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Friday, January 28, 2011

Instant Vintage: Caron Nuit de Noel

By Marina

"You gather things to you like an old road.
You are peopled with echoes and nostalgic voices."
Pablo Neruda, Your Breast Is Enough

Nuit de Noel is one of those perfumes about which I could never form an opinion. (Clearly there are a few of those, might be a topic for a post.) It's not that I didn't like it, I liked it just fine. I certainly had an utmost respect for it. It's just...something didn't click. And yet it was bothering me that, whenever I was wearing it, I felt as if I was right on the edge of getting the gist of it. You know how a name you can't remember seems to be tickling the very tip of your tongue?

I tried Nuit de Noel vintage, I tried it not-recent, I tried it new. This month, emboldened by the newly sparkled interest in all thing perfume and by re-discovery of certain ingredients, genres and brands, I tried to find a sample of it in the chaos of my sample drawer, had no luck and finally ordered one from Les Senteurs. Which is to say, it was not a vintage sample, and it was an Eau de Toilette. I wore it and enjoyed the fragrance like never before. It still bothered me though that I couldn't formulate what the gist, the tag-line of Nuit de Noel was for me. I knew that I knew it, I just didn't know what it was that I knew, you know? Then the other day (are you still with me?) I put on Chanel No 46, a sample of which has been buried in that limbo drawer for many years. And that is when I finally "got" Nuit de Noel.

You know how vintage fragrances inevitably acquire a certain beautifully hazy quality, a certain delightful indistinctness akin to that of an old sepia photograph?..No matter how different any vintage scents that you might try are, they would have this slight patina of olfactory dust, the texture of old Persian lamb fur, still glamorous but worn so thin that now it looks and feels more like velvet. The kind of texture that makes it hard to distinguish notes in a composition, leaving one with a general impression of a Perfume and a feeling of vague nostalgia. This is what even the new Nuit de Noel smells like to me. It is Instant Vintage.

Sure, I could make an effort and distinguish the brighter flowers (jasmine, rose) in the top notes of Nuit de Noel, the creamy tuberose enhanced by sandalwood in the heart, the Persian fur of the ambery, musky base and the Mousse de Saxe hovering over every step of the development like a ghost of the belle epoque long gone...But I don't want to. It would ruin the sepia magic.

Available in Caron boutiques, at the aforementioned Les Senteurs and at a lot of online discounteres, for example at Scented Monkey, for $30.78 for 50ml of EDT.

Image by Sebastian Faena, to whom I apologize for my photo-shopping.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina, that is a great idea for a post!

There are so many perfumes that I meet, that evoke wonderful imagery, or are very interesting, or whatever, but that I can't make a decision about---I just teeter around them for a while.

I think it's exciting that you "got" Nuit de Noel (which admittedly I have not tried), this give me hope for all those perfumes that live in limbo at my house. :)

12:16 AM EST  
Blogger Carrie Meredith said...

I have a problem with a lot of vintage scents (instant or otherwise), in that I get headaches easily from them. But I love hearing other people lovingly or longingly declare their devotion. I'm just not "that girl" that can wear and get away with them. Maybe I am overly modern. Perhaps I am from the future, I can't be sure.

12:28 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Vintage is the theme of an event I am organising in Moffat, Scotland on April 16: the launch of the reissue by Persephone Books of 1930's best-seller 'Miss Buncle Married' followed by a talk on vintage clothes by Edinburgh-based style guru Lynne McCrossan ('A Girl's Guide to Vintage')and a bring and buy vintage clothes bazaar culminating in a retro tea party - all at the Moffat House hotel. Do come!! And bring your Caron Nuit de Noel!!

2:49 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that post! It is almost exactly what I feel about Nuit de Noel. You captured it perfectly in the phrase "Instant vintage".I love the image too, fits perfectly.
BTW, I already have a draft of such a post about perfumes that cannot be easily grasped, just so nobody can say I stole your idea ;)It is just another case of great minds thinking alike! ;)

4:15 AM EST  
Blogger Daniela said...

Just this morning I sprayed some Nuit de Noël on my overcoat and I know exactly what you mean, when you speak of its fleeting beauty. As I read your description I instantly went "By jove, I think she's got it!"

6:48 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

another idea for a post albeit less politically correct: Perfumes That I Can't Believe Other People Like :)I can name quite a few of those right away :)

6:57 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Another idea for a post: futuristic scents :)

6:59 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Sounds wonderful! I wish I could fly :)

6:59 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I think that this perfume community is small, relatively speaking, that we get the same thoughts and cravings quite often. You know how cycles of close friends are often the same :)))

7:01 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am so glad I managed to put a finger on it, so to say. It's been bothering me for years!

7:02 AM EST  
Blogger Katy Josephine said...

Marina, you have captured the essence of Nuit de Noel perfectly. Meaning you decided you don't need to capture it. I, too, have been 'confused,' for lack of a better term, about this perfume, and fumble around trying to describe it. I want to love it, but Nuit de Noel is resistant to my affection. Still, I like observing from a distance.

You said it just right.

7:58 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Maybe time will come too. Or maybe, like Shelley wrote in her post, it is one of those that should be smelled offskin?

8:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Victoria said...

Lovely post! I also feel that revisiting vintages can sometimes throw into relief the things that are gone forever, like ingredients or bases. A rather bittersweet experience.

8:20 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Definitely bittersweet. But I sort of like that feeling.

8:22 AM EST  
Anonymous Sterd said...

The name Nuit de Noel has always turned me off. I can't help thinking of firs, mulled cider, clementines and smoke from a fire which isn't like the scent at all. I've always known I should give it a chance. After reading your post I think it just may be time!

9:46 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The name is definitely deceiving in that respect. I'd say it is Holiday-ish only that it is one of those proper dressed-up perfumes, which one would wear to a party somewhere in UES :)

9:48 AM EST  
Blogger Alyssa said...

I adore the idea of "olfactory dust," thank you for that. When I first started sniffing vintage perfumes it took me awhile to find one that I could really smell at all--too much dust! But then I learned to smell through it, or around it, somehow. And now, as you say, it is part of the experience.

10:28 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Definitely part of the experience and the charm!

10:33 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina, I'm such a slacker, I've never smelled this. I hang my head in shame. And you have it exactly right about vintage perfumes/antique photographs/tintypes/daguerrotypes. I really treasure my 70+-year-old perfumes, like I treasure the antique photos of my family.

11:44 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

There are so many classics I am slacking about...easy to fall behind with so many new releases being churned out.

12:11 PM EST  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

Beautifully written, Marina. I love the Pablo Neruda quote you chose: it's a fitting quote for a number of the Caron fragrances I've smelled. They very much have that sensibility about them.

12:23 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! And I agree about Carons. They are old souls. Not all "old" fragrances are.

12:24 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago, and the beginning stages of my perfume mania, I bought a bottle of Nuit de Noel off 'bay, unsniffed. I wanted to gag. I quickly swapped it away.

Fast forward two years, and there's me exploring vintage fragrances. After loads of testing and sniffing, I realized there are very few vintages that I care for. I just don't get them :-)

I finally re-acquired a sample of Nuit de Noel (non-vintage but still has that old world quality to it) and I'm really enjoying said sample. I don't think I'd need a FB, or even a large decant, but I appreciate it's spicy, vintage softness...instantly!


3:44 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

So you get the vintagey quality in a new NdeN too, cool! :)

4:03 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Marina, that's it exactly! It's like the Platonic ideal of what a "vintage" perfume should smell like.

I have some of the very old stuff and it's marvelous. There is no way it possibly be mistaken for anything modern.

4:10 PM EST  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

Ah, Marina...that patina that immediately transports a something from the point of entry to another space...I love what you have conjured. As I have not smelled current Nuit de Noel (! I know), I am rolling with the picture you present me with. And I get it.

Am trying to think, what other scents I could pick up off a perfume counter now would immediately acquire that patina...Chanel No. 5 almost seems an irony in that respect, as it was so different at the time (I imagine) that it registers as "correct" now. A regular glossy, that one?

As usual, I enjoy coming here and being in your moment, whatever (and whenever ;) ) that is.

4:13 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Platonic ideal! Perfect analogy! :)

4:13 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

what an interesting topic! the textures so to say. No 5 is definitely glossy, for me.

4:14 PM EST  
Blogger Vanessa said...

I can also relate to the teetering, both with Nuit de Noel and Parfum Sacre and a number of other Carons - I have had trouble "getting" the whole house, in fact - which is not the case with the vintagey end of Guerlain, say. I have never figured out the reason for this.

Meanwhile, you have inspired me to dig out my NdN sample from an equally chaotic drawer and see if I might teeter right over into its camp next time! I do like chestnuts, after all.

7:51 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I would love to read your post on how it goes :) yes, I don't know what's up with Carons either. Guerlains are easier somehow.

7:53 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I have a little of this and I wear it every Christmas Eve

9:14 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Maybe I'll make it my tradition too now :)

9:25 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. I love the quote by Pablo, so perfectly fitting. Love your analogies, from dust to lamb and vintage photos.

11:20 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you so much, it's very kind!

11:29 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been wearing Nuit de Noel at night-- lately started switching off to Narcisse Noir--both of these only clicked into place recently for me, too. I agree with you--NdN has no traditional Christmas elements--it is austere, peaceful and contemplative-- an accompaniment to one's inner private thoughts in the midst of rejoicing. Narcisse Noir is likewise deep and intense--not a light, fluffy jasmine, but the December Narcissus. Both beautiful fragrances-- I have brand new and middle aged NdN-- both are the same to my nose, with the 10 year old bottle showing slightly more mellowness and depth, as should be expected. The new Narcisse Noir edt is scrumptious-- have not smelled any vintage-- but to me, it's the same as what I remember form the 80's--only now--I get it. Thanks again for a good read--Mary

12:54 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

"austere, peaceful and contemplative-- an accompaniment to one's inner private thoughts in the midst of rejoicing." That is such a great interpretation!

12:56 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

i am a freak for Nuit de Noel..I'm never without it both the vintage and the modern. I love it. My rule though..although recently I've broken it ,is that its my December perfume. (yes I know how cliche' that sounds) It keeps it special for me though in a way that I love!
I love the Caron's and they love me in a way that most of the Guerlains just do not:( Except for Shalimar)

9:58 AM EST  

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