(Vintage ad from australianperfumejunkies)
Miss Balmain comes in a pink package with old-fashioned typeface, in a tall bottle with reddish-brown juice. It looks designed to sit on a 1950s vanity. Miss Balmain seems like a staple perfume: the kind of thing you’d wear every day with a wool skirtset and gloves.
(Modern bottle from 99perfume)
Miss Balmain isn’t fruity-floral or avant-garde. The mood is distinctly vintage. It reminds me a little of Ivoire de Balmain in tone: musty and adult. There’s a lot of aldehydes and a lot of powdery overlay like the kind used in Habanita. To me it’s a leather floral with a touch of chypre.
It was hard for me to pick out the notes. I got the note list from Fragrantica:
Top Notes: aldehydes, coriander, gardenia, lemon and green notes
Heart Notes: carnation, narcissus, orris root, jasmine, rose and lily-of-the-valley
Base Notes: leather, amber, patchouli, coconut, oakmoss, vetiver and tonka bean
Seeing that, I noted that it’s a great exercise in balance. Rose stands out more than any other flower, but the other notes balance it so the rose is more abstract. The citrus and green aren’t noticeable, but I think they’re keeping Miss Balmain from becoming too powdery, too earthy, or too floral. The patchouli becomes more noticeable towards the end. Miss Balmain has good lasting power, and smells great on fabric.
Ultimately I wish it would veer further into any one direction. That would give it more character. I haven’t smelled the vintage, but other reviewers say it’s a marvel.
Miss Balmain was first introduced as a fresh alternative to other popular scents, like Jolie Madame (also by Cellier). People used to like their perfumes a lot heavier, with more natural notes. Read Barbara Herman’s Scent and Subversion for more about how perfume genres have gone in and out of vogue throughout the years.
It’s hard to get the natural notes now because of environmental regulations and society looking down on the use of animal ingredients. Those 100% natural perfumes made of plants always seem a little thin. But that’s okay, I’d rather have less pungent perfume than have whales killed for ambergris or deer killed for musk. I like that perfumery is becoming more experimental. I like that I can smell like a rubber tire if I want to. But I still wonder why people have become so afraid of strong smells.
Perfumer: Germaine Cellier
Price Range: Relatively Inexpensive
Recommended Occasion: Casual
Release Year: 1967
My Rating: 7.5
Barbara at Yesterday’s Perfume loves the vintage. She says it’s tough, a leather in training.
Australian Perfume Junkies gives another vote for the vintage.
Perfume Posse reviews it as a large, rock-star style leather, if a bit old-fashioned.