Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

Total Reviews: 87
Asha Show all reviews
United States
Jean Despres Bal a Versailles and Miller Harris L'Air de Rien Comparison

Left arm: Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles EDC
Right arm: Miller Harris L'Air de Rien EDP

An article I read recently compared BaV concentrations in both parfum and EDT with L'AdR. L'AdR comes only in EDP, but I know from past experience that it is short lived, and not entirely incomparable to an EDT or EDC.

BaV starts with a blast of civet and very soapy aldehydes (much like the scent of Ivory soap). It has a slight sourness that I sometimes smell in these types of aldehydes, but it is not unpleasant on my skin. The civet doesn't last long, but the soapyness continues through the mid development. Now (about an hour later), I still smell the soap, but also powder, leather, and a bit of another animalic note which reminds me of the animal-cage smell in Dzing! (the note is castoreum). The article said "bar of soap in a horse stable". I would have to agree with this sentiment!

L'AdR starts much sweeter with a slightly dirty amber accord. No civet, but the "dirty" smell is a similar leather and horse barn smell (castoreum). There is no soapyness or sourness, but there is a bit of powder at this stage. It is also retaining its sweetness pretty well, something that is a challenge with my skin. Incidentally, the BaV is quite dry in comparison, at least for me.

I completely understand how a comparison can be made between these two, but I see it mostly in the middle and early part of the drydown. I have a slight preference for the Miller Harris since it forgoes the "dated" aldehydic notes and stays sweet on my skin. However, the BaV is also a very interesting fragrance, and I can imagine exploring its different concentrations.
22nd October, 2008
Bal A Versailles is one of my top favorite scents, despite a discordant note when initially sprayed. Like someone else said, and I'm surprised it's not just me, there's a really sharp, jarring component, (like a person singing horribly off key in a choir), which almost manages to ruin the beginning. I think it's the neroli. Fortunately, this jolt dissipates in a short time, and Bal gets steadily prettier, with the orange blossom, the rose, the lilac, the patchouli taking over. The dance is finally getting the beat of the music. You begin to think, hey, this is pretty nice, and comes, the most SPECTACULAR drydown known to man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One that rivals Shalimar's. The mix of amber, balsams, civet, and vanilla all make for a cozy, snuggly, incredibly warm experience, not unlike cuddling in front of a fire on a bitterly cold winter's day.. I love spicy orientals, and I've rarely come across a finale like this one. OMG it's heaven- what I would guess an invitation to dance at the palace of Versailles would be like. I love the bottle as well- so deliciously romantic. Dance on!
15th October, 2008
tanto Show all reviews
United States
This is a very rich, warm fragrance. It is very pleasant and an old classic from a different era. This was one of Jackie Kennedy Onassis's favorites while she was first lady and for some time there after. It's the kind of fragrance that is of appeal to certain women, but not to all. "Either you love it or you hate it".
11th October, 2008
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Heavenly. Rich and complex, and the drydown is so light but also so full of civet and incense - how'd they DO that??? The only reason this doesn't share a five star rating with my beloved Opium is a weird top note that gave me a sense memory of my elementary school art room, full of slightly open plastic bottles of paint and wooden tables baking in the sun. But in only lasts a moment and then I'm a very happy person.
13th September, 2008
Adding to my review of this sent out yesterday:

It made it extremely sick when I wore it as opposed to having just a drop on my hand for review purposes. Very, very sick. & this is from someone who can shower in "Le Baiser du Dragon".
Very disapointed.
01st September, 2008 (last edited: 02nd September, 2008)
I found old classics agree with me these days better than many new scents. I bought a mini of this one with high hopes, and I'm still not sure what to make of it yet. I really like the dry-down's animalic notes. Not nuts at this point about the flowery opening, which smells like little old ladies to me. It might grow on me. I think it's worth a few more wearings to decide.
27th August, 2008
renperd's review made me laugh because Bal a Versailles is like a coquette. The opening (for me) is powdery cinnamon/clove and florals. As it starts to dry down a rich woodiness emerges that's velvety soft and still overlay-ed with spice. Unlike others, I can't call Bal a Versailles a warm scent because throughout it always seems to remain cool, refined and aloof. It teases you by pulling you in just enough, but never allowing you to get close enough to really figure it out. B a V is as hard to pin down as Mitsouko because of the way it keeps playing and changing on my skin as time passes. It's never overly sweet, but just perfect in it's balance. This is one of those scents that I can suddenly be hit with a craving for, like a slice of pizza, or some other satisfying food. The far dry down is a soft, faintly sweet and powdery leather that can be swoon inducing.

Many have talked about how animalic this is, but I don't get much of that at all. For me, what makes this a romantic and seductive scent is the sense of mystery it evokes. If you don't care for powdery notes, you may not like Bal a Versailles. But then again, this may be the one that makes you make an exception to that rule.
27th August, 2008
This Bal has been sending my olfactory bulb into a flat spin ever since I first sprayed it from a blind bought 100ml bottle. It pushes me away, draws me back closer, leaves me cold, makes me sniff my arm again and again. I want to like it so badly, and sometimes I do, but in the end it's just too damn dry. Interesting with the civet, flowers, sandalwood and all, but dry as bone. Perhaps I'll try it one more time tomorrow.
12th August, 2008
Ugmpff. Hit by the nose breaking spicy Neroli. When my nose is destroyed by it, i can hardly go any further. Like in heure blue and tabu and narcisse noir. i went to board to take a sniff from tabu to compare and umpg hit on the nose again. i know narcisse noir is much more gentle and cute at the opening, heure blue is more essence oil old so these two can race in harshness of opening i thought. Tabu is stronger in time and goes soapy as bal a versailles gets a bit flowery. But as my nose is destroyed with two harsh neroli kick i cannot tell much about the flowers and citrus. The mixture seems to be very complicated. As delicious as a late night baby food; put everything in the blender, honey and the eggs and the apple and the cheese; nutritious but do not expect it to taste gurme. But i can be completely wrong because my nose is dropped by neroli. and may be the neroli does that only to me because hates me as much as i hate neroli. Anyway, i could not find anything nice about it.
29th July, 2008
I puzzled over this one. It doesn't seem to focus on me. It starts with an old-fashioned light, floral accord, like a bouquet, then it adds a sharp, almost salty tang like Caron Alpona, and then it mellows out into a skin scent that is interesting but neither earthy nor animalic, like others have reported. It is underwhelming. I do better with a more distinctly defined fragrance.
18th July, 2008
My first encounter with this masterpiece was passing someone wearing it on the staircase in L'Hotel on the rue des Beaux-Arts. Forever after it remains associated with Mistinguette, Oscar Wilde, attention to detail and full blown beauty. Wasn't it Luca Turin who called it a 'romance bomb'.

If I could take only one oriental to a desert island...
09th April, 2008
A perennial favorite whose ambery dry-down is well worth the extremely floral top notes and heart notes.

Like its distant cousin Shalimar, this French beauty is a) never out of style, b) still made with quality ingredients in spite of the reasonable price tag, c) unisex up to a point (albeit feminine in the beginning, no doubt) and d) two different beasts in its edt and edp/parfum de toilette incarnations. (The edt has greater sillage on me whilst the edp sticks closer to the skin. The edp's dry-down is woodier and more intense, though.)

A huge thumbs up for the house of Desprez. Now if only Desprez would get off its Gallican -ss and bring back Versailles pour Homme so we could all be supremely happy.
08th January, 2008
I don’t like the opening—I think it’s a bit off, and I can’t really explain the off-note. The opening is more raspy and unsmooth than it needs to be, and, frankly, it contradicts the reputation of this fragrance – but I realize that’s just my nose doing the judging. About the time I have Bal à Versailles written off as a neutral or below, it loses that off-edge and is reborn into a rich floral / patchouli accord that’s to-die-for in its mellowness. This accord is made extra rich by a generous civet note that provides all the animalism that a person could want in a fragrance. The florals, the patchouli, the sandalwood, musk, and civet come together in one of the warmest, most seductive skin hugging accords I’ve experienced. Wow – I’ll go through an opening like that anytime if I can get a superb woody ‘ ambery, animalic drydown like this. This IS a brown scent: richly, sensuously auburn brown, sumptuously chocolate brown and classically sensuous.
05th December, 2007 (last edited: 09th December, 2010)
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Warm, soothing...lots of amber & sandalwood which I love. Went to one of the online perfume stores and bought a bunch of sample sizes just to try out...out of 15 fragrances, this one wins for sure. Wish I had found it years ago ... what a great fragrance! Opening notes smell a little like My Sin, but then it warms on your skin like scented candle....a very brown scent, powdery, sexy, the orange giving it a little bite, which I think cuts it from being too warm. In a bizarre way, it reminds me slightly of a men's cologne but it's just a tad too sweet to be a unisex. Love it. The sample is great too, not the usual "watered down" version...going to buy a bottle very soon!
11th May, 2007
Glorious. A warm, velvet-soft floral oriental, it's beautifully blended (this is one of the most successful uses of civet in the base of a perfume I've tried in ages - it's close to the skin and strongly seductive) and headily refined.
04th April, 2007
It sure smells like the classic it is. A traditional soapy/powdery floral, much like some of the old Carons, only less metallic, with a warm, ambery/sandalwoody/musky base. A very warm and "round" scent, nothing stands out except maybe for a certain green/soapy sharpness. The oriental base really adds to the somewaht old-fashioned florals.
04th March, 2007
My all-time favorite oriental. I have the Parfum Classic, and it truly is a superb scent. Beautiful, warm, spicy and ambery with a hint of sweet orange and florals. Although being relatively new, this is "old world" classic at it's best. Jean Desprez... my hat is off to you!
24th February, 2007
Have owned and worn this classy Floriental off and on since its introduction in the 60s when I was riding high (in more ways than one!) the glam world (arts - theatre - broadcast) of NYC. When I need the comfort of other-world craftsmanship and the hot-house effect of being enveloped in fruits and flowers and ambery musc - I go to Bal a Versailles.
08th January, 2007
This is really good! I'd expected a fragrance produced for the 1960s market to be a bit passe, but BaV is anything but. It is a bit heavy on some oft-used notes but that is most definitely not a detriment. I can see why BaV was a success; a classic, for sure.
04th December, 2006
This one *almost* made it to my list of favorite scents -- held back by the fact that it is just the slightest bit too fruity for me, propelled by the fact that it was among my late mother's favorites. It smells to me like grey silk: elegant, a bit restrained; but "come and get me: at the same time. Wish my Mom had left me a bottle, along with her "Ma Griffe."
28th October, 2006
A lovely and classic spice scent to add to my wardrobe of scents. Much less baby tushie powder scent than Habanita and more demure than Shalimar.
23rd October, 2006
A complex, dry, mildly spicy floral oriental, initially similar in sophistication and delicacy to the top notes of L'Heure Bleue. About two hours in, she shows her very creamy and powdery floral heart, then a drydown reminiscent of Habanita, minus the smokiness, and with a more prominent orange blossom. In another half hour, and the scent diverges a bit from Habanita - less smooth sweet tobacco leaves, vanilla and leather, more amber-floral, with a haunting nag champa note. Divine: Habanita's upper crust cousin!
01st August, 2006
I can confidently say this fragrance is 'world class'! Read all the previous reviews - especially calchic's commentary - and you'll get an idea of the importance of this creation. Bal a Versailles is an icon in the craft of perfumery. It is a MUST TRY scent...along with Chanel No. 5, YSL's Opium, and a few other standouts by Guerlain, Caron, & Givenchy! I have yet to read or hear a negative comment regarding the chemistry of this treasure...wether it expresses your inner self or not, you will surely appreciate Bal a Versaille's beauty and wonder!
27th March, 2006
I first sampled this in the mid-'80s (found a small bottle on someone else's bathroom vanity and took a sniff and a dab; I'm shameless that way), and immediately fell in love. "The perfect fragrance," I thought. Since then I've delved into newer, stranger, and more intriguing scents, but this still holds up as an all-time truly glorious oriental.
01st December, 2005
Exquisite, complex, and meticulously crafted. It sings out natural and is my answer to aromatherapists who believe that commercial perfumery is all about evil chemicals. Bal sings out in a bouquet of natural florals with a wonderful resing incense smoke wafting through and above. Utterly and uncompromisingly romantic and classic.
19th November, 2005
A pitch-perfect blend of florals, spices, resins and vanilla, highlighted by citruses and underscored by mosses and incense. It's true, not much is left out of Bal a Versailles; it's much like many of the classic Carons in the sense that it includes a huge compendium of notes that would seem to create nothing more than a very busy mish-mash. Yet like Caron's original master perfumer Ernest Daltroff, Jean Desprez obviously knew what he was doing when he brought forth Bal a Versailles, and it remains a classic today because of that. Mainly, it is an ambery oriental with undertones of sweet orange, powder and spice. Unlike many slightly younger orientals, though (Bal a Versailles having been launched in 1962), it is refined to an extreme and not one to overpower, induce headaches, enter the room before its wearer, etc. Personally, I think that's because the florals here of the "drier," less sweet and less cloying variety, with Grasse jasmine and a very high-quality Bulgarian rose among them. This is a highly wearable fragrance and low-key enough to wear any time and with anything, casual or dress or anywhere in between. I wish the other fragrances of Jean Desprez were as relatively easy to come by as Bal a Versailles, as I would love to find out more about his craftsmanship. If Bal a Versaille is any indication, Monsieur Desprez definitely stands as a fragrance legend.
18th September, 2005
Quarry Show all reviews
United States
This is one of those classics whose production should never cease. I associate it with women who, in the 1960s, frequented department stores when they weren't home being housewives. If you can live with that, then enjoy this traditional oriental with amber and spice. It is so French, with its rose and warm heart of sandalwood, patchouli and vetiver, but (happily) apparently no aldehydes. Sure, candy-like scents are the rage, but every woman has got to have at least one perfume like this in her wardrobe, too.
11th August, 2005