Most people describe Ivoire de Balmain as “soapy” or “clean”. I suppose it is those things, but to simply describe it as that would be like calling Ottawa in January as “cold”. Ivoire is, to me, a gorgeous meditation on warm, sexy skin. It was released in 1980, and is described as a Green Floral, but it is not an 80s perfume bomb. It definitely has more the of 70s modern, clean & still very sexy vibe, yet you can sense the depth of mega ingredients used in the 80s making it’s way in there. It’s a neat balance, actually.
But it never goes where perfumes like Giorgio and Poison go, which is TOP VOLUME. Ivoire never put on her shoulder pads, and never teased her hair. She kept her slinky wide leg pants and silky blouses, and her centre parted soft and sexy hair. It does have the Kitchen Sink list of notes that can works beautifully but never goes nuclear. Here are some notes that I’ve assembled from various points the web – with the ones I detect the most in bold, and the supporting notes in italics:
Top notes: green accord, galbanum, bergamot, lemon, aldehydes
Heart notes: Lily of the valley, rose, hyacinth, jasmine, carnation, orris, orchid, geranium
Base notes: Cedar, musk, oakmoss, amber, raspberry, sandalwood
|Eau de Toilette, gorgeous, & what I wear…|
|Vintage parfum, stunning if you can find it…|
The galbanum top note is particularly interesting in Ivoire. The classic green Balmain scent, Vent Vert, especially in it’s vintage formulation, is known for its uber doses of galbanum. Perhaps Ivoire was an ode to Balmain history? It is a somewhat “old fashioned” note in that you just don’t see it in modern perfumery very much as it’s not “pretty”, per se, nor easy to fall in with right away. It needs to settle on the skin to be appreciated for it’s true beauty. Galbanum is a peculiar note, and smells, off the top, a bit bitter and acrid, then can go quite green, spicy, woody and balsam like. It can be reminiscent of pine, evergreen, parsely, sour green apples, musk or simply just “intensely green”. Hello, mama, sign me up. I often get a “skanky” accord from galbanum and to me that just reads as sexy. If Ivoire is soapy, it is only soapy in the “soap covering up warm, sexy skin right out of a post-rendevous bath” sense.
Once the galbanum naughty notes dissipate, the warm florals start to come out and bloom on the skin. The extreme sweetness that could come from the florals is tempered softly by the citrus top notes and galbanum, so the florals come out sweet but somehow are perfectly balanced. Then…this is the best part. The woody mossy base is simply to die for. I’m not sure what the oak moss deal is with Ivoire – real? Synthetic? Old stock would mean real oak moss for sure. I’ve yet to smell an Ivoire I don’t like, so from where I stand the oak moss question is a mystery. Add some warm sweet amber and then, this is the kicker- sandalwood and raspberry. Fruits in the base add up to simply gorgeous in Ivoire. The woody dry down of Ivoire goes on for hours on my skin and is so rich, sexy and mysterious I can’t get enough of it. I get compliments on it constantly and have even been followed by men asking me what perfume I’m wearing. It is not a loud projecting scent at all, but nor is it a quiet mouse of a scent- it teases with it’s feminine wiles. To my nose it is drop dead femininity in a bottle. If squeaky clean is white, then something not-quite-clean is ivory….
Ivoire is one of my Top 10 favourite perfumes of all time and always will be. Inexplicably it is still available for a song online, and I mean a big bottle for under $40. If anything I have written here appeals to you, get yourself some now.