One of my very favorite collections in all of perfumery are the Jean Patou Ma Collection perfumes which were re-released in 1984. These were the original formulations from Jean Patou’s master perfumer Henri Almeras. Within this collection is the perfume I consider to be the best green perfume ever, Vacances. All of the perfumes which make up Ma Collection are among my most-worn perfumes. I have waited for many years for someone to come along and bring these perfumes back for a new generation to discover. Starting in 2013 perfumer Thomas Fontaine has undertaken this challenge. It is a nearly insurmountable challenge as with the restrictions on materials he is able to use, which M. Almeras never had to consider, M. Fontaine is pushed into many difficult decisions.
It probably isn’t fair to even do this comparison because M. Fontaine is composing with one hand tied behind his back. On the other hand I do want to provide a comparison for others who love the originals and want to know if there is a reason to try the new ones.
The original Vacances was created in 1938 and was to celebrate the advent of mandatory time off. As a result M. Almeras was looking to make what he thought was a summer fragrance. I have always found Vacances to be that quintessential early spring fragrance. Vacances is early on a translucent purple flower fragrances as hyacinth and lilac provide the shading. Hawthorn adds a slightly woody quality before galbanum tints the whole composition deep green. The florals are still readily apparent but now everything is green. The base is the musk accord reminiscent of skin M. Almeras would use often throughout his tenure at Patou. This is as close to perfection in a perfume as I can ask for.
The Heritage Collection version of Vacances makes some interesting alterations. M. Fontaine rearranges the sequence of the notes development. He also speeds it up so even though things seem to show up in different places they arrive at the same ending place when everything is taken together. For this new version M. Fontaine opens with the galbanum supported by mimosa. The mimosa provides bright points of light through the dense verdancy of the galbanum. Lilac inhabits the heart but also jasmine and rose add their presence. This is meant to intensify the lilac to similar levels found in the original. Overall it does have that effect but I kept getting distracted if I focused too intently by the jasmine and rose. The hyacinth has moved from the top to the base and it is far less potent. M. Fontaine also did his best at using the modern musk aromachemicals to recreate M. Almeras’ musk accord. It is good but if you’ve smelled the original it feels like a copy.
Both versions of Vacances have 10-12 hour longevitry and above average sillage.
I think I would have eaten one of those boots in the header picture if M. Fontaine could have truly re-created Vacances. Of course he couldn’t. As I’ve said previously with the work M. Fontaine is doing here if you have never smelled the original these are very good perfumes. They only suffer when compared to the original masterpieces by M. Almeras. But the Vacances he has created is worthy of carrying the name. It has its own presence matched with a subtle power M. Fontaine emulated from the original by skillfully shuffling the notes around.
Disclosure: The 1938 and 1984 versions are from bottles I purchased. The 2014 version is from a sample from Aus Liebe zum Duft.