Winter in July… Nuit de Noel by Caron The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Christmas is being imported this year.

It will come in a crate by boat and be brought, a little piece of Europe in a box, up from the harbour to our room at Raffles Hotel.

On opening it, I “must be careful” not to unsettle the contents lest one item has been broken and is spilt upon and spoils the others.

The pre-fabricated festivities will have as little to do with Christmas as our lives in this heat and 70% humidity have with a happy marriage.

The box is all flashes and flickers of the world I once knew, before Singapore, before the War even.

Candied fruit, heavy English rosewater – slightly turned, vanilla essence just good enough for custard and a cologne that promises Scandinavian forests and delivers the sweaty, peaty, mossy mass of wet woodland floor in early German spring.

Biscuits shot with caraway, aniseed and oats remind one of the cheeses, hams and cold cuts that we do not have to go with them. They draw an outline around the absence, forming a shape where Christmas and love should be.

These gifts from home serve only to unsettle. Hallowed by sea wave salts and ambers, they are little relics of lost happiness.

The hamper but half emptied, I turn away and fix a gin with something pink and something holy and something local.

How I wish this dress was more loosely fitted.

I raise the glass, a foaming mousse the liquid’s head, to my mouth and inhale the whole in one measure.

The emptied vessel returned to the cabinet I charge another and walk out onto the hot and balmy balcony drink in hand.

Ylang ylang and jasmine fill the air, sharp and distracting, they feel like passing dangers soon supplanted by the reek of the real cancer within: my chest and its presents from the past.

I should shut it up and lock it away, but know the scent it gives off and the pervading sense of an incomplete existence will remain.

I surrender to the smell of passed contentments, long to clamber inside the crate, wrap myself in padding and packaging and be posted back a steerage stowaway in time for Easter.

I will decide tomorrow, it is, after all, the eve of a day of great import.

Nuit de Noel by Caron is no Christmas as we know it.

It is a strange, apprehending and unnerving fragrance that brings forth a variety of notes all slightly off key and not what they should be.

It is an unfloral-floral, a savoury Vanilla, a wintery Chypre a Western oriental.

It is in fact a foreigner abroad, the perpetual expatriate.

It gathers around itself all the talismans of celebration and success: a little animalic, some rose, jasmine, oakmoss and leather.

But rather than a self confident Paris-dressed woman at the height of European chic the effect is of a lonely glamorously tragic gin-soaked figure carving out an existence in place of living a life, somewhere far off and unhappy.

This is a precise and beautiful perfume, done great disservice by reviewers who perceive only its sweeter and more flowery notes.

They are like the local diplomat who intentionally misses the melancholy in the eyes of his colleagues wife, just to save inconvenience.

Like many sad smells it is eminently wearable, yet fearfully beautiful.

The Dandy knows this review comes at just the wrong time of year, but as this is a perfume composed of paradoxes it seems entirely appropriate…

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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19 responses to “Winter in July… Nuit de Noel by Caron The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Brings to mind Bette Davis in “The Letter”… I have been coveting a bottle of this classic scent ever since Lanier suggested it might be the perfume of preference for Mame Dennis 😉 .

    • Dearest V
      What wonderful images Bette and Aunt Mame!!
      Do you know, if it’s possible I think it’s slightly more eccentric than even both of those.
      I have a friend who describes it as Gothic, for whom it conjures all manner of macabre Brothers Grimm goings on… I can see what he means, it is most fascinatingly disjointed, like Mame and Bette too I suppose.
      Much to muse on there….
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Lilybelle

    I love that review so much, Mr. Dandy. Nuit de Noel was the first Caron I fell head over heels for. I didn’t *get* Caron until Nuit de Noel (I sampled the vintage parfum). And now I want to sample more of the older Carons. It’s funny, but I was just saying this afternoon that I love Christmas in July.

    • Dearest Lily
      Nuit de Noel was the first of the ‘female’ Caron’s that The Dandy found and fell in love with. Perhaps this instant romance led me to the House more quickly than might otherwise have been the case for ever since it has been a grand passion.
      There are a few more reviews coming before I finish my little celebration of Caron and a little shopping advice too!
      You only have the three days left to plan your ‘Christmas in July’… unless that is you have already held your festivities…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. This is a seriously beautiful analysis of a perfume and a masterful piece of writing.

  4. Nena

    This is my favourite of your reviews. And I love the bottle that the parfum comes in.

    • Dearet Nena
      Thank you.
      Which of the bottles do you like… indeed I like both the beautiful old black flacon and the more recent art nouveau styled gold topped variety and will be very sad if the later is phased out any time soon…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Nena

        I love the black flacon the best, although the gold topped one is quite nice as well. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m saving up for a bottle of Portrait of a Lady, I’d buy one.

  5. Dear Mr Dandy,

    This is a very erudite review as ever, and has blasted into space the full sum of my previous knowledge of Nuit de Noel. A perfumista on another forum once said this is perfect for Christmas Eve, and that was all I knew about it. However, you have expanded on your recent view that spice can work in Summer, an idea that I am very much coming round to.

    By the way, I also adore the gold topped polka dot bottles!

    Your Friend

    • Dearest Iscent
      Are you returned?
      You know, The Dandy’s not entirely convinced he’d want to wear this masterpiece at Christmas… too distracting, too deranged, too deliriously beautiful to be cheapened somehow with all that ‘fun’.
      As to spice in summer, when one considers the climates and the scents of the Middle East and South Asia, of course it makes perfect sense.
      Finally, the Caron bottles… yummy! But grab them while you can for soon they seem likely to be replaced.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Dear Mr Dandy, I am indeed back from my Devon sojourn, having lost my ghostly pallor to the friendly sun.

        I understand Fig works in the sun, as well as spice, although I would draw the line at a proper sticky gourmand.

        I have no idea if I’ll ever get access to a sample of this, but I just bet my friend LisaWordbird has some somewhere. Her sample collection makes me want to commit crime.

        Your crafty friend

  6. Alice

    Such wonderful reviews of Caron. The only one I own is Tabac Blonde edt, at least 10 years old but nevertheless one of the much criticised reformulations. I love it, all the same. I really must re-try some of the others, your reviews are an inspiration!

    • Dearest Alice
      ‘The much criticised reformulations’ ah yes, some are pretty poor but many, including Tabac Blond are much more astute and in some cases accurate than nay-sayers would have us believe.
      Tabac Blond is wonderful and though it may not be what it once was, I love it for what it is.
      Do try some others, for there are many worthy of attention so far as I am concerned at least.
      Happy hunting.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. fleurdelys

    Exactly! Nuit de Noel always puzzled me; I was looking and hoping for an elusive evergreen scent that wouldn’t smell of pine cleaner, with some spices thrown in. NdeN is emphatically NOT that. So what IS it? I always wondered, and you came along and hit the nail on the head.
    I have only smelled this in the current EDT version, and really want to try the parfum, keeping your review in mind.

  8. Reblogged this on The Perfumed Dandy. and commented:

    Dear All. Part XII of our Christmas adventure must be this… quite simply the most magnificent, melancholy and truly awe-inspiring scents ever to have taken Christmas’s name in vain. A lesson perhaps to think of others at this time of year. I’ll be back tomorrow (later today) to reveal what you’ve chosen for me to wear… Happy Holiday!

  9. leathermountain

    I agree completely and could not have said it myself. Thank you!

  10. Cheryl

    Have been wearing this for days, and appreciate such a thoughtful review.
    My dearest friend sent a bottle of Paco Rabanne’s, La Nuit for Christmas, bought on the strength of your recent review. Thank you!

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