Balenciaga Paris and L’Essence : Fragrance Review



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

The main thing I liked about Balenciaga Paris was that it smelled unlike anything else on the fragrance counter. The scent contained within its pretty faceted bottle seemed to have arrived from another era—green, pepper, with a distinctive mossy violet note that is as au courant today as satin gloves and fur stoles. It possessed none of the affected glamor of a period piece, being sleek, modern and refined. However, as I wore Balenciaga Paris and experienced it in various settings, I came to realize that its polished aura is its main downfall. It is so smooth and refined that it lacks a presence. Not every fragrance needs to make a statement, but it should have enough character to be remembered. Unfortunately, in the long run, this is not the case with Balenciaga Paris.

The composition opens up on one of the best peppery green accords I have smelled in a while. The breezy freshness of green stems combined with the cucumber peel brightness and the woody richness of pepper has an exhilarating effect. The sweetness of violet flowers softens the sharpness of green notes, while lending a teasing, coquettish facet. All through its development, Balenciaga Paris alternates between a cured tea leaf and a spring flower bud, a fascinating interplay of effects. Once the composition enters drydown, it hits the earthy woody notes, and its verdancy assumes a smooth, caressing quality.

All of these interesting facets are obvious when one studies the drydown on skin and paper with some degree of concentration. In regular wear, I found myself forgetting that I had any perfume on and I could not even recall the scent once I washed it off. Of course, a poor tenacity and a weak character do not necessarily go hand in hand. There are plenty of light scents—most of Jean-Claude Ellena’s portfolio, to be precise—that have distinctive, memorable characters, even if their tenacity on skin leaves a lot to be desired. Balenciaga Paris, on the other hand, seems a bit like a wallflower.

This year, Balenciaga added L’Essence to the collection, a stronger, bolder variation on the original Balenciaga Paris. My first impression of L’Essence was amber. It has a sharp woody-ambery note that runs through the whole body of the composition. If Balenciaga Paris places its accents on the violet and green notes, L’Essence plays with the crisp woods. It is richer and sweeter, with the softness of vanilla and musk layering the base. If Balenciaga Paris had unusual elements, L’Essence feels more familiar. In the end, while it is longer lasting, it still does not have a particularly memorable character.

Balenciaga Paris includes notes of black pepper, pink pepper, violet leaves, violet, cedarwood, patchouli, and vetiver. L’Essence contains green leafy notes, violet leaves, violet, cedarwood, patchouli, vetiver. Available from major retailers. Balenciaga Paris Eau de Parfum: 1.7 oz, $95, 2.5 oz, $130. L’Essence Eau de Parfum: 1.7 oz, $95; 3.4oz, $130.

Sample: my own acquisition



  • Patricia: Very well written. That was exactly my experience – not memorable in any way… September 15, 2011 at 9:19am Reply

  • Allison williams: Agreed, different but somehow not distinctive. And I wear mostly Elllena, so usually like subtle scents. September 15, 2011 at 9:37am Reply

  • lenore: Did it work at all to layer the two? or just result in a confused as well as unmemorable experience? September 15, 2011 at 9:54am Reply

  • Suzanna: “Not memorable” and memorable in a bad way marks most new mainstream releases (or reformulations)for me.

    Imagine if Balenciaga the designer had made, instead of broad-shouldered dresses with freed waistlines, potato sacks. This is largely the problem with fashion-house frags in this era. They smell the way a potato sack looks. September 15, 2011 at 10:22am Reply

  • karin: I like the original – guess I describe it this way, “it’s just darned pretty.” Which is to say, it doesn’t necessarily stand out, but I really enjoy wearing it! Haven’t tried L’Essence yet… September 15, 2011 at 11:32am Reply

  • violetnoir: Yep…You nailed it, V!

    However, I did introduce the original to a woman in my yoga class. She loved it, and ended up buying a bottle, so I guess that’s a good outcome. I like to spread the perfume love, lol!

    Hugs! September 15, 2011 at 12:06pm Reply

  • behemot: I liked BP at first, but soon after I sprayed it on my skin, the nice part of fragrance was gone and all was left was something synthetic and unpleasant. I ended up with a headache. September 15, 2011 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Olga Bodnar Talyn: Where can one still get vintage Quadrille? Le Dix also September 15, 2011 at 1:54pm Reply

  • Ari: Balenciaga Paris wasn’t all that sophisticated on me (I got sweet tarts), and this new flanker was forgettable. It’s never a good sign when you can remember the bottle better than the scent. September 15, 2011 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: That’s too bad, I loved the bottle. September 15, 2011 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also like subtle scents, so I agree, that was not the problem. September 15, 2011 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hmm, I did not even think of that. I found L’Essence to be very sharp. That ruined it for me. September 15, 2011 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: >>>They smell the way a potato sack looks.

    What a great characterization! 🙂 September 15, 2011 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: I prefer the original to L’Essence, I have to say. September 15, 2011 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂 Sounds like a great outcome! I am with you, I love to introducing people around me to new perfumes. September 15, 2011 at 3:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: I loved the opening, and like you, I found the drydown to be disappointing. September 15, 2011 at 3:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ari, so true! The bottle, however, is beautiful. I love the shape and the color. One rarely see this grey-green shade in glass bottles. September 15, 2011 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Olga, I think that Ebay is your best bet. September 15, 2011 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Vanessa: I tried L’Essence recently and it felt like a different perfume almost, because it was so green and sheer as opposed to powdery and musky. A bit nondescript, therefore pretty wearable in my book! Triumph of style over substance certainly – love the grey/green look and the metallic ball stopper is almost as nice as the cranial one on the original. September 15, 2011 at 4:15pm Reply

  • annemariec: Oh I’m glad to hear someone else has had that experience as well as me. I’ve spritzed the tester a few time and love the opening, but after a while the scent goes sour in a way I that can’t remember exactly, but it was not good. A pity when you can’t even remember the bad part of a fragrance, never mind the good! September 15, 2011 at 8:33pm Reply

  • Carla: I tried the first and it made a better impression on me. The little bit on my arm remind me of it’s presence all day. It made me think of Eau de Cartier. September 16, 2011 at 11:04am Reply

  • Carla: I do agree! September 16, 2011 at 11:06am Reply

  • Perfumista8: It’s always interesting to read other’s experience with perfumes. For me, the original Balenciaga Paris made me absolutely swoon and it launched a quest to know all things violet scented. It’s also one of the few perfumes that I get compliments on- I tend to wear perfume very lightly most times- so I liked that this has good sillage for me. I still consider myself a newbie to perfums but I seem to remember that it was one of the first (recent) powdery/veil type of perfumes. Since then, Cartier Baser Vole, Love Chloe, etc have come out so it seems to be the trend. September 16, 2011 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: >>Triumph of style over substance certainly

    I love this! Yes, the bottle is fantastic. If I had space for such things, I would have bought it for that bottle alone. September 17, 2011 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: I can definitely see the link with Eau de Cartier, Carla! It has that similar violet leaf-peppery accord. September 17, 2011 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much for adding your impressions. I love hearing opposite views, because everyone perceives fragrances somewhat differently. I like your description of it as a veil perfume. Yes, it definitely has that character. September 17, 2011 at 1:06pm Reply

  • quesiesue: My first time posting here, so forgive me if I’m doing this wrong. My signature perfume for at leat 20 years has been casmir by Chopard.

    I love this perfume, and try all the new ones, and like many of them, but always go back to Casmir. It is fabulous with a powdery vanilla and just feels and smells like class personified.

    Recently I discovered an inexpensive perfume called Shadha (Shirley May). It is an arabian perfume, and is a sort of sweet perfume with sandlewood, amber, vanilla and aoud.

    I was coveting M.Micallif Note Vanille, which is very expensive at 225.00 a bottle. I ended up getting some small bottles of it, and ended up comparing it to Shadha and they are very close in fragrance.

    I was surprised, and have put shadha on one arm, and note vanille on the other, and I ordered another Shadha.

    Yes, I obsess over perfumes, and just wanted to put my two cents worth in about Shadha. September 24, 2011 at 3:16pm Reply

    • LEILA: I have just read your comment. I adore the smell of Shadha (Shirley May). PLEASE, could you suggest some perfumes, that are similar to Shadha and not expensive. Thank you very much <3 April 14, 2016 at 4:59pm Reply

  • Babette: Have been wearing L’essence for a few days now. It smells like a rough draft of Clinique’s Wrappings. October 6, 2011 at 9:54am Reply

  • Natalia: I completely agree with your description that “Paris” lacks character. Definitely not a masterpiece, however, I enjoy wearing it sometimes the same way I enjoy wearing jeans and a t-shirt. It’s simply comfortable. And very safe to wear at the office or a meeting. This way it’s not just comfortable, it’s practical. In that sense, it’s a very modern fragrance. December 14, 2011 at 2:12pm Reply

  • maria: balenciaga paris vs L`Essence ? In a few sentences or shoud I get both. I can’t smell the difference between them ? February 17, 2012 at 7:44pm Reply

  • Robin: balenciaga paris, with it’s subtle, unassuming and delicate presence is the perfect perfume to wear to the dentist. It doesn’t over power the room and is comforting at the same time. February 26, 2013 at 8:42am Reply

  • Captain: I’ll never get how someone can say this scent is unique yet boring. It *is* unique, it’s not boring. I would not wear this scent to the dentist…I find it woody and lovely, very wearable yet not like anything else out here. It lasts all day and while it may not project a great deal, it’s always with me. I can’t wait to wear it in the summer. April 17, 2014 at 1:56pm Reply

  • Paige: I could say that Balenciaga Paris is my favorite scent, but I don’t wear it very often. It is extremely memorable to me though, it lasts well on my skin and is one of the most sophisticated scents on me… not too strong, but strong enough to easily smell on my wrist at the end of the day. I love the violet notes, the depth, and freshness. It is not a summer scent to me though. I tend to wear it in the fall. I wish it was less expensive because I only have a small bottle. April 26, 2014 at 3:16am Reply

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