This fragrance sampling came about in an interesting way. To start at the beginning, I have seen people on MUA (where I lurk occasionally) say wonderful things about Balmain in general Jolie Madame in particular, so I wrote down the name. Yesterday on my lunch break I was at TJ Maxx when I happened to spot bottles of said fragrance near the line for the registers. They were $9.99. I thought it might be the same fragrance I'd written down, but then I told myself that it was either A) a different fragrance and memory was failing me, or B) the same fragrance but a different concentration (it was EDT, and perhaps only the parfum is spectacular), or C) some hideous knock-off and I'd really be a sucker of I bought it. The box looked genuine enough, and the label said "Made in France," and aw heck, I'm one of those geeky Americans who fall all over anything that says "France" on it. Even so, I left it on the shelf.
The strange twist of fate occurred when I got home last night. Angela, who writes those wonderful reviews on Now Smell This, was sweet enough to send me a package of goodies, including (the most important of all) the Vol de Nuit parfum for me to sample. (Why am I writing about Jolie Madame, then, you might ask...well, my wedding anniversary is on Friday, and that seems like the occasion for Vol de Nuit parfum, although truthfully I've sampled it already and Oh. My. God.) And lo and behold, inside the package was a vial of Balmain Jolie Madame EDT.
After finding various and sundry notes for Jolie Madame out there on some of the perfume sites that carry it, I finally went to osMoz and let them be the experts:
Top: artemesia, gardenia, neroli, coriander
Heart: jasmine, jonquil, orris, tuberose
Base: patchouli, castoreum, vetiver, civet
Couple of things here: castoreum was originally harvested from beaver. Right! That's what I said! But today it's synthetically produced to replicate a leather note, among others, in perfume. Second, artemesia (or artemisia) consists of a family of plants more commonly known as sage plants, or different types of species thereof. Now, think about this: you have the ingredients here for a pretty basic white floral--gardenia, jasmine, tuberose. You have the lovely sparkling orange blossom element (I love this in Fracas) in neroli. Even with a little vetiver and patchouli, we're on our way to a relatively standard white floral fragrance (as if I know, right?).
But consider: the artemisia at the top gives it an herbal quality. It's foody and woodsy at the same time, with a depth that almost enables you to smell roots and dirt. In a typical white floral, the entrance of jasmine and tuberose in the middle notes would produce a scent that people often find headache-inducing (as in: my worst enemy is pounding on my head with a large mallet). The jonquil and orris, however, keep it dirty and earthy, so these white flowers smell as though they'd been buried in deep earth for days.
Most remarkable, though, are the base notes: leather and a bunch of dirty white flowers! Patchouli adds a little stankiness (yes, you read that right--I may see about a trademark), and vetiver adds a bit of sharp freshness, like an open window.
You all know how much I love Sex and the City. Did you see the one where they go to Atlantic City on Charlotte's birthday, and she's standing in her hotel room, looking in the mirror at herself in her flowery robe and shower cap, eyeing the Old Maid card game that Miranda gave her as a joke, when she gets that look in her eye? Cut to a scene of Charlotte got up like Beyonce at the MTV Music Awards, in a dress she bought at the gift shop the hotel lobby. I like to think before Charlotte sashayed down and bought her hot pink-and-gold hoochie mama outfit, she spritzed on a bit of Jolie Madame. For do not be fooled by the skank. She may be dirty, but she's a lady nonetheless.
And by the way, I am now the proud owner of a $9.99 bottle of Jolie Madame EDT.
*photo from FragranceDirect