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.












Filed under Floral Aldehydes

24 responses to “LES OISEAUX DE NUIT: : : : NOCTURNES by CARON (1981)

  1. Note: If you are not personally familiar with this perfume, but are intrigued, don’t bother with the 2013 reformulation, nor the generic Caron bottles wth the glass bubbles, whatever they are called. No. get a boxed vaporisateur cheap on the internet, as pristine a copy as you possibly can and enjoy. It is simple, unrehearsed, and very lovely.

  2. Renee Stout

    Finally…someone who appreciates Nocturnes as much as I do. Before I found both the vintage EDT and the vintage parfum in the black Deco-style bottle, I had read several reviews and not one raved about it. But appreciating all things Caron, even when I don’t love a couple of them and I’m not really a lover of floral scents, I was curious enough to hunt both of these formulations down anyway and boy oh boy, I’m glad I did. Nocturnes was among the two of three perfumes that helped me appreciate a good floral. It is everything you described; a very introspective scent. It feels just right on those days when I’m an a pensive mood, especially during the spring and summer. It’s my go to perfume when I’m gardening as something about the smell of the soil wafting into and mixing with the scent of flowers to come is just magical. I was beguiled by Nocturnes and continue to be. It’s a very underrated Caron.

    • Yey. Delighted you feel the same way. Luca Turin did the perfume a great disservice with his dismissive hatred of this scent, which he considers to have no virtues – just some kind of ‘fake beauty queen’ perfume. I could never understand his take on it. For me, the second I smelled it I felt there was something very soulful and beautiful about it. It simultaneously quietly ravishes the senses, yet as you say, is like a soothing haven. It MUST be the vintage, though. My friend Helen once very kindly bought me the pre reformulation reformulation, and though I still got through the entire bottle, it was very sharp and acidic compared to the plush softness of the original. I looked at my third gone bottle last night and felt some dismay, because this is a scent, particularly when it starts to get colder, that I always want to be able to wear.

      • MrsDalloway

        The Guide reviews are all of current versions at the time of writing, so maybe by 2007/08 it was already messed around with and that’s what he was reviewing? I have a lovely vintage bottle thanks to your review and ebay.

      • Oh yes: I had a bottle from the early 2000’s and it was a sharp horror.

        The vintage edt is divine

  3. FINALLY !!! THANK YOU….. I am still wearing Nocturnes…after 33 years and numerous bottles…..

    • Brie

      And a beautiful and befitting review…by the way……

    • SO GLAD you are still reading me! Obviously, this review is for you. I couldn’t do it until it happened naturally and spontaneously, and I was lying in bed last night reading, reached out for the extrait, and found that I had to go and write about it.

      Why do you think you have worn this particular perfume for so long? Do you agree about the contemplative aspect within the perfume despite the lavish plumes of the offset?

      • yes, not only reading and lurking but have tried leaving a few comments which get deleted…don’t know why…had to resort to my old name to get the comment in!

        why do I still wear it? Because of what you wrote in the last paragraph….undeterred …with a frisk gleaming core…that would be me….this fragrance suits me and has managed to suit me through all of my various incarnations over the past thirty some odd years…and when I smell it my mood is instantly elevated….and you already know the story behind how I happened upon it….so there it is….

        and yes, there is most definitely a contemplative aspect about Nocturnes…which is why I love it so….

      • Yes. Definitely mood elevating, immediately!

  4. MrsDalloway

    Heh, no idea where I stand between you and Luca on this, but I love the ‘Don’t you believe…’ tag. Hope you’re going to apply it retrospectively in your archive.

    I ordered a bottle of Ombre Rose and a sample of Vaniglia del Madagascar from Roullier White today. It’s going to be a sweet smelling autumn.

    • Get some of this as well while you are at it! Those three would make a perfect trio.

      • MrsDalloway

        Hmm, there are some nice looking vintage bottles on eBay. But I’ve just bought an ounce of vintage Infini parfum – another consequence of reading this blog with no willpower! – so I’d better sit on the plastic for now…

  5. Can’t think of a better time to appreciate Nocturnes than when you wore it. Really lovely.

  6. I still love Nocturnes too and there is still some left in my vintage bottle. I fell in love with it in Paris many years ago, as well as Ivoire (which I also have in vintage). They were my special perfumes years ago along with Givenchy L’Interdit.

    • Ivoire! I adore it, totally and absolutely, but not on me – it needs a woman’s skin. Nocturnes suits me perfectly, somehow. Probably because it has so many of my favourite notes: the jasmine/tuberose, the mandarin/orange, and the vetiver and the vanilla. Also, there are no nasty musks at the end, which is a big relief. I remember one day when it had been snowing, and the sunlight on the glinting ice was SUCH a delightful accompaniment to the scent on my skin I can’t tell you. I love that about perfume: that happiness that can really surround you when it feels right.

      • OnWingsofSaffron

        Ivoire – only on a woman’s skin: I wonder why? On my skin vintage Ivoire smells as if I were a vada pav street vendour in New Delhi washing his hands. Seriously, it isn’t sugar and spice and everything nice – on me – it is very heavy on coumarin and somewhat soapy, but in a good way.

      • On me it just smells wrong but I am sure it just depends on the person. I suppose I have some idealised image of it on a ‘rare blonde’, as I entitled my review.

  7. I have Nocturnes in the edt and the extrait and both are just too lovely. It is one of those scents I wear during the summer when I need something sparkling for fragrance. This is definitely a fragrance that sparkles.

  8. I am replying to the photo of Donald “Dump” that you posted but the content is no longer available. I am sure It was an interesting read and that I would be in total agreement.

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