mardi 25 novembre 2008

Lubin Nuit de Longchamp: a floral chypre in a satin sheath

I’ve had a flacon of vintage Nuit de Longchamp of indeterminate age – could be anything from the 50s to the 70s – for quite a while, but I was never much drawn to it, mostly because the aldehydes and bergamot have turned. So I didn’t have much of a preconceived idea of the fragrance when I stumbled on the Lubin display at the niche corner of the Parisian department store Le Printemps.

It was swoon at first sniff… A chypre, with the unmistakable, canonic trio of materials -- bergamot, labdanum, oakmoss – shoring up a billowing cloud of white florals. A good old fashioned, honest-to-goodness chypre. It felt like coming home.

Launched in 1934 to celebrate the first nocturnal race at the Longchamp hippodrome in Paris (sourced by Scentzilla), Nuit de Longchamp has the supple sensuousness of a 1930s bias-cut white silk-satin gown. It unfolds at the fluid, graceful pace of a classic, with, from the juicy, almost mouth-watering bergamot dipped in creamy ylang-ylang of the top notes to the soapy, chiffon froth of orange blossom and jasmine. The rich balsamic base – of Tolu and Peru balsam -- brings a woody, vanilla-cinnamon note to the blend, whipping the earthiness of the patchouli, vetiver and oak moss into an almost caramel-like smoothness – a hint of golden flesh under pearly ripples of satin. A whiff of something that reads like incense, but that could be the cool medicinal hint of cardamom playing off the smokiness of the balsams, weaves in and out…

According to Lubin’s owner Gilles Thévenin, Nuit de Longchamp’s formula -- whose author remains anonymous --, as found in the archives of the house of Lubin, was somewhat altered by Lucien Ferrero and Henri Bergia of Expressions Parfumées. As far as I can tell from my much-altered vintage bottle, it is still fairly faithful to the original in tone, and certainly no effort has been spared in the year-long reformulation of this classic aldehydic floral chypre.

The overall effect is as utterly ravishing, poised and graceful as 1930s stars Constance Bennett, Myrna Loy or Carole Lombard (just before they break into some goofball comedy caper). In fact, Nuit de Longchamp very much gives off that married, chic and witty vibe that is so delicious to behold in 1930s comedies: it is womanly without being matronly, and just vivacious enough to hint that there is indeed a life, and a thrilling one at that, to be had in formal wear – not so much a night at the races as a racy night…

Image: Carole Lombard in a publicity still for Howard Hawk's Twentieth Century (1934)

Next episode: Thursday, a review of L de Lubin

10 commentaires:

  1. As always, a gorgeous review. And I am so happy to hear they have respected their own treasure trove. May others follow. But I have to ask--what's up with the use of oak moss in this one? Have they just callously disregarded the contretemps because they are niche? Or is it just something that smells deliciously, exactly like oak moss even if it isn't?

    P.S. *sigh* I adore Carole Lombard...

  2. Alyssa, thnank you.
    The use of oak moss is actually authorized, provided you keep the quantity under a certain limit. It is listed on the box along with other allergens as Evernia Prunastri. Some companies have decided to suppress it entirely in their reformulations and just be done, but it's still present in currently produced fragrances.

  3. I just put on a bit, second time around the block, and I'm with you...this is smooth, rich, gorgeous. The soapy aspect takes me back to something from my Grandma's cabinet, but not in a fussy sort of way. She wore Peter Max-like caftans in the '70's, and a suit like nobody's business back in the day. I once came across a picture of her & my grandfather on my honeymoon, and he happened to be looking over my shoulder and said "She's a babe, isn't she?"

    :) Which kind of sums up where I think this scent belongs. Whether or not I am that kind of "babe" remains to be seen...floral aspects are tricky for me...but I'm happy to have the vial so that I can experiment and see!

  4. ScentScelf, this is definitely a floral and though it's quite a bit warmer than, say, Chanel N°22, it's the type of fragrance you need to be in the mood to carry off... Your grandmother seems like quite a lady!

  5. I loved and completely understood your description of a solid, womanly, happy, old fashioned fragrance, and now I desperately need to smell it. (I'm also feeling the urge for a glass of champagne and My Man Godfrey, and definitely the satin dressing gown, thanks to you.)

  6. Angela: yes! All of it! Although I can manage the satin and the champagne, William Powell might be a bit tricky to get hold of...

  7. Previous publicity of this scent has intrigued me, but your review clinches it: I must try Nuit de Longchamp. Gretchen

  8. Dearie,
    How do you figure out just the way to pique my interest? Your choice of references and the composition of this perfume sounds primed to blow my little mind.

  9. Gretchen, let me know what you think -- to me, NdL is for the days when Chanel N°22 is a bit too much of an ice queen (though I love her madly).

  10. Cait -- it figures you would love those fabulous 30s ladies, and that era in the cinema. I could watch one of those comedies every night (alternating with films noirs).