Profile: Patricia de Nicolaï & The Guerlain DNA

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

I thought it might be nice to take a look at a very talented perfumer whom I deeply respect, but whose scents frequently seem to fly under the radar. It is a little surprising to me, given who she is. Patricia de Nicolaï of Parfums de Nicolaï comes from the Guerlain family, is a grand-daughter of the house’s founder, Pierre Guerlain, a niece of Jean-Jacques Guerlain, and a niece or cousin to the famed nose, Jean-Paul Guerlain. She is a pioneer amongst female perfumers, and has won prestigious honours from both her perfume peers and from the French government itself. Yet, even die-hard Guerlain lovers aren’t always intimately familiar with her works. I hope to remedy that in the upcoming weeks, but I thought I would first start with a look at the woman herself. 

Jean-Paul Guerlain. Source: manager-magazin.de

Jean-Paul Guerlain. Source: manager-magazin.de

Patricia de Nicolaï fascinates me not only because she is a trail-blazer in some ways, but because she seems authentic, down-to-earth, passionate, warm, and wholly unpretentious. Though she has the Guerlain genes in more ways than just mere chromosomes, let’s start with Madame de Nicolaï’s genealogy. She is closely related to Jean-Paul Guerlain who is both the current family patriarch and the last Guerlain who creates fragrances for the house.(Several sites call her his niece, but Patricia de Nicolaï says her mother was his cousin, so wouldn’t that make her Jean-Paul Guerlain’s second cousin?) Jean-Paul Guerlain is legendary for his creations. According to Guerlain’s Wikipedia page, he made such legends as: Vétiver (1959); Habit Rouge (1965); Chant d’Arômes (1962), Chamade (1969), Nahéma (1979), Jardins de Bagatelle (1983), and Samsara (1989), along with Héritage and Coriolan in the 1990s.

Madame de Nicolaï grew up surrounded by the Guerlain culture. As her website explains, she “spent her childhood in the Guerlain family home in Paris. A home in which she has been in contact with 4 generations of Guerlain.” She elaborated a little further to the The Daily Mail newspaper:

“I grew up surrounded by people who were fascinated by smell. My parents had a beautiful 18th century manor house in Burgundy with a lovely garden where the rooms were scented with Pot Pourri de Guerlain. Neither of my parents were noses but they had a vineyard and my mother was a famous wine taster. I think my love of fragrance was unconscious – I grew up with it.”

Vintage Shalimar ad. Sourc: caviardujour.com

Vintage Shalimar ad. Sourc: caviardujour.com

CaFleureBon has a superb, detailed interview with Madame de Nicolaï where her warmth, charm, and wit shine through in great abundance. I recommend reading in full if you’re interested, but I’ll quote my favorite part involving her memories of her childhood, her mother, and Shalimar. The quote not only creates the image of one, big family filled with strong characters who were all completely crazy about perfume, but also really underscores the powerful impact that one’s parents (and their fragrance) can have on a person’s olfactory development. As Madame de Nicolaï explained:

I lived within the Guerlain Parisian ‘Hôtel Particulier’ for the first 20 years of my life. We had – and we still have – a very big family and we all had our corner in this wonderful spot. I could tell loads of little stories about my childhood but if I had to take one moment, it would be when I was waken up every morning by the powerful and spellbinding Shalimar that my mother used to wear. I did not need an alarm clock in that time! The Shalimar scent was my morning wakeup call! And I loved it! My mother’s room was situated underneath mine and the scent came through my window which was always open, because sleeping with an opened window is in fact very healthy. You can trust my grandmother on that!

My mother loved Shalimar , it is true, but she really liked to be the first one to ‘test’ all the perfumes created by Jean-Paul Guerlain. She was the tender ‘guinea pig’ of her beloved cousin.

Source: .beauty-mekka.de

Source: .beauty-mekka.de

As an adult, Madame de Nicolaï attended the perfume school, ISIPCA, at Versailles, and then was employed at Quest, which later turned into Givaudan. During the late 1980s, she spent a few years working alongside some famous “noses,” like Maurice Roucel. There is also Sophia Grosjman whom she assisted on Lancome‘s very popular Tresor.

Madame de Nicolaï always forged her own path, in part because she was not allowed to work at the family business and, in part, because 30 years ago, perfumed doors were closed to women. In fact, there is an interesting article in the Edmonton Journal which talks about the glass ceiling faced by women perfumers:

When she graduated from ISIPCA, the perfumery school in Versailles, de Nicolai initially sought a job as a junior perfumer but doors were closed. “Because I was a woman. Even if the manager said yes, the chief perfumer didn’t ever want to have a woman on his team.”

She was never allowed to work at the family business. (To be fair, the family sold it to luxury goods behemoth LVMH in 1994, but still.)

“A lot of people ask me that,” de Nicolai shrugged, diplomatically, before adding: “You should ask that to the Guerlain family!” A couple years ago in Paris, when Jean-Paul Guerlain handed in the reigns of house master perfumer and LVMH brought in the first non-family member Thierry Wasseur, I had done just that. [¶]

Did he not believe that women could be good perfumers? I asked. Monsieur Guerlain, then 71, waved his hand dismissively and muttered something about de Nicolai being a woman who made scented salts and candles.

Jean-Paul Guerlain via The Telegraph.

Jean-Paul Guerlain via The Telegraph.

To put it as politely as I can, Jean-Paul Guerlain seems to have … er… issues… with a number of social groups, beyond just women, as evidenced by his attitude towards minorities and immigrants. I am doing my utmost to refrain from commenting further.

Patricia de Nicolai in 1989 with the prize for best international perfumer. Source: CaFleureBon

Patricia de Nicolai in 1989 with the prize for best international perfumer. Source: CaFleureBon

Still, Madame de Nicolaï had talent that other people couldn’t deny or so easily dismiss. In fact, she seems to have had the last laugh. In 1988, she became the very first woman to ever win the “Prix International du Meilleur Parfumeur“, an award given to the best international perfumer from the French Society of Perfumers (SFP). According to Madame de Nicolaï’s Wikipedia entry, Luca Turin reportedly called her  “…one of the unsung greats of the fragrance world.”

In 1989, Madame de Nicolaï founded her own company, alongside her husband, Jean-Louis Michau. I suspect she did so in part because there were not a lot of other options open to her. As she stated in the CaFleureBon interview, her uncle (Jean-Paul Guerlain presumably) had told her that she had “to improve [her] skills and then ‘we’ll see’. This ‘we’ll see’ never happened.”

The Parfums de Nicolai website merely states that she

started ‘NICOLAI, parfumeur-créateur’ … to continue the prestigious family tradition of perfume creation. The concept was to emphasise the role of the perfumer. A perfumer free in his creative choices and free to use the best quality ingredients available.

With an impressive number of creations, Patricia de Nicolai has succeeded in building one of the largest collections of fragrances in the contemporary perfume business.

She is in charge of the creation of the fragrances as well as the purchase of the raw materials and the making of the concentrates.

In all these creations her personal style appears, giving a real signature imprint. Patricia de Nicolaï’s creations are identifiable, original and elegant reflecting the high Parisian ‘parfumerie’ and ‘Le luxe à la française.’ […][¶]

She is also the only independent woman perfumer to have her own fragrance company. [Emphasis in the original, not from me.]

In 2002, Jean-Paul Guerlain retired from the family business as Guerlain’s official nose. Many assumed the mantle would pass to Patricia de Nicolaï. Well, apparently, that glass ceiling is alive and well at Guerlain, even under LVMH ownership. Madame de Nicolaï was passed over entirely for the role of in-house perfumer, a position that eventually went to Thierry Wasser in 2008.

Thierry Wasser and Jean-Paul Guerlain. Source: ellecanada.com

Thierry Wasser and Jean-Paul Guerlain. Source: ellecanada.com

I find it utterly astonishing that a talented, much admired and respected nose who is an actual member of the Guerlain family was brushed aside. I simply can’t wrap my head around it. Guerlain’s Wikipedia page states: “With no heir from within the Guerlain family to take over, the role of master perfumer is no longer tied to family succession.” But there was an heir! An heir who was an actual nose, and who had received international recognition from her peers at an extremely young age! A 100+year family tradition was broken simply because Madame de Nicolaï was a woman??! It’s bloody outrageous.

Today, Patricia de Nicolaï runs her personal company, but is also the president of L’Osmothèque, the famed perfume museum at Versailles. It has become the main guardian of what is left of many of the legendary perfumes of the past, perfumes from Houbigant, Coty, and the like, perfumes that have now vanished from existence except for the tiny quantities that Osmothèque keeps in a Fort Knox-like vault. (You can read all about the fascinating place in a Fragrantica article, if you’re interested.) Osmothèque’s importance is just one of the reasons why France awarded Madame de Nicolaï its greatest honour when it made her a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2008.

Madame de Nicolai at Osmothèque.

Madame de Nicolai at Osmothèque.

Madame de Nicolaï is passionate about the cultural importance of perfumery. As the Edmonton Journal article makes clear, she believes perfume

it is part of the French cultural heritage, as important a cultural and economic export as fashion (which, in the aftermath of the Second World War, saved the country’s economy thanks almost entirely to Christian Dior’s New Look). “It’s a notion of art, and when in the middle of the 19th century synthetic molecules appeared and perfumers were not only chemists or apothecaries, they became really creators,” de Nicolai said.

“Perfume is probably the most sophisticated creation to make,” she added; “it’s very intellectual. It’s the most valuable product of our spirit.” More important than gender, she said, is that each creator has what in fine art is called la patte d’un peintre — the hand of the artist. “You recognize Beethoven, Mozart immediately,” de Nicolai said, and so too the signature of a perfumer.

Her own olfactory signature admits to certain genetic tendencies. “I am influenced by my family!” she admitted with rueful laugh. “Growing up Guerlain was always only nice perfumes, something you could recognize from afar, the sillage, and you would know it was Guerlain. I wanted to have the same approach.”

Source: Now Smell This.

Source: Now Smell This.

I respect Madame de Nicolaï for her character more than for anything to do with Guerlain. It’s not only her passionate commitment to the art of perfumery, but what seems to be to be something that I can only describe as integrity. She puts her head down, and quietly creates what she thinks is beautiful. Fads or popular trends be damned; it’s beauty and elegance which matter.

In fact, as she told CaFleureBon, one reason why she left Quest (Givaudan) was because she was fed up “by the practice of creating fragrances based on focus groups and marketing questions. I was very frustrated and I wanted to be free!” Her desire to be true to her own beliefs helps explain why it has taken Madame de Nicolaï years to put out a fragrance with oud. She did so finally in late 2013, only after intensely studing the character of the wood. As she said in her CaFleureBon interview, “I did not want to be trapped by trends. I am a free woman, free to create my own perfumes the moment I want to, regardless of any marketing concepts.”

I can’t tell you how much I respect all that. I’m a sucker for quiet intellectuals who also seem to be very down-to-earth, funny, humble, self-deprecating, warm and kind — traits which all the interviews demonstrate that Madame de Nicolaï has in abundance. Really, CaFleureBon did a stupendous job with their interview, and it is a stellar read from start to finish. It’s also quite funny in parts. I laughed like mad at Madame de Nicolai’s confession that she would have loved to make a perfume for Margaret Thatcher… because of how challenging it would be.

Source: rd.hu/A_parfüm_titkai

Source: rd.hu/A_parfüm_titkai

Apart from the three interviews linked up above, The Smelly Vagabond also has an account of an evening which a London perfume group spent with Madame de Nicolaï last year. It has lovely personal anecdotes, like how Madame de Nicolaï’s daughter suddenly “gets the flu” whenever she’s required to smell perfume. Or the key role played by her very supportive husband who urged her to begin her own perfume house:

At that time I had to take care of my children. My husband told me that if I stopped working in the perfume industry I would never be able to come back to it. Working for other companies was not an option because there is not enough freedom for the perfumer, who is under the whims of the marketing team. There is competition not just within the company but outside as well. So my husband told me that if I made the perfumes, he would settle the rest of the business.

As for her perfumes, well, there is one that I instantly liked, and liked so much that its memory stayed with me for months after I tried it in Paris and I ended up buying it. That will be the subject of the next review. The rest of her line isn’t always very “me,” however, as I find that many lack the sort of bold, opulent heaviness that I enjoy. However, I respect them a lot, appreciate their very classique feel, and can see the technical skill behind them.

"New York" via Luckyscent.

“New York” via Luckyscent.

I get the sense that there often seems to be one single Nicolai perfume that wrap its tentacles around you and becomes “yours.” Take, for example, Luca Turin who loved Madame de Nicolaï’s New York cologne so much that he wore it for a whole decade. In Perfumes: the A-Z Guide, he gives New York his highest 5-Star rating, and writes :

If Guerlain had any sense they would buy Parfums de Nicolaï, add her range to theirs, trash fifteen or so of their own laggard fragrances, a couple of de Nicolaï’s, and install owner-creator Patricia in Orphin as in-house perfumer. She is, after all, a granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain and genetic analysis might usefully reveal the genes associated with her perfumery talent. As a control where the genes are known to be absent, use the DNA of whoever did Creed’s Love in White. Smelling New York as I write this, eighteen years after its release, is like meeting an old high-school teacher that had a decisive influence on my life: I may have moved on, but everything it taught me is still there, still precious, and wonderful to revisit. New York’s exquisite balance between resinous orange, powdery vanilla and salubrious woods shimmers from moment to moment, always comfortable but never slack, always present but never loud. It is one of the greatest masculines ever, and probably the one I would save if the house burned down. Reader, I wore it for a decade.

Amber Oud. Source: CaFleureBon

Amber Oud. Source: CaFleureBon

I have samples of a few Nicolaï scents to test in the upcoming weeks or months, including Luca Turin’s beloved New York. It’s a nice, masculine fragrance which contains some of the Guerlain DNA, as it opens with a very superficial similarity to Habit Rouge before turning into something very different and wholly chypre-like in nature. I also have the oriental Maharanih (which I may skip reviewing as it has been discontinued in favour of the new Intense version), and the new Amber Oud whose notes include everything from lavender and thyme, to cinnamon, saffron, cedar, styrax, musk, castoreum and amber.

First up, though, will be the scent which I fell for and bought for myself, Sacrebleu Intense, a fragrance which I find to be a darker, non-powdery and possibly more unisex, modern take on Guerlain’s legendary masterpiece, L’Heure Bleue.

The Guerlain DNA, indeed. Better still, it’s from a really lovely person.

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54 thoughts on “Profile: Patricia de Nicolaï & The Guerlain DNA

    • I think it will be interesting for you to compare your Sacrebleu to my new Intense version. I’ve never tried yours, so I’m curious if it’s just a question of boldness. The new one is supposed to highlight the floral aspect more, but the perfume isn’t really heavily floral on my skin at all.

  1. I’m fascinated by her family story. Thanks for a great read. I have a few of her perfumes and would like to try more. A lot of them are not for me but like you, I still think they are well done. I have Weekend, Vanille Tonka, and Sacrebleu as well as samples of a few others. Good stuff.

    • Her childhood sounds great, and it must be quite something to grow up within the Guerlain clan. Not as fun though if you have any professional perfume aspirations and are a woman, though. :\ Jean-Paul Guerlain…. my god! A racist, sexist jerk all around. I’m not sure I would manage to be so diplomatic if I were in her shoes.

      • A lot of men of that age thought the same thing about women. Sad but true. Somehow I think you would have told him what he was and where he could go and it would have been a conversation unsuitable for sensitive ears. Lol. It’s great that she stuck to her guns and didn’t let him hold her back.

  2. Wow. Jean-Paul Guerlain’s views are… not very becoming, to put it mildly. As for the question of who should have got the Guerlain job, all I can say is that, while I’ve only tried 5 of Thierry Wasser’s creations and 3 of Patricia de Nicolai’s, all 3 of her scents impressed me, and none of his did.

    • Jean-Paul Guerlain…. you know, I tried SO hard to not launch into details about his views within the post itself, because I didn’t want to derail the focus on her with a discussion on him. But, Jesus. Here, in the comments, I can say that I was stunned at how so many people back at the time of the first incident merely dismissed it as “Oh, it’s just PC crap. Give the guy a break. LEAVE HIM ALONE!” etc. etc. The “Leave him alone” was repeated numerous times on one forum discussion group.

      The thing is, they all focused on the phrase he used about “working like a [N-word]” and said it was just an old-time thing, and seemingly intentionally skipped over the second part which was the worst part. The issue of black people being lazy and incapable of hard work. They just kept skipping over that like mad. Well, with the second incident, it would not be so easy to dismiss, would it? And if you take his attitudes as a whole, including the implications of his treatment of Mdme de Nicolai, the totality of the circumstances shows something really problematic indeed. A fully conservative white man with a sense of privilege, entitlement, and sexist, racist views. Appalling.

      As for Thierry Wasser, I had to laugh at your comment. I feel exactly as you do. I haven’t liked anything he’s done, while I have liked quite a few of hers. Not just the Sacrebleu Intense, but also Odalisque and, I think it was, Number One Intense too.

      • I find it pretty disturbing when people use the “knock off the PC” defense. It’s as if they are unable to comprehend that the reason things have become “non-PC” is that they used to be the racist and sexist fabric of everyday speech, and it was harmful. Seems pretty simple to me.

        • I agree. There are some things which are an excessive PC over-reaction, but they usually don’t involve straightforward racism. Things like Nanny State policing taken to ridiculous extremes is one thing. Having a horrified reaction to a man who uses N-word phrases and then says that black people are not capable of hard work… well, that’s not being PC.

          It’s interesting to me that multi-page thread about Jean-Paul Guerlain on one site was never updated to cover or include his SECOND outburst. Clearly, none of his (many) apologists could defend what is obviously a pattern and practice. Even LVMH finally had enough and cut him completely, even from his role as advisory consultant.

          • At least the courts showed him the error of his ways! LVMH must have been spitting bricks, especially as it came on the heels of the Galliano debacle. Sometimes I really wonder what goes on in people’s heads.

            As Hajusuuri has said below, we can be thankful at any rate that Mme de Nicolai has found a way to follow her own path and give us some wonderful fragrances, and at decent prices too.

  3. Fascinating read, dear Kafka. I must have been living under a rock to not know that she’s part of the Guerlain family. In a sense, it was probably a good thing that she was not accepted as being the one to continue the Guerlain perfume legacy as she would not have had the same level of freedom she has by owning her own company.

    On the business about niece vs. cousin, I would say that if her mother is a first cousin to Jean-Paul, then Madame de Nicolai is his first cousin once removed (to indicate a difference of one generation). For your readers who may be interested in an explanation of “cousin” and its different configurations, here’s an easy-read link: http://www.genealogy.com/16_cousn.html

    Looking forward to your review of Sacrebleu Intense!

    • AHA, so it *is* some form of cousinship! I knew it! Thank you, my dear Hajusuuri. The whole niece thing was nagging away at me, and I had to rephrase the post several times because accounts seemed to vary. Even she at one point referred to her “uncle,” but it certainly didn’t seem as though Jean-Paul Guerlain was her mother’s brother.

      In any event, I think you raise an excellent, excellent point about how it was perhaps a good thing in the end that she wasn’t chosen to continue the Guerlain legacy. You’re right, she would probably have chafed enormously under the corporate constraints of working for LVMH’s marketing briefs, and creating scents suited to their agenda. They have sought for years to skew young, to overcome any fuddy-duddy image by creating scents that would appeal to modern trends of fruity-florals and super-sweet gourmands that would appeal to the very young demographic (while simultaneously raising their prices in a way that would keep them approachable to only the wealthy in that particular age group). I don’t think she would have enjoyed all that, especially after years of being her own woman and “being free,” as she put it. Excellent point, my dear. Thank you. I hadn’t thought of that until you crystallized the point.

  4. What an intriguing read. When I read about French professional women, I get the impression that France is still in its Mad Men era. It’s rather eye-crossing.
    I’m embarrassed to find that I know practically nothing about her line. This must be remedied.

    • I suspect that it’s a Mad Men thing only in certain very traditional sectors, and in terms of a leadership role within them. Certainly, women do well and flourish in other areas, from psychiatry to intellectual fields. My friend who is a therapist is very respected in her field, but someone else I know indirectly (a friend of my best friend) who is the head of a powerful beauty corporation does seem to be a bit of an exception to the rule.

      I was thinking last night of how Mdme de Nicolai was the ONLY female perfumer to actually head her own company for over 2 decades. The only other one that I know of is a new one to the scene, Viktoria Minya. That’s it. 2 women “noses” in Europe with their own perfume houses. There may be a lot of female noses, but they work under others. There may be a few female-owned perfume houses, but they employ male noses, like Neela Vermeire and Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne. But Mdme de Nicolai and, now, Viktoria Minya are quite unique in that regard.

      If you compare that situation to the U.S., there is such a massive difference. Here, you have Mandy Aftel, Laurie Erickson, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Ayala Moriel, and several others. They may be smaller in scope than, say, Parfums de Nicolai with its 8 stores and 400 retailers, but still. The cultural divide is noticeable.

      What I like about Mdme de Nicolai’s perfumes is that they are all so elegant in feel, so classique and beautifully blended. But I don’t know what you would think about their sillage, body or heft. There were two perfumes from the line (other than the one I bought) that I liked but I can’t now remember which one was which. I think I really liked her chypre Odalisque. I THINK I was less certain about Number One Intense, an intense version of the big white floral that made her win that Best Perfumer Prize at such a young age: http://www.luckyscent.com/product/31302/number-one-intense-by-parfums-de-nicolai

      But, honestly, I may have gotten them mixed up as it was such a hectic time back then in Paris, and it’s been months since then. I’m going to try to get samples of both to review.

  5. You know, I knew she was a member of the Guerlain family but had put it at the back of my mind until reading this. Which perhaps is a testament that her creations stand on their own, outside of her associations with the Guerlain family. I have to admit, I haven’t tried a lot of her stuff, but I really love Le Temps d’Une Fete and am seriously considering a bottle. But it certainly makes me want to try some of her other creations.

      • Heh, you know I was just looking at the link the other day! I may need to indulge. I really like the scent and I think 30ml would be sufficient to last me a very long time because I don’t wear it often. Honestly, the sillage isn’t abnormally low on me and it lasts decently enough. There’s something sort of animalic/musky about it to me that makes it smell really good to me, but I don’t see a lot of people making that connection, so it’s possibly all in my head. Whatever it is, I find it highly addictive. It has a warmth that makes it a nice contrast to something like No. 19 or Chamade. I love those more biting greens too, but this one is more approachable, less aloof.

  6. I so admire a woman who, despite being passed over by her own family, has the courage and integrity to stand for what she believes, and soldiers on to create her own brand. She is quite inspiring. I look forward to your exploration of her style and talents. I own one of her creations, Maharadjah. This won’t be one for you, as it has a good dose of lavender. It is the cinnamon in it that I like. I have not picked this bottle up in a while, I think I will revisit it today in her honor. Thank you for telling us about Patricia!!!

    • She’s really admirable and cool, isn’t she? I’m so glad you found her as interesting as I do. Really glad! I would be very interested to know what you thought of her newer Intense creations. I suspect you’d like the Sacrebleu Intense, but we’ll see what you think when I post the review. 😉 🙂

  7. Wow – great article, great research! I love PdN’s creations. I own LeTemps, Odalisque, and Eau Soleil. My husband has been testing New York and really likes it. I tried Sacrebleu, and I agree that it gives a nod to L’Heure Bleue.

    • Odalisque is great! I think that was the other one which really stood out for me in Paris, and which really beckoned to me. (Then again, there is a weeeeeeeee faint chance that it may have been the Number One Intense, as some of that Paris perfume trip is a bit of a fog in my mind at this point.) Did you try the regular Sacrebleu or the Intense version? I’m curious about the differences, as I never tried the original and it’s now discontinued. As for Le Temps d’une Fete, I hear great things about it.

  8. Thank you very much for this fascinating article, I’m looking forward to read your reviews! I like the PdN line a lot with probably “Pour homme” and “Musc Intense” being my favorites so far but there are still some I haven’t tried yet. To me “Pour homme” is actually a unisex fragrance, it’s tangy, tart and verdant.

    And yes, it really is difficult to refrain from commenting on JPG…Grrrr…

  9. Here’s a bit of trivia in response to your relationship question: Patricia’s mother’s cousin is Patricia’s first cousin once removed. A child of Patricia’s mother’s cousin would be Patricia’s second cousin. “Removal” is by generation, “number” is by degree.

    And I guess that’s enough pedantry for one Sunday morning.

  10. “The Shalimar scent was my morning wakeup call”
    Oh, my! It means her mother was wearing Shalimar as an everyday signature scent!
    I thought it is strictly reserved for evening time only!

  11. Now you’ve got me all intrigued by the whole ‘niece vs cousin’ thing – BUT that’s one area my mind quickly boggles so I won’t even try. 😀 … However, personally I think a more probable reason Ms.Nicolai was really overlooked by Guerlain was rather likely due to residual animosity from family feuds or past inheritance disputes. Most families fall foul to such, so one with their rich history and, well, vast riches (not to mention rather unpleasant a patriarch) almost certainly would I’d bet. But of course I’m just speculating. (Somehow I feel ‘rampant misogyny’ just isn’t quite the full picture.) 🙂 But appallingly treated she most certainly was !!!

    As much as I’m in complete agreement with you re Ms.Nicolai, unfortunately when it comes to her actual ‘fumes I’ve yet to find one I personally like for myself. And even worse, I’ve thoroughly disliked at least 2 of them i.e. Maharanih & Vanille Tonka which I literally couldn’t stand the scent of. It’s certainly not that I think they’re weakly composed or poor quality, quite the opposite in fact. Rather, it seems that I’m just unfortunately not very fond of her particular ‘signature’. Just don’t think our noses are very ‘aesthetically’ matched basically.
    However, to be fair, I’ve not yet sampled her entire oeuvre, so it’s quite possible I might just yet find one that surprises me & I’m even rather hoping that I do. BUT sadly I’m not holding my breath … 🙂

    • It sounds to me as though you may be struggling with the powder in the base of some of her scents. It’s just a rough guess. 🙂 I do think that this seems to be a line where there may sometimes just be one single one that really grabs you. Perhaps it’s still out there in your case. Fingers crossed.

  12. My Nicolai is Odalisque and if you want I can send you some.It’s a lovely lily of the valley chypre,very elegant, statuesque even.But slightly melancholic,it reminds me a bit of those incredible Pieta sculptures with the marble so masterfully chiseled that it looks like chiffon veils,nearly transparent.

    • That’s extremely kind and generous of you, my sweet Ana. I couldn’t accept, but I’m very touched by the thought. I promise to try to get a sample of Odalisque as soon as I can. Thank you for being so very sweet!

      • As you wish,dear Kafka,but I can double assure you it wouldn’t be at all too much trouble or as a matter of fact expense.The postage cost is minimal and I wouldn’t miss at all a couple of mls from my juice.Also I could add Tauer Carillon as well.Just sayin’;-)

        • You’re a sweetheart, Ana. Thank you again. I actually got a sample of Tauer’s Carillon some months back because of you and your love for it. I’m afraid I have such a backlog of samples that I haven’t been able to get to it yet. But I will, I promise I will. And, when I do finally get to testing it, you will be on my mind throughout. 🙂 🙂

          • OK Kafka fair enough!I will be waiting patiently,no worries.In your own sweet time.That stuff(CPUA)has nuclear lasting power.I wore it yesterday and it still shines through George,which I’m wearing today.Be warned:-)

        • Also,it would be just a thank you that you deserve because I have discovered Alahine,Chypre Mousse and the newly arrived in my collection Jardin d’Ecrivains George,due to your wonderful blog.I love those sweetly indolic orange blossoms in George,and I can’t wait to wear it during summer as I feel the cold kind of makes the scent a bit muted.But I like it very,very much.Not as erotic as my dear Rubj EDP(you poor thing you probably shudder at the mere thought of Rubj),but darker and broodier it’s a great little perfume at a great price point

    • Hi Stellamelody, welcome to the blog. I’m afraid I haven’t tried enough of the Parfums de Nicolai line to be able to offer a suggestion. I only have a few samples thus far, none of which involve roses, though one is a very spicy, carnation, floral-oriental that I will be posting about tomorrow. I sniffed others in the line last fall in Paris, but I didn’t properly test them and couldn’t honestly speak about them with any conviction or certainty.

      Are you interested in the Nicolai line in specific, or in any sort of floral or rose type of scent as a whole? In general, I only feel comfortable making recommendations when I know much more about a person’s taste, what notes they love and hate, what their perfume style is (ie, strong scents, restrained or intimate scents, sweet, ultra-feminine, more dark, more spicy, more watery soft, etc.). Perhaps you can give me some idea of what you’re looking for? 🙂

      • Anything in general would be great!! I personally like the scent of rose, I would say a strong sweet scent.

        A lot of ones I have tried seem to fade very quickly. Currently I’m using Tom Ford’s Cafe Rose.

        Thanks for the reply, very in depth!!

        • Some of my personal favorite floral scents with rose, or totally centered on rose, would be the following fragrances which I’ve chosen in part because they cover a wide price range.
          – YSL’s vintage Yvresse (NOT the current, modern one in department stores which is a diff. scent) (sparkling champagne rose, peach, mandarin, oakmoss etc.)
          – Andy Tauer/Tauer perfume’s Une Rose Chyprée (chypre oakmoss rose)
          – Neela Vermeire’s Mohur (rose with sandalwood, violet, iris)

          The cheapest would be vintage Yvresse which you can find for a song at places like Overstock.com. It’s gorgeous. You can easily order samples of it, along with the other two, from Surrender to Chance. I also really, really like Amouage’s Lyric Woman, which everyone considers to be one of the ultimate rose scents. A spicy rose. On my skin, however, it was primarily a ylang-ylang fragrance, but that was an oddity that is NOT representative. For everyone else, it is gorgeous rose.

          I’m generally not crazy about rose scents, so it says something that those are my favorites. However, the common wisdom about the best rose scents and people’s general list when the subject of rose comes up would always include the following fragrances:

          1- Amouage’s Lyric
          2- Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady
          3- Guerlain’s Rose Nacrée du Desert
          4- Serge Lutens’ Sa Majesté La Rose (this one is very pretty, even in my non-rose loving opinion)
          5- Atelier Cologne’s Rose Anonyme

          The last one may be the cheapest. The Guerlain is a special niche edition and exclusive that may be the hardest to find if you’re outside of one of the big cities. (It’s easiest to find in NYC and the Las Vegas Guerlain boutique. Otherwise, you’d have to order a sample from a place like Surrender to Chance, then, if you like the scent, order it by phone.) The Malle is the one that most people mention along with the Amouage Lyric for Women, but it is extremely expensive.

          I’ve done reviews for them all that you can look up, but keep in mind that I really don’t like the rose-patchouli combination which is what creates that very sort of jammy rose note in scents like Tom Ford’s Café Rose. In fact, the purple, fruited patchouli that is common to most of those above is something I really hate.

          All of those are generally strong and with great longevity. I don’t know what your price point is, so I tried to give a few across the spectrum. Amouage is always super expensive, but you can find it discounted at various sites to the point where a large bottle would be way less than the small 50 ml bottle of a Tom Ford private blend.

          If you’re ever interested in florals that aren’t rose-centered, let me know. My favorites in this category usually involve big white flowers, like tuberose, jasmine, lily, etc.

          I hope that helps, Stella. 🙂

  13. Pingback: Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu Intense | Kafkaesque

  14. Catching up on blogs now… lovely in-depth on Ms de Nicolai. It’s one of my favorite houses, I think. I did not care much for Sacrebleue (it’s possible my sample was for the original), as it was too oriental-focused for my usual taste, though I felt it was well-done.

    You know, I SAY “too oriental”, and then I went and fell hard for Vanille Tonka at first sniff. That one’s lime-orange, carnation-clove, incense and tonka, all giggly limes drunk on Captain Morgan’s spiced rum and running around in the vanilla bean forest. Way gourmand, at least on my scale, and it just Makes Me Happy.

    My other PdN is Le Temps d’une Fete, which just breaks my heart with how lovely it is. Sadly, though, it’s been reformulated – it was always an EdT, but the earlier version wore much more like an EdP on me. I have scent-eating skin, but the old LTdF lasted a good six hours. Now? 3-4, even if I spritz several times. The balance of it seems shifted – it’s much less opoponax/patchouli/woods, more weighted to the green top notes and the florals. I still adore it, but it is… less.

    The drydown of Maharanih smells like (can I say this? I’ll try anyway) well-worn male undergarments to me. I mean, in the sense that I called my husband over to check. Yep.

    Odalisque is wonderful, but too irisy and dry for true love. Musc Intense is this candy confection of aldehydes, rose, vanilla and (non-laundry) musk, and I like it but it doesn’t fill a niche in my collection. Juste un Reve is a beachy dream of coconut and tuberose.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your wide experience with the PdN line, Mals. I’m sure that will be a big help to anyone tempted to explore further, especially as you’re quite passionate about your feminine florals.

      I have to add, since that our tastes are at complete polar opposite ends of the spectrum, your horrified reaction to Maharanih instantly made me intrigued! *grin* I shall have to check out my sample much sooner than I had expected. 😉 😀 (And yes, I’m laughing, as I always am when our perfume polarity comes up. LOL)

      • Well, I was fascinated rather than horrified… (How did they DOOO that?) but all the same, no way was I going to wear that out in public. Just no, sorry, I’m not goin’ out smelling like schweddy balls.

        For the record, I like a little niff of civet from time to time.

          • No lie, it’s what it smelled like to me.

            I TOTALLY FORGOT Kiss Me Tender. I like that one. Too sweet to be green, too green to be sweet, actually sort of awesome in humidity. (Wore it when we were touring Georgetown with our almost-a-senior teenage daughter, and it held up well.)

  15. When your post on Coco aired I said ‘don’t get me started on the Guerlains’
    You did it for me. There is some divine retribution in the success of Parfums D N

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