Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

Total Reviews: 86
I have been wearing BaV since the early 80's. My current bottle is from the early 2000's. The top has an aldehydic buzz even though none exist. I think it's the blend of all the top notes, that creates this vibe. It is bubbly, champagne-like, well-blended. The civet from the base notes, appears shortly after the top begins to settle. It has no sweetness on top. It has an almost earthy mood.

Rose and muguet appear. Ultra sheer lilac. Mellow jasmine - ladylike. A layer of leather lies just beneath. A layer of ylang ylang makes its presence known after a time.

The base is not sugary sweet. It is a muddy sweetness with again, an earthy appeal. Expertly blended cedar, sandalwood, boozy vanilla, civet (still here!), benzoin, and a fuzzy balsam. Worn out in fresh air, BaV totally reveals her charms.

The base grows more intense after a time. A very adult perfume.
31st October, 2018
If there were a God, She would smell of vintage Bal a Versailles in pure parfum concentration.
02nd October, 2018
I purchased the current eau de toilette, and my expectations were reflective of the majority of the reviews. There was no funk, animalic, or sensual aspect to this fragrance. It smells like Talcum Powder and reminded me of the Johnsons and Johnson’s powder aroma in the locker room after the game. (without the funk) I am disappointed. Powder is not a good scent for an older dude.
14th August, 2018
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I own a 70's bath oil, that I dab as one would extrait and it is superb, great evolution, the flowers, the powder, resins, vanilla, leather all is of great quality, deep and airy a the same time, shimmering , it lasts forever and even gets more intense in the first few hours. But what anchors, enhances and sublimes is the civet.
Eye rollingly scentual with sex
29th June, 2018
This is for the current EdP. For me this is mostly old-school powder and florals with something skanky and animalic lurking in the base. The sweet, powdery start reminds me a bit of L'Heure Bleue, then the rose and iris show up with a bit of that face-powder/vintage lipstick vibe, but with a bit of tropical, indolic floral thrown in. Some aspect of the flowers almost seem dried to me - shades of potpourri, but with a rose-creamy scent underneath, along with that animalic musk. As it dries down, the powder fades and it settles into a rose-floral, sandlewood, musk that I quite enjoy, but not enough to deal with all the powder and potpourri up top.
15th June, 2018
I get floral for about 10 minutes, then animals for another 20, and then it's gone. Perhaps my sample was old (got it at a street fair) and therefore no longer very strong. This is nice, but doesn't last long enough for me to consider purchasing.
15th January, 2017
Sweet, powdery, floral, animalic (civet, I gather), I'm a big fan of this style. I'm trying this from a sample. The closest I have to this in my collection is vintage Habit Rouge Eau de Cologne, just from the feel of assured, light sweetness, backed up with an animalic component; I think they both use vanilla. This one has a stronger animalic contribution, the more the merrier to my nose.
14th October, 2016 (last edited: 16th October, 2016)
It's not very remarkable for me. It smells good, like resin. It's musky, but not overpowering. It's just a little sweet on the air. Honestly I like it better in the air than on my skin. I would wear this but not be overwhelmed by it. It's just not me.
14th July, 2016
Lovely, sweet rose and civet scent with a superbly done sandal and vanilla finish featuring just a hint of leather. I find it very simple but endlessly enjoyable.
13th February, 2016
I love this perfume, although it may be a little sweetly floral for an older woman.
25th February, 2015

It's 1978 in Battersea Park, London. The Stranglers have just finished playing "Nice 'n' Sleazy". This is how the stage smells like...
23rd October, 2014
Bal à Versailles is a marvelous, iconic and perhaps a little underrated chypre rich in civet and grace, a dirty Kouros wrapped into the warm skin of a lady scented with Shalimar – or, except for the leather, the naughty Habanita ready for her début in the high society. Benzoin, vanilla, oak moss, civet, flowers, fruity notes, leather, iris, a slight aldehydic accord, musk... what completely amazes me is that Bal à Versailles is surely skanky and carnally dirty, but there is also this irresistible sense of utter, golden, velvety refinement and elegance, in a really radiant, powdery way, like if you can almost feel the silky scented powder on the dresses of the ladies dancing. Perhaps it is just about that: the smell of dancers in a Belle Epoque ambiance, with all their scents, but also their passions and dirty secrets. As minutes pass - as the ball goes on, one might say... - Bal à Versailles gets increasingly darker and dirtier, with the civet note emerging in its sweaty, irresistibly "urinous" personality, always perfectly blending and hiding in a white fog of talcum and warm floral gracefulness. Great persistence, great scent, great everything.

04th October, 2014
On me this is a rather heavy oriental, dark and serious. Not exactly unpleasant, but not outstanding in any way.

Top notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli
Middle notes: Rose de Mai, Muguet, Lilac, Orris, Jasmine, Ylang Ylang
Base notes: Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Benzoin, Melilot (Clover), Tolu Balsam

Barbara Herman finds it has a powdery sweetness, reminiscent of beeswax. This effect does not occur to my nose on my skin.

It's not at all bad, it's just not that outstanding.
11th July, 2014
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Genre: Oriental

Add another voice to the chorus in praise of Bal à Versailles! As a traditional oriental fragrance, Bal à Versailles’s kinship with Shalimar is obvious: there is a similarly smoky, dark vanilla and there is plenty of opoponax. However, there is also more indolic orange blossom more obvious civet, more animalic musks, and perhaps even a suggestion of leather. (Labdanum, perhaps? Yes – labdanum and opoponax in a leathery accord, I think.) Bal à Versailles is perfectly judged in terms of balance: floral vs. spicy-vanillic vs. animalic; and in terms of strength. Unlike some orientals of the ‘80s, say Opium, Samsara, or KL, Bal à Versailles never shouts. It does last, however. And last. A full day and a couple of showers are not enough to banish Bal àVersailles’s voluptuous labdanum, musk, and vanilla drydown.

Bal à Versailles is a dark, glamorous, and evocative scent. It is not so much “old-fashioned” or “old-school” as timeless: though released in the early 1960s, it could have been composed decades earlier. A beautifully crafted scent that’s completely deserving of is classic status. As a man, I find it easy to wear, provided I apply it lightly. It strikes me as little more inherently “feminine” than orientals in the mold of Héritage, Habit Rouge, or Jaïpur Homme.

09th June, 2014
The first time I met Bal a Versailles I was 16. On my way through Nordstroms I saw it sitting on the perfume counter, in the middle of the shiny modern 80's bottles, looking very out of place. I'd never even heard of BaV before but I rather recklessly spritzed it on both wrists (hey, I was young, lol).

The next 20 minutes were miserable. BaV was completely out of left field. I wanted to wash it off! But then something changed and it became quietly perfect. At the end of the day it was so warm and delicious and that I knew I had to try it again.

Every time I wear this fragrance, I am still uneasy for the first 20 minutes. During that time I am 90% certain that I've made a mistake. But after that, it is simply one of the best fragrances that humanity has ever managed to formulate. It is warm and deep and delicious and sensual.

I've read that there are over 300 different ingredients in this masterpiece. I can't smell them all, but I always feel like I'm wearing a work of art when I put it on.

It's not a fragrance for everyone. It's a fragrance that lasts, but it doesn't zing across the room like some perfumes do. It has very rounded, full, soft edges.

This is not a fragrance for a girl. This is a fragrance for a woman.

If you're tired of the soapy, piercing, headache-inducing "clean clean clean" laundry perfumes, if you'd rather smell like a goddess than a lollipop, if you'd like to make people nervous at church, give Bal a Versailles a try. :)
25th February, 2014
To me, this is the incredibly beautiful definition of perfume. I own the vintage EdC, the vintage parfum and await the arrival of the vintage EdT so I can wear all three at once as its designer, Jean Desprez, intended -- never mind the inflated prices paid. Nor will I go into the many notes. They exist in other perfumes. BaV transcends its components. This is a powerhouse perfume for a self-confident person seeking luxury for the nose.

p.s. I bought Coty's Laimant and tested it against BaV. They're similar, but not the same. The jasmine & orange blossom are much stronger in BaV and it is more complex and rich.
10th January, 2014
Bigger than life and as sexy as the come

Here we have a fine example of "over-the-top" perfumery at its best. I don't mean that in a derogatory way--in fact I adore this fragrance and am searching for a bottle to add to my collection, for I know the sample I own won't last long. The vintage EDT is, as one reviewer described it, "Rococo" in effect; big, complex, a veritable cornucopia of notes that spell out "sexy" in large, bold letters for all to see. No, don't wear this for running around town, catching up with errands; the reaction from the male sex is pronounced. This is meant for special moments. Seduction. Because there is so much going on in this fragrance, teasing out individual notes is difficult. The animalic notes appeared within moments of application, surrounded by sweet florals and juicy citrus fruit. The opening might be a bit much for some noses, but be patient because once the fragrance settles in, it's lovely and becomes deeply resinous and woody. The civit is pronounced. If you love the perfume "Shocking", I'm sure you'll love this as well. Sillage is BIG, longevity excellent. I could still pick up the scent 12 hours after application. A classic in its own right, one that everyone should at least try before assuming it's "just a skanky civit".

Pros: Warm, spicy, animalic, heavy florals, great longevity and sillage.
Cons: Might be too big and bold for some tastes."

20th September, 2013
Orange blossom, opoponax, and a whiff of plastic doll. I have to assume that my bottle is a modern formulation, so I detect no outrageous civet or bestial skank. There is, however, a whisper of the hay loft and the barnyard. This is lovely, when I am in the mood. I have to get past the Plastic doll note. This is a scent that I imagine Betty Draper wearing: it evokes, for her, a 1960's evocation of both the palace at Versailles where this princess would love to envisage herself in a scandalous assignation, and the stables where she enjoys flirting with young WASP heirs whilst working up a sweat during her horse riding lessons. Over-hyped, but a lovely study in opoponax.
03rd May, 2013
I own the vintage juice and it smells exactly the same as vintage Cotys L'aimaint and l'aimant last longer on me. Bought this blind because of reviews was a bit disappointed, dont quite know what I was expecting, something richer and heavier because I do love silllage monsters. Save your money and find vintage coty instead.
22nd March, 2013
Many years ago as I walked through Harods in London, I avoided as usual the perfume praying mantis trying to make me try the synthetic mass produced chemical concoctions and happened upon the sight of a massive bottle of Bal a Versailles. Maybe its quite sad to realise that initially I was seduced by my eyes and not my nose, but yes, it was the case. I did have a try of the tester though and as I wandered around Harods, and then later around London, I felt as though I couldn't forget the fragrance. I suppose in a way, it was like falling in love at first smell. I couldn't rest until I had aquired a bottle for myself, luckily my local wonderful perfumery in York stocks it.
I don't wear it every day, or every week, but like a favourite Lover who only appears occasionally but never fails to please, I absolutely love it!!
13th March, 2013
This review is for the current reformulated edt version:

Bal a Versailles starts off with a very a sharp, pungent and spicy orange flower and cassis note that never lets up. Usually I love anything orange i.e. orange blossom, neroli, orange flower, but it is unrelenting and not pleasant at all. The leather, incense and civet that make the vintage edp so incredible is nonexistent and has been completed stripped with reformulation. It dries down to a powdery mess. I like some powder aspects, but this is ridiculous. It literally smells like someone took a bag of baby powder and threw it in your face. This stuff is so awful. A drastic chnage from the orignal edp. This is very dissappointing.
08th March, 2013
I am not capable of writing an objective review of the Bal, having worn it since 1978.
Why do we love sausages and mashed potatoes when nouvelle cuisine or pacific rim is au courant? The hippocampus is to blame of course, we lay down memories with our sense of smell and this explains why we remember the end of the golden weather when our Dad wore Old Spice and our Mothers wore Tweed. Even though I embrace change and try to keep up with technology there is always that sweetest tabu, the nostalgic link to the best of times, the worst of times.
My head swivels to the waft of Aramis Devin or Chanel 19 because only a very definite personality type wears such. In other reviews I explain why I loved Ma Griffe, Weil de Weil, Shocking and Chanel No 5. I obtained them by roadkill. Bal a Versailles walked in to my life in 1978. It was wearing a slightly built, androdynous woman and I was shocked by the juxtaposition. After all, Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor and Her Majesty were followers of the original. Today I would wear Terre d'Hermes and wouldn't bat an eyelid at a man wearing Bal a Versailles (Michael Jackson did) or Cabaret. It seemed strange then but she certainly had me thinking. After working with the perfume and the woman for some time I began to harbor the possibility, what reaction this pelt might have with my body chemistry? I wasn't brave enough until our employment diverged and I discovered that I wore it and not the other way round. Today, post reformulation, I layer Cuir Amethyste and Bal a Versailles. Love means never have to say you're sorry.
04th March, 2013 (last edited: 19th March, 2013)
I had a sample of Bal a Versailles years ago. It was the 1980's and I was in my youth. The popular fragrances of the period were Poison, Amarige, Arden's Red Door, etc. Great big florals and things of that ilk. Bal a Versailles was miles away from what all my friends were wearing. So of course I adored it. I never cared to follow trends. I like what i like. Unfortunately the sample bottle was all I could get my hands on at that time. When it was gone I sadly said good-bye to Bal a Versailles.

Other scents soon caught my attention and I forgot my love for Bal a Versailles. Now as I like to change scents monthly I was trying to think of something new for January. I like heavy scents for winter. In the cold of the Pacific Northwest my skin dries out and a light scent won't last.

After much searching and debating I happened across my old friend - Bal a Versailles. I remebered it's richness and sillage and also found the current reformulation is quite inexpensive. So I purchased a bottle. Now, not having smelled BaV in quite a while may be a blessing. I really only remember the barrest structure of the fragrance. But this new BaV does not disappoint me!

The first rush is sweet honeyed fruit and flowers. Nothing bad about that. The thing I get is the sandalwood and patchouli here make a very smooth combination. I get a lot of the vanilla and the resins in the base, but absolutely no civet. So I have no idea what people who call BaV skanky are talking about. To me there is richness, lushness and pure elegance.

Althought I can't smell the civet in BaV I think my cat can, because she has started to lick my arm where I was testing the fragrance!
06th January, 2013
LANIER Show all reviews
United States
Rome January 1962, in the dark corners of the huge soundstage of Cinecittà Studios all eyes are on an extraordinary personage. The man is Welsh, and touted to be the new Olivier. With a good ten years of films behind him he has never really hit it big in the movies. Not like he has on the stage where he is considered a god. That is about to change.

There is a small commotion in the shadows. He and everyone else on the set turn, and his eyes fall upon the luscious curves of the woman who has just unceremoniously sauntered into the pool of lights in the center of the stage. Sheathed in flowing canary yellow chiffon, her eyes of violet blue spangled with glitter and lined with black Egyptian kohl she is every inch a morsel for a monarch. Her eyes with veiled curiosity explore his handsome acne scarred face. She is not impressed and yet slightly apprehensive of his stage training. He takes in her dark glamour in and recalls being tuned to ice by her dismissive glance ten years earlier across a hot star encrusted swimming pool in smoggy Los Angeles. That was the first time Richard Burton laid eyes upon his destiny in the form of Elizabeth Taylor. This time in Rome was the second.

The director, Joe Mankiewicz spoke briefly to both of them then went of to commiserate with the cinematographer and the assistant director leaving them awkwardly alone to make their own introductions. Burton turned and crookedly smiled to Elizabeth. He picked up a cup of coffee and spilled a little as his hand was seized by a hangover tremor. Instinctively she reached out and steadied the cup. Gently her hand cupped his and guided the coffee to his lips. His eyes fell into hers and locked there for eternity.

“Has anyone ever told you that you are a very pretty girl?” He said.

Her heart, imagination and life were changed forever by that simple cliché that fell in perfect calculated grace from the lips of perhaps the greatest Shakespearian actor of his generation.

And so it began the scandal of the 1962 which shattered two marriages, nearly toppled a studio and ushered in the cannibalistic tabloid world of today. It was the romance of the century and inspired a generation of sexual revolutionaries. Not to be left out of the action the Pope got in on the act and branded Elizabeth Taylor a “Sexual Vagrant”. Now THAT is a Movie Star!

What did this shattering moment smell like? Bal à Versailles is the answer. Many famous women from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Queen Elizabeth have worn it, but none more famously than Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Cleopatra” when she launched a thousand paparazzo’s in the arms of her Mark Antony.

Created in 1962 by Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles is traditionally presented as a female fragrance. Well that was back in the old days of the 1900’s, welcome to the 21st century were such gender identities for fragrance are down right passé. This magnificent perfume fully rounded out by 350 essences is a monster of audacious panache and a masterpiece of design fit for anyone with the balls to wear it. It is bold, and huge in its opening of rosemary, orange blossom, mandarin orange, cassia, jasmine, rose, Neroli, bergamot, Bulgarian rose and lemon. Heavy hitters are the roses and the orange notes. We move in for our close-up with notes of sandalwood, patchouli, lilac, orris root, vetiver, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and leather. The Leather dominates the heart of the fragrance. If you are a leather lover this is Oscar time at the Kodak Theater and Nicole Kidman has just called your name. When the dry down approaches it is a dramatic movie star fade out. Beautiful notes of tolu balsam, amber, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla, cedar and resins hold court for the final long shot as Bal à Versailles rides off into the sunset captivating all it has touched with its smoky fingers of desire and fire.

Bal à Versailles is a projection bomb. Once you have it on there is no going back. You commit to this one all the way or not at all. The silage is like incense burners pumping purple heaven full blast on Cleopatra’s barge. It lasts for days without the need for “retakes”. It is animalic, dirty, sexy and just a wonder of a scent that has me in its spell as surely as Elizabeth Taylor had Richard Burton just where she wanted him all those years ago in Rome, right in the palm of her hand.

09th October, 2012
I recieved a bottle of this in the Eau De Cologne as a birthday/graduation present a couple of days ago along with some other [EPIC!] goodies from fellow basenoter Jujy54. Her note in the card stated that it was 'Racy stuff, pure decadence' and I couldn't agree with that statement more. The porcelain bottle is beautiful and like something off of Marie Antoinette or Josephine Beauharnais' boudoir tables. As others have noted very french. The opening on my skin is very spicy and slightly dizzying if you smell it straight away. I love the spice in the beginning, and after a few moments it begins to develop. Heavy on the musk, vanilla, and rose and a spicy vibe as it dries down to a 'sultry cookie' on my skin. The scent itself reminds me of an extravagant ball at Versailles or some other palace, with flowers all around, and flowing champagne and sweet treats, and ladies and gentlemen [or gentleman/gentleman, lady/lady menage trois] pressed together [it is Bal a Versailles after all] it just reeks of elegance and sultry cookie. and I really like it. <3
19th July, 2012 (last edited: 28th July, 2012)
Bal a Versailles went right over my head when I first tried it. It seemed like an old-school, animalic/powdery floriental. Whether you like that sort of perfume or not, the balance of the elements is crucial. Bal a Versailles just missed that balance---not enough powder to hide the skank. But as I eased into it, I got it. If I didn't put it into the Genre-Box, it came into just the right gauzy focus. Sweaty, decrepit, unashamed.
25th June, 2012
This review is for the current EDT.

This opens rich, warm, heady & sweet, with a honeyed feel, & animalic civet present right from the start. After a powerful opening, it settles quite close, taking on a vanillic & powdery aspect, but remains wonderfully skanky throughout. Five hours in l get a salty amber, with just a whiff of the supporting floral notes, & it lasts all day & all evening on me.
l find this classic perfume rich & comforting, & like Musc Ravageur, most suited for a night on the tiles or for those special private moments. l would feel far too self-conscious wearing something so dirty to work or for a formal occasion.
17th June, 2012
This review is for the current iteration( which I regret buying). I'd love to smell the versions others here own!

From the top: A blast of cough medicine mixed with the notorious body smells variously described by folk in many places, is followed by and hangs with a low-grade honey/greasy hair scent which sets my teeth on edge. It's like the sugar that's crystallized out of old, bad-quality clover honey. If this can be borne for a hour or so on my skin, it's replaced by an inoffensive, even pleasant, vaguely spicy dry-down. And that's it.

Lasts longer on fabric, which means, for me, the garment must be washed as the animal smell lingers longer. I disagree with those who call it urineous. It's the fecal smell exuded by fly-pollinated shrubs.

If this perfume is sex, it's cold, grungy sex without love.
19th March, 2012
This is for the original Bal à Versailles.

Head notes: Rosemary, orange blossom, mandarin orange, cassia, jasmine, rose, neroli, bergamot, bulgarian rose, lemon
Heart notes: Sandalwood, patchouli, lilac, orris root, vetiver, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley
Base notes: Tolu balsam, amber, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla, cedar, oriental resins

Bal à Versaille is most certainly one of the utmost opulent perfumes ever made. This kind of fragrance is perfectly suitable for white tie events where women are dressed in long silk taffeta gowns and wear diamond rivières. The vanilla-amber-resin base, the complex middle note extravaganza and the intoxicating citrus-floral top make for a powerful olfactory experience. Of course, BAV is rather sweet, powdery and heady fragrance but when it is worn in the proper venues, it is absolutely heavenly. IMHO, BAV is chiefly an evening fragrance and it's warm and rich effluvia are better appreciated in autumn and winter.

I read here that there is a "new" version of this great classic which has not much to do with the original. If so, it is a pity.
17th March, 2012
Wow, simply amazing, one of the absolute best, most magnificent creations ever made. If you want something different, something naughty, something men will remember as the scent of the girl they were crazy for, choose BAV. It is not for the tame at heart, it is for those that will embrace their sexuality, who are daring to put on red heels with a red dress and walk out to the streets wearing bad hair. Call girl, perhaps but to me Madamme Pompadour all the way. We all have the bad girl in us but do we dare to show it off? Pure perfection to me, men are very attracted to this scent even though it is not loud but very intimate and thus best for intimate occasions, it must be those pheromones in there and what a stunning civet, bringing out our animalic side. Very long lasting and my absolute fave at the moment. BTW, I own the vintage EDT but also really love the modern EDT. They are similar yet different, as expected due to the natural notes the vintage is smoother and velvety, less sillage and definitely less lasting power but some of that is also due to the dissipation of some top notes perhaps. The modern version is spicier, grand sillage and great lasting power, some effervescent sharper notes on top. Love both and could not choose, great layered too, I would do vintage and then modern over. Vintage alone can even be worn to the office. Simply what I would call passion in a bottle.
13th March, 2012 (last edited: 13th April, 2012)