One not-so-polite leather: Jolie Madame (Balmain)

A while ago, I entertained myself by writing about two "polite" leather perfumes I love. And I do love them. But I love even more a dirty leather. Kind of the olfactory equivalent of this:

I like my leathers best when they're a bit naughty. Rough around the edges but with a heart of gold. Or maybe not even a heart of gold. Rough and rougher is fine. Bedroom eyes don't hurt.

My favorite dirty leather is a bit polarizing. A lot of perfumistas love the stuff, but I know a lot of "normal" people get that wide-eyed, nostrils-flaring look that usually comes right before a quick goodbye or a dash to open the window. Let's just say this one is not exactly "work friendly".

Jolie Madame is something I wear whenever the hell I want (I already have no perfume fear, but this one makes me even ballsier). Others may feel it's best suited for evening. Maybe midnight. In a barn.

As a little clue as to what you might be in for, here is a quote from March of Perfume Posse:
"Jolie Madame was the nastiest, skankiest piece of liquid hell that had graced my wrist..."

She goes on to point out that she later fell head over heels for it. That's a familiar story.

I stumbled upon a bottle of the vintage, viscous and dark and hiding in plain sight in an antique store. I picked it up, bought it, went home, sprayed and... wow. That stuff is just weird.

I read about Jolie Madame from time to time, and as I developed more perfumista cred, I started loving "the skank". Jolie Madame has skank. Take a look...

Top notes: artemisia, coriander, gardenia, neroli and bergamot 
middle notes:  tuberose, narcissus, orris root, jasmine and rose 
base notes: leather, patchouli, musk, coconut, civet, oakmoss, castoreum, and vetiver

Ah! The skank trifecta: musk, civet, and castoreum!

I have three bottles of the stuff now. Clearly, I "learned to love it". It wasn't hard. Jolie Madame is dark. It's a little mean. It's also very, very different from the department store perfumes I was used to (to which I now say "thank God!").

All of my bottles of Jolie Madame smell pretty different. One is not as jagged and rough. I don't like it as much as I like the others. The two I love, while different, are still identifiable as being the same perfume. They're both powerful. Really powerful. One drop is plenty, two is insta-bombshell. Three is probably too much.

My Jolie Madame bottles are all "vintage", though I have not bothered to try to find out how old each is. From what I understand, the modern version is still Jolie Madame, though maybe a bit more green and bright than the vintage.

Like most people, I'd classify this as a violet-leather perfume. The juxtaposition of the feminine violets (often considered "girly") against the dark and dirty leather is, quite simply, perfection.

Jolie Madame was created in 1953 by perfume genius Germain Cellier, who also dreamt up the incredibly beautiful and very significant scents Bandit, Fracas, and Vent Vert to name a few. You can read more about her here and here.

If you are into violets (as I have learned I am), you will find these two articles really interesting:

And here are some other reviews of Jolie Madame:
Now, if you'll excuse me please, I have to go kick some asses.

Image sources: Leather Marlon, leather Johnny,
leather James,  leather RyanPerfumed Ryan Gosling.
All other images, and the editing on Perfumed Ryan are mine.


  1. Consider me polarized! I can't get enough of Jolie Madame-- she's a sweet, smart slap across the mouth from which I hope never to recover. Great review and equally perfect images to go with!

  2. "Others may feel it's best suited for evening. Maybe midnight. In a barn."


    Sounds like my kind of leather! ;-)

  3. Brilliant post - still chuckling over "skank trifecta"!

  4. I love, LOVE Jolie Madame. Found an old bottle for $26 on eBay.


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