Airy Intellectual Fairy

Have you ever come across a perfume or a perfume house that despite stellar reviews, and several tries, and everyone else’s kudos, just doesn’t succeed in your wardrobe except for a couple of months a year?  This was my entire experience with Parfums de Nicolai.  It is a hot weather perfume house in my opinion, and I never even try to smuggle de Nicolais past the borders of summer.

Many people will disagree with me perhaps but I say this with a good deal of PdN experience under my belt.  You see, I kept on trying to live with them, but it was rather like a dysfunctional marriage.  I broke up with them, yet I always came back, thinking well, everyone says they’re such a catch – French, subtle, intelligent, sophisticated, and did they mention, French?

Yes, well, but it takes more than sophistication and Gallic heritage to make a marriage work, even if it only has to work on your skin.  And I would prefer not to have to work.

So although I have owned and worn Vanille Tonka, and Number 1, and Eau Exotique, and Vie de Chateau and Le Temps d’un Fête, and Juste un Reve and Eau de Lude and Cologne Sologne, only the last named has had any permanence on my epidermis.  Why?  Because it is effortlessly pretty.

The best point about de Nicolais is that they do not fade or wilt in heat, and if you live in a part of the world which is always humid, that is a quality to prize.  Nevertheless, the over sophistication of the line often rubs me the wrong way.

By this I mean, that they are obtrusively intelligent, constantly trying to make the sort of high minded conversation that the philistines amongst us routinely avoid, before everyone else discovers that we really did not read that long novel by the MFA possessing, award winning writer that was on our book club list, but instead cheated and read Donald Westlake – again.  It puts me in mind of that quote from Luca Turin, the one about perfume being the most portable form of intelligence when- silly me- I always thought that intelligence was the most portable form of intelligence.

Because perfume is perfume and not human, no matter how hard you try to anthropomorphize it, I can take the attitude of that devoted Edwardian husband Sir Cecil Kaye, who, when comforting his daughter, the mystery writer M.M. Kaye, because she  had realized that her own mother was none too clever, remarked that he had never wanted an intelligent wife, but a beautiful, charming one who could make him laugh.*

Well, same thing here. I do not want a brainy perfume. I want a beautiful one that is charming, and can make me smile.  So I wear the sole de Nicolai that does that, and ignore the rest.  They can go to my book club meeting for me. No doubt they’ve already read and discussed the book.


*For more on this, read her fascinating autobiography, The Sun In The Morninig.

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12 thoughts on “Airy Intellectual Fairy

  1. I just sent that image in greeting card form to my niece!

    Not a big fan of that house; and this line made me snort coffee through my nose!
    “They can go to my book club meeting for me. No doubt they’ve already read and discussed the book.” hahaaa!

  2. So far I’ve tried only two perfumes from that house – Le Temps D’Une Fete and Odalisque. I like Le Temps D’Une Fete but do not wear it too often. So, in general, I’m not that inspired to seek more perfumes from Parfums De Nicolai.

    In general, more and more often I go for a beautiful, “easy” perfume: I do not want to “work” on it, I just want to enjoy it.

    • So agreed. It has to be beautiful first, before anything else. I don’t bother with things because they are innovative, or have a point to make, I can always make a point verbally after all. I just want to smell good.

  3. My only experience with this line has been Maharanih Intense, which I acquired during the last Swapmania. This one, I think, is perfect for fall/winter – it smells exactly like the pomander balls I used to make with my mom, out of an orange stuck with cloves. I don’t get any elevated intellect from this one – in spite of the “intense” in the name, it’s not heavy, and doesn’t last for hours. Nor is it complicated. However, it is pleasant and good for winter holiday wear. ~ Patty

    • The top note of Maharanih Intense was beautiful and yes, it did smell like those Christmas pomanders-you’re right. The rest of it smelled like Guerlain’s L’Instant to me, and although lots of people love that, it never does well on me, so Maharanih Intense is one of those “If it smelled like those first ten minutes I’d wear it” situations for me.

  4. …cocks head to the side… is puzzled… probably because the ones that I love from PdN, I reallyreallyreally love, down in that gut area. Vanille Tonka makes me giggle; Le Temps d’une Fete makes me sigh with pleasure, and it was that way from first sniff. There’s a whole slew of ’em that I like but don’t love – Juste une Reve, Odalisque, Sacrebleu – and a bigger slew that leave me cold, mostly the cologne variations, but as I may have mentioned once or twenty times, I just Don’t Do Cologne. It bores me.

    (Speaking of Maharanih, I found it a very nice orange-spice thing until the drydown, when it began to smell like… how to say this? …like sweaty boxer shorts. You should have seen me yelling down the hall to The CEO, “Honey, can you c’mere a minute? I want to check something.” Yep. Dead on.)

    Seems like I only love Chanels (No. 19, 31 RC) in that intellectual way, but that’s another story entirely.

    • You’re not alone is adoring Le Temps. Scads of perfumistas love that, it makes the top ten Spring Lists every year. BUT try as I might nothing of hers has stuck with me, and I think her old colognes-at least- are not much like colognes. Haute Provence which I have, is kinda in between Jicky and Emeraude/Shalimar, and her old Petit Ange was probably another Apres L’Ondee. So, not really so citrusy. Cologne Sologne is myrtle and then orange Blossom all the way home.
      Your Maharanih description did make me guffaw. I haven’t tried such a stunt with Guts, but if I did, he’d be outraged, Madame! You forget yourself!

    • “Sweaty boxer shorts”, hee…I’m gonna have to spritz it soon to see if I get the same affect! But then, I don’t mind me a bit o’ skank…

  5. “I thought intelligence was the most portable form of intelligence” LOL! That made my day. I really, really wanted to love the PdN line, as a frugal perfumista, it sounds just up my alley. But it wasn’t to be. I love Le Temps d’une Fete, but everything else was just…… nice.

    Hmm, so what does it say about me that I didn’t find these challenging and intelligent, but just kind of boring?

    • Oh so did I want to love PdN! In fairness, I should also say that the whole line got refo’ed (bludgeoned, really) when the IFRA restrictions went into effect. Now they are mostly unremarkable, they used to have a kind of Gallic flair overlaying the braininess. Sometimes the masculines are good, and although I can’t wear it, Le Temps is definitely a hit. Though Mals seems to think that was changed too.

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