There is something about the idea of narcissus and jonquil absolutes that thrills: flowers not only captured, but intensified a dozenfold by the process of plucking, extraction and distillation: the awaiting perfumer receiving in his hands a potent, green barnyard funk of human breath and decay and that toxic, overpowering glint of volupted angelic flora that emanates from these starry yellow eye-heads like a gas leak: a scent that goes from high to low; from foul to fragrant; from death and the earth to the very stars…
My favourite narcissus/jonquil notes in perfumery are perhaps to be found in Caron’s woody floral/aldehydic Infini, which in vintage (1970) has this material, high up in the perfume as the mouthpiece of the scent, to cinch the body notes of roses, tuberose, cedar and vetiver. When Helen was here one time, we picked the wintry narcissi coming up the hill and placed them next to Infini on a bookshelf by the bed, the smell of the flower quite distinctively featuring in the blend alongside and above the rich, woody aldehydes. You could hear it singing.
Real, wild narcissus extract is also an erotic and essential component of proper Je Reviens (see my review), while jonquil is also a key component in the wonder that is Vol De Nuit (Guerlain, 1933), one of the most opaque and elusive perfumes ever to exist, and a scent I find it almost impossible to describe, suffice it to say that that the addition of this precious floral essence suspended with galbanum and spice above the powdery orientalia make the Guerlain masterpiece a mysterious, floating, scent of pure enigma.
For those spring-slaking enthusiasts searching for more pronounced notes of fresh narcissus, Parfums de Nicolaï’s green floral Le Temps D’Un Fête is raved about by many perfumists, though I myself do find it a tad pissy, while for floraphiles yearning to be overcome by pure and new narcissus flowers, there is L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Narcisse: fresh bouquets of these flowers harvested and sequestered in a limited edition ‘special harvest’ every now and again and presented in bucolic wooden boxes.
The truly unafraid, committed narcissists will also want, I think, to know about the existence of Santa Maria Novella’s ‘triple extract’ Narcissus, which has to be smelled to be believed. I experienced it once at the boutique in London, and I can tell you it is the most concentrated, urinous, indolic, foul-breathed flower to walk this earth, housed in a cruel, triangular golden bottle like a cruel Mayan sacrifice: a beauteous and thrilling shocker.
The thing is, when we think of the narcissus, we yearn to be pulled in by the flower’s own hypnotic sway; its living, breathing force field of sun-filled purity and endless dark mirrors. In a jardin noir, in a night garden of ‘fatally beautiful flowers,’ the narcissus, the jonquil, or even the sleeping daffodil, should intoxicate. We want Aubrey Beardslyian tendrils, a narcissus that will thrill our latent senses; violate us into semi-consciousness.
The obscenely overpriced ‘Jonquille de Nuit’ (never have inverted commas seemed more appropriate), fails, utterly, to deliver what we expect and yearn for from a perfume with this name. It has deservedly been met with almost universal disappointment in the perfume universe (apart from those who are involved in Tom Ford’s hypnotically purple ad copy), and I can hardly be bothered to even describe it, to be honest; but as many of you who have clicked onto this site will be searching for this narcissus in hope of sensual salvation, I will try to lift my weary fingers up…. tap something – something into the keyboard.
Jonquille De Nuit
An amorphous, generic, floral musky ambered base (reminiscent of my grandmother’s toilet circa 1978), overlayered, cynically, with a high class air freshener accord of ‘flora’; a few scintillating hints of flowers (narcissus? angelica?) that are briefly, very briefly persuasive, before it then flattens to an ineffectual, rudely synthetic scent that then all wilts into a faceless nothing on your skin…so cheap, so…..un-narcisse.
On the plus side, as a room fragrance, as a high class, deodorizing spritz, I must say I have quite been enjoying Jonquille de Nuit (he coughs), as it gives a freshness, a brightness to the space, especially in the white-walled ‘videodrome’ – where I watch all my films – which is currently going through a white floral olfactory theme. I am happy to come home to this pleasantly interior designed artifice.
Nevertheless: with all the sensual promise inherent in a magical ‘Jardin Noir’, which should be enveloping, empoisoning and gorgeous, the forcefully unjaded perfume critic can only sigh resignedly at this Great Bulb Swindle (these flowers have never come into contact with the earth, I can assure you); feel resentment that such a piece of rubbish has wrecked quite a promising piece of writing; and, stumbling about in the chemically perfumed dark, on flowerless grass, not a pollinating insect in sight, realize to his child-like chagrin that he has unwittingly, intrepidly and foolishly, just stepped into the wrong Glade.