Ivoire de Balmain – the little perfume devil on my shoulder


Ivoire de Balmain – the little perfume devil on my shoulder

In my face is flashing signs,

seek it out and ye shall find.

Old but I’m not that old,

Young, but I’m not that bold.

And I don’t think the world is sold

Just doing what we’re told.

I feel something so right doing the wrong thing.

I feel something so wrong doing the right thing.

I couldn’t lie.. couldn’t lie…couldn’t lie.

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

– Counting Stars, One Republic

In the winter of 1982 I acquired a temporary part time job babysitting a young girl until a full time nanny could be secured for her. She resided with her mother (an attorney) and father (a doctor) in an affluent area on Riverside Drive, NYC within a rather expansive penthouse. My job was to pick her up from her  after school dance class, escort her back to the apartment, cook a light meal and help with homework until her mother returned from work in the late evening. These tasks were usually accomplished swiftly, leaving me at least an hour of free time whilst my charge was watching television.

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It was in the guest bathroom that I first discovered a large bottle of Ivoire de Balmain, completely full and literally collecting dust. At first I would just open the cap and sniff….a sophisticated and refined  chypre. By the third week it was light application of the juice to my tiny wrists. At the end of the month, I had procured a small empty bottle with every intention of decanting some of this glorious perfume.

Vintage Ivoire de Balmain The Fragrant Man

Bear in mind that up to this point in my young life I had always been an uptight, goody-two-shoes, straight A student. The only explanation that I could fathom for this intent to steal was that a tiny perfume devil was sitting on my shoulder, facilitating this inappropriate action, whispering in my ear that this gorgeous, complex fragrance would only go bad sitting in the bottle unused. I followed through with my devious plot and emptied a quarter of the bottle into my decant.

Despite adoring the hypnotic scent that emanated from my perfumed wrist every time I pressed my nose to it the illegal possession of it haunted me. I was wraught with guilt and when a full-time nanny was finally found I confessed my transgression to the attorney on my last day of employment.

She replied to me rather nonchalantly, ” You like the Ivoire? The bottle is yours, then. But don’t tell my husband as he gifted it to me. I can’t stand the stuff.  I will just tell him the maid accidentally dropped the bottle  and it broke.” I was delirious with joy! One woman’s trash became a teenage girl’s treasure!

I was recently given a large decant of the original Ivoire de Balmain from a vintage loving friend. I wondered what thoughts would come to mind as I inhaled its beauty over three decades later: decadence, naughtiness and the memory that something so wrong could turn out so right.

Ivoire de Balmain – Pierre Balmain
Perfumer: uncredited
Classification: Green Floral Chypre
Launched 1979

Top   aldehydes, chamomile, asafoetida, mandarin orange, violet, artemisia, marigold, bergamot and lemon

Heart   nutmeg, carnation, cinnamon, narcissus, pepper, orris root, jasmine, turkish rose, neroli, ylang-ylang and lily-of-the-valley

Dry Down sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, musk, raspberry, vanilla, oakmoss, vetiver and incense.

Tonight’s Treat
For tonight’s treat we are gifting away 1 ml of vintage Ivoire de Balmain. Just leave a comment as to whether or not you have ever been “naughty” due to your fragrance obsession.

Vintage Ivoire de Balmain The Fragrant Man

A treat – Vintage Ivoire de Balmain

Winner announced May month end.

Further Reading

Pierre Balmain & Ruth Ford 1947.  Photo Carl Van Vechten

Pierre Balmain & Ruth Ford 1947.
Photo Carl Van Vechten

The Non-Blonde – Gaia Fisher tried this so you don’t have to; but you should.

Balmain Gown 1953. Photo: Philippe Pottier

Balmain Gown 1953. Photo: Philippe Pottier

Yesterday’s Perfume – “an olfactory meditation on how a clean fragrance can have depth and texture

Balmain The Fragrant Man Ivoire de Balmain

Balmain Gown 1961 Photo: John French

Scentsafe compares Vintage VS Modern.

Balmain style in the 1950′s

Balmain style in the 1950′s

Now Smell This – Robin on the relaunch – Michel Almairac and Jacques Flori were the Perfumers for the 2012 re-release.

32 responses to “Ivoire de Balmain – the little perfume devil on my shoulder

    • Don’t get any ideas!!! But thank you for letting your old mum listen to your One Republic CD…it was this song and the recently acquired vintage bottle from Neil that really brought this story to the forefront of my memory and inspired this post!

  1. I have yet to smell this, but it sounds lovely. And yes, the perfume devil has sat on my shoulder a few times when I have seen a bottle of fragrance belonging to someone else. 😉

  2. Brie, this post was shocking and confessional but I admire your honesty. Attorneys and elephants have had this issue for years with ivory. Great to see this transition from Perfume Poacher to Scented Story Teller.

    • Thank you, Jordan! And as you already know karma does indeed exist. For as Brittany and I were trying to escape a bee as she was taking this photograph we ran and I shook up my vintage Ivoire. Once in the house I noticed a massive amount of bubbles in the bottle. As I opened it an explosion of perfume ensued…..in my eye, up my nose, down my throat….. no more perfume poaching for me!

  3. I’ve never been particularly naughty over perfume, though I’ve been very naughty in my time. I don’t want to be in the drawing, just wanted to let you know I enjoyed your story. I have a decant of Ivoire but today I’m wearing Vent Vert. 🙂

    • Lilybelle….you, naughty? Do tell 😀 !!!! Vintage Vent Vert? I am swooning!!! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Dearest Brie
    I adore this story!
    Especially going to the bother of the decant rather than swiping the whole bottle and then claiming innocence.
    Of course The Dandy has led an entirely blameless life and therefore has no tales of wrongdoing to share…
    He would never have emptied three prize bottles of his mater’s Chanel into a tub over brimming with various other cosmetics and collectibles as a child. No, not he, nor would he then have proceeded to give her prize sheepskin rug a good dip in this priceless bath.
    No. Not ever. Not The Dandy.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Oh Mr. Dandy…always dashing, debonaire and honest! I truly laughed just now at your very own transgression revealed and am curious as to mater’s response….. I suppose you were a “perfumaniac” even in youth! Three bottles of Chanel? OUCH !!!!

      • Dearest Brie
        Mater was a saint and after initially banishing me to my bedroom indefinitely, relented on the internal exile and determined the best thing was for me to have a toiletry and perfume collection of my own that I might respect the matter more.
        And there, from a misdemeanour, arises The Dandy as we know him today.
        Well, in part, as my grandmater had already introduced my to the wonders of her crystal glass dressing table set whilst grandpater had trained me to be his unofficial grooming assistant.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  5. Thanks for the linkage! I got a kick out of your story. I’ve been wearing the landlady’s Ma Griffe on occasion. Maybe that’s similar?

    • Hi Joan!
      Another fellow perfume poacher! Actually no guilt should be felt by a few stolen spritzes here and there, right? And you must smell divine in the Ma Griffe!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I loved the story, Brie! I was sad when it was over 🙂
    I’ve never tried this perfume but, of course, now Iwant to.
    As to your question… I still feel bad for secretly using on my dolls some of my mom’s very rare and expensive then Dior’s parfums.

    • Hi Undina!
      You must have had some incredible smelling dolls! Maybe a fragrant fairy will gift you a sample of Ivoire soon so that you can give it a try!

  7. I have no memory of ever swiping anything more than a spritz of something. I suppose if I found something as tempting as you did I’d be inclined to do the same. After all, it’s a shame that it was just sitting there collecting dust.

    • Poodle…you are a better person than I was! The temptation was too great for me!
      And true, that was my teenage brain’s logic….”it’s just sitting there collecting dust”!!!

  8. I can’t believe I haven’t been naughty when it comes to fragrance, is that bad?? I like Ivoire and would love to try your vintage sample.

    • Good for you, tomate farcie! Being “good” is not bad at all!
      You are entered in this draw…and thanks for stopping by!

  9. Excellent choice of song and a very entertaining review a la Dickens. I have never tried Ivoire but I have always loved that ad copy of theirs with the slender lady in white dress, pearls and the huge hat (nowhere close in style with the looks shown here though).
    Yes, I have been “naughty” and lied to acquire a free sample of a very expensive perfume from a very posh place. I am too embarrassed to go into detail…

    • That song helped to inspire this post for as I was wearing my recently gifted Ivoire and thinking about the evil I had done I happened to be listening to the One Republic CD (confiscated it from my teenage daughter, but, hey, she is always stealing my perfume bottles!).

      Amer I loved that ad…so elegant,right?
      And I think you now have an idea to write about for your very first post on the Fragrant Man…I for one would like to hear all of the details!!!!

  10. Pingback: May Gift Recipients | The Fragrant Man·

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