A Patou Revival

Jean_PatouLast week I went to Sniffapalooza, and among all the other things and people you could see there, I met the in house perfumer of Jean Patou, Thomas Fontaine.  Under ordinary circumstances this wouldn’t happen because in my zig- zagging about New Jersey, head perfumers don’t turn up all that often, but at the time, on the cosmetics floor of Bergdorf’s, I got a moment to speak to him and he was very interesting, perhaps particularly to me, as I love the history of perfumes, and not just the novelties.

He’s a busy man these days since he works for the parent company of Jean Patou Designer Perfumes, and they own more than one older brand. Jean Louis Scherrer is also on the roster.  Thomas Fontaine has the task of keeping up the older formulas, and in the age of restrictions, this is no easy thing.  You never know when IFRA will put out an APB on desperate scent villains such as jasmine. If you are responsible for keeping up Joy’s appearances, this sort of interdiction could constitute the coup de grâce for the old classic.

So far though it sounds as if M. Fontaine’s employers are trying to revivify Jean Patou, and good for them.  They have moved production back to France from England where it languished during the period when JP was owned by P&G.

All acronyms aside, M. Fontaine told me that he’d been obliged to bring the quality of the concentrates back up.  If you want to distinguish the pre-take-over perfumes from the post, all you need to do is look at the bottles. They have returned to an in house design used for 1000.  Those are the newer bottles.

His most exciting news is that they are going to re-issue three lost and lamented perfumes at the end of this year: Chaldee, a green orange blossom over oppoponax, Patou pour Homme, sometimes called the greatest masculine perfume ever created, and Eau de Patou an innovative eau fraiche with a lingering trail that used to include incense.  They’ll be available in the flagship store in Paris first, then in high end stores in different parts of the world.

If they were doing these three, I asked, what about the other old Patous? Would they bring back Moment Supreme, for instance?

He said that they were thinking about this, and I asked how he managed in the absence of the old companies that made bases for the perfumes (De Laire, for example, used to make many, in the way that Synarome does Animalis bases today). He smiled and remarked that he had become “the Indiana Jones of perfumers.” This because he had to go and dig up old sources for different components of discontinued perfumes.

He has done this before; indeed he is noted for his skill in such re-creations, working most notably for the very old firm Lubin, which in addition to releasing new fragrances, has also re-introduced new versions of antique perfumes. One of the oldest such recipes would have been Black Jade, a twenty first century reproduction of a scent that may have dated back to 1798 or so when the company was founded, and the mid-century Gin Fizz.

I have smelled Gin Fizz, and was curious about how he’d done it. “Oh, my mother wore that perfume,” he said. “So I had a memory of it to work from.”

So he and his staff have three more old Patous to select for 2014 revivals.  I may have lobbied for Moment Supreme (ok, I did actually lobby for it), but in fairness to everyone who talks about these things on forums or on blogs I should really mention Vacances.  Everyone loves that one.

Will they do it? Can they do it?

I’m on the edge of my seat.

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14 thoughts on “A Patou Revival

  1. This is marvellous, many thanks! I don’t think that I had even noticed that Patou had changed hands. I find it very encouraging that Thomas Fontaine willing to get out there and mix with consumers and discuss the issues surrounding recreation and reformulation, as many perfume houses would not dream of it. Unfortunately I have never found a a Patou to love but I’ll keep an eye out for the re-issues. Sadly, Lubin is a bit out of my financial range.

    1. The Lubins are expensive, no doubt about it. Not sure if any have been stellar, although I’ve only smelled Idole, Black Jade and Gin Fizz of which Idole and Fizz were the most interesting. Olivia Giacobetti did Idole and Fizz was Fontaine’s.
      The Patous though are something to look out for. Not a Joy or 1000 wearer myself, so can’t be sure how the perfumes fared in recent years. If you know either of them, try the square bottles at a local department store and see how they compare with old ones.
      I too, think it wise of the owners of Patou to go and talk to the public. They need to re-establish their reputation for quality, and it’s smart not to be sphinx-like and silent in the process.

  2. I certainly hope so! One of my favorites is Sublime — P & G reportedly ruined it. My 50 ml EDT won’t last forever. And I’m with you on the Moment Supreme. I have my mother’s bottle but 50 years old is 50 years old. I’d love to know — approximately — what it once smelled like.

  3. Oh the sad decline of Sublime is something I get annoyed about. It is in production according to M. Fontaine, and he said that he had brought the quality level up, so now there is nothing to do but go and smell, and hope that it is better than the P&G debacle. (I mean version.)

    Moment Supreme is in my collection too. I’d love to smell the real thing. M. Fontaine mentioned to me also that older perfumes distorted the smell of a scent through the long maceration in bottle. We all know the top notes go, and I always fear that distinctive nail polish remover smell that tells you half the formula is gone.

    1. I might give Sublime a try then, although now would not be a good time to purchase from the the online discounters by the sound of it. Their stock can be quite old. Although that can be a good thing sometimes too!

      1. Try the new stuff. Maybe it is better than the old. This might not be a good time to purchase old stock as it might still date from the P&G ownership.

        If you can find bottles that date from before the P& G takeover, then OK, but they will be over twelve years old because the take-over was in 2001. Apologies for my temporary mathematical dysfunction.

  4. I just discovered your blog, thanks to Chandler Burr’s Facebook link. I’ve been sadly uninterested (is “grieving” too strong a word?) since the restrictions were imposed. Your article here gives me hope. I’m off to read some more…

    1. Let’s hope that some of this revival is worth the suspense and the effort, and you’re certainly not alone being dis-heartened by all these reformulations. But I think that the intention really is to revive the company and to bring the standards of the perfumes up. I hope they pull it off. And thanks for dropping by.

  5. We were having a discussion about the Patou revival in a Facebook perfume group the other day, and you’re right, the fragrance that was mentioned immediately was Vacances. (I’m so sorry it doesn’t work for you, because it is truly lovely.) The thing about Vacances is that I think it might sell very well in the current perfume climate – there’s very little about it that would cause non-perfumistas to jerk their heads back in horror, and it smells very much like greenery and flowers.

    I have tried Chaldee (from a Ma Collection mini), but had my usual orange blossom soapy problem with it. That said, I wish the company much success with the revitalization.

    1. Yeah, I know that everyone would like Vacances, and I think it would be one of the smarter revivals they could pull off- always supposing that it’s possible.

      The one mentioned to me for 2014 re-do was I think, Divine Folie which is a leather, not as refined as your Cuir de Lancome (is Cuir the leather section of Tresor?) but sort of in between many leathers and ambers, warm, ladylike and wearable.
      Still, were I to give them advice, I’d suggest Vacances. It is much loved.

  6. I’m encouraged by this post. Also I have been reading Anjelica Huston’s press releases for her autobiography: she wear Mille. So i have ordered Mlle and Eau de Patou. How will i know its age? I hope they’re good.

    1. Mille is a very complex green floral and you will be having a lot of twists and turns to the formula. I think you’re rather brave to start with this Patou which is certainly one of the most complicated ones. But hang in there, Mille does take it’s time and depending on how old your bottle is, will be more or less twisty and turny.

      Eau de patou is a beautiful cologne but it has or had a long incense dry down which is not very typical of colognes, this makes it hard to use as a cologne modifier to spray on top of heavier things that need a wake up. I’d use any old cologne including 4711 for that job. But again, if your bottle is old, you may be surprised by the sophistication of your purchase- and I hope you enjoy both!

  7. Thank you so much for the kind response-I appreciate it. i will be 41 on the 29 of Jan and wanted a change. This past year I was involved in turning the company i work for into an ISO 9002 site, and I like the quality aspect of my job. The standards. One reason i like French fragrances is fir the quality, altho i have a hard time describing what it is that makes a quality fragrance. I had committed to the Mille, and then found out that there was a bottle of Eau de Patou. So tomorrow I will wear them, and enjoy them, and reflect on quality as it exists in fragrance. I suspect both my bottles are pretty old. Both were made in france. The Mille says copyright 1985, the Eau says copyright 1989. Thank you again, Carole

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