First (Vintage Parfum) by Jean Claude Ellena for Van Cleef & Arpels 1976


Post by Portia


Hello Vintage Lovers,

Some days when the post arrives and a long awaited and expected package is finally in my hands I get a little tremor of uncertainty. Will this be the real deal? Will I have spent my hard earned (OK only mildly) cash on a winner or a bummer? The other day was just such a day, arriving opened and lightly used was a vintage extract that I had extremely high hopes for……

First (Vintage Parfum) by Van Cleef & Arpels 1976

First Vintage Parfum by Jean Claude Ellena

First Van Cleef & ArpelsVan Clef & Arpels

Parfumo gives these featured accords:
Top: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Raspberry, Mandarin, Peach, Black currant
Heart: Carnation, Hyacinth, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Narcissus, Orchid, Tuberose, Turkish rose, Ylang-ylang
Base: Amber, Oakmoss, Honey, Musk, Sandalwood, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Vetiver, Civet

When First was released I was 8. Being in Australia we may have got it around then but it wasn’t really on my radar. At that time I was completely unaware of anything except that my Mum was the most beautiful and smelled the best of all the Aunties and all the other Mums. The reason I bought this perfume bottle is that I have memories of First being around through my teen years in a general sort of way. I don’t think Mum had it but some of the ladies in my sphere did, there were definitely bottles of it in my vision.

I had a modern EdT that basically bludgeoned my nose to headache with its opening cacophony and I wondered if an older perfume would be less ferocious.

First Van Cleef & Arpels Gold silk PixabayPDI

How does it smell? Richer, less aldehydic at the opening though they are still a fizzy, slightly oily metallic patina over the fruits. First perfume is less about the opening though and more about the heart, as if it can’t wait to get to the white and yellow flowers. Once this jasmine-centric heart arrives it’s swoon time. So beautifully blended that my main reading is jasmine supported by other white flowers and creamy, slightly banana ylang. I’m sure better noses could parse it more succinctly. You have no idea how freaking gorgeous first perfume is. Unbelievable, eye-rolling, deep breath till I think my hand might get sucked up my nose fabulous.

The heart lasts for ages before I start to notice it becoming more honeyed and sweeter. I can’t decide if it’s sandalwood or a combination of other things. I do smell furry oakmoss and a lovely dose of animal, soft and plush. From just 3 dabs on my hand this baby lasts all night and I can still smell whispers of an animalic vanilla/amber in the morning.

First Van Cleef & Arpels 3rd Eye Photographer Field of gold FlickrFlickr

Further reading: Perfume Posse and Non Blonde
I found my bottle on eBay
Surrender To Chance has extrait samples from $19/0.5ml

Have you had the pleasure?
Portia xx

17 thoughts on “First (Vintage Parfum) by Jean Claude Ellena for Van Cleef & Arpels 1976

  1. Hi Portia,
    I have had and still enjoy the pleasure of the first First parfum! So different from the later versions. I have read that the vintage EdP is a treasure too, but I haven’t found any around. Also, it is hard to believe that JCE created First.
    Azar xx


    • Hey Azar,
      Yes, it’s interesting to watch JCEs progress from First, L’Eau du Navigateur, Dia, Declaration and Eau de Campagne to his current mode. Even Ambre Extreme is a far cry from what we’ve come to know as his style. I am thrilled to see what he will do once Hermès seats him free. I’m hoping for some ultra full bodied reactionary stuff.
      Portia xx


  2. I have smelled First parfum but no, I have not really had the pleasure. I once bought minis of the EDT, EDP and parfum (age unknown) from an eBay seller. I wanted to compare them. Unfortunately the EDT and the parfum, the two I wanted to try, had turned. It was not a wasted exercise though because it confirmed what I already suspected from owning a decant of the EDP – that First is magnificent, but just too rich, too complicated, too plush for me to wear regularly. I fell into the habit of taking my decant on work trips, where I could wear it as I dined alone in restaurants. That way I could make an occasion of it; fellow diners and waiting staff be damned. Fun!

    Did your First confirm childhood memories of having smelled it on female relatives Portia?


    • Hey there lovely Anne-Marie,
      I can see you swanning around in posh restaurants smelling like a millionaires. How fabulous.
      I’m not sure about my childhood memories. It rings a bell but in a fuzzy, sort of may-be-reminiscence. It could be one of many aldehydic florals of the era that I’m remembering.
      Portia xx


      • I remember it – just – being a standard in Myer, so it’s quite possible that the women of your childhood wore it. Somewhere along the line Myer and DJs stopped bothering and now Fist kicks around the mall kiosks along with Britney, Beyonce and Beckham. I wonder who buys it?


        • It must still be selling there and in the discounters Anne-Marie or they wouldn’t still have it on the shelves.
          Portia xx


  3. Greetings,
    The very first bottle of ‘First’ by Van Cleef & Arpels purchased by me was a 1 fluid ounce flacon of parfum from a Brisbane jeweler back in the late 1980’s, having been a promotional demonstration to showcase some of the famous designs by VC&A, the assorted products were later offered at a reduced price and I chose the pure parfum, it was encased in a black velvet box & looked like a million bucks. A fabulous birthday gift for my Mum who was so difficult to buy for regarding fragrance, I caught her spraying shalimar through out the house as room freshener one day (another gift) so I was a little hesitant about the fate of ‘First’, no worries as my Mum adored it from the very start & it was truly gorgeous on her, to this day whenever I smell others wearing it my mind returns to that bottle and the pleasure it bestowed not only on my Mother but anyone lucky enough to be within range of it’s astonishing beauty of blackcurrants, yellow & white flowers drying down with a musky chypre base to die for, this of course was the original formula and yes the newer editions pale slightly especially in edt & edp, not too sure about the parfum, I still have the empty bottle sans case and a lot of happy memories of my Mothers presence when wearing this fabulous fragrance!


    • You’re the best Anna Maria.
      I particularly love your yellow jacket tonight, sorry forgot to tell you.
      Portia xx


  4. Oh Portia, I really like how you boldly experiment and blind buy perfumes! I had a mini of First EdP back in the 80’s and I cannot remember it exactly, but I remember the impression: I was around 20 years old and thought – mmmmh, I’d love to wear First one day when I’ll be old enough to wear white blouses and pencil skirts and gold jewellery…it smelled classy and expensive. Later I forgot about it, there were newer and more interesting perfumes. But in my opinion, JC Ellena rules! He’s one of the top three noses to me.


    • Hey Neva,
      HA! I’m TOTALLY against Blind Buys but sometimes with the vintages when I see an ultimate deal I go ahead anyway. I think we all do (SHHH!)
      Yes, I love JCE too. Who are your two other tops?
      Portia xx


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