Only in Japan (probably)





Vintage Bal A Versailles parfum for only two hundred yen (one pound sixty pence).


Makes the thought of the soon to come Autumn and Winter just that slightly more bearable.


Filed under Flowers

33 responses to “Only in Japan (probably)

  1. Bee Wyeth

    Wow – just Wow – and also green with envy but you deserve treats after all you have been through this year. Enjoy!

    • Thanks. I am still going through it all actually. Just walking up to the place where I got this gem at such a ridiculous price really hurt my legs. I don’t know, I seem to have regressed a bit recently. Have to keep going though, and such days out do make me happy. I wonder how much this would be elsewhere? Even for Japan this struck me as crazily cheap.

  2. Niiiice.

    I find summers so heavenly and always get a bit of a sinking heart this time of year at the idea of Autumn and Winter. Being able to look forward to wearing those brilliant colder-weather fragrances — richer chypres, orientals — is one saving grace. Crucial for my sanity, and I know I’m not the only one.

    • I feel the same way every year at the end of August, beginning of September.

      • Thank goodness we have fragrance to see us through.

      • Perhaps it’s also the whole associations of going back to school as well, the summer dream being over, and sheer REALITY setting in. I find this time of year the least real, as though I can distance myself from it all : the heat, and the cicadas and the birds and the flowers all act like a cushion from the starker truths, if you know what I mean. There is an exquisite clarity to Autumn that I really loved as an adolescent, but I don’t any more.

    • Yesterday there weren’t even any intimations of Autumn or Winter: it was the hottest day of the year – too hot, even for me. 37 degrees and pure humidity, it was like walking into an oven each time we came out of a restaurant or shop (all heavily air-conditioned). Still, it was so tropical and exciting – I find the sheer heaviness, but depth and smell and colour of a night in Yokohama in this weather totally dreamy and pleasurable and the second it dips and I get that piercing September feeling I feel these real pangs of melancholy as the heat is gradually leached out of the air until it is actually freezing cold. It’s all like a slow death to me. But I would never wear Bal A Versailles on a hot day, and once it does get to total winter, like you I just love wearing these thick, spiced, ambery orientals, which have almost a talismanic protection to them.

  3. Gosh! That’s incredible. Do you find lots of bargains like these in Japan?

    • It totally depends on who is selling the perfume, but to the recycle shop I found this in, it would have just looked like some old unwantable that nobody would ever buy so it was just tossed into the 200 yen used cosmetics bin. I have seen fuller bottles of Bal A Versailles parfum going for 5,000 to 10,000 but my own collection of the stuff (the ULTIMATE spiced floral animalic amber, one of my top three dry downs in all of perfume history) has always come much cheaper. A lot of incredible bargains are to be found here though (see my piece called ‘Japan, Perfume’, where I explain the reasons why), which is how I have been able to amass such a nice collection of vintage perfumes. It’s the ultimate irony : a country that doesn’t like or value perfume is the place where you can find so much of it.

  4. This brought back so many memories for me. When I was a little girl, my aunt gave my mother this exact bottle, new and in the box; my mother, enjoying floral scents more, decided to give this to me. For some reason, my mother always perfumed me with stronger spicy scents. I think I mentioned to you before, when I was little mama used to perfume my bath water with Estée Lauder Youth Dew bath oil. Well, I simply fell in love with Bal à Versailles and have worn it ever since. Mama must have seen something in my character that would make her feel I would love rich, heady, spicy scents and I always have. In the summer I do adore my florals, but in the autumn and winter, even in spring, I bathe myself in the rich scents I adore such as BàV.
    I am so glad you posted this. I have been reading and enjoying all your postings, but haven’t commented, I guess I just didn’t feel up to commenting. I just haven’t been myself since everything was happening with my mama, as you know. This post though brought back such wonderful memories of mama, the real parfumista who inspired me and helped instill in me a lifelong love of fragrances, that I couldn’t help but share a memory. Mama may never have embraced scents like this, but as the years went by she started enjoying some richer scents, such as Femme, which she loved as a young woman and Alchimie, both by Rochas. Her fragrance of choice during her final years was Tocade by Rochas, still floral, but with a lovely hint of sweetness and richness. But she always enjoyed smelling decadent, over-the-top, rich scents such as Bal à Versailles scents on me.
    Thanks again for this post.

    • MrsDalloway

      Sorry about your loss – that’s a lovely story

    • Gabrielle:

      I can’t even imagine what you must be going through having lost your mother: it is something I myself dread more that I can say. The sense of loss, even panic, at not being able to physically speak to her any more when she has been there for you your entire life must seem unbearable, overwhelming when you have been so close – a profound and heartbreaking void that must take a very long time to fully get over (if you ever truly will). I imagine that after the initial mourning and grief, where there is a certain numbness, the more piercing realisations of loss must hit you, at unexpected times and leave your reeling, even in seeing a little perfume bottle like this that has such distinct memories and associations for you.

      While perfume might seem like something ephemeral and superfluous to a great many people, we know that it is something so much deeper and beautiful, full of a lifetime of memories, like the ones you share here. This very same bottle is almost like an amulet containing life and your own remembrances : as a child, enclosed in its box it must have almost seemed like some kind of magic, an elixir, something really precious, and like those Rochas perfumes that your mother loved, this Bal A Versailles will keep her physically alive. Smelling them again might be too intensely heartrending at times, especially right now, but I hope that at some point in the future they will bring a sense of comfort and relief that she is still near to you.

      Again, my condolences.

      • Thank you so much Neil and Mrs Dalloway. I am sorry I did not read this sooner; I had over 150 emails, guess I have been in my own little bubble.
        You have perfectly, in fact exactly, summed up just how I am feeling. It is a heart rendering loss and once I am done with the tears, the numbness and pain in my chest set in. It does in fact all happen in waves; waves of sadness, waves of beautiful memories, waves of numbness and pain, all just cycling.
        I have managed a wearing of her Tocade de Rochas and it smells so differently on me than it did on her, which made me sad because I really wanted to smell her again, to be in her presence if you will. The thing I miss the most is “her” scent, that inimitable smell that my mother had, the “mama” smell. The scent of her skin, without any fragrance, was just so sweet and comforting, there was truly nothing in the world as lovely. Oh, how I wish I could have bottled that scent, I would pay a king’s ransom to smell it again.
        If nothing else, this whole horrifying experience has renewed my love of fragrance, simply for the fact that no matter how bad off mama was doing, she wanted me to spritz her with her Tocade. Therefore I owe it to mama to always perfume myself and take joy in it.

  5. Lilybelle

    Ooh, that’s the good version.

    • I did wonder. You find this version different to the round bottle for example? I’d love to know more.

      • Lilybelle

        Hi there. 🙂 That particular box, the butter yellow with the brown lettering, always holds the best formulations of Bal à Versailles. Whatever the period was that they were using that particular packaging was the pinnacle. Trust me on this. I also adore the big square/rectangular bottles of edc that come in white boxes. Don’t waste a penny on the gold foil boxes.

      • This is good to know actually ( and naturally I trust you implicitly). I’d love to know what is lacking in the gold foil versions : is it much less rich?

      • Lilybelle

        I think the gold box is more recent, just an inferior formulation. The best ones, the most magical compositions, come in the shade of yellow box you’ve got there. Snap those up! You will never regret it.

      • Lilybelle

        Also, per the lovely Le Mouchoir de Monsieur (his moniker on perfume boards, Basenotes, Fragrantica, et al, where you can read his review, and he knows his stuff), each formulation of this era – edc, pdt, edp, p – were individual compositions, not merely diluted versions of the same mother batch, but meant to be layered. Bal à Versailles is the most amazing fragrance. I should loathe it because I’m not really the type for BIG scents, but I adore it and must always have it. I wear it often, even if it’s just a couple of drops of the parfum. It is best on unwashed skin. When it has sebum to cling to it really performs magnificently. It is one of those “alive” oldies, holds up well.

  6. There was a notorious batch circulating a few years ago — when swapping was big, everyone who was unfortunate enough to come across a bottle was sending sample vials all across North America just for the mind-blowing experience of it — that was so insanely fecal, it made me laugh out loud when I sniffed it. Too bad. That was enough to turn more than a few people off BàV permanently.

  7. David

    A few months ago, i saw this exact box at a flea market in Sao Paulo. But it was the same day I found a vintage Tabac Blond (with the box). I wouldn’t let myself buy both. Old Carons always win…. I’m not buying too much these days, even though I often stumble across some real treasures. It’s not money–I have more money than ever now that I am no longer funding Colombia’s marching army. But I will probably be moving back to the USA in two years, and my partner (husband, gotta get used to saying husband) says there is no way we are schlepping perfume back to the States. He tells me to use it or lose it. It’s a cruel world we live in.

    • My god – I would LOVE a vintage Caron Tabac Blond! Gorgeous stuff. I would have chosen that as well as I don’t have any. Was it the parfum? I would love a sadistic/masochistic picture!

      And there is something beautiful about having to make a choice here, I think, in a way. I am very pleased that you have much such progress with the snow white. Good riddance!

    • Tabac Blond is one of my holy grails. Congrats.

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