BYREDO BAL D’AFRIQUE: The Scent of Paris in the Roaring ’20s – REVIEW

BYREDO was my first vanity splurge in my previous life as an investment banker. At the time, they were only available at the one Barney’s on Madison, uptown from where I usually roamed in Manhattan and their bottles were the freshest things to grace a marbled bathroom shelf since Aesop. Hypebeasts and Uptown socialites alike coveted the bottles of perfumes.

What drew me most to BYREDO were the vivid backstories behind each product because the founder, Ben Gorham, uses his perfumes to evoke memories, stories, and emotions. The most captivating of all to me is Bal d’Afrique, regarded as both a hallmark and signature product for BYREDO, and inspired by journals kept by Ben Gorham’s father as he traveled through Africa.

I bought it nearly sight-unseen after reading a release that introduced this scent as “Paris in the 1920s, balls of Saint Germain and Josephine Baker” which captured all my favorite things, the city of romance, in the roaring 20s with the ultimate muse in Josephine Baker.


A romantic vetiver with a dramatic lemon and marigold entrance, and a warm, velvety dry down. 

Inspired by Paris in the late ‘20s, and its infatuation with African culture, art, music, and dance, this scent is an expression of an excessive, euphoric life. The sweet citrus and spicy marigold at the start unfold into an aquatic floral heart, and finally settle into earthy, smoky woods and vetiver for an elegant, carefree, distinctly Parisian blend.

A mix of Parisian avant-gardism and African culture shaped a unique and vibrant expression. The intense life, the excess and euphoria is illustrated by Bal d’Afrique’s neroli, African marigold and Moroccan cedarwood.

Fragrance Notes


  • Top notes: African marigold, bergamot, bucchu, lemon, neroli
  • Heart: Cyclamen, jasmine petals, violet
  • Base: Black amber, Moroccan cedarwood, musk, vetiver

Bal D’Afrique is a complex fragrance that is hard to pinpoint. At first impression, it’s clean, fruity, and crisp with lemon, neroli, and bergamot, then it evolves and eventually dries to a heavier, almost powdery amber-musk completion. The aromatics are nuanced and layered in a way that is desired for a niche-luxury fragrance, this is one that will not be mistaken as cookie-cutter, or worse – boring and expected.

A friend of mine described Bal D’Afrique as a “Parisien fruit stand with a strange quality,” while for me, it reminded me of the intimidatingly cool girl from high school coming in after sneaking a cigarette and trying to cloak it with the most intoxicating fragrance. That edge is precisely Byredo’s forte. This is a unisex beauty that smells both familiar and mysterious. It’s quite simple to connect the subtle fruitiness, sparkling citrus, and cool vetiver-wood notes of Bal D’Afrique to 1920s Paris with Josephine Baker performing her banana dance in front of an audience delightfully imbibing on sparkly citrus bitters, with a warmness emanating from a distant fireplace.

I hesitate to describe Bal D’Afrique as a seasonal scent nor even a day or night scent, it’s adaptable and versatile whether dressed up or casual. There is an unfussy yet refined ease about this scent that makes it suitable for any occasion, and it would be a shame to try and put this signature in a box. Bal D’Afrique is one of my most worn scents and in my opinion, is the perfect scent to sniff through a shirt in the night air. It’s been years since I first purchased a bottle and I struggle to find anything comparative to Bal D’Afrique, a true original.


Purchasing BYREDO Bal d’Afrique online is best experienced through VIOLET GREY. We are partial to their service, complimentary shipping and attention to detail.

Photos by: Garçon’s World


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