There is a mysterious sillage to Nuit de Noel that haunts but is yet just out of reach. This restraint from indulgence is what makes it such a pleasure. It opens with a mossy rose and ylang ylang with an undercurrent of subdued and sweet jasmine. No sooner than this floral pageantry opens does it flesh out into a more languorous panorama of antique amber and sandalwood.
The florals go from lead to chorus in the development, and here the civet and musk fade in, as if via an olfactory dimmer, and it all seems to coalesce into this discrete whole where all notes share a vibration, as stellar as the North star. Suggestions of incense come to mind further on: frankincense, myrrh, and even gold.
"There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of the
Christmases long, long ago."
My flacon of NUIT DE NOËL in the EDT came in today. It is a full tester flacon dating to the 1970's, so I'm guessing the oakmoss and musks are authentic. Interestingly, the atomiseur is not hand-pump-operated, but rather is powered with an internal aerosol, in the modern fashion.
Initial spray on my skin yields brilliant, nose-prickling aldehydes of the vintage Chanel No. 5 variety, strongly laced with a nutmeg almost recalling eggnog, perhaps.
Then a brilliant sheen of swirling, indistinct floralcy remains for some time, reminding me of the carnation in L'AIR DU TEMPS along with abstract concepts of rose and muted ylang.
It all dries down to a bittersweet aromatic/oriental quality closely related to that of Molinard HABANITA: a faint, discreet sweetness alluding to vanilla and benzoin, but made bitter with a sombre myrrh and a brackish geranium, laced with a nuance of toasted nuts and dried orange-peel and a faintly ghosted cinnamon. Some might even read the bitterness as being nicotinic, like freshly dried tobacco leaves. In farthest drydown, one sees the whole mixture is balanced on a tender deermusk/oakmoss/benzoin base, which recalls anew the nutmeg of the takeoff.
NdN is a lovely scent, maybe not dazzlingly complex, exactly, but straightforward and shapeshifting in the pre-1960's style. As others have mentioned, it does not smell like any Christmas I can think of, but instead is trying to capture, probably, the sombreness of a midnight mass in a Catholic church. It also seems to defy olfactive family categorization, like VOL DE NUIT and HABANITA do: an ambered, sweetish base pointing to Oriental, but with upper notes that seem to indicate an aldehydic floral chypre.
If you are studying perfume history, you'd do well to obtain some NUIT DE NOËL.
Caron Nuit de Noël (1922) is a dark, brooding floral chypre on a Mousse de Sax base, and according to Caron, "saw the light of day in 1922, just after the First World War, while Europe was in a frenzy of parties and exotic escapism". I can totally see something this indolic and bacchanal being the scent of the evening after "The Great War" held everyone's life in the balance, plus with the unrestricted Capitalism of the era making new-age barons and duchesses of the wealthy elite, hedonism was at an all-time high just prior to The Great Depression. Ernest Daltroff delivered his cheeky vision of "Christmas Night" in perfume form, but there is nothing really sacred about what's going on in the bottle. The beautiful 1920's art deco lettering around the original black extrait bottle (again being used for current production) sets the mood for what's inside. Nuit de Noël didn't really have a direct Guerlain or Coty contemporary at the time, but the long-dead Guerlain Djedi (1927) is said to also be a similarly-dark chypre.
Nuit de Noël opens with a note accredited as based on a tincture Daltroff made of rose and jasmine, with lemon and ylang-ylang to soften the approach of such a heady start. From there, we get some iris to sharpen and clean up the accord, with muguet, tuberose, and violet leaf to further round and complicate the floral balance as it dances on a rich mossy base. By the heart, Nuit de Noël is a tad stifling with all the indolic florals fighting with the soapy ones, but late in the dry down, the oakmoss in the Mousse de Saxe (truly something that can be worn by itself) helps add the dark bite which hits on the "nuit" aspects of the florals. Vanilla and amber also warm things up but the smoky vetiver assists the oakmoss in the Mousse to give the final sharp punch at the skin level. This isn't the terrifying leather chypres of the post-WWII years, but Nuit de Noël does not take prisoners in the bedroom, which is surprising since it has no evident animalics. Wear time is fair as is sillage, since despite the nearly-cloying waft the accord can produce on the wearer, performance is otherwise a tight bubble.
Those who splurge for the pricey extrait as the only currently-available option may get less of that Mousse de Saxe effect due to IFRA, but the rest of this old girl's fangs are still intact. The vintage eau de toilette sample I primarily based my review on comes in the same bottle the masculine Caron range still uses, and has comes across like the younger and dangerously-flirtateous sibling to Narcisse Noir (1911). This is another perfume for history buffs with no proper context or gender for use in modern times, but its original feminine marketing still mostly applies due to the semi-oriental ambery floral feeling which contrasts the striking chypre structure. Like most older Carons, vintage EdC and EdT bottles going for fair prices are rare, so there are seldom any deals regardless if buying new or old. I don't quite think "gothic" applies here, but for anyone wanting to smell like ghosts of the past dancing to Cole Porter in dimly-lit gilded halls, this is your perfume if the steep price is right. Sample if possible, and preferably vintage at that. Thumbs up!
Vintage sample... First time I've ever sniffed. It IS a beautiful chypre as I imagined it would be. This is yet another classic that had slipped by my radar for so many years.
It is the classic, multi-layered floral grouping of notes that mesh well together. She doesn't give up her individual notes that easily. The top and middle notes swirl together in a whirling waltz. Mature. Deep. No sugary modernity. Style and grace are its character. It is enveloping. It hugs you.
The base notes compliment the other layers. Again, I find I cannot pick out any specific note. Caron's secret sauce mix. I can't say that Nuit de Noel smells of Christmas to me. I can say it does represent Winter, for its wear-ability. The hints of spice, vanilla-sugar, and woody-earth aspects of the base are comforting. Pure classic. Pure femininity. One of the best bottle and packaging designs ever, to boot.