back in the days of yore, so many eccentric things happened when an imprtant perfume was launched: Mademoiselle Carven, a tiny, wee bird-like woman who spoke quietly, orchestrated that the entire city of paris should be rained upon with tiny vials of "Ma Griffe" when finally she was ready to unveil her first foray into scent, each with a small parachute attached to it made out of the signature green and white striped crepe de chine 100% silk lining she used in her famous suits: All clothes "Carven" were tailored for "petite women," as Mademoiselle Carven herself stood barely 5 feet tall. In 1972 when Patou S.A. launched 1000, an army of dapper looking young men in 18th Century livery costume stormed paris and its posh environs of Neuilly/Auteuil/Passy in horse drawn carriages to hand deliver the first batch of 100 30ml parfum flacons, all individually numbered by hand as they were through the late 80's, nestled in curry coloured velvet jewell boxes lined in satin, as gifts to the 100 most elegant women of paris. At the time, only 100 ounces of parfum could be produced yearly. Before it was available to actually buy, at any price, by anyone, anywhere, including in the Patou Salons, anyone who was of note in Paris high society was already wearing it. For the maiden voyage of the now legendary "Paquebot Normandie" of 1935, Jean Patou himself, in the last year of his life, commissioned a famous metal worker to create a miniature of the ship, which contained in its main smoke-stack a screw-off cap, under which was snugly held captive an emery-galss stoppered capsule containing 15ml of a perfume blended specifically by Henri Almeras in honour of this voyage: The interiors of the boat, which were spectacular on all fronts, were designed by the same team that did all of the patou interiors, bottles, and boxes, the legendary design duo Louis Sue & Andre Mare. As a gift of welcome, each lady present on the inaugural voyage from France to the Port of New York received one. These heavy, solid nickel bottles are so rare that originals have broken all records at auction: I have one, but it is in very bad shape, seems to have lived ironically underwater most of its life, and the inner glass vial is shattered. In the early 80's Normandie was re-blended by Jean Kerleo: It had only been bfriefly marketed after the initial cruise, then disappeared all together somewhere around the early sixties. Jean kerleo's version is a very polite symphony of warmth on an underpinning of pulsating, pearlized and incandescent green: Carnations, cinnamon, orange blossom, clove, the most suave jasmine accord, one hardly ever seen in these times, and a lilt of deep, peppery rose that wafts over the entire comp without making itself particularly known: Normandie, in its last, final incarnation, is the epitome of elegance and refinement as only the last living "Great" Perfumer could see it: Very "Patou" in spirit, it whispers in a noticeably subtle way of privilege and wealth, yet it is never, ever wan: In fact it is bold and borders on thrilling, very much in the way a transatlantic crossing on a floating palace of riches must have been in those last days before the horrors of war blew everything down, leaving behind a ravaged, broken society, untold death and carnage and crushed spirits. Normandie is a waspy scent. One imagines Norma Schearer in "The Women" smelling like this, (While the common-as-mud Joan Crawford reeks of Tabu, or Chanel No5, or something equally repulsive and in your face) It is soft, and delicate, and has impeccable manners. I would say of all the "Ma Collection" series, it would be the most likely candidate for a re-launch, though there is scant hope for this, as Proctor & Gamble, after having bought, murdered in cold blood, then sold Jean Patou, as a final gesture of humiliation, or to kick the last nail into its coffin, then sold it to a company with even lower standards if that can be imagined: The same firm that now owns Worth. I imagine very soon we will be left with a watered down, synthetic dime-store "Joy" that will end up in discount shops and bargain basements just the way "Je Reviens" did. If you can obtain a sealed bottle of Normandie, online or elsewhere, do it: It would be impossible to find this scent unattractive. It's just that suave: Perfectly inoffensive without being remotely boring or predictable: A soft, warm, comforting composition of riches forgotten from another time: A powdered woman, elegantly draped in bias cut pastel silk charmeuse, with a pure white sable or swansdown cloak, and satin covered jeweled salome slippers, sitting legs elegantly crossed, nonchalantly smoking from a long cigarette holder, dripping in diamonds, hair perfectly coiffed, eyes and lips impeccably painted, amidst the soaring Art Deco interior of the most elegantly fitted out transatlantic ocean liner the world had ever known, yet barely noticing any of it, because she is sipping daintily on some cocktail, and, having fallen prey to its haze, seems lost in the revery of her life: We only get to see that gentle, barely their smile on her dark rose bud lacquered lips, and her pearlized, smoky eyelids which are softly shut, and wonder: Just how splendid could life once have been for the Happy Few? That is Normandie, by Jean Patou.
I think VintageVogue has got a point here with 'between Vol de Nuit and Arpege'. It is to my perception more chypré style than Vol de Nuit already is. However, I found the opening very reminiscent of the original Tabac Blond and a very Caron-esque vibe overall (opoponax among other notes). The drydown loses me slightly with a very soapy quality, which is so predominant in many Ma Collection fragrances. Sillage is above average right into the heart. This is a nice and enjoyable EdT, but not the most unique Patou classic.
31st July, 2011 (last edited: 29th November, 2011)
Totally agree with VintageVogue- Normandie- it's like Vol de Nuit. Vol de Nuit minus the spicey top notes. Amber -vanilla combo ,a bit dusty ,a bit dark ,abit old world ,but very classic and delicious. One to try. This one could never offend anyone and if it does, they are out of their mind ! Proctor and Gamble need to re launch this one- they must be crazy to have discontinued such a warm and wonderful fragrance.
I recently purchased a 2.5 ml Normandie EDT online largely based on these (and several other) reviews. I'm happy to report that Normandie does not disappoint; in fact, it's a pure delight. My usual fall-winter fragrance is Jicky. This year, I've had a heck of a time finding the EDT in the configuration I prefer (3.4 or 1.7 spray or splash); it seems supplies are low. Jicky has been my colder-weather standby since the late 80s --- I adore it. This year I was confronted with having to give it up, at least for this season, and finding a suitable replacement.
I would not have chosen Normandie except for the consistantly high ratings it has received. Also, I have great respect for Patou frangrances. So....I'm glad I chose this fragrance: it's everything that VintageVouge and Paloma54 described and it lasts and lasts on me (24 hours and counting). I love old world fragrance and Normandie sings of old world restraint and class. The fusion of floral carnation, rose and jasmine warm and comfort without demanding attention. The basenotes of vanilla, oakmoss and amber embrace, cushion and then envelop the florals for a softly-lush finish. Restraint, richness and a nod to an era of elegance and style. Normandie is a very suitable choice for me this year; I'm glad we found each other.
22nd November, 2009 (last edited: 02nd February, 2010)
Jean Patou's Normandie (1935) strikes me as a beautiful medium somewhere between Guerlain's Vol de Nuit (1933) and Arpege de Lanvin (1927). One of my friends swears by Normandie as an autumn and winter fragrance. Frankly, I like it in the warmer months as well. If you have any desire to own this lovely, get it now while there are still a few bottles available online. Part of the esteemed Patou Ma Collection reprisals, Normandie is classified as an oriental-ambery type. The carnation, jasmine and rose are all in the forefront, while the back notes consist of amber, vanilla and woods. This is a lady-like and restrained fragrance, not one which races ahead of you into the room. No, this one floats in with you, enveloping you in a sillage of sophistication and restraint. Normandie is powdery in the final act, but not in the way that, say, Rive Gauche is powdery. It's powdery more in the line of Vol de Nuit or even Caron's En Avion. Normandie is as fashionable today as it was decades ago when it was released to celebrate the maiden voyage of the transatlantic liner of the same name. If anyone from Patou is reading this, please, please return Normandie to your regular line-up. It deserves no less than to be placed in the same category as Joy and 1000.