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Je Reviens – One of the great classic perfumes

I love vintage fragrances. I own many and most of them are fragrances I’ve worn throughout my life, since I was a teenager. Or they are ones my mother loved and wore, she who was a perfumista long before that word existed.  Vintage perfumes do something to me that new fragrances can’t. Their scent stories are so imbedded that just a single whiff can send me to a happy place, flooding my senses with images, sounds, and smells of people, places and things, moments in the story of my life.

There is “VINTAGE” and there is “vintage”. Classic VINTAGE from the late 1800’s through to 1950, and modern vintage from 1950’s to late 1990’s. Many vintage perfumes from both eras are still in production today, such as Guerlain Jicky (1889). and Dior Hypnotic Poison (1998). For most fragrances, the current versions are a close approximation of the original juice, less potent and rich due to changes in formulae from trend updates, regulation requirements, and cost reductions. For some, the current versions have been diminished to the point of being pale imitations of the original. In these cases, you have to track down a vintage bottle of parfum or EdP/EdT to experience the original beauty, which sounds like a lot of work but is absolutely worth the effort.

Je Reviens was created by perfumer Maurice Blanchet for the French design house Worth in 1932, and it is regarded by some as one of the world’s greatest perfumes.  Je Reviens translates as “I will return” or “I will come back” and Susan Irvine, in Perfume: The Creation and Allure of Classic Fragrances, attributes the original name to Napoleon’s instructions to Josephine, 

“Je reviens en trois jours, ne te lave pas.” [I’ll be back in three days – do not wash.] 

The name gave it legend status during WWII, and it became a gift to girlfriends, wives, and mothers, from soldiers both leaving and then returning after six long years of horrific war. I know this as fact. Je Reviens is the fragrance my father sent to my mother as a gift during the war, and the one he brought back for her when he returned from Europe in 1945. It became her most favourite perfume, and for years afterwards he gave it to her for birthdays and anniversaries. 

If fragrances have a colour, Je Reviens is blue, a deep blue reflected by the blue glass of its unique Lalique bottle, tall and elegant like an Art-Deco skyscraper. The original parfum formula featured aldehydes in the top, following the lead of Chanel No. 5 a few years before. Instead of the fizzle and sparkle which opens the Chanel classic, the aldehydes in Je Reviens hum with a slow buzz, and their distinctive chemical solvent note adds a soapiness to the opening accord of oakmoss, bergamot/lemon citrus and white and yellow florals. 

These are blooms with attitude! I detect the sour-waxy scent of pollens from narcissus, the dirty-clean funk of jasmine, the damp earthiness of oakmoss, and then blue and purple florals deep underneath. Up to this point there is not a hint of sweetness, the accord is crisp and cool, green with the scent of freshly cut stems. After a few minutes, the lightest waft of jasmine and ylang-ylang add floral sweetness and a subtle note of bitter almond, which quickly fades away as the floral heart opens up.

Blue and purple blooms of lilac, iris, hyacinth, and violets exude a pale, shimmery, diluted sweetness which hovers over the come-hither night-time waft of narcotic white florals, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, narcissus and jasmine. The blue and white floral bouquet is spiked with a cinnamon-clove hit of rose and carnation, and this spicy accent blends with warm musk notes and leads seamlessly into the base, where the sandalwood resins add their powdery aromatics. Wafts of incense and vetiver create a trail of smokiness intersected by wisps of violet and watery iris notes.

Je Reviens parfum dries down smelling of flowers and bare skin, powdery but not quite clean, salty-sweet with musky warmth, cool green and woody with a hint of post-sex cigarette smoke hovering in the background. The scent wears close to the skin, a whispery breath that invites closeness. 

The allure of Je Reviens is much more than just its name. The scent is built on opposites, synthetics and natural, blue and white, soft and harsh, cool and warm, sour and sweet, airy and dense, and its intent is not to tell a story of a particular place or time or smell. Like any abstract work of art, personal experience determines how it is interpreted or experienced and remembered, and the beauty of Je Reviens is so distinctly unique, it is unforgettable. 

The Je Reviens I've just described is the vintage parfum, which was produced approximately up to the mid-1980's. Je Reviens in its current version is one of the unfortunate vintage gems which no longer sparkle from within. Over the years, Worth has had several owners and Je Reviens has been subjected to several reformulations, which have stripped the current version of its romantic splendor. It's now sold mainly in drugstores and online at bargain prices. There was a Je Reviens Couture version launched about ten years ago which was similar to the original, but it also is now out of production and impossible to find. 

My current vintage bottle is a 30ml. bottle of parfum de toilette from the early 1980’s, in the packaging with the cherub which predates the major formula changes. It is definitely Je Reviens, and still has the initial bite with the lovely dry-down. I love it.

I’m on the search for a replacement bottle of vintage parfum - Je Reviens in 3D. I think I’ve found one…stay posted.

Je Reviens Vintage PdT is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml. 

Image - Wikipedia - "Kissing the war goodbye" New York City, August 14, 1945 by Victor Jorgensen (1913-1994)