Do you do this? Very easily, I can become completely obsessed with a vintage perfume, so much so that I can spin its composition and history into imagined stories that turn a perfume into a complete worldview. This is true for Je Reviens–a vintage floral of great distinction that was issued by the House of Worth in 1932. Still being sold today as a drugstore perfume, vintage Je Reviens is another thing entirely. It does not smell like anything else in my perfume wardrobe, vintage or modern, and whenever I wear it, I try to understand what makes this particular perfume composition seem so compelling to me.
Every source lists Maurice Blanchet as the nose who created Je Reviens along with the other notable and romantic Worth perfumes from the 1920’s and 30’s–Dans La Nuit (1924), Vers Le Jour (1925), Sans Adieu (1929), and Vers Toi (1934). It is difficult to find much information about Blanchet as a perfumer, but it seems that he may have joined other perfumers who decided to work out of François Coty’s state-of-the-art perfume plant in Suresnes, France, which was known as La cité des Parfum (Toledano and Coty, Francois Coty: Fragrance, Power, Money, Gretna: Pelican, 2009, 88.) It is astounding to learn that the Suresnes complex employed 9,000 people and could produce 100,000 bottles of perfume per day (Healy, Coty: The Brand of a Visionary, Assouline, 2004).
Having been sold continuously since 1932, there are certainly many different bottles of Je Reviens in circulation. It would be quite a task to present a taxonomy of vintage Je Reviens bottles, and I shall not attempt it here. (But if you are curious, check out this detailed post by a vintage perfume expert: https://worthperfumes.blogspot.com/2014/11/je-reviens-by-worth-c1932.html. Here’s a photo my vintage parfum in the blue skyscraper bottle produced by Lalique and a vintage mini:
The modern EDT is often described as an aldehydic and soapy perfume and evokes comparisons to No. 5 and White Linen, but in my opinion the vintage parfum bears no relationship to either of these fragrances. In 2004, a reformulated “Couture” version was launched in the eau du parfum formulation in a beautiful cobalt blue bottle that evoked the vintage Lalique bottles of the original. Some reviewers say that this 2004 version was a welcome return to the quality and the depth of vintage Je Reviens, but I have not had a chance to try the 2004 EDP.
I think of vintage Je Reviens as a quintessential springtime scent. Its name–I’ll be back– is uplifting, promising return and rebirth, but it is also a little sad, as if aware that the time of love and renewal will always be fleeting. Je Reviens is a remarkably seamless composition of blue and purple floral notes (lilac, iris, violet, hyacinth sing out to me most) with perfectly balanced touches of warm and soft spices (cinnamon, perhaps, or soft cloves) set upon a cool and dry woody base. Je Reviens opens with some old fashioned waxy rather than astringent aldehydes that suggest creamy bath soap. I perceive orris, some gentle oak moss, and, truly for once, vetiver. I always see vetiver listed in perfume notes and I only rarely do I actually smell it. In Je Reviens, I get the wonderful earthy bitterness of vetiver, and I believe it is primarily vetiver that gives Je Reviens its long lasting, cool aromatic quality. Je Reviens’ drydown becomes warmer, although the cooler notes continue to flicker within the amber. Je Reviens has the beautiful and ethereal floral notes usually found in great vintages perfume but they are not weighed down by nitromusks, civet, or resins as in vintage Guerlains or Carons. From beginning to end, Je Reviens feels light, liquid, cool and shiny…like mercury.
The historical associations of Je Reviens fuel my obsession. Its haunting name made it a particularly appropriate gift for couples separated during World War II. When I wear vintage Je Reviens, I always think of it as a memory shared by lovers during those tragic, but sometimes beautiful years.