Balmain Jolie Madame: A Scent for All Seasons


Jolie Madame by Pierre Balmain was created in 1953 by Germaine Cellier and has an immediate old fashioned glamour. Cellier knew what she was doing. Her other fragrances, Bandit  and Fracas (both for Robert Piguet) are still standing today as revered classics. When you think how many fragrances have been and gone over the years, that’s a pretty big achievement.

The more I have delved into Aldehydes and Woody Chypres on my colourful perfume journey, the more I have appreciated them. Jolie Madame seems to be the very pinnacle of a perfect Woody Chypre, almost prickling and crackling with its rough and beautiful Oakmoss and Galbanum.

balmain jolie madame ad 1

I am a huge fan of both Green Notes and Hesperides, and yet I have been venturing a lot into Leather recently (but enough about my marriage *ahem*). To find a fragrance that encapsulates all my favourites in one scent has thrilled me. Firstly, Jolie Madame opens with Green Notes, including the stems and leaves. Petitgrain and Oakmoss, give it a woody, leafy opening. Then the Bergamot makes it presence felt, giving the woodiness some airy freshness at the same time, like a walk in a forest after a downpour. It smells like mossy, wet earth under damp bracken. There is a slight powderiness, in the form of chalk, or maybe it’s the Gardenia making me think of the colour white. This fades into a Green and Smoky Leather finish that lingers, delighting with whiffs of Violet and a whisper of White Musk throughout the day.


It is perfectly put together and utterly delightful. It’s my one stop shop when I can’t choose between a Green Note scent, a Woody Chypre, a Hesperide or a Leather. Jolie Madame gives me everything I want..

It is the antithesis of modern High Street scents and its price tag is surprisingly reasonable. This may have to be one of my rare full bottles. . It has great lasting power- on me, this lasts around six or seven hours.  I can’t get my nose off my wrist. It’s outrageously good.

If I was forced to narrow my treasured perfume collection into only two bottles, it would be Vol de Nuit and Jolie Madame. That kind of covers all bases for me. A joy!

Yesterday I discovered Balmain. And it was a good, good day.


3 thoughts on “Balmain Jolie Madame: A Scent for All Seasons”

  1. You’d better hurry if you want a full bottle! Balmain changed hands a couple of years ago and they completely changed their perfume lineup (this might also have something to do with those nasty people at IFRA who won’t let us play with ingredients like real oakmoss any more because it gives a tiny number of people a rash. Boo!!!!!) It might also be because of declining sales of their ‘classics’ (Miss Balmain, Jolie Madame, Ivoire de Balmain and Balmain de Balmain), which I suspect is a big factor, given that the ultimate in green chyprery – Miss Dior – has been demoted to ‘originale’ status and pushed to the back of the Dior counter just for maiden aunts. I suspect that traditional chypres are only popular with perfumistas and maiden aunts these days.

    Another reason for Jolie Madame’s discontinuation might be that Germaine Cellier worked with combinations of aromachemicals called ‘bases’, many of which no longer exist and the recipes for which have long since been lost. Piguet’s Bandit has been reformulated with modern ingredients to replicate as well as possible the original and according to Luca Turin (who of course has smelled both) they’ve done a good job. I’ve smelled the modern and it’s wowser. I love it. It smacks you round the head though!

    Possibly the new owners of Balmain didn’t feel it was worth spending the money to painstakingly reformulate Jolie Madame both to conform to the new super-tight IFRA regulations and also to recapture the original Jolie Madame’s beauty. If it’s not selling, it’s probably not worth it.

    Ivoire has been reformulated (you’ll be glad to hear, IScents, after your hilarious reaction to the original!) you can try the new version in the shops now. It’s very different, you’ll be delighted to hear. 🙂

    1. Dear Isecent and Wordbird
      So glad that you have discovered Jolie Madame… one The Dandy reviewed just a few days ago!
      It is a truly splendid spray, though I must confess that I got rather more of the leather from the start and a great bed of violets – could it be we are testing different vintages?
      Further to Lisa’s post, some further word on Balmain, the house is currently re-introducing Vent Vert, re-packaging Ambre Gris and, depending on how these two trial runs go is considering the remainder of the lapsed range for re-launch!
      We shall see, Balmain de Balmain, a perfume completely out of its own time when it first appeared in the 1990s, seems a very unlikely candidate for the modern market. Very sad as it is a brilliant cassis leaf green.
      In the meantime, we shall have to busy ourselves grabbing all the bargains that appear on online.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Both of your comments had my full attention in an “eyes out on stalks” sort of way. Balmain perfumes have had a dramatic effect on my perfume preferences and they have completely converted me to green chypres, which I always admired, but at a distance. My Epiphany happened just two weeks ago when I smelt Balmains for the first time. Love at first sniff. Thanks to both Jolie Madame and Balmain de Balmain, I am now avid in my search for these bottles (found both on eBay) and also very interested to hear that with encouragement, we may bring these Grande Dames out of retirement.

    The only Balmain in Sephora was the one I didn’t like (Ivoire, as you say Lisa). I’m getting to used to that sinking feeling, sadly.

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