mardi 22 mars 2011

Week-end à Deauville by Parfums de Nicolaï: Muguet goes to the beach

 Is the president of the Osmothèque the first perfumer to have a go at legislators and industry regulators in a press release for a new product? Patricia de Nicolaï’s Week-end à Deauville, formerly a limited edition and now part of the permanent line-up[i], is a green floral built upon what is essentially an endangered species, at least in perfumery: the lily of the valley, “at least what is left of it”, she writes, “because lily of the valley, from which no natural essence can be extracted, is sorely tested in the production of scents. Not a day passes but legislation limits still further the molecules that can be used to recreate it. It’s goodbye to lilial, lyral, hydroxycitronellal and sweet bell-flowers!” (Bear in mind that these materials can still be used, but in restricted quantities).


Like its namesake town, a Belle Époque resort in Normandy and a favourite getaway for Parisians, Week-end à Deauville is a brisk, well-bred scent, romantic in a galloping-on-the-beach rather than gambling-at-the-casino kind of way. After a sparklingly cool herbal opening of cardamom, basil, peppermint and tarragon tarted up with green apple, it plays on the lily of the valley’s cool, wet facets – a reminder that before aquatic notes became available to perfumers, muguet was a way to conjure aqueous freshness. Patricia de Nicolaï does, actually, use two aquatic molecules, helional with its moist green hay facets, and the infamous calone, which conjure the dampness of the cream-soaked, countryside-meets-ocean Normand coast…

Week-end à Deauville evolves in a classic pyramid structure, its floral heart – built around jasmine and ylang-ylang – picking up the herbal greenness of the top notes with the deeper, earthy/resinous galbanum. But over the hours, the sweet and innocent lily of the valley takes on the aristocratic swagger of a chypre, with hints of leather and oakmoss in its cedar and musk base notes. Though much less ambery than Le Temps d’une Fête, also built on a green/floral/woody axis, there is a similar vibe: the poise of a well-cut chypre. Deauville is a horsy town, with two hippodromes, a polo club and internationally prestigious yearling sales, and some of that seeps into the hay and leathers notes of the fragrance.
It is in the drydown that Week-end à Deauville plays its trump card, and it is the queen of hearts: if not the tuberose (not listed in the notes), a tuberose effect conjured by the jasmine and peppermint? (after verifying with Mme de Nicolaï, it is indeed an effect, there is no tuberose in the formula.)

In Week-end à Deauville, the perfumer seems to be paying an indirect tribute to Edmond Roudnitska – not only the more obvious Diorissimo, but also Eau Sauvage and Diorella via the herbal and aquatic notes -- which ties in neatly with Parfums de Nicolaï’s identity as a “heritage” brand. That heritage was claimed from the outset, with the tie to the Guerlain dynasty still featured on each box; it is bolstered by the role Patricia de Nicolaï has taken on at the Osmothèque and more significantly, by her exploration of classic motifs such as the heliotrope of Kiss Me Tender or the violets of Violets in Love. It is the confident way of a perfumer who has always followed her own counsel and cares deeply about her art: Patricia de Nicolaï’s perfumes are, ultimately, a reflection of their author’s character.


[i] The formula of the new Week-end à Deauville is fairly different from the limited edition’s. I don’t have the latter at hand to compare directly, but the spices seem to have been toned down, the floral and fruity notes amped up. the coriander, rose and geranium have been removed to create a softer effect, PdN tells me.


Illustration by Claude Monet, Camille sur la plage à Trouville

14 commentaires:

  1. Thank you for this. I very much admire Nicolai's work, especially the radiant Odalisque. I do complain about the state of her website, but I appreciate that her prices are very reasonable. (Unlike Tauer perfumes, for example - I just complained about their significant price increases elsewhere.)

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  2. Patrick, I don't often go on the website since there are four PdN boutiques in Paris, but it could use a little refreshing... I'm also appreciative of their pricing and size policy -- I love being able to buy 30 ml bottles. Wish more brands would do this!

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  3. PdN recently changed their website! Unfortunately, it's not much better than it was before. But hey, the less they spend on packaging and advertising, the more they can spend on the actual juice...and keep the prices down!!! So, I ain't complainin'.

    I've wanted to try Weekend a Deauville since I read another review on it last year. Nowhere to be found! But now Luckyscent carries it here in the U.S.! Yay! thanks for reviewing this, D. Now I want to try it all the more. Love Nicolai.

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  4. Karin, it's a fairly different formula apparently, but since you didn't get a chance to smell it when it was a limited edition you won't be put off. I really like it very much: it makes me feel good and confident.

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  5. Denyse!

    This sounds just too beautiful to be true! This is typically the kind of thing I buy... lily of the valley, chypre, jasmine... it's got all my keywords except for maybe Calone. And luckily, I have a friend going to New York in a month or so. I know what I'm going to ask her to bring back for me. I have PdN's New York... and I just love it!

    Thanks for this review. We had a snowstorm yesterday in Montreal... I need an antidote.

    Normand

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  6. Normand, Patricia doesn't sell it as a chypre, but to me it's got that vibe. As for the aquatic notes, frankly, I don't find them annoying, they're present in a lot of products I love (Roudnitska used helional quite a bit it seems). Anyway, what with the small sizes, it's always worth giving it a try.

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  7. Mmmm...I love helional. Isn't that the one Luca Turin/Tania Sanchez called "sucking on a silver spoon", or some such thing? It always reminds me of a huge, cold, silver Supermoon (like the one last week), though it's not terribly apparent straight up, has to mingle with other things. Calone, on the other hand, brings back too many memories of late adolescence!
    -Marla

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  8. Thanks for reviewing this. Mme De Nicolaï is one of my favourite noses. I never got a chance to sniff the first version of WàD. I nearly ended up ordering a bottle from Beauty Habit, but shipping to Europe was just too outrageously expensive.
    I actually find that wonky website quite endearing. It's refreshingly unpretentious. As I mentioned before, I love her fragrances, Sacrebleu and New York especially. I will order a bottle of this one and the Kiss me Tender before they are discontinued.

    Barbara

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  9. Marla, not sure about what LT wrote. Haven't learned his opus by heart and can't look it up as I'm on the Eurostar... From what I've experienced raw mats have very different effects depending on context, so except for the "spiky woods" that literally hurt my nose, I've learned to rule none out... Two people I really care for wear L'Eau d'Issey, so I've even learned to embrace *that* !

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  10. Barbara, there's no plan to discontinue either since they've just been made part of the permanent collection, but order away! I really appreciate PdN's work as well, there's a real style to it.

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  11. I understand- my husband wore L'Eau d'Issey for years, I have a soft spot for it, Calone or no! (He's since moved on to more interesting and quirkier potions.)
    -Marla

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  12. Marla, that's the thing with hyper-popular scents, there's always someone near and dear who wore them! Anyway, the aquatic notes bother me not on stitch in WE à D!

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  13. I'm looking forward to trying this- I've always wanted to go to Deauville actually- since I was little- I should really, it's not so far!

    Sounds lovely and green and like I need a bottle

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