As a lover of animalic rose chypres, I had high hopes for this; I was already fantasizing about it becoming my mysterious and elegant signature scent, how I would pretend it was Nombre Noir. While it is beautiful, it is simply too quiet to be worth its $300 price tag. Perhaps if I could purchase it in Paris where Lutens bell jars are about $150 I would spring for it, but the import cost is obscene.
The reputed strangeness of Rose de Nuit is dependent on the wearer never having smelled an 80s rose chypre. If you are familiar with Montana, Coriandre, La Perla, La Nuit, Magie Noire, Paloma Picasso, Aromatics Elixir, Knowing, Aramis 900, even Agent Provocateur, Rose de Nuit will seem like a disappointingly quiet and short-lived version of those with an admittedly gorgeous silky texture and top-notch raw materials. If you are not, it will probably blow your mind as rose chypre accords did when I first smelled them. It is an exotic odor often termed "old lady" but framed with cool Lutens opulence and exclusivity that make it palatable and mysterious. It's like how someone who has never seen a truly out-there inscrutable art movie (Andrei Rublev, Persona, Melancholie der Engel) would have their minds blown by, say, It Follows. Rose chypres are shocking to modern noses because millennials, having grown up with no fragrance except the occasional calone or Iso E, simply can't comprehend someone choosing to smell like that.
Still, if I make my way to Paris, I may buy a bottle. The prospect of dumping it on copiously from a bell jar is appealing.
It is the opposite of a fresh rose, more of a musty (not, musky) rose, with a bit of sweet and woody notes thrown in.
It is interesting in the sense that this is a non-fresh rose but not a usual oud-rose or patchouli-rose combo. I kind of like it, but do not love it. It does not strike me as something I feel compelled to wear.
It is long lasting, but the projection is rather limited. Unisex.
29th April, 2015 (last edited: 01st May, 2015)
Far from your average pretty rose soliflore, this rose has seen better days. Its beauty wanes in its twilight, the petals a little dry, withering around their edges, its scarlet hues noticeably darker with the inevitable decay. There is a certain element of darkness or intrigue about it, like a fading beauty flirting with danger. I can imagine why the mature fragrance wearers could appreciate this better than novice noses.
Earlier references to rose chypres are well-deserved for Rose de Nuit smells like a fallen rose on a bed of moss and dark earth. While I didn't enjoy the somewhat animalic opening its last few hours kept me enthralled. That it often evokes compelling stories is testament to the genius behind this composition.
A fascinating "memento mori" of a rose.
Have you ever heard of a guy called Carl Tanzler? He was a German doctor working in Florida in the 1930s who fell in love with one of his beautiful patients, a young Cuban-American girl called Elena Milagro "Helen" de Hoyos. Elena passed away in 1931 of tuberculosis, but Dr. Carl was so enamored that he later stole her corpse from the tomb, and kept it in his home. As Elena began to decompose, he stuffed her body cavities with rags and replaced her skin with a silk cloth embued with beeswax. He kept her there for years until her family found out and demanded she be re-interred. He missed her so much that he kept going back to the tomb and stealing her body. Anyhow, Google it and you will see what a remarkable job Dr. Carl did in actually preserving the poor Elena.
The reason I am recounting this rather ghoulish story is that Rose de Nuit is kind of the Elena de Hoyos of the rose perfume world. There is a true rose in there somewhere, a mere memory of a living, breathing thing of beauty, but it is smothered and muffled with layers of wax, adipose, and decaying rose petals. The opening verges on the unpleasant. The rose is sour, sharp, and musty, like the dregs of red wine in the glass the morning after. I don't know what could be going on with the rose and galbanum to be reacting like this against each other - neither of these notes smell unpleasant to me on their own, but together, here, they smell like they are going mano a mano in a sweaty boxing ring.
The sharp rose in the opening is then slowly coated with a layer of beeswax, muffling the rose note even further. The wax adds a note of greasy scalp or hair that has not been washed for a good few days. If I am not making this sound too attractive, it's because it's not. The rose dries up and becomes blackened, parched, and leathery in the drydown, and it becomes ever more animalic. This is Elena - a once sweet, fresh rose now dried out by time, with an ever present whiff of sweaty decay underneath the "skin" of waxed silk that dear, thoughtful Dr. Carl made to replace her skin. It goes on FOREVER.
The first time I wore it, I was utterly repulsed. But also a little intrigued. I put it on before bed and each time I awoke during the night, I became aware of an enticing aroma surrounding me and emanating off my body. Somehow, the sourness, the body-warmth and sleepy breath of the decaying rose is just.....wonderful. The next morning, it was still going strong on my wrists, and it reminded me of nothing more than the slightly sour, intriguingly musty, altogether human smell of a piece of skin you have licked (or your loved one has licked). Salty, leathery, only vaguely rosey. I was intrigued enough to put in on for a second night running. Same experience. So, I have been wearing this to bed for the past five nights now, a new record for me. The needle on my attraction-repulsion meter is moving closer to attraction. I am not sure that I have the guts to wear this outside the house yet. It is slightly confrontational in its bare bones ugliness. But it is a work of art - of that I am sure.
Gone astray a lot recently, I am coming back to my Lutens for a visit... and I have to say Rose de Nuit is my favorite of all. It is highly original, daring and oh so dark in its mood. My association with this has always been more 'lacquer and leather' than 'leather' alone... so, if this is your idea of 'sexy' you are spot-on here. :)
There are two that come to mind that - apart from the juicy winey rose note - try to transport a rather similar idea in my opinion: Kurkdjian's Lumiere Noire pour Femme (which is not as lush and interesting, but fairly 'mean' on its own) and Guerlain's Rose Barbare (by Kurkdjian), which almost feels like a (much) politer and 'correct' flanker to me. I bet Kurkdjian likes Rose de Nuit. :)
Having said that, none of these reaches the heights of mystery and spell that Rose de Nuit does. For perfect enjoyment I definitely prefer to dab it. It is a skin scent that lingers on for 12+ hours, although very close to skin in the deep base. Definitely in my top ten and a masterpiece in its category!
ADDITIONAL COMPARISON TO THE ORIGINAL SHISEIDO VERSION (1993):
It is practically the same fragrance with the great difference in the base. The original Shiseido was very animalic (the howling, growling kind), which seemed to be mostly replaced by beeswax/honey at a later stage. The original is an absolute stunner, THE fragrance to cause a commotion and almost inevitably triggers (positive) comments from the ones getting close to its wearer.
10th June, 2011 (last edited: 26th June, 2012)