What a vintage floral ought to smell like.
Je Reviens by Worth is a perfume I decided to buy because when I saw a picture of the flower-stamped glass bottle on Ebay I had the strongest, strangest recollection of having held that bottle in my hand when I was a child.
I have this idea in my head that I grew up in a perfumeless household, but I am beginning to realise that that isn’t entirely true. My mother – brought up with the finer things in life – was, on the quiet, I think, trying to sneak on a dab of perfume in our puritan carbolic household. Clean fragrances like L’Aimant and White Satin were her cup of tea, but I think she also indulged in a fondness for perfume vicariously, as I also remember quite distinctly receiving Avon bottles of perfume at Christmas, and miniatures of Norfolk Lavender from my aunty Gladys.
I don’t know where the Je Reviens memory comes from, but when the box arrived, and I felt that bottle in my hand once more, it was instantly familiar. I’m equally sure, though, that it wasn’t my mother who wore it. Perhaps my friend Becky’s mother, in whose dresses we used to dress up, and who actually had a proper dressing table, with a skirt, ooh err.
My bottle dates, I think, from the 1960s, and upon spraying it, I got that very strong wood alcohol smell which is characteristic of perfumes of this era. I am sure this is some kind of reformulation because modern perfumes just don’t have the same caramel quality. This quickly dissipates, however, and then you’re into the top notes.
The fragrance was formulated in 1932 and has aldehydic top notes (I run for cover when I hear aldehydes, because that’s the classic smell of Chanel No 5, which I hate) which give it a sparkling quality, along with orange blossom, jasmine, ylang-ylang, bergamot and lemon. So far, so good, but it is when the middle notes kick in that you really feel the heart of this perfume in the narcissus note.
Real narcissi, caught on the fresh, cold breeze of March or April, have an intoxicating, elusive scent, and this is something I don’t believe I’ve smelled in any other perfume. Je Reviens also contains lilac, iris, hyacinth, clove, rose, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, violet, oakmoss, vetiver and incense, which is quite a list, but it is that narcissus note that, to me, makes this perfume so sharp and distinctive, so utterly different from any other perfume.
It’s also very sexy. Spray it on and it wafts up from your warm body in a very womanly, enveloping way. Floral but not virginal, sparkling but not sweet, powdery but not clean. Impossible to describe, really – it has to be experienced. I often wear it to bed.
Whatever you do, don’t buy the modern version – all strengths of it are said to be rubbish. Either hunt down a vintage bottle like this one, or get the reformulated Je Review Couture, which I think dates from 2004. Virtually all the boxes are blue, but check the inside bottle design to be sure.