Friday, March 07, 2008

Pierre Balmain Ivoire



There was an extraordinary singer I used to work with in an Italian wedding band with whom I'd once discussed perfumes we'd worn throughout our lives. Although she had quit wearing perfume by the time we had this memorable talk, she shared with me her favorites: Givenchy Ysatis and Pierre Balmain Ivoire. I'd never heard of Ivoire, and so I had it in my mind to smell it one day. When I came across it, I remember thinking 1. "Oh, yes--this is a sexy, womanly, elegant and provocative, sophisticated perfume like Ysatis in every way" and 2. "but compared to Ysatis which is kind of boozy to my senses, Ivoire is a bit soapy and sharply green--even weedy". I found Ivoire even greener than Chanel No.19 which I'd worn and loved forever, and wondered if I'd ever take to the high-pitched scent, so icy I thought it could almost break glass, like my beautiful friend's crystalline soprano cutting across the Grand Ballroom at the Yale Club over The Loudest Band On Earth (and how I'd envied her power and tone).

Years after the band disbanded, I tested Ivoire again, this time in vintage parfum. I fell in love with everything about it, including the simple, neo-classical ivory bottle. The scent was similar to the eau de toilette (EDT) I'd tested before, but I felt it was more faceted, with a richer, more dazzling tone, alive in its floral heart rife with essential oils and bursting with green, green galbanum. I knew this was how Ivoire should smell, and that the later formulation smelled like a facsimile, a headspace sampling of the real form. In fact, all of the Balmain perfumes I've tested have been better in vintage formulations. Still, the parfum dried down to a weedy smell on me, and I was sure to give up Ivoire and anything contaning vetiver, the grassy culprit, until I wore Ivoire to work one day.

A sound engineer I worked with seemed so transfixed by the perfume, he found any reason to come close enough to smell me the whole day (and since he wasn't a creepy guy, I didn't mind--I also knew he was too shy to ever ask what it was). Could it be he found it a bit provocative like I did when I first smelled it? Maybe he liked the clean, soapy aspect of it, or heck, the smell of weed--or he just hadn't been accustomed to the scent of a classic French perfume on a talent before. Although I never wore Ivoire to location again (I didn't want someone I worked with sniffing me all the time, either), I'll never forget that day, feeling the power of a perfume that could send out an air of friendly attraction like the sound of a beautiful singing voice calling out from somewhere, making you want to peek into the room, if only to verify the source of such a pristine, impeccable sound.

Jan Moran's Notes:
Pierre Balmain Ivoire (1979 Floral - Green)
Top Notes: Jasmine, galbanum, bergamot, violet, mandarin, aldehydes
Heart Notes: Turkish rose, lily of the valley, Tuscany ylang-ylang, carnation, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, berry pepper
Base Notes: Vetiver, oakmoss, sandalwood, labdanum, amber, vanilla, patchouli, tonka bean

(Image: www.museesdegrasse.com)