance I tried was the EDP of Joy, which was horrific…I trust that the parfum is far better, but I have yet to find a SA who is willing to let me try it. Vacances intrigues me, particularly with the lilac note, so it goes on my list of things to try. But…I hope you haven’t finished with the Frederic Malle fragrances? What about my favorite, Le Parfum de Therese? August 5, 2005 at 9:02am Reply

  • Laura: Darling V,this seems perfectly Matissean, Patou’s Vacances. I can’t wait to try it, if I can find some! Your description of it is very seductive, the way Matisse’s South of France paintings are. Thank you for the kind words about my site. I have an idea for a drawing of you and your Ukrainian forebears. End of August? August 5, 2005 at 6:48am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I´ll ask when I visit the boutique:) ! August 5, 2005 at 10:48am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you everyone for such wonderful comments!

    Dear N, I am very sad that it is discontinued. One can find other classical Patou fragrances online at reasonable prices, but the price of Vacances is always ridiculous, if one is able to locate it. I hope that it will brought back.

    Dear Laura, I would be honoured by this offer. End of August it is!

    Dear C, I am glad that you like my reviews. That is such a sweet compliment. I also really like France, as well as Italy for vacation. One of my best vacations was spent in Liguria in a small town called Vernazza. Every morning started with me going for a swim and then stopping by the market to pick up fruit and freshly baked pastries. I miss it so much and hope to return soon. As for Vacances, it is sadly discontinued, but I hope that the house will reintroduce it. Perhaps, you can ask when you visit their boutique.

    Dear L, I love Matisse, and his exhibit at the Met was fantastic. He really could capture the dazzling quality of light and the vibrancy of bright colours he favoured. Vacances is not a typical powdery fragrance, nor is it a mimosa dominated. I would say that it is a green lilac, with a doze of spicy sweetness. It is beautiful. Fear not, I am about to review your favourite tomorrow! 🙂 August 5, 2005 at 9:23am Reply

  • mreenymo: I love this fragrance! It’s one of the few lilac fragrances that doesn’t go “bathroom freshener” on me. :):)

    Have a wonderful weekend, darling! I will try to email you at some point next week.

    Hugs, rsj August 5, 2005 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Tania: Thanks to you and Luca Turin, I got curious about the Patou fragrances and went on a sweep through last night to have a look-see. There were no scent descriptions for any of them, and the bottles were just bottles, but some of those boxes! They have fabulous colorful geometric patterns and are worth keeping the scent in forever. Check out their pictures of Caline, Adieu Sagesse, Amour Amour, Chaldee, Colony, Divine Folie, Cocktail, Invitation, L’Heure Attendue, and others for some really eye-popping box design. So Deco and psychedelic all at once! August 5, 2005 at 1:53pm Reply

  • Victoria: T, I love the packaging of the bottles more than I enjoy some of their juices. Vacances is definitely one of my favourite classical Jean Patou fragrances, along with Câline and Moment Suprême. Once upon a time, I had an entire Ma Collection and then in a moment of madness I parted with it. Joy in either extrait or EDT is also wonderful, but I do not like EDP as much. August 5, 2005 at 2:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dear R, lilac is very difficult to render without ending up with Glade like flatness. Vacances succeeds in this task.
    Have a great weekend!
    xoxo August 5, 2005 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Diane: Darling, I love your comparison to Matisse. The exhibit at the Met is simply marvelous. You know this because as soon as I exited, I called you and didn’t I sound so happy and satisfied?

    As for the fragrance itself, I absolutely LOVE Vacances! The lilac note is rendered so beautifully fresh and wispy yet not without a full bloom lush. The feeling is as though a single petal from a lilac tree in full bloom has rided by one’s nose. I have been obsessively searching for a full bottle with no luck. PLEASE tell me if you ever locate a bottle. I love everything about this fragrance–the scent, of course; the design on the box (more Kandinsky than Matisse to me, but no matter as both painters rank among my favorites), and the story behind it. August 5, 2005 at 9:15pm Reply

  • Victoria: D, I recall you mentioning how much you liked the exhibit, which was excellent as I myself could see this week. As for Vacances, there are bottles available, but they are all priced at $150 and up, which is a bit much. Other Ma Collection fragrances could be found for $50. I do not know whether that might interest you, but let me know. August 5, 2005 at 9:45pm Reply

  • Campaspe: I adore Vacances and yearn for another bottle. Darling V., last I checked Moment Supreme was on perfumebay. I am kicking myself, because I had a bottle, only I promptly gave it away to my friend Michael because I found it very masculine. At the time I had no idea you loved it. Thanks to Amandampc, I have a bottle of Chaldee which I like very much. It is based on a suntan oil scent, but IMO is much too heavy and complex for hot weather, except maybe at night. August 9, 2005 at 10:01am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear F, I remember how much you liked Vacances when I gave you my Ma Collection for playing with. It is a gorgeous fragrance, a perfect combination of lilac and mimosa that results in a scent that just makes me feel happy. Thank you for your recommendation. I am off to explore that possibility.
    I tried Chaldee, and it is definitely a rich scent. The hyacinth note makes it seem rather unctuous. August 9, 2005 at 10:43am Reply

  • Jamie K.: Thought you might like to know that this is being re-released this year: August 11, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! That’s good news. August 12, 2014 at 1:08pm Reply

  • Anne-Catherine: Dear Victoria, I just read your review. It is a stunning perfume, for me hard to capture but your review expresses it like it is.
    I bought it at place Vendome. David told me he has the vintage version and this one is very close to the original. That’s also good news.
    Greetings June 18, 2015 at 12:37pm Reply

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