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Monsieur Balmain – What’s not to love?

Monsieur Balmain bottle -

I don’t know why, but for some reason Monsieur Balmain by the legendary Germaine Cellier never appeared on my perfume radar until a couple of weeks ago.

A friend of mine offered to sell me a bottle of Monsieur Balmain which she’d bought as a gift for someone who already owned it as it turned out, so I dropped by her house for a quick “test-sniff”. It was a no-brainer – money changed hands immediately, and I drove home with my nose glued to my wrist. (Are there fines for wrist-sniffing while driving? There should be because, believe me, for perfume freaks, a new perfume is right up there with cell phones!)

There are two Monsieur Balmains -  M. Balmain (Old) is the Germaine Cellier original, introduced in 1964 and which disappeared sometime in the 1980’s, and M. Balmain (New), launched in 1990, and supposedly true to the original Cellier formula, which is thankfully still with us. Luca Turin in Perfumes The A to Z Guide calls M. Balmain (Old or New) “one of the best lemon scents ever”.

Note:  Kevin at Now Smell This wrote a review in 2007 which is a conversation between Monsieur Balmain (Old) and Monsieur Balmain (New) – read it here and laugh, because it’s delightful!

 My new bottle is M. Balmain (New), and I was so smitten with his incredible “lemonessence” that I decided to take him on the annual family vacation at the cottage. Here’s why:

Just one spritz out of the bright yellow frosted bottle feels like the bottle has been turned inside out. It’s a fresh-squeezed lemon - the juiciest, sunniest, zestiest lemon note I’ve ever smelled – and it’s just mouth watering. This top note sings a clear solo for a full five minutes, and then is slowly joined by the crisp greens of lemon leaves, mint, verbena, and these green notes keep the tart juicy lemon singing all the way through Act One.

Act Two introduces a quiet chorus of aromatics, rose, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, oakmoss which give the lemon an edgy energy, and which smells for just a few minutes slightly sharp and sweaty, but then settles into a sophisticated vibe. Monsieur Balmain so far is a linear scent, but the line is changing colour and getting a little thicker and rounded as it moves into the dry-down after an hour or so.

I’m loving this “lemonessence”, but when it’s time for Act Three and the base-note performance, I’m expecting the lemon to fade away. Smooth, woody, aromatic sandalwood is the key note with vetiver, sage, and amber singing back-up in close harmony, but amazingly, lemon remains the bright sunny star of this  production.

Monsieur Balmain is a straight-up scent – no fruity, gourmand, oriental, synthetic, or overdone notes to be found here at all – and it is ALL about the lemon. It is, in fact, the only citrus I’ve found that keeps this fragile note in place for more than two or three hours. It’s not what I‘d call a romantic scent, but it definitely has humour and a sophisticated, confident elegance which appeals equally to, and smells great on both men and women.
Spraying Monsieur Balmain liberally on neck and arms on a hot day is like a big gulp of gin and tonic – tart, energizing, and an invitation to a good time. I knew he’d fit right in with our wacky family whose likes and dislikes are all over the map, that he'd be perfect for sand, beach and hot weather, and I was right – they all love him, and he’s become the “scent du jour” for all of us this glorious past week on Georgian Bay.

What's not to love about that?


Monsieur Balmain is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.