A snowy vetiver vanilla drenched in a mandarin scintillation of tuberose and stephanotis, lucent, champagne aldehydes, and soft, dressed-to-kill murmurings of balsams and amber, Caron’s Nocturnes, in its original vintage form, is a beautifully balanced perfume both in olfactory terms and in character.
While the orange-fused jasmines, vivacious and alive, touched naively with glinting sharp lily greens, do at first make the fragrance an ostensibly shoulder-bared extrovert – gorgeous, delicious, beautifully turned out in black satin and white ruffles and quite ‘perfumey’ – there is none of the blaring, over-sugared American eighties about this ultimately delicate Parisian creation.
Rather, there are more internalizing shadows; those contradictory crepuscular memories, that rise up subconsciously within her; a netherworld, surreal, and quiet introversion, that gives Nocturnes her rather precious, but in my view quite apposite, name.
The first time I discovered this perfume – along with Infini probably the Caron I have worn the most (and which ultimately probably suits me the best: the base notes are really quite nice on me), was in a boxed, miniature eau de toilette that I was thrilled to pick up at a flea market. I had seen the bottle before in perfume books and had always coveted it, but rather unimaginatively, and overly literalist of me, when I actually wore the scent for the very first time, it was when literally performing some Nocturnes, and in the evening, at a piano recital.
The soft harmony of the blend – classicist, dreamy, but not showy, in style and packaging more akin to the twenties of Les Ballets Russes than the depths of the Cold War – was nonetheless, despite my obviousness, quite perfect for the ambience that I was in. The chiaroscuro of the stage lights and the darkness surrounding us; the white of my shirt cuffs somewhat implicated and succumbed to in the sweet, clandestine dabs of my scent; ascending with my body heat, previously unused and unopened, boxed for decades until rediscovered, melded soulfully, and undisturbed, (and internally), with the music.
Unfairly maligned and scorned by several a perfume critic, Nocturnes is in fact a very beautiful perfume in my book, and for me the very the apex of the aldehydic; the mandarin/ orange/tuberose/stephanotis infusion shorn of the more fusty, moss-laden träumerei that make other perfumes of the type, while perhaps more exquisite and ‘artful’, feel more touching, poetic, but familialy melancholic.
Nocturnes is not ‘moving’. The perfume is far more knowing, and self-insulated. Shimmering, but secure. Sensuous, but not ‘erotic’. Gentle, and romantic, certainly, but undeterred – and with a frisk, gleaming core.
I love it.