The year Caron Nocturnes was launched, 1981, marked the kick-off of a decade of excess. In 1981, Ronald Reagan took office, ending Jimmy Carter’s era of turning down the thermostat. The first De Lorean sports car, a symbol of wealth, rolled off the assembly line. Pope John Paul II was shot and nearly killed, Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married in a lavish ceremony broadcast around the world, Anwar Sadat was assassinated, and the first test-tube baby was born — all in 1981. Nocturnes, however, retains the spirit of the calm before the storm, fuzzy and ozonic, portending changes to come.
Perfumer Gerard Lefort created Nocturnes, giving it top notes of aldehydes, bergamot, and neroli; a heart of rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, tuberose, stephanotis, lily of the valley, orris, and cyclamen; and a base of vanilla, amber, musk, sandalwood, vetiver, and benzoin. Nocturnes is a quiet but lush, well-behaved aldehydic floral. Its aldehydes are rounded rather than sharp, and its flowers, which read like a funereal wallop, feel gentle, soapy, and sometimes green but sometimes sweet as amber and vanilla reach through.
Despite Nocturne’s name, the Caron website lists it as a day scent. In Marcello’s review of a book on the Caron perfume house, he noted that Nocturnes was originally called “Zelda”. To me, Nocturnes infers a perfume for night, and Zelda brings up Zelda Fitzgerald, an exuberant, certifiably crazy bon vivant in the 1920s. Neither of these descriptions fits Nocturnes.
I’ve also read that Nocturnes is a modern take on Caron Nuit de Noel. Although Nocturnes and Nuit de Noel smell nothing alike, they have a similar way about them. Both scents are blended so that no one accord stands out, but that the scent throws a uniform veil of fragrance eliciting feelings rather than distinct scent comparisons. For Nuit de Noel, that feeling is of nut-brown velvet. For Nocturnes, the feeling is of watered silk, if watered silk could be a cloud.
Nocturnes’s clean elegance makes it a natural for anywhere you want to wear scent but worry that you’ll offend someone. The old version comes in a deco-inspired bottle (Zelda again?), but Caron later switched to selling Nocturnes in its classic dotted bottle. I just received a bottle of Nocturnes Eau de Toilette in the old packaging in a swap, and its green notes are weedier and sourer than the sample I have. I think it might have turned, darn it. Has anyone had bad luck keeping Nocturnes?
30 ml bottles of Caron Nocturnes Eau de Toilette are available at internet discounters for less than $20.
Note: image via Parfum de Pub.