Jean Patou Joy Forever ~ fragrance review

Jean Patou Joy Forever advert

On my desk, in thick bond paper of the slightly elongated size standard in France, lays a press release from Jean Patou. Below the image of a perfume bottle are the words “Joy Hier, Joy Aujourd’hui, Joy Forever.”

However, the press release isn’t for Joy, but for a new fragrance, Joy Forever, intended to update the classic. Creating a contemporary companion to Joy is a tall order. Audacious, even. For one thing, it assumes that Joy is out of fashion. For another — well, Joy is an icon.

Jean Patou’s house perfumer, Thomas Fontaine, explained it this way: “Women today have difficulty ‘reading’ Joy.” He said that classic Joy is a wall of scent with just a hint of a bright prelude before settling into its signature interplay of rose and indolic jasmine. He said when someone on the street is wearing Joy, her wrapping (Fontaine, in English, repeatedly used “wrapping” instead of “sillage,” and it was so charming and evocative that I want to adopt it myself) is “lush and thick.” But as he points out, it’s not a style people are used to smelling anymore.

With Forever Joy, he wanted to give Joy a “prologue” and an “afterword” — clever descriptors when you intend a fragrance to tell a story. For Joy Forever’s prologue, he added orange blossom, which he said symbolizes the American woman. Iris and galbanum represent French women. (This is meat for a spirited discussion.) He kept Joy’s rose de Mai and Grasse jasmine heart, then grounded the fragrance in wood and white musk. Besides sandalwood, he created an accord to mimic a dark, tight-grained exotic wood popular in the Art Deco furniture that would have been made in Joy’s heyday. Other notes include bergamot, mandarin, marigold, peach, cedar and amber.

Fontaine really did give Joy Forever a story. It starts with a burst of steamy clean, like what you might smell when entering a bathroom where someone is showering, and is soon joined by a vigorous dusting of pink pepper. The clean smell sweetens a touch and smooths, and the pepper fades. After about a quarter of an hour, we hit my favorite part of Joy Forever’s development: a whiff of juicy iris. The iris doesn’t last long, though, before getting sucked back into the composition.

Joy Forever’s rose-jasmine combo is much tamer than Joy’s lurid aria, and its jasmine shimmers more. (I should note that I’ve been testing Joy Forever against Joy Eau de Toilette and Extrait of uncertain age. Maybe the jasmine used to do all kinds of things it doesn’t now.) Although the notes include peach, I don’t smell any kind of in-your-face fruit.

A chiffon veil of white musk cloaks Joy Forever’s rose-jasmine heart, and it endures all the way to Joy Forever’s end, six or so hours later. Joy Forever’s wood remains quiet and is never pushy. The fragrance simply vanishes bit by bit, leaving behind the scent of skin freshly scrubbed in soap and hot water.

Joy Forever is sophisticated and pretty, but the perfume lacks the classic’s force of character. To me, Joy is a bold gesture, a sort of extended middle finger to the Great Depression. Joy Forever would never be so rude. Joy says, “I’m almost too much, and you’ll need to get to know me to appreciate me — but you’ll want to.” Joy Forever says, “I’m lovely and reliable and won’t do you wrong, but you won’t see my name on the marquee next to Garbo’s.”

It may simply be a question of personal style, but I prefer the fusty velvet of the old Joy. Then again, I would rather live in a 1930s house — Joy’s vintage — than a newly built home even with a microwave, dishwasher, and cable TV, and I’d gladly forgo every frock at Bergdorf’s for a Jean Patou bias-cut day dress.

That said, if you appreciate a clean, classic perfume and don’t want the overripe, slightly abstruse feel of Joy, Joy Forever is definitely worth sampling.

Jean Patou Joy Forever

Jean Patou Joy Forever Eau de Parfum comes in 30 ml (85 €), 50 ml (120 €), and 75 ml (150 €) sizes and will be available in October 2013. 

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  1. littlecooling says:

    Sound like a fragrance for the young girls in their 20’s ;) I’m much more into the heavy cloud of the original Joy and would love to live in Coco Chanel’s apartment on Rue Cambon :D

    • Angela says:

      To me, Joy Forever is more sophisticated than the average woman in her 20s might like–at least, it’s not a blatantly “easy” fragrance, if you know what I mean. But it is very “fresh” smelling to me.

      I’d love to live in Coco’s apartment, too!

      • littlecooling says:

        I’m happy to know, that it isn’t a watery scent or Clean, clean. I’m not a fan of perfumes, smelling like laundry :D

  2. galbanumgal says:

    My solution to excessive “wrapping” is to apply sparingly. I’ve got a bottle of edt with the black cap (80s or 90s?), and a vintage parfum that I haven’t cracked into yet. This new iteration sounds fine for a modern interpretation, and I’ll make a point of sampling. That said, Joy isn’t an everyday sort of scent for me, but I love having it on hand. Thanks for the review!

    • Angela says:

      That’s kind of how I feel about Joy, too. I don’t wear it everyday, but sometimes it’s just perfect. I like it when I want to be ultra feminine, but strong, and not one bit coy.

    • Subhuman says:

      You know, as far as these things go (perfume companies updating their classics to appeal to a younger generation), Patou has done a rather tactful job here. The original Joy is still in production and not drastically “modernized”, there’s a new flanker designed to play off the original while aiming at a more youthful crowd, and the house perfumer has copped to Joy’s (arguably) dated quality in the nicest possible way. They could have pulled a YSL/Chanel/Dior/insert-venerable-fragrance-house-here and just decimated the composition with nary a heads-up to their faithful consumers. It also sounds like some thought went into this new version (and its PR).

      • Angela says:

        I agree. I was so , so happy not to smell any of that foul woody musk that seems to be cropping up in so many department store fragrances.

  3. solanace says:

    I’ll be sticking with old, reliable, creamy Joy.

    • Angela says:

      It’s a hard one to beat if you already love it.

  4. nchvatal says:

    You lost me at pink peppercorn! Ugh …

    • Angela says:

      There was definitely pink peppercorn going on. It seems like it’s everywhere these days. I wonder why?

  5. Oakland Fresca says:

    Gosh that was an interesting review. I would love to have been a fly on the wall (a French-speaking fly for the occasion) during the R & D conversations around developing the fragrance. So many age, nationality, and cultural (and class/financial) assumptions in all of the decisions–to recast an old classic using the old name but adding “Forever” as the flanker to evoke freshness… characterizations of American women vs. French women… the whole redux makes me wonder if Joy seems somehow older and more fustier in the French market than in the US. Honestly, the fragrance strikes me as remarkably unscanky, flowery, fresh, with…yes… quite a lot of whatdidyoucallit? wrapping.

    • Oakland Fresca says:

      I forgot to ask: Was there any point when Forever smelled like Joy? How similar are they? I wonder if Joy edp would be closer? My mother had a bottle of the edt when I was growing up, which she gave to me in HS. I loved it, but haven’t sniffed it in years.

      • Angela says:

        No, I never thought Joy Forever smelled just like Joy at any point, but during the middle of its development I could definitely smell the relationship through the jasmine-rose theme, but smelled through a clean veil.

    • Angela says:

      That’s an interesting question, whether Joy seems fustier to the French than to Americans somehow. Yet supposedly Joy is more popular here than in France. But maybe it simply isn’t popular enough.

    • jeffreydame says:

      overheard by fly on wall: “sell more perfume”

      • Angela says:

        ….I just hope they haven’t given up on the real Joy yet! If Joy had half the marketing No. 5 did, it would be rolling out of stores by the gallon.

  6. annemarie says:

    Well, it had to happen. No 5 has been updated, Shalimar so many times who’s counting, and now Joy.

    Fontaine’s remark about Joy being hard for modern women to ‘read’ could have been applied to No 5 too, and the result in that case, Eau Premiere, has been a success. Joy Forever seems from your review to be reaching for the same elegant feel, classic in its references but cleaned up and modern. (Estee Lauder’s Modern Muse is another, maybe, without the historical baggage.)

    But the great thing about Joy, the ‘middle finger’ of the fragrance (love that!), was that it smelled expensive. Famously, the marketing campaign boasted of its costliness. So – does Joy Forever smell expensive I wonder? Does anyone care any more, in this age of greater affluence for more people? How do you flaunt your wealth these days?

    • Angela says:

      I think the one thing that No. 5 had going for it–despite its potentially dated style–was the legend and continuous marketing. Joy has lived more on reputation, it seems. To me, Joy is easier to love at first sniff than No. 5, yet it doesn’t sell nearly as much.

      The Patou company guy we talked to stressed that Joy’s formula is five times–or was it fifty times? now I can’t remember” more expensive that “the most popular” luxury perfume, clearly referring to No. 5.

      Joy Forever smells clean and well-bred, but not particularly expensive–at least not to me. And good question about wealth and the allure, or not, of smelling expensive. Clive Christian must think it still matters, at least.

      • annemarie says:

        Yes, he must. Maybe these days people with money want to smell ‘different’ rather than ‘expensive’. Differentiating yourself from the mainstream is the aim. I reckon Le Labo goes for that market.

        • Angela says:

          I can definitely see Le Labo snagging the well-to-do Bobo crowd. (I’m not the target market, maybe, but I’d sure love a bottle of Ylang 49.)

  7. maggiecat says:

    I’m going to be in the minority, I’m sure, but I can’t wait to try Forever Joy! There is tuberose in the original that renders it unwearable for me, as much as the other notes appeal. I will be looking forward to this!

    • Angela says:

      I’m looking forward to hearing how you like Joy Forever! It’s not exactly to my taste, but I admire it all the same. Do let me know what you think of it.

  8. hajusuuri says:

    Like maggiecat, I am looking forward to trying this! When I was reading your review, I had to do a double take at the end as I thought I read “overripe, slightly abusive feel” and thinking why would a perfume be abusive? Of course I belatedly realized I misread “abstruse”.

    • Angela says:

      It does look like “abusive,” doesn’t it? I didn’t even notice that. I was just excited to pull “abstruse” out of the ole vocab quiver.

  9. dewey eyed says:

    Remember EnJoy? This does seem to be a better take on trying to youth-enize the stalwart fragrance than that was, and I will give it a sniff at some point (and then proclaim how much I love Joy, I suspect. Wore it on my wedding day, after all.).

    The name, however, does give me pause. I loved Patou Forever. So of course they discontinued it!

    • Angela says:

      EnJoy! I forgot about that one, and I even used to have a big tub of the body creme (thank you Marshall’s). In Joy Forever, at least, they ditched the obvious fruit note.

      I suspect you’ll prefer straight Joy, too, but then again I remember you often have good luck with flankers.

    • annemarie says:

      I forgot about it too. Not that I have ever tried it but is shows up on the discount sites all the time when you search for Patou. Was it any good? I notice it has notes of banana and pear. Ack, I’m thinking.

      • Jillie says:

        I actually enjoy EnJoy! It doesn’t smell overwhelmingly of pear, and I don’t notice the banana; to me it smells like what I used to think of as “French” perfume – quite grownup (surprisingly, given that it was aimed at the younger customer) and sophisticated, and without a definite note that I could pin down.

        • Angela says:

          Now’s the time to snap up some discounted bottles, then!

      • Angela says:

        I thought EnJoy was nice enough to use up a tub of body creme, but I’m not crying that it’s gone. The pear and banana–especially the banana–were there, but not overdone, at least I didn’t think so.

  10. engelwurz says:

    Did he explain the orange blossom to represent the American woman? Orange blossom isn’t something you smell very much in America so it must be in a very abstract sense and I don’t really get it. I think Victoria on Bois de Jasmin said that orange blossom is associated with babies in France. Is he saying American women are babies? *strokes chin*

    • Angela says:

      My guess is that the orange blossom is a stand-in for “clean” and “innocent,” to some extent. Americans have a reputation for loving their showers are fresh-smelling detergents, as well as not yet being too jaded by life.

      It makes me wonder what smells represent women of other nationalities. English women might equal rose, I guess. I’m stumped for others, but it would be a fun parlor game.

      • engelwurz says:

        I don’t know any American woman that isn’t jaded by life. Most of us either are hoping to score unpaid work or are earning below a living wage despite being thousands of dollars in debt (either because of school, hospital bills, or other reasons).

        • Angela says:

          But hey! We still smell fresh as orange blossom!

          • Oakland Fresca says:

            Can’t resist inserting snarky comment: Oh you know the French…can’t figure out how we had a successful Revolution and they didn’t– we seem so idealistic and naive and yet, and yet, and yet … orange blossoms my….

          • Oakland Fresca says:

            Ya ya.. okay. Very sorry. That was uncalled for… but orange blossom? Really?

          • Angela says:

            I like orange blossom when it’s handled well (although I have to admit that iris and galbanum sound very nice!). Seville a l’aube, for instance, is a gorgeous orange blossom.

  11. Barqs says:

    I loved reading your review.

    Do you know where Joy Forever will be sold?

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like it will have pretty wide distribution–basically, wherever you might find Joy, you should be able to find Joy Forever.

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