Balmain Extatic (2014) {Perfume Review & Musings}


Opulent Floral Oriental Beauty

The perfume which already smells arresting and sexy from the chic bottle, opens on a candied, caramelized fruit opening which lightens up thanks to some light floral osmanthus accents. Extatic, the latest pillar introduction by Balmain is a fragrance which is thick enough to suggest that there will be ample room for the generous texture to settle in and merge with the skin in an interesting, unpredictable way, slightly. It is a bit as what you anticipate black painting thrown onto a white canvas with a knife will look like once it drips...

Despite the gourmand-y richness resting unabashedly on ethyl maltol, the floriental composition by perfumer Emilie Coppermann of Symrise is also light, delicate, and nuanced. It even becomes somewhat tea-like and vapor-like. Camphoraceous accents bring rhythmic pulsing to the composition as if it were expressing the fact that harder, sterner and less pretty realities exist. These remain subtle never appearing to be overdoing it. They are reminders rather than problematic utterances.The camphor in Extatic is a floral one hinting at the delightful rush of harsher indoles found in the rawness of jasmine. This cooler, medicinal nuance plays out on a warm background of amber and perfumey bonbon. As the perfume develops, the intensity of the floral bouquet evokes tropical nights while remaining more low-key than it would in a fragrance risking a real, quantifiable overdose. The composition here is more suggestive of the carnality of tiaré, jasmine and osmanthus rather than blaring for good through speakerphones in the depth of the night.There are salty accents which make your mouth water. The salt note both evokes caramel à la fleur de sel and the saltiness of skin brushed by the sea plus Monoï and coconut lotions, way tuned down. The scent darkens and soon, we're smelling (synthetic) ambergris with its drop of fish sauce and edible dried fish leather.


Extatic therefore appears to be a polite-yet-sexy version of an exuberant tropical explosion of florals. The term "explosion" is one I used spontaneously mid-course in the development; it's an effect that was sought out as the recurrence of the word in the press materials reveals. The perfume is intense enough yet does not club you on the head. What is most pleasurable to experience in this composition is the contrast of delicacy and strength. Coppermann said it in her own words,

"Extatic is the olfactory metaphor of the Balmain woman, who captivates through a certain lightness combined with an assertive character, not to mention an 'aristo-rock' offhandedness which makes her the irresistible center of attraction for all eyes..."

The eau de parfum has enough generosity to further release more exotic floral accents of Sharry Baby Orchid with its tonalities of runny, aqueous milk chocolate. The mind easily travels to distant locations replaying the discovery of a stupendously fragrant bloom in the midst of a soaked rain forest looking cutesy and innocent yet being a powerhouse of a perfumed orchid, with the most attractive scent miles around.

A quality the perfume has is also how familiar it feels without being dumbed down or a narrow marketing copy. The sexiness is thus balanced out thanks to a pyschological sense of déjà vu as if you were rediscovering a familiar olfactory environment which is both comforting and attractive.

In a sense, to me, Extatic smells like a generally more assertive American perfume and a higher quality version of some accords found in celebrity perfumes across the pond - this rock 'n roll-yet-sweet quality found in some diva perfumes. Steve de Mercado comes to mind with his gourmand, liquorishy signature found in, for instance, the Queen Latifah perfumes.

The drydown is light yet deep. The white Barenia leather note is understated. Extatic is not meant to stay on like an eternal signature perfume although it offers good depth, with a noticeable nod to the house Balmain Ambre Gris (2008). More subtly, I would say that the scent mimics the personality of a signature perfume but is a bit more easy-going. It almost reminds you of your mother's perfume but ends up affirming a lighter, of-the-moment ethos. In particular, it provides the thoroughly enjoyable experience for the wearer of sporting a fragrance releasing good energy vibes and generosity of spirit. In the end however, it belongs to a generation of perfumes which are meant to be unobstrusive, at some level, and easily permutable. It is a wardrobe perfume awaiting its turn in a rotation. Meanwhile it looks very good. There are details in the flacon which contribute to a sense of classic designer quality reminiscent of the olden days and also of qualitative accessories and costume jewelry.The fact that you look forward to spritzing it on anew is a good indicator that minus this classical and ideal requirement of a complex, deep and lasting sillage, this is a very good perfume, certainly one of the best releases this year so far.

Fragrance notes: crystalline rose, Nashi pear, osmanthus, Sharry Baby orchid, iris, jasmine, sandalwood (Amyris), cashmere wood, and the signature Balmain Barenia leather.

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