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.