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.





in the night garden





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.






Filed under Flowers, Jonquil, Narcissus, Perfume Reviews


  1. Jonquils are the new white.

    • ginzaintherain

      As long as they aren’t by that arse-hole I am happy.

    • ginzaintherain

      What I mean is, I adore jonquils (just the word is so beautiful, I think, but quite frankly this perfume is a rip-off – it actually makes me feel anger towards Tom Ford because someone is going to be walking around smelling like an air freshener with her nose in the air (more fool her I suppose though….)

  2. alabasterwrists

    Narcissus is one of the few perfume notes I am not as familiar with. I have read wonderful things about Les Temps d’une Fete (and have always wanted to sample) but I hear it has been reformulated.

  3. ginzaintherain

    I don’t think narcissus is a ‘pretty’ note at all. There is something monstrous about it in my view: dark and cruel, strange but SO hypnotic. It is also very poignant, the most poignant flower for some reason , and it is for these complicated reasons that it has such a pull. I personally wouldn’t want to smell of it. Just smelling it where I live pierces me in some otherworldly, poetic way that I can’t even quite understand myself. When I smell a beautiful rose I just feel happy and uplifted; osmanthus assuaged; jasmine and frangipani turned on and released from the burdens of the everyday. Narcissus is an embodiment for me of life and death; I get strong intimations of both from it; that cold, vibrating scent pouring out of its sucker…something terrifying.

  4. There’s always a moment when I’m wearing Je Reviens where the initial euphoria drops suddenly into something really painful – cruel – and it brings my worst fears to the fore – I feel kinda huge despair and loss for a while which later passes. I think it’s when the narcissus in it reaches its extreme and you’re dropped into the long melancholic journey of its next phase. Narcissus is a very strange note indeed. Your recent Narcissus-themed postings have reminded me of Dali’s ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’. Had it on the wall of my room during my A-Levels and in my first couple of years at uni, and I have a real ambivalence about it. Absolutely fascinated by the double images it contains, and the mirroring which totally conjure the life and death resonances you’re talking about here.

  5. Ultimately I think Narcissus provokes both the beauty and the spectre of abandonment. Abandonment as in giving oneself freely, compulsively and with innate sublime beauty, but also the fear of abandonment – abandonment by others, and abandoment of self to extreme points of death (as with the fall into the pond in the Greek myth). I think that’s why it’s a Winter flower, why it’s so solitary and sometimes intensely beautiful, sometimes cruel, but ultimately aloof and honest and contained within its own world. It is what it is.

    • ginzaintherain

      I couldn’t possibly come up with such a beautiful way of putting it myself, but I totally agree..x

    • alabasterwrists

      The images you paint in my mind with your words make me want to seek out this “aloof, contained within its own world” flower and definitely try Je Reviens.

      • ninakane1

        Thanks alabaster wrists. Do seek it; it’s a fascinating flower and scent. Thanks Neil. Your beautiful writing and knowledge opens a whole new way of understanding perfume x

    • Nina, this is a beautiful piece of writing. I shivered at your evocation of the compulsion/fear of freely giving and its continuity with abandonment and fear. Your view of the narcissus is very Jungian. Thank you for the beauty of your vision.

  6. Oh dear. Well, I have to admit that Tom Ford’s Fragrances leave me kind of cold in general. I am glad to read that you found a use for Jonquille de Nuit though 🙂

  7. ninakane1

    I was quite hypnotized by the Black Orchid for a few hours, but when I woke the day after daubing myself in it to find a rugged musky scent still clinging ostentatiously to my clothes I began to find it repellant – a little like being cloaked tightly in something woolly and beige. The Tom Ford Extreme literally made me gag – definite smell of horse arse and rough like a chamois leather rubbed in the face. The Grey Vetiver however still intrigued and attracts me.

  8. Lilybelle

    I hated Jonquille de Nuit. A friend sent me a sample set of those four TF fragrances: Jonquille de Nuit, something hyacinth, another was rose, and I forget the fourth one. I haven’t had the courage to try the other three because that one ^^^ so offended me (and I don’t offend easily when it comes to fragrance). I have a hard time with TF scents for some reason (though I liked one of the musks, Urban Musk I think it was). I love vintage Infini, L’Artisan’s Narcisse, Je Reviens, etc. — ^^^ all those you mention. Daffodils were my very favorite flower when I was a young girl, and when I got a little older I always wanted to find a scent that smelled like the living flowers. I even had a vial of essential oil of narcissus years ago, which let me tell you is powerful stuff! You have to catch a whiff of it – it isn’t one to bury your nose in. Of the narcisse scents I’ve tried, I think L’Artisan’s came closest. ~~~L.
    p.s. I was not able to locate your review of Mystere! 😦
    p.p.s. The idea of your floral fragranced film watching room makes me smile. 🙂

    • Thank you for this.

      The Mystere I actually haven’t written yet, but will at some point. Can’t wait to see what the Dandy says about it…..

      I think for those of us that have known what I hesitantly (though not so hesitantly) call ‘real perfume’, like Reviens, Infini etc, something like Jonquille, which is like gardens to concrete, is guaranteed to fall flat on its face. It is crap.

      ps. I know what you mean about the musks….I kind of liked the jasmine. The Urban struck me as quite shocking….have you worn it out on the street?!!

      • Lilybelle

        No, I only sampled it in Saks and then forgot all about it, but I remember thinking it was rather barnyardy. In a good way. If that was the one.

  9. I’m so glad that you reblog posts from your old blog, so that those of us who weren’t around then get to read them. This one is an exquisite piece of writing. I know what you mean about the “endless dark mirrors.” I have a patch of the highly fragrant poet’s narcissus outside my front door, and when it’s in full bloom I just sit there inhaling. Gorgeous, yes, but I am never quite sure that it isn’t going to kill me, a sort of olfactory enbalming, like being sucked into my own depths until I can’t get out again. I have never smelled anything, floral or in a bottle, to equal it. I recently ordered samples of the Tom Ford Jonquille and Ombré de Hyacinth for this reason: as you observe, most of these scents have one moment in them when they are, briefly but beautifully, real. Lys Fume has a minute in its development when the lily glows before you, perhaps wilting slightly at the tips, gleaming with life as it goes the way of all flesh. Before and after, variations on a theme of air freshener. Therefore I will dab these samples on cards or cloth rather than wear them, and wait hopefully for the beauty moment. Even one moment of real hyacinth or jonquil is a beautiful thing and worth pursuing.
    But dear Ginza, I promise not to leave the house in them. My one TF scent is known to you, but the others will stay indoors.

    • How exquisite this is to read, and also to know that my proclamations aren’t just my own inner madnesses but that there are others who understand exactly what I am talking about.

      Actually, the reblogs aren’t from an old blog, but from this one. It is just that at the time, no one was reading it, and pieces that I was pleased with when I wrote them, or that suddenly feel relevant, I sometimes get an urge to just repost.

      There is so much PR surrounding certain houses, and I hope I will never be prejudiced against any either, as you also aren’t ( WE KEEP TRYING AGAINST ALL HOPE), and yet it is nice to be truthful about these things as well. I adore the idea of ‘the beauty moment’ , and I agree that it is there, but if what comes after is always air freshener, we are not Narcissus but Sisyphus…

      • brie

        I beg to differ!!!!! “Alabasterwrists” was indeed reading the old blogs at the original time of posting!
        But seriously, I am happy to see you re-posting as there were so many posts that I adored when I first discovered you and was perusing through your blog and zealously reading just about every post I could….and I enjoy reading them again…as though for the very first time…this one was also one of my favorite because of this passage:

        ” 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”…….

      • Thank you. This is actually a very precious memory of both of ours, so I hope I did it justice.

        I think this post is me at my core. It might come off as pretentious to some, but I can guarantee that every word is heartfelt.

      • I agree strongly about the importance of speaking your own truth. I am always interested in the hands-off way that Indie fragrances are generally reviewed. I do understand the reasons for this, but on the other hand they are marketing a product, often with a hefty price tag, and I don’t think it’s that unfair to review them honestly. Snark for its own sake is never a good idea, but an honest review? Why not?
        That said, I doubt that Mr. Ford cares what we say, since he would be reading it on the way to the bank.

  10. Lilybelle

    I never feel your posts are pretentious…they always seem heartfelt and are wonderfully expressive. You are blessed with a gift, and we readers are so much enjoying it! I’m also glad for the reblogs so I get to catch up on what I’ve missed. 🙂

    • When artists share their core, they are always at risk of being dismissed. But you won’t be, at least in our world.

      • To be called an artist is quite something.
        And basically I agree: the impulse is to share the core of something, and if possible chisel it into something beautiful.

        Does feel quite vulnerability inducing though, sometimes.

  11. Chiming in to also give thanks for the re-blogging of older posts that I didn’t see the first time around. Love, love, LOVE your way of writing, Neil!

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  15. Neil, I think you are already a great writer and all of us love to read your reviews and your opinions of different fragrances. If you praised each and every one you sampled and loved every one of them, that would be an oddity. When I am sent samples with purchase (and can choose the samples), the good thing is that I finally get to try scents that I have never experienced (and believe me in all the years I have worn, bought and samples perfumes, there are still hundreds out there within reach that I have never sampled. Just like I probably have at lease 100 full bottles of different scents from different years and perfumers that I hardly ever wear although they are there for the spraying. When one has a large collection (at least in my experience), one tends to still use the same ones over and over again and maybe now and then when reading a post such as this (although I do not own that particular Tom Ford scent), makes one realize that there are “so many scents…so little time”.

  16. Perfectly written and spot on. Sadly, Tom Ford scents leave me somewhat underwhelmed.
    I am too aware of so many people on the different sites “rah, rah-ing” his fragrances, yet I have not been caught up in the wave.
    It is nice to see that you are as objective as I when it comes to these things.

  17. Great reading on this Sunday morning. Love the verve, the wit, the cut-to-the-chasiness. So accurate. I’ve never tried this TF but I’m with you on the over-rated part of the line overall. Dear Ric has a helluva natural sense of scent and rejected Black Orchid with one short sniff. His face said it all.

    Infini, Je Reviens. Oh, yeah. I’ve never tried Narcisse Blanc but admire Naricisse Noir and expect you do too. We have narcissus growing, a late kind with an orange centre, ridiculously narcotic in the Spring. A friend sent a sample of Penhaligon’s Ostara, a daffodil by Betrand Duchafour; it revolted her and revolted me. I’m usually pretty easy-going about fragrances but this was hell. Have you tried it? What did you think? Of course, you’re welcome to love it. (I now worry a bit about “insulting” someone by disliking a scent they’re fond of, just because of the hyper-sensitivity on that score seen on many fragrance blogs and boards. I’ve never understood why it’s not implicit that it’s nothing personal!) Of course, you are wise that way, dear N.

  18. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    A delightful descent from the high sphere of Perfume into the latrines of Fumification.
    Your marvelous wizardry with images had me in stitches ; my neighbours could enjoy this as well without a doubt, hearing my extremely loud laugh

  19. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Be my guest. I feel honoured!

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