Vintage: First EDP by Van Cleef & Arpels

I say vintage… all I know is my bottle is oldish. I don’t even know if the fragrance has been reformulated much… I don’t think so… anyway :)
I noticed I reference this fragrance quite a lot (both here and on my YouTube channel). I’m not too sure why, it’s not exactly a favourite of mine, but I do get drawn to it every now and again.
I also have a massive jasmine plant growing in my bedroom which is literally stinking out my whole apartment (beautifully of course!). My narcissus is practically a brown crisp with dead leaves that I can’t quite bring myself to throw away yet – and considering the two main florals I get in this are jasmine and narcissus, this is probably a good time to write about it :)


First opens aldehydic and soapy – very old-school, with a fruity astringency up top that smells intense and dated. A touch of peach, a bit of honey, and a faint indolic accord that pretty accurately conjurs a narcissus accord – only with a big bar of soap rubbed over it.

The development is very slow – which is very nice. The aldehydic opening hanging around for a lot longer than expected, the “soap” practically producing suds in my nose until they let the florals underneath become a little more dominating. The leading jasmine is nice – a hint of indole adds to the old-fashioned feel of First rather than add something challenging. The narcissus and jasmine pretty much merge together at this point and round out into a very smooth, honeyed floral accord.

I get a touch of carnation and clean rose – a bit of warmth and spice but minimal underneath the pastel florals. There’s a hint of dewy greenery, the slightly de-sweetened honey note still going strong – a dry woodiness underneath smells physically hot on my skin with a bitter edge that smells a little like glue. Yes PVA glue.

A civet/jasmine combination could easily turn my stomach, but its balance just about helps me to continue enjoying First – it’s not too strong, not too “thick” – just a hint of piss pants to soil First in (what is now) a typical, old-fashioned, urine-musk as I call it :) It smells like decay.
Ok doom and gloom blah blah, I sound so unsure about this fragrance don’t I? I totally am that’s the thing… but let me continue…

So the piss pants, soap, dated florals and bitter honey manages to be both thoroughly enjoyable to me, and pretty gross too. In the later drydown (much later) – there’s a touch of sweet vanilla, a dry woodiness (sandalwood) – that’s smooth, classical and expected.
What I don’t like about it – is the flattening of the florals into a persistent, non-dimensional floral accord that truly grates on me in time. WOAH where did that come from?! Harsh. Ok… I did some Googling on this before I started my review… turns out Jean-Claude Ellena used a ton of hedione in this. He brags he uses “Ten times more hedione than in Dior’s Eau Sauvage”… fantastic. Ok so this may have been a big deal at the time as it was a new material and what-not… now though (at the time of this review) – for me, I can totally smell that. I didn’t recognize it as hedione (even though I have a sample of it lying around somewhere – gah!) – but this literally engulfs the jasmine in a watery, green, grandiflorum-y layer – tainted with honey, and that’s what we get until the end. Doesn’t sound too bad no? It is for me anyway – I just see it as an unnecessary mass in the fragrance, like if it sat down, a roll would bulge out… what the hell am I on about.
For me, the hedione note gets boring – but the PVA glue accord keeps me amused I suppose.
So I will continue to wear First to bed and not out the house where I can’t experience the irritation I get when smelling most of JCE’s work.
So there you have it, probably the most unglamorously worded review of First :) Thanks <3

Verdict: I like it I promise!

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11 thoughts on “Vintage: First EDP by Van Cleef & Arpels

  1. Dearest Mr Thoughts
    What a wild review!
    I do enjoy it so much when someone’s experience of a perfume is so entirely different from my own. It is in a way what convinces me that perfume is art and not merely manufacture.
    For after all a plate is a plate whichever way you look at it… I’m sorry, your discursiveness must be catching!!
    What I get is a great glamourous whoosh of amorphous, aldehydic, animalic, hedionic, floral majesty.
    As though someone awfully grand one doesn’t quite recognised has just brushed past in that way the famous and wealthy can.
    Enough from me.
    Wonderful review. Thank you.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • You make it sound like a dream haha. But yeh, it doesn’t have quite that effect on me :’)
      Thanks for reading as always Dandy your thoughts are treasured on the blog :D <3

  2. poodle says:

    Are you sure you like it? Lol. I haven’t smelled First in years. I don’t remember getting as much out of it as you. I may be laughing over your use of “piss pants” as a description for days.

    • :’) I think so.
      Hahahah I know right – I had no other words that could some it up. I was gonna do a notes list at the bottom. It would sound like some Comme des garcons creation:
      Bitter honey, transparent jasmine, faux narcissus, piss pants and glue. <3 I should love this more than anything ever.

      • poodle says:

        You crack me up! You should write a post on your imaginary dream perfume. I love to see the note list and the description.

      • Omg I’d love to do some collaborations with people haha – I don’t have the money for materials and the waste I’d probably go through trying to get a simple accord to work – but my head is brimming with ideas and needs! I’ll be sure to do that soon Poodle sounds like fun :D

  3. Tarleisio says:

    I’ll never be able to be objective about First for a very personal reason, but although I thought it was beyond beautiful on someone else, I’ll never, ever wear it. But I do appreciate your review! ;)

    • Thank you! :D
      Oh man it sounds like First has a true story with you – unfortunately my review is taken as straight up as it comes because I don’t have any previous experiences with it. Still – I think it’s fair. I think I’ve worn it to bed the last two weeks :’) What the hell. I don’t know what’s going on with my taste recently.
      Thanks for reading :) x

      • Tarleisio says:

        My latest post explains it…my mother was buried with a whopping great bottle of it – and that, as they say, is love! ;) Tastes can be all over the place sometimes… I’ve had a few of those “WTF was I thinking” moments myself lately! ;)

      • WOW! I remember hearing people compliment your post on Mother’s day – I was feeling a bit shaky that day, not sure why (it wasn’t Mother’s day here of course) – so thought I shalln’t read anything to make me upset :P
        I’ll head over tomorrow to your side of the blogosphere tomorrow <3
        Beautiful though! Totally makes sense now :) Still – I think one side of me tears this one apart just because I don't like JCE, but then there are aspects which are just so… not modern, that I struggle with. But then the dated side of it is what I find most charming. I seem to get a great deal of comfort out of First while totally not understanding why. I'm halfway through a bottle and it took me this long to write about it. x

      • Tarleisio says:

        i can understand the “halfway through a bottle” part…That’s me and a LOT of my collection, LOL. But the thing is, this was made before JCE became JCE, Rock Star Minimalist – when he was, in fact, more of a maximalist, and that surprises påeople who try the vintage. Whatever the case, it’s a great creation that I shall never, ever wear…;)

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