Perfume Directory

Nocturnes (1981)
by Caron


Nocturnes information

Year of Launch1981
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 120 votes)

People and companies

PerfumerGerard Lefort
PackagingPierre Dinand
Parent CompanyAles Group
Parent Company at launchA.H. Robins

About Nocturnes

Nocturnes is a feminine perfume by Caron. The scent was launched in 1981 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Gerard Lefort. The bottle was designed by Pierre Dinand

Nocturnes fragrance notes

Reviews of Nocturnes

Caron Nocturnes (1981) is a big eighties floral aldehyde chypre composed by Gerard LeFort, the man who graced us with Eau de Caron (1980) in the previous year. Nocturnes seems loud to us now in the 21st century but believe it or not, this was on the conservative end of the spectrum for the time, as Caron was in a bit of a tumble under the stewardship of A.H. Robbins between the passing of Felicie Wanpouille in 1967 and eventual ownership by the Ales Group. That isn't to say Nocturnes isn't good, because it's pretty damned hard to mess up an aldehyde chypre if the prescribed methodology and use of noble ingredients is followed, especially in the days before IFRA put a stranglehold on use of "the good stuff". However, as far as such chypres go, Nocturnes is rather plain with an understated style that in the 80's failed to catch the onlooker, even if it is a hallmark of Daltroff-era Caron tradition unsurprisingly carried over here. Rumor has it that Nocturnes was originally to be named "Zelda" after Zelda Fitzgerald, the "first American flapper" and the insane socialite wife of roaring 20's author F Scott Fitzgerald, but I can see why the change of heart after smelling the stuff.

Nocturnes opens with (you guessed it) aldehydes, a bit of lactonic fruit notes, bergamot, some galbanum, pretty academically for those who know the style. If you were a young lady in 1981 smelling this for the first time, you might have thought it the most classy and mature "grown up woman" scent you had ever encountered, not unlike Chanel No. 5 (1921), Patou Joy (1930), or Hermès Calèche (1961), but also not quite so "old smelling" thanks to the then-trendy infusion of tuberose into the heart. The tuberose is really but a bait and switch though, as the classic orange blossom, rose, orris, jasmine, and muguet (a.k.a. "garden variety mid-century florals") take over in short order to make Nocturnes more akin to a late-model 60's chypre long in gestation, but with a smidgen of green borrowed from the 70's so it has some sass. Soapiness in the late stages as the orris begins to dominate help smooth out the oakmoss, sandalwood, musk, and vetiver base, which is then warmed up to a skin glow with benzoin, vanilla, and a speck of amber. Wear time on my vintage sample is sufficient at eight hours, and although loud by modern apologetic femine floral standards, Nocturnes is pretty middling for an 80's perfume in the projection department. I'd say this works best in spring or fall, and is appropriate for office, evening, or formal use due to the style it carries.

Being a chypre, Nocturnes has plenty of unisex potential for lovers of the genre, and good well-preserved examples should resonate with oakmoss bite even under all the slick benzoin, vanilla, and orris shine attempting to "eighties out" the accord. I can't speak for the most-recent EdP re-issues before Caron was sold to the Rothschilds, so I don't know what to expect there, but I can't imagine it being better than the 80's EdT or pure parfum in this regard even if the top notes might be a bit more vibrant. Another fascinating tidbit about this perfume is that Caron had intended it to be a sequel of sorts to Nuit de Noël (1922), which may shed some light on the naming choice, even if they have little in common outside the sharing of a few key notes. For the collector of vintage perfumes, and particularly aldehyde chypres at that, Nocturnes may be a coveted prize, but in the bigger picture of things, this was an ordinary aldehyde perfume arriving at a time when excess was the order of the day. For this reason, I find Nocturnes to be an enjoyable exercise worthy of getting your nose on, but not worth any degree of clamor in so doing. Of course, testing for yourself is always in order as you may feel more strongly than I. Thumbs up.
24th February, 2020
I really don't know whether I should give Nocturnes a thumbs up, neutral or thumbs down: I actually think it should have one of each, as, in my opinion, there have been three different formulations of this perfume:

The first (in the original black bottle/box), released in the early 1980s was wonderful (and definitely deserved a thumbs up): it was a lovely sweet aldehydic fragrance: sweeter and deeper than Chanel No5 type perfumes, but still dominated by aldehydes. There was orange blossom in the top notes, which gave way to a very elegant mix of aldehyde and subtle spice. It was one of my favourite perfumes of the early and mid 80s. The parfum strength was particularly special, and there was a whole range of matching bath products.

I'm not sure when the parfum and bath products were discontinued, but when they were, I'm sure EDT (the only thing left in the once comprehensive range) was reformulated (this is the version sold until recently in the generic curvy Caron EDT spray). I revisited Nocturnes in this version a few years ago, and was so disappointed, as the fragrance had altered beyond recognition. It was now a very ordinary aldehydic-chypre scent, with no resemblance to the original at all. This version definitely gets a thumbs down.

The third version of Nocturnes is the new Eau de Parfum strength: I was hoping this was going to be more like the original version, and for the first few minutes after trying it I wasn't disappointed. I was thrilled to find that this smelled exactly as I remember Nocturnes (I very nearly bought a bottle straight away!). However, my delight didn't last more than about ten minutes, as after this the perfume changed, and smelled exactly like Ysatis (which I loved in the mid 80s, but now leaves me cold - perhaps that has been reformulated too?), which was a huge disappointment. I would have to give this version a neutral, as it is not unpleasant (and certainly better than the second version), but it is not Nocturnes as it originally was.

31st July, 2014
I bought a small bottle of this a few years ago. It was just oaky. I couldn't wear to much of it though. It had a clean smell which I liked but then it dried down into something powdery which I didn't. Anyway, I finished the bottle eventually. Its not something I would buy again.
24th May, 2014
Pleasant but bland melange of rose, neroli, jasmine, ylang yang, rose, tuberose and orange, supported by sandalwood and musk.

Nice for a summer splash, but not all that interesting as a scent.
29th April, 2013
Aldehydic, floral fizz. A bright, inoffensive scent for the working day. Distinctly recall my mother's '80s version being higher octane, but no great tragedy. This is a pleasant and harmless scent that can quite lift the spirits.
03rd July, 2012
redrose Show all reviews
United Kingdom
Wanted to try Nocturnes because it had debuted in the 80's, and although they're now somewhat old-fashioned I really like the sort of loud florals that dominated much of that era.
And I wasn't disappointed. Nocturnes opens with an intriguing blend of florals, aldehydes and spices, which are later developed together with a hint of orange and other, darker notes I couldn't name.
I wanted to give it a thumbs up, but as it developed Nocturnes became less distinctive and more like a well-made, elegant guest soap. I like it well enough, but it blends into its surroundings too well to be really interesting for me.
But it's still a pretty scent, even though it's not outstanding, so I'm rating it neutral.
26th June, 2012

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Vintage Nocturnes de Caron Eau de Toilette Women Spray 3.3 fl. oz 100ml Paris

US • Buy it now: USD 175.00. Current Price: USD 75.00.

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