I’ve seen several reviews of this scent, and at least one excellent interview (Denyse at Grain de Musc’s interview of Bertrand Duchaufour – warning, the accompanying image is a Matisse nude, probably NSFW) commenting that the reviewers are really enjoying the perfumer’s “new direction.” I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m not very familiar with his earlier work, and I can’t really address the issue. I like Amaranthine very much, however, and if this is M. Duchaufour’s future, I like it. To be brutally honest, I like Amaranthine much better – it seems so comfortable – but NdT is fascinating.
Perfume Review: L’Artisan Nuit de Tubereuse
Date released: 2010
Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufour
Sample provenance: split of fresh bottle from retailer, 2010
Sub-category: Ummmm… freaky tuberose? (I just created that one.)
Notes for NdT: Tuberose, mango, citrus, cardamom, clove, pink pepper, pepper, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, rose, angelica, gorse, sandalwood, palisander, musks, benzoin and styrax.
After reading Denyse’s tantalizing “guess what tuberose scent I’ve been wearing lately that hasn’t been released yet?” teaser in December, and finding a bottle split active, I jumped right in, unsniffed. (Oh, don’t worry, it was 5ml. And tuberose. How could I go wrong?) And then the decant bottle arrived in the mail. I pulled the cap off and sniffed. “Huh. It smells like… dirt,” I said to myself. “I can tell there’s tuberose in there, but it’s mostly… dirt. Wet potting soil, actually. And maybe… is that mildew?”
(Those of you who are familiar with Duchaufour’s earlier work may stop laughing at me now. Thank you.)
Put off by the mildew, I tucked my small decant away for several days. Pulled it back out again and smelled the nozzle… nope, still mildew, with something floral under there somewhere. Put it away again for another week. Then received an advance sample of another tuberose scent (yes, yes, review of this one on June 23, I promise) called Vamp a NY, from Honore des Pres’ new We <3 NY series, which also includes I <3 Les Carottes, and Love Coco. Vamp was so terrific that I felt I really must give NdT a real chance, instead of just sniffing the cap and getting frightened.
And the next time I picked up my bottle, it wasn’t nearly so mildewy/earthy. I could actually smell the tuberose, just a bit. So, okay, here goes: I sprayed a little on my thumb. And immediately thought of jungles. All that moisture in the air, and on the ground, and in the vegetation… so much vegetation, and every bit of it just this side of rotting.
There is at least one review that relates the opening to “Juicy Fruit gum,” and others that say, “big ripe mango,” and one that veers off someplace else with “neon and electric.” To be honest, I don’t get any of those things. What I get is JUNGLE, and it’s just that little bit scary. It’s borderline grossly overripe, and definitely weird, and I love March’s description of the opening: “The mind grasps at the smell, trying to categorize it as pleasant or unpleasant – and it’s both.” Yep. Exactically, as Tigger would say.
The more I wear NdT, the more I discover new aspects of it. On my first wearing, I found it nearly unbearably earthy on the open. The second wearing revealed a green, sour mango up top. (Neither experience was enjoyable, by the way.) But on the third wearing, I got the pink pepper. Now, you can whine about the ubiquitous pink pepper all you want, but in my opinion that’s like whining about the ubiquitous bergamot. Nearly everything – particularly classical compositions – has bergamot in it, and it has the advantage of connecting notes you might not think of as connected. Bergamot bridges fruit and floral, herbal and floral, citrus and herbal, citrus and floral, citrus and incense, floral and woods… you name it. Pink pepper does that too, since it seems to work well in bridging fruit or citrus to floral, spicy, incense, or woody notes. In Nuit de Tubereuse, it’s connecting that weirdly aromatic turned-earth aspect to that whanged-out mango and from thence to a muted tuberose and some jungly, moist greenery.
A few months ago, I tested a tuberose scent from profumo.it (abdes salaam attar) called Scents of the Soul: Night Blossom. From the website: “This olfactory jewel (the tuberose is the most precious of floral essences) is set in a thick tropical night, smelling of humid underwood and strewn with scent traces of freshly trodden grass.” What it smells like to me, though, is PATCHOULI PATCHOULI tuberose PATCHOULI PATCHOULI. Nuit de Tubereuse, far from being the “perfume for a secret Parisian summer night,” that L’Artisan describes it as, is really what Abdes Salaam Attar was going for: a sweltering tropical night, where wafts of tuberose float over the “humid underwood.” There’s no Paris in NdT – no wine, no baguette, no formal perfumey odors, no asphalt, no smells of humanity.
The longer NdT is on skin, the more it relaxes. The tuberose gets softer and softer and the incense comes out on my skin, and the whole thing gets rather… pretty. It doesn’t seem to be either feminine or masculine, which I suppose is the best description of a unisex scent. The tuberose might make it seem to skew girly, but it’s not, trust me. Robin at NST struggles to define the drydown but calls it very sexy – and I don’t get that, either. I find it to be really pleasant, though, and very comfortable, although I suspect the woody-incense base just feels that way because I’ve recently experienced the hair-raising crypt dirt and jungle mildew of that bizarre-o opening. (It makes me think of the story about the cowboy who always bought his boots a size too small: “Don’t them boots pinch, Clem?” “Waal, sure they do. But it feels so good when I take ‘em off!”)
I really must address a few comparisons to other tuberose scents: the new one from the naturals line at Honore des Pres, Vamp a NY, which I am dying to tell you about but can’t until next Thursday, is another fragrance that takes certain unusual aspects of tuberose and overemphasizes them. But Vamp I found very, very easy to wear, unlike Nuit de Tubereuse. Both are intriguing and bold, tackling tuberose from new angles, definitely Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile Not Your Mother’s Fracas. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Fracas, mind you.) And, of course, I’ll refer you back to my review of Tubereuse Criminelle – another tubey frag with a weird, difficult opening – with the comment that I found TC “difficult just for the sake of being difficult,” and I don’t have any appreciation for the Rotting Raw Chicken of Death that accompanies TC’s otherwise-lovely tuberose. Nuit de Tubereuse, however, is entirely wearable. Weird, difficult, funhouse-mirror freaky maybe in spots, but wearable.
Quality A Definitely natural ingredients.
Grab-scale score Ummmm… 4 to 9, depending on where it is in its development.
Short description Freaky (dirt, jungle, and incense) tuberose. Maybe mango tuberose, if you get the mango reference (I don’t).
Cost $$$ And can I just say? I think the bottle is gorgeous. Oooh. But we never buy perfume for the bottle, right?
Earns compliments? Yes, many – even when I was saying incredulously to my husband, “How can you call that alluring? It smells like mildew!” Strangers commented positively and spontaneously, which never happens to me.
Scent presence Moderately strong. Moderately wafty sillage, approximately a five-foot diameter. Long-lasting (6-8 hours).
I find that the entire exercise, playing up the odd aspects of tuberose absolute, reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows. I love the Food Network, and am positively addicted to Good Eats. Host Alton Brown’s show is a wacky combination of Julia Child’s The French Chef (anybody else remember the time she dropped a turkey on the floor?), Bill Nye the Science Guy, Dr. Who, and middle-school plays with bad costumes and terrible puns. I love this thing. Where else can you learn about the coagulation of egg proteins and the history of maize, while watching cavemen in glasses eat their first mussels and a giant squid attack a boat? (Seriously, go watch it. It’s Not Your Mother’s Cooking Show.)
And Nuit de Tubereuse? An intellectual essay on the less-attractive properties of tuberose absolute, that somehow manages to be quirky, attractive, unsettling and fun all at once. It’s growing on me. I’ll mention that The CEO’s comment on it was, “Alluring,” and various unsolicited remarks included, “You smell nice,” and “What smells so good in here?” Wearing it, I still feel a little bit like I’m wandering a Heart of Darkness jungle – but there’s a light up ahead, and if I can just get out before that creature that’s following me catches up, I can soon be wearing a gorgeous coral silk faille halter dress, sipping a Planter’s Punch on the verandah. I have hope… there’s that light, see?