Balmain by Balmain was launched in 1998 fifteen years after Ebène and twenty years after Ivoire. It is one of the lesser known Balmain fragrances. Rather than to offer itself as being an innovative composition, it is a perfume that recaptures the classic style of French perfumery and its values of elegance and restraint promoted and exemplified in great part by French haute couture designers such as Pierre Balmain, which were reflected in both their sartorial and perfume creations. Everything about Balmain perfume is stylized, even its discreet carnal innuendos.......
Balmain is a chypre with a dual personality, its brisk greenness counterbalanced by its warm amber-y glow and its initial sharp dryness by its very soft almost angelical, kid-glove like longer dry-down. Its principal facets are chypre, green, dry, and spicy.
Within the house of Balmain this creation came after a series of great feminine perfumes: Vent Vert (1947), Jolie Madame (1953), Miss Balmain (1967), and Ivoire (1979). One can feel to some extent the same crisp green - warm amber duality running throughout the years and found to varying degrees in these creations.
The perfume starts with the olfactory equivalent of the sound made by the crack of a whip, an impression based on the use of black pepper, the dry facets of oakmoss and blackcurrant. Gentler fruitier and floral tonalities then mingle with the sharper notes while a musk and ambergris trail seems to subtly waft throughout the perfume like an indecent proposition signaled rather than uttered.
The warmth of the perfume is dry, hay-like, crackling like a bonfire before it lets out more the coolness and restrained freshness of galbanum and other green notes. The blackcurrant is quite pronounced and smells almost wine-like and a bit urine-y and musky. The initial stage of the dry-down is woodsy and pungent, smelling akin to an impression of licorice with its dark aromatic overtones.
Although initially Balmain seems to lack a bit of depth in the dry-down prompting one to think it would be more satisfying to experience it in a pure parfum version (cf. Balmain La Môme too) and to conjure up the specter of commercialism, it makes this up by offering remarkable understated longevity and an exquisite, subtle, and soft vegetable amber dry-down transforming it into a skin perfume after a few hours and into the next day.
This is a perfume for people who appreciate dryness allied with spiciness and who are seeking fragrances with almost nil gourmand and dessert-y references in them. This is distinctively a perfume meant for an archetypal femme mood rather than for a girly-girl one.
Top notes are bergamot, galbanum, black pepper, blackcurrant; heart notes are jasmine, violet, rose, and orris; base notes are patchouli, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver.
(Images from Balmain and Images de Parfum)