Sunday, December 5, 2010

Germaine Monteil Champagne Perfume

image: 1891French Champagne Poster from

The French may indeed love their wine but more than that they love their culture. And what better exemplifies the French culture than Champagne? The bubbly wine was invented there (although this fact is disputed,) and through no small effort, the name has been jealously guarded by the French for hundreds of years.  Of all the wines, none except Champagne has been able to capture the attention of perfumers. After all we never see perfumes named after Gewürztraminer; however that is a scent I would love to smell!

image: mes-parfums
 Yves Saint Laurent may have created the most famous version but YSL wasn't the first modern perfume named after Champagne. As far as I know that honor goes to the House of Caron. Their Royal Bain de Champagne was released in 1941, but it quietly became Royal Bain de Caron after the famously jealous French Champagne makers applied some pressure. YSL released their Champagne perfume years later in 1993. A major launch for YSL and a major loss as well since after a very public battle with the French Champagne makers ensued, the name Champagne had to be changed to Yvresse.

But ten years earlier and quite under the radar of the French, Germain Monteil released her own perfume bearing the name Champagne. Released in 1983 with publicized notes of bergamot, peach, champagne, jasmine, and lotus, Champagne was hardly Germaine's first foray into the world of fragrance...


Germain Monteil was French by birth but came to America in the early 1920s. She arrived at a time when New York offered a world of dazzling possibilities. It was the age of Jazz. The explosion of industry had changed the landscape of the city. During the day, Wall Street helped forge many of America's largest fortunes but nights were spent in uber-chic underground drinking clubs where musicians experimented with exotic new forms and intoxicating smoke of many varieties filled the air.  Money flowed freely. Rich society ladies and wives of industrial magnates flocked to visit the exclusive shops popping up left and right in New York. They came looking for new dresses inspired by the sporty, provocative styles worn by the flapper party girl images they saw in movies and if they were more daring, out and about town!

 image: 1920s "It" girls Louise Brooks and Clara Bow from glamourdaze

image: Marion Davies 1928 from

Along with Germaine was a whole family of talented female fashion designers who came into this heady atmosphere of 1920s New York. Among her contemporaries were Nettie Rosenstein (credited with inventing the concept of the Little Black Dress), Hattie Carnegie, Lilly Dache (married Jean Despres, the head of Coty) , and Elizabeth Arden. Not coincidentally, all of these women were drawn to, and had created for or by them many  of the best 20th century American perfumes.

 Germaine Monteil South Seas Sheath gown
circa 1940
 image:keithdelellis gallery

Like most of the others, Monteil began her career as a dressmaker. She worked for other people at first and quickly became popular among New York's most elite clientele. She was known for her deft use of patterns and flattering fit-and-flare skirts. However she was also a gifted cosmetician and her artistic flare served her well in creating many successful make-up color and scent schemes to accompany her designs. In 1936 Monteil opened her own design house and in the same year, the Germaine Monteil Cosmetiques Corp. She won a Neiman Marcus Fashion Award in 1938- the first year the awards were given. But by the early 1940s Monteil's cosmetics business had become so successful and lucrative that she chose to stop designing altogether and concentrate her efforts there.

image: 1939 ad for Noel

Her first fragrance- Noel was released in 1940, above is a Noel magazine ad from Christmas 1939. The success of Noel encouraged her to follow up with Frou Frou, New Love, Nostalgia and the very successful Laughter, all released in 1941. In 1949 Rigolade (a re-orchestrated and renamed Laughter) was released followed by Fleur Savage (1953) and the best selling, Youth-Dew like Royal Secret in 1958. In the 60s Monteil released Galore followed by Regime, the popular Bakir and Germaine, which all came out in the 70s. L'Eau d' Monteil (1995) was her last release; it was discontinued in 2005. There are several rare mid 20th century Monteil perfumes released in the 1950s for which we have no firm dates. Maybe with time more will be added to the list: Nouvel Amour, Realm and Soir de Fete (most of the dates from my own research accord to those from Perfume Intelligence). 

above images: Ebay sellers 237 & ggardenour

Many people love also Germaine Monteil for her cosmetics, too. Her lipstick colors were a step ahead most drug store name brands and her facial creams had legions of loyal fans. Her fragrances have always been well loved but less widely distributed than some others. All are now discontinued and many are worthy of collecting. Royal Secret (1958) and Bakir (1975) are the ones many collectors are most likely to come across most frequently. Both are highly recommended if you love orientals with good bones. I also see Galore (1964) out there, Regime and Germaine too but I'm not sure how widely sought after these last two are... Laughter (1941) was a fan favorite during its day but of course it is much harder to find now, and Champagne (1983) has become quite rare. Champagne is still keenly pursued by fans of the fragrance.

image: Champagne eau de toilette, mini. Priced 75$ from Ebay seller d-v-4 

image of Regime: Ebay seller Conniecape

image: Galore from Ebay seller asense4scents

image: Germaine from Ebay seller  asense4scents

I will only add my one little piece of information to the perfume history of Germaine Monteil's Champagne- despite what you may read in other places, GM Champagne was not released as just an Eau De Toilette. It was made in pure perfume form, as I have in my collection a bottle of it. As you see, the bottle is crescent shouldered black glass, with an applied gold neck band and a minimalist art-deco style crystal stopper, a ball of black glass surrounded by a crystal halo that echoes the bottle silhouette, accented with one applied gold small star.

above images:

The scent is a soft floral. My scent impressions: It opens with a whiff of fruit (soft/sour like apricot against grape skin) and something sweet more like port or brandy than Champagne at first. This all mellows quickly as a floral heart with a pleasingly sharp aspect emerges. It reminds me at this point of Chamade even though it does not smell similar to it at all. Given it has lotus you might expect a watery feel but it seems to have more a powdery interpretation instead. Two little secrets give Champagne its life: a sharp greenness, like the sting or fizz of bubbles and beneath the flowers, a thin ribbon of something resinous (cinnamon?) which radiates warmth, like the effect of alcohol. The dry down on my skin is surprisingly gracious- refined yet intimate, distinctly soapy but mildly floral, like just washed naked skin. 

Prices for GM's Champagne seem to be sky-high, and when found it is only the Eau de Toilette strength... So I wanted to do something special for TVPV readers. It's a nice way to nice to kick off December and pour out a little bit of extra Christmas love from the 'Vault:

I am auctioning off 1/4 fluid ounce of the very rare pure perfume version of Germaine Monteil's Champagne on Ebay this upcoming week (the auction will start this evening December 5, 2010). 

If the winner is a reader of TVPV, I will discount 20% off the final selling price of the perfume, i.e. if the perfume sells for $100, you will only be billed $80. 

How it works:
If you win the auction, just let me know you're a reader of this blog by sending me a message via the "ask the seller a question" feature on Ebay rather than commenting here. Mention the blog and we'll deduct the 20% from the selling price.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.


sharon said...

Germaine Monteil's Champagne was my absolute favorite perfume; I really wish they would bring it back. Have you come across anything else that is like it (you mentioned Chamade, but I'm not familiar with that)?

Thank you,

cletsey said...

The perfumes have been used even in the past centuries and have been highly valued in every cultured.I am not good for a fragrance descriptions but I wanted to have a perfume collections.

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