Stephanotis, And Other Members of the Wedding

wedding paintingAre floral perfumes just not popular right now?

Oh whoops, nope, of course they are! This year the popular floral is ylang-ylang. Consider Le Labo’s Ylang 49 and My Ylang from Caron.  There just must be a lot of the material hanging around at Givaudan-Roure or someplace, filing its nails and shrieking at the other flowers in Tagalog.

But for a brief period of time in the eighties, the flower of choice was the stephanotis, otherwise known as the wedding flower, and it figured in a (very) small number of perfumes.  Floris has a couple of them, one simply called Stephanotis which was based on a very old formula, and these days Wedding Bouquet (2011) as well, which has been pretty well received. But the Stephanotis champion is probably…ahem, Caron’s Nocturnes from 1981.

My discreet coughing is due to the fact that Nocturnes is one of those popular perfumes that most perfumistas will not touch with a ten-foot atomizer. The reasons for the neglect of this lovely floral aldehyde are probably traceable to three sources: over-exposure, probable re-formulation, and another bad review by Tania Sanchez in The Guide, who wrote that, “Neither I nor anyone I’ve ever met has ever been able to account for the existence of Nocturnes, a floral aldehyde so predictably pretty it would be considered too normal for a Miss Texas lineup.”

nocturnesActually, this can be accounted for now. Nocturnes dates from a time when Caron had acquired a new CEO, Henry Bertrand, whom they’d hired away from Jean Patou.  Bertrand required an international hit to justify his hiring. He needed something that smelled good worldwide, something that charmed noses from Sidney to Berlin and back again via Vienna, please.

The ante was upped by the fact that Bertrand had evidently told the firm’s owners that the profits would fall for five years while he increased investment in the company.  Therefore Caron needed a blockbuster and his no-nonsense way of finding one was to tell the noses brought in that he needed a perfume that smelled…nice.

That was it. That was the brief: niceness.  Firmenich which was called in to consult, suggested that niceness was best embodied by stephanotis, and voila… Nocturnes.*

That Nocturnes was popular you hardly doubt now, based on the number of comments about it.  People, my sister among them, loved and wore this scent in droves, and it was indeed, delightfully pretty, and exceedingly nice, if not terribly brainy or demanding.  The slightly cherries jubilee smell of stephanotis was in the original version of the scent. The cherries were crowded into the background space behind the white floral notes, in a clever way, well, clever for a dumb blonde of a fragrance.

You might not pick it for a favorite FA today, but then, the current Nocturnes smells different to me and Caron has just released a new version called Nocturnes 2013.  There are already complaints that it is not as good as old Nocturnes.

*This account comes from The Secret Charm of a Perfumed House.

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2 thoughts on “Stephanotis, And Other Members of the Wedding

  1. Well, there is nothing wrong with nice. Nice (but good) can be surprisingly hard to find. But I admit to being one of the many who have been put off by the Turin/Sanchez review of Nocturnes, and I’m still not really tempted. The trouble with Caron is the bewildering number of reformulations that the perfumes have been subject to. The message is nearly always ‘Oh, but this used to be so much better in 1994 … 1968 … 1937 … ‘. Not fun. You can just sense a company that has lost the means to support its prestige. But thanks for the review. The historical perspective is really interesting and helpful.

    • The best way to smell Nocturnes is to buy the bottles that look like the illustration on Ebay, old clear glass edt ones can go for as little as twelve dollars, and if I were buying one for my sis now, that is how I’d roll.

      Re Caron and reformulations, the extracts and masculines have always been good quality. I’ve been wearing Carons since the um…dark ages, and have noticed about the same rate of reformulation I smell in Guerlains, Diors, Givenchys, and Patous. All the old ones are a hit or miss propositions, but most of the current formulations -except of Narcisse Blanc- strike me as pretty good. Love the current Acaciosa, Tabac Blond and En Avion, haven’t tried The N’Aimez Que Moi or French Can Can. Farnesiana has been a little better. Nocturnes is what I’d call an entry level Caron, pricewise and stylistically, but not at all a bad perfume, truly.

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