Caron Nocturnes ~ fragrance review

Caron Nocturnes perfume

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.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written and evocative as always, Angela.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, as always!

  3. Anonymous says:

    such a lovely scent; beautifully expressed!

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is a beautiful scent, but I think it's often overlooked because it's so simple. It doesn't have a particular statement to make. To me, though, that's its beauty.

  5. Anonymous says:

    angela, i really appreciate your reviews & am always happy when i see your wrote a new one!

    i ordered a sample of nocturnes last week, because i realized that it seems to be the only (available) caron fragrance i haven´t tested, yet.

    but i wish the scent would be a little more like zelda, as i read various biographies about her & the famous f. scott fitzgerald & as many novels as i could find from fitzgerald – tender is the night being my favourite.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I used to be hugely interested in American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s, and I read Zelda's biography then. I love Tender is the Night, too.

    Maybe Nocturnes is Zelda when she's in the sanatarium in Switzerland, opening the window to breath the morning air over the creek and through the garden, as she leans on the window frame and thinks about her life.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Watered silk eh? Sounds good to me. I'm always interested in aldehydic scents as I understand that often equals powdery. This scent sounds like it may be one of those rare” feminine but not sticky sweet” scents.

    Your imagery is perfect for a perfume reviewer. You'd probably be good at wine writing as well.

    I will try for a sample for my wife.

    BTW-My experience is that all perfumes, colognes,etc. will turn if there is enough air(space) in the bottle to allow oxidation. I always purchase the smallest size to avoid too much remaining air and to use it up quickly. Necessary if you purchase several scents as my wife does.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I was lucky to have a friend offer me her bottle of Nocturnes, so now I'm happily esconced in a cloud of it whenever I want. In this case, aldedhydes don't equal much powder. I hope your wife likes it!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Angela, that's an excellent review. I tried Nocturnes a few months ago and retried it for the last two days. It seem that my perfume taste is, ahem, eclectic, I guess. I adore Rahat Loukoum, but I really love the quietness of Nocturnes. Watered silk sounds just about right. Maybe they weren't thinking 'night' when they came up with the name, rather the pieces of music? Gentle music, nothing too wild, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata? Hmmmm….
    Anyway, that means that over the year, I'd better save some money – for Rahat AND for Nocturnes… That's definitely two scents I'm going to HAVE to buy…

  10. Anonymous says:

    You're right, those are both such different fragrance, but I really like them both, too. To paraphrase Whitman, “I contain multitudes…of favorite perfumes.” You've inspired me to get out my bottle of Nocturnes this morning. And the Moonlight Sonata is a perfect picture of it.

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