My May Day Fragrance: Jean Patou Vacances

The calendar tells me that spring begins at the end of March with the vernal equinox. Emotionally spring begins for me on May 1 or May Day. May Day in most of the world, except the US, is celebrated with wonderful spring traditions. May Queens and May Poles all celebrate the burgeoning life as the world begins to transition from the grey of winter into the verdancy of spring. In France, lily of the valley is given as a token on May Day; not to mention the fragrances this tradition has launched. For many perfumistas that means the great lily of the valley fragrances are brought from the back of the wardrobe to the front. For the tenth year I will be spending May Day in my favorite green perfume of all time, Jean Patou Vacances.

lilac

Vacances was released in 1936 by perfumer Henri Almeras who would go on to be the perfumer behind all of the early Jean Patou fragrances. M. Almeras is also the nose behind Elizabeth Arden Bluegrass although back then it was for Fragonard. For Vacances M. Almeras composed a fragrance to celebrate the advent of mandatory paid vacation. Vacances means vacation and I read that this was supposed to be a summer fragrance. I have to disagree as Vacances is the softness of new growth on top of the fragile temporary beauty of lilac in the spring. This is all on top of what would become M. Almeras’ signature musky base for much of the collection.

Before we get to that base we start on top with hyacinth and hawthorn. Hyacinth has an opaque purple quality and hawthorn is sweet with a woody character on the periphery. Lilac arises out of this as the purple becomes less translucent. Mimosa shrouds it in bright highlights. Galabanum adds the green but this galbanum is so silky soft while still containing the oomph it is a miracle of perfumery. The final phase is this skin accord M. Almeras is so good at by blending different musks together.

Vacances has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Vacances has been out of production since its appearance as part of Ma Collection in 1984. When I spoke with Thomas Fontaine at Esxence earlier this year he told me he is currently working on reformulating Vacances to be released again. M. Fontaine has a deft hand with this kind of olfactory restoration project which makes me more hopeful for the new version of Vacances to be worthy of the name. When I wake up this morning my art deco bottle will be waiting for me to practice my personal rite of spring.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of Vacances that I purchased.

Mark Behnke