Van Cleef & Arpels First EDT Perfume Review

Van Cleef & Arpels First is a sparkling adelhydic floral. Just with that description alone this is one that many people are going to be turned off by saying that it smells “old lady”, a perfume term that I wish would burn in hell. I’m reviewing the EDT, other concentrations are available and I’m sure they are all different. I’ve sniffed the EDP in stores and for some reason, I liked the EDT better. It seemed to be more sparkling and easier for me to wear.

Launched in the mid-70’s, First has that vibe. It was a time when perfume was started to be laid-back, more effervescent, or energetic and “sporty” with such wonderful additions as Sisley Eau de Campagne, Estee Lauder Aliage, and Clinique Aromatics Elixir. First opens up as a blast of aldehydes. So, aldehyde haters, beware. I don’t mind a good punch of aldehydes because they continue to confuse my nose and make me ponder. From sour, to sweet, to powdery, my nose goes on a journey. My husband despises aldehydes, what a baby! So when I wear stuff like this/sparkling aldehydes, I hear about it. So, I pull these gems out and spritz myself lavishly when he is away. Anyways, First opens up as sparkling aldehydes. There is some punch to this stuff. Being an EDT, the sparkling aldehydes fade rather quickly. But, I’m still left with tartness and powderiness. I get a classic bergamot and mandarin that we often sniff in aldehydic blends. It wears like this for some time and then the jasmine and white florals kick in. It’s all heady and tart on me. Because of all  of this, I see First as “sunny” and outdoors. It isn’t like most of those 70’s fragrances that I sniff and then imagine myself surrounded by cigarette smoke in a sweaty club in a Halston gown. Nope, this is strolling down the promenade in May sunshine, floppy hat, gold bangles making a noise in the breeze, a Laura Ashley dress and espadrilles. Yeah, my hair is feathered, but I look good 🙂 The dry-down is woodsy. It’s a clean musk, liquidy amber, with that 70’s sandalwood.

floppy 1970's hat, Vogue

If you like sparkling aldehydes then you need to try First, but you probably already have ;). The EDT, like the bubbles in carbonated beverages, is short lived, about 4-5 hours in cooler weather wear. I can’t wait to sample this in warmer weather, 60°+. (At this stage, I’ll be ecstatic for a warm, sunny day!) However, I bet it lasts 2-3 hours in warmer weather.

Notes listed include bergamot, blackcurrant buds, aldhydes, mandarin, jasmine, narcissus, Turkish rose, ylang-ylang, cloves, sandalwood, vanilla, musk, tonka bean, and amber.

Give Van Cleef & Arpels First a try if you are looking for a less recognized aldhydeic floral. Or if you like perfumes such as Estee Lauder Aliage, Estee Lauder White Linen (heck, all of the Lauders launched from 70-90), Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds (much heavier than First but they have similar notes, can see this being the “day” scent for the White Diamonds wearer), and/or Burberry Weekend for Her.

The 3.3 oz EDT retails for about $85….one of the awesome things about First is that you can get it really cheap on discount sites. has the large size for about $45. has First in the EDT, EDP, and sometimes the parfum for over 60% off.

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Product picture is from Fragrancenet. 70’s Vogue picture from Obsessee.

11 thoughts on “Van Cleef & Arpels First EDT Perfume Review

  1. I am very, very picky about aldehydes, but I like First a lot. The only reason I haven’t bought it is because I usually reach for White Linen when I’m in the mood for this kind of thing. But if I ever see it at a discounter I probably won’t be able to pass it up …

    1. I’m picky with aldehydes too. They aren’t easy for me to pull off, but I can with First. I agree. When I feel this way, I usually go for the original White Linen. Since First isn’t as popular, I guess it’s a bit more unexpected 🙂 I didn’t realize that I could get a bottle so cheap, but it really shows up on the discount market.

  2. I always got the impression Ellena is a bit ashamed (probably too strong a word, but for lack of a better one) of First. I recall him saying somewhere something along the lines of “I threw everything in, I could think of”. That put me off ever trying it, but: never discount a perfume before you smell it, I always preach that to myself these days 🙂
    Your review makes me want to try this, it seems like a classical fragrance that should be part of a collection.
    Olfactoria recently posted..Love and The Carpet – Review- Amouage Epic Woman

    1. That’s right! You’ll never know what you’ll like.
      Ellena must of felt that way before the releases of such “everything but the kitchen sink” successful launches like Angel and Aquolina Pink Sugar!
      First has a classic feel like older Lauders do.

  3. Oh, First, my introduction to what I can only describe as…the everything&the kitchen sink tuberose…or should I say, that’s how I remember it. This is something I seriously adore, and for a very personal reason, I can never, ever wear it.

    Once upon a day, my mother came home with Montana’s “Parfum de Peau”, I think it was called. So potent, so strong, both her daughters clubbed together and frogmarched her right back to the perfume counter and demanded she buy anything but that! 😀

    She bought First. It was the last perfume she ever bought, and she loved it so, we buried her with the biggest bottle we could find.

    And sometimes, strangely enough, even these many years later, I will catch it in the air, the slightest trail that comes and goes, and wonder about the possibility of ghosts.. 😉

    I envy those who can wear it, because regardless of what Jean Claude Ellena thinks, it’s beautiful in that over-the-top Seventies way!

    1. Awe, this is one that brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing. I think your mother made a good choice 🙂
      I think First is really under appreciated. It has many notes, but it’s easy to wear in comparison to other scents in that OTT 70’s genre! I see First as being able to stand time and trends. It’s all of the “good” things about 70’s perfumes.

  4. I remember this one! It is everything but the kitchen sink, but in a very likable way. They don’t make them like they used to!

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