Jolie Madame.


Or, SWARTHY Madame as I like to call her, as there is nothing ‘pretty’, petite or eye-lashed about this scent, coming as it does from a time (the late fifties) when women’s perfumes could be quite genuinely risqué and ripe, moving under surface, acceptable presences of civility.


I have never smelled this extrait as originally intended ( ie. on  a woman),  much as I would love to (WHY DON’T PEOPLE SMELL MORE INTERESTING?!!!!!!!!)  but I can quite happily tell you that Jolie Madame, in vintage parfum, can also smell quite wonderful on the right man’s skin, if he can take the dense, rich tuberose and jonquil absolutes, percolating down rich, and dirty with  leather  (I, of course, can).









This gorgeously viscous floral accord, unusually accentuated with coriander and artemisia, remains throughout the long duration of the perfume, but is not the main theme, which is in fact an extraordinarily earthy blend of cedar, beaver, patchouli, leather, musk and civet.


Quite ‘PERVY Madame’, in other words.



Complemented by the rich floral entrance, particularly a thick, syrupy violet that floats on top of the perfume like a slick, Jolie Madame makes for a very intriguing scent :  an aphrodisiac liqueur, utterly uncontemporary,  but in my view all the better for it. Unusual, unforgettable, it is a perfume meant for warm spring days, a lumberjack shirt, and no deodorant.










Filed under Chypre, Flowers, Leather, Violet

33 responses to “BUTCH: JOLIE MADAME by BALMAIN (1953)

  1. Helen

    digging out my lumberjack shirt tonight!!

  2. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    The Dandy got me thinking about this beauty all over again.
    My little bottle of parfum…..so precious……only used on special occasions….

  3. I couldn’t agree more! 🙂
    People ought to smell more interesting!

    • How often, in reality, do you smell someone wearing an interesting perfume?

      In Japan, once in a blue moon.

      • I rarely smell an interesting perfume on someone…in fact I can only recall it twice in my life. In my office environment, my niche perfumes are detested by most people and I have been called down for them and told not to wear them.
        However, I can detect those laundry detergent smells on a lot of other people and those fragrances are considered acceptable. The interesting fragrances I have detected are on one or two of my friends who have adopted some of my perfumes.

  4. Dear Mr Narcissus
    You are on this occasion very lucky to be on the other side of the world, or this possession of yours would be under severe risk of forced repatriation to Chez Dandy!
    Yes, there is something undeniably grimy about Jolie Madam, in a world worn way. This is a Tiresias scent if ever there was one.
    In my own review I had the heroine a the maitresse of a Berlin squat around the time of the Baader Mainhof gang. Don’t ask me why, by this smell always makes me think of Berlin.
    Just one last thing…. who’s torso is that?
    Very M7 is all I shall say before drawing a discreet veil.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Sorry for the late reply. Been in a kind of half-swoon in the heat and hungover, exhausted…..

      Can’t even remember if I replied to this message or not, but I ADORED your Jolie Madame review. It is a masterpiece.

      As for the torso, I wish I could say it was mine ( I would love to be more hirsute), but it was in fact just my parfum overlaid on a copy of pictures from BUTT.

  5. Lilybelle

    I love Jolie Madame. I’ve never tried the vintage parfum. I can see now that I need to! I’ve tried the vintage edt, which to my nose is a gentler leather, like kid gloves, underlying the violet and other florals and greenery. It made me think of the inside of my grandmother’s handbag, lace edged handkerchief and all. And it made me think of MIss Marple – an elderly lady with a keen edge. Fluffy on the outside, tough on the inside. Absolutely topnotch juice. I tested the current version and was not impressed. It wasn’t bad, just not distinctive, but I need to try it again sometime. I completely agree: people need to smell more interesting!

    • Miss Marple! Perfect.

      As always, the reformulation of this scent is not as good as the original, and I imagine the edt, which I don’t know as well, isn’t as good as this divine, leather, essence-laden SYRUP that is the extrait, which is just so complex and endlessly lasting. The end notes, on me, are very intriguing. I am equally intrigued, however, by the idea of how the edt would smell on a woman who understands it. Such elegance. Such ambiguity. It is this MYSTERY that is lacking in so many of the current perfumes. There is nothing underneath.

  6. Rafael

    I love this stuff. i always buy the extrait with most or least evaporation so the juice gets denser. Have always felt this was the true “bad girl’ scent. reminds me of the scene in the movie “Charade” where Audrey tears the filter off a cigarette and says “I hate these things. It’s like sipping coffee through a veil.”

    • Gorgeous idea (though I can never think of Audrey as being a bad girl somehow!). How does Jolie Madame smell on you? On me it is strangely invigorating, confidence building, real.

      • Rafael

        It’s very much an ego stroke when I wear it. I usually wear it whne I know Im going somewwhere there’s going to be a lot of smoking. Also, I wear it to places that operate under a cloud of hyper-masculinity. It/I get (s) quite a market share then.

      • A thrilling response. Thank you.

      • Did you ever see the movie “Conversation Piece” by Luchino Visconti with Silvana Mangano stomping around in a floor-length fur coat as a rich Roman bitch? Apparently the role was first offered to Audrey and she recoiled in horror. I am glad she refused so that we could see Silvana in action with Helmut Berger etc. Maybe “Jolie Madame” could have been her perfume?

      • God I love this idea. I haven’t seen it, no, but I adore Visconti and those two actors are my idea of visual heaven. I love looking at them. MUST SEE IT.

  7. Wonderful stuff! This scent, this review, and a mention of Charade! Gorgeous!

  8. At the moment I have five bottles of Jolie Madame parfum, ranging in size from micro-mini (2ml) to 10ml. They’re all slightly different (isn’t it funny how bottles age?), with one more leathery and one more white-floral, one all basenotes, one more violet… but they’re all spectacular. There are certain days when nothing else will do.

    I don’t feel particularly gender-bendy when I wear it; there are enough florals in there that I don’t feel odd. But it’s confidence-boosting, absolutely. And strong in a beautiful way. I’m quite sure it’s wonderful on a man, but I warn you that any attempt to keep it away from me on the basis of my gender would certainly result in my swinging a leather handbag full of bricks at you.


  9. Mmm sounds interesting. Shall I be the first in genre bending, from Ivoire to Jolie Madame? That’s all I know of Balmain! Ivoire is my chique going to town scent, always worn with a hat! Jolie Madame sounds laddish to me. Loud checkered flanel Lumberjacks indeed! Should wear my Stetson cap with iT. Will check it up.

  10. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    I’ll have to decant my small flask of perfume and let it rip on a cloud of LHBTQi and wait for what?

    Helmut Berger as in The Damned or In Priscilla?
    Mangano as in. Bitter Rice or in Death in Venice?

    Talking of interesting … where in present times?

  11. Robin

    I almost think that the pink-labelled Miss Balmain, as incongruently named as Jolie Madame, is studlier. I can just picture a bottle on Ric’s golden-skinned, hirsute and tattooed chest. Both are gloriously macho.

  12. Robin

    My extrait is like well-worn (commando) leather riding pants that have been rolled around in damp autumnal underbrush and a bunch of crushed carnations and narcissus.

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