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)
I think this is fantastic, start to finish. It's dark, moody, and leathery to start. At this stage, it might be a little challenging for many men, but if you can wear Iquitos or Lyric Man, then you should have no trouble with this. As it dries down, it gets crisper and greener, while retaining a leathery quality. It is much less opulent and less sweet than most other Serge Lutens fragrances. I agree with the reviewer who mentioned there are some similarities between this and Une Rose. They are both dark, both have an earthy quality, and of course, both are also rose-heavy fragrances. On top of that, I'd add that both are really good, really wearable rose fragrances for men. If you like rose, you need to try this.
I find this slightly similar to Frederic Malle Une Rose- maybe a bit softer but something about it reminds me of that. I often do not enjoy Rose scents but the Frederic Malle version enticed me to give rose another try. I think I enjoy this one more. Even after about 3 hours the rose scent is still so prominent on my skin but there is a soft, woody, possibly a slight scent of amber-ish something there. This is one I would be careful to not over spray as it seems to be sticking to my skin very well.