Nocturnes has all the hallmarks of a femme fatale perfume, but its restraint and subtlety mark it as a charming ingénue rather than a dangerous lady. A restrained, balanced, and yet multifaceted floral with a lot going on, Nocturnes de Caron could change the minds of all but the most stubborn haters of the floral category.
A combination of green notes, the freshest facets from florals such as lily of the valley and rose, with a touch of ripe fruit and mandarin, Nocturnes gets a little curvier and more erotic with the introduction of rounder, fatter notes of vanilla, Benzoin, and amber in the dry down, with a veil of powdery orris to blur and soften all angles and curves.
Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, leafy green, fruity note
Heart notes: Lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, cyclamen, lily, orris
Base notes: Vanilla, sandalwood, vetiver, Benzoin, musk, amber
Nocturnes starts off with an intense and gorgeous contrast between sharp green/fruity notes and the undertow of a voluptuous vanilla/amber base. The richer notes actually seem to rise up to meet the green beginning, only to disappear and rejoin them later after the florals have had their say. (There is a radiant chorus of singing florals for a moment as the perfume develops, each flower fresher than the next.) It’s like a green/fruit – floral – sexy do-si-do, with every note’s move perfectly rehearsed and harmonious.
Nocturnes’ spirit reminds me a bit of Ysatis, a lovely floral with a touch of coconut to fatten things up, or YSL’s Y. For me, Nocturnes’ balance is my favorite part. It manages to still project “fresh and joyful,” but in addition to fruit, florals and powdery orris, there’s some scratch from sandalwood and vetiver, plumpness from vanilla, Benzoin, and amber, and warmth from musk.
Although Nocturnes takes you in so many directions, it still remains a perfume with a solid personality. Why, I wonder, is it called Nocturnes (a short musical composition inspired by or evocative of nighttime)? I mean, I understand that the nighttime-inspired base notes rise up to contrast with the Morning top notes, but if I had to choose, the top notes win over. Nocturnes is more L'apres Midi d'un Faune…
As I’m sniffing my slightly sweet, slightly spicy/woody, gorgeously floraled hand, I gotta wonder where all those well-behaved and yet still interesting florals are now?
There are a few contemporary florals that interest me (Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower, Mona di Orio’s Carnation), but they’re few and far between. What with all the ouds and exotic notes out there in perfume — it would almost be more subversive to make a truly interesting floral.
Or, you could just buy some vintage Nocturnes de Caron.
(This review is dedicated to Brigitte, perfumaniac extraordinaire who gave me an expertly-wrapped package of perfume vials with detailed notes. She looooves Nocturnes, and now I see why. Thanks, Brigitte!)