They’re airy. I was dense.

Let´s have an experiment – can I write an entire post without a single smutty reference? You be the judge.

As I mentioned before, I´d overlooked most of the Patricia de Nicolai scents. I just hadn´t run across any, except Balle de Match, and somehow they didn´t sound like “me,” even if the perfumer´s the granddaughter of one Guerlain and trained by another. The scents sounded light and clean and airy and delicate, and those weren´t descriptors that set my heart on fire, no matter how well done they´re purported to be. I´m always suspicious those words are a euphemism for “barely detectible.”

A visit to the store in London with Lee in May corrected my oversight. But of course smelling all the PdNs at once is like eating an entire box of delicious, unfamiliar chocolates – they start to run together in your mind, and after awhile you start to feel overwhelmed, maybe even a bit sick. In the last week, three different Nicolais have shown up in the mail, a happy coincidence that gives me a chance to explore their charms at leisure, and decide whether I´d make a mistake in failing to purchase others besides Fig-Tea.

I can´t remember Balkis (raspberry, Turkish rose, black pepper, coffee extract, iris, benzoin, vanilla pods) making an impression on me one way or the other, although my guess is I´d have found the rich berry-rose notes offputting, and the base too vanillic. Balkis Light is apparently the EDT of the original (here´s Now Smell This´ review of both). An initial, dispiriting blast of alcohol (my fault, always jamming my nose in there too early) gives way to a skin scent I found increasingly appealing the longer I wore it. The opening is very much about fruits, without veering into predictable overt jammy sweetness or its opposite, citric tartness. But the scent really comes into its own when the coffee, pepper and iris step to the forefront, and the fragrance becomes more masculine, with the benzoin adding an attractive smoky-sweet sheen along the lines of Guerlain´s Bois d´Armenie. Balkis Light is the sort of fragrance I want to smell when I bury my nose in the neck of someone I love. As it lingered and warmed on my skin over several hours, I began to find it … well, quite extraordinary. Let me reiterate: it has almost zero sillage, even at the opening. But it´s one of those odd fragrances, like Escentric Molecules 01 and Les Nez L´Antimatiere (rumored – I can´t smell L´Antimatiere), that send a lovely thrum into the air around you. I believe this one is available only in their London and Paris boutiques.

Eau Exotique (Mexican lime, apricot, mango, orange, petitgrain, jasmine absolute, vetiver, patchouli, cedar, musk) by comparison is a “big” fragrance – not at all what I was expecting from the line. It´s a fruity floral, not terribly “exotique,” and I ought to hate it, but I don´t. It´s a stellar example of walking a fine line – if it were any sweeter or stronger it would be too much, and the vetiver, patch and musk do an excellent job of rounding out the sweeter notes. Having said all that (and I remember raving about this one when I got back) after wearing it several times I love it in theory more than in practice. It is beautifully done, but somehow not a fragrance I can imagine reaching for very often. On me (remember, I´m the one who retains fragrances) it lasted a full day. If you´d like to experience a full-bodied floral that manages to be rich without cloying, here´s your chance.

Finally, I was grateful to be able to re-smell Maharanih (orange essence and bitter orange peel, rose essence, carnation, cinnamon, patchouli, sandalwood, civet). Maharanih opens relatively sweet on me, all orange and rose, and for the first ten minutes it´s pleasant but forgettable. Then the sweetness fades and the lavender, cinnamon and sandalwood take center stage. Before I read the notes I assumed I was smelling incense; now I think it´s a trick combination of those three ingredients, rendering it into a smoky incense-like smell with an almost oudh-like sharpness, courtesy of the lavender. Finally, the civet in the base (synthetic according to the PdN website, so have no fear) works its rich, musky magic with the patch and sandalwood. Unisexy. If I blow through this decant at my current rate, I´ll be buying a bottle – it´s great now, and I think I´d wear it even more in cooler weather.

Having spent several days smelling all three, and based on my memories of the boutique, I think the PdNs possess an unusual, unifying lack of sugary sweetness and a not-quite-bitter, semi-musky base that make them stand out as compositions. Some of them I liked more than others, but assuming they work with your skin chemistry I think they´re all a breath of fresh air among their more heavy-handed contemporaries. While they´re divided into categories (masculine, feminine, eaux, etc.) they could be worn by anyone. I´m a convert.

Note: Beautyhabit has most of these (Luckyscent has others); Beautyhabit also has several of them in the much-loved, cheap 30ml size, which I am amused to see actually cost less than what I paid in pounds at their store in London, given the wretched exchange rate. If you have any comments on or other favorites in the line, I´d love to hear them.

image: Andrew Wyeth, The Wind From the Sea,

  • eezuan says:

    can somebody help me…i need the information about the good benefit of perfume…i agree taht the perfume can reduce stress and something else…i need more informatiob about it benefits to health…plz,can smoebody give mee the site which should i search? email me:[email protected]

  • annE says:

    It’s nice to see PdN getting a whole lotta love here today! I own Vie de Chateau and New York, and love them both. As someone said earlier, many of their fragrances are eminently wearable by both sexes, and although these two were intended for men, I don’t find them too “masculine” at all. I’m longing to try Le Temps d’une Fete – does anyone know when/if it might come to the States?

    • March says:

      annE — PdN doesn’t seem to be doing much to reach out to its yankee audience, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. Is it not available on Lucky or Beautyhabit? I know they ship overseas from the boutiques, but I try to avoid buying unsniffed, not having much of a track record in that dept.

  • Teri says:

    I recently received Odalisque and Maharinih as free samples with a Luckyscent order and liked them both. As most others have said, I see Maharinih as a cooler weather scent, and Odalisque as well. Come fall, I’m going to give each of them another try. I suspect one or the other may prove bottle-worthy.

    • March says:

      Teri — it really is an interesting line. Let me know how they work out for you. My money’s on Maharanih.

  • violetnoir says:

    Hi March!

    I know I am late to the show. I tried to log on earlier, but I was just getting the graphics and no postings…at all! :((

    Now that everything is better, I have to tell you that in my very humble opinion, PdN’s creations are highly underrated. One of my dearest perfume friends gifted me with a bottle of Sacre Bleue! Light. Man, is it ever the perfect fragrances for a warm day. There’s nothing “light” about it. It just feels sheer and smells so, so good.

    I passed by one of PdN’s perfume boutiques while we were strolling around on vacation one Sunday. Unfortuntely, the boutique was closed. WAH!!! :(( But I noticed in the window a new fragrance…Secret Garden, or something like that. I can’t wait to test it.

    And, yes…I love Maharinih! But, I think I like it better for cooler weather.

    Anyway, I have been navigating TPC, too, over the past week. I think it’s outstanding. Problem is, there’s so much to choose from, I can’t make up my mind! Ha, ha…within the next week or so, I think I will figure out exactly what I would like to order.


    • March says:

      Vi –hey, sorry you were having trouble with the site.

      They have a new one with cedrat which I am anxious to try, since I like Guerlain’s cedrat so much.

      Where were you on vacation?

      Yeah, Maharanih definitely deserves cooler weather.

      • violetnoir says:

        We were in Paris, and I can’t wait to return.

        Cedar in the new PdN? Maybe that’s what is in this secret garden fragrance? I think it was Jardin Secrete, but please don’t quote me on that because my French is horrible, actually non-existent, lol!


  • rosarita says:

    Nice to read all the good news on the Posse today!:)

    PdN is a line I’ve gotten to sample and actually purchase a couple of bottles from (you are so right about the beloved 30ml size!) My favorite is New York, which smells a little different every time I wear it and lasts all day, all spicy goodness; also Vie de Chateau which is a perfect late summer/ early fall scent. But lots of others don’t work – Sacrebleau smells like a BBW berry body spray on me *shudder*.

    • March says:

      Another NY fan!!! And I liked Vie de Chateau, I remember.

      Saying something smells like a BBW body spray is, in my opinion, one of the cruelest things you could say about a fragrance. (I didn’t love Sacrebleu either)

      That and, “smells like Pink Sugar.”

  • Robin says:

    I don’t know why the PdN line doesn’t get more love, so I’m happy to see your great post, and so glad you liked Balkis Light. Do wish PdN would open a boutique in NY, already!

    • March says:

      So, I’m right — they have no boutique over here? Why not?:(( I wish they had one like L’Artisan, and the London store is so charming (Paris probably is too). I would like to re-smell again at my leisure.

  • Louise says:

    The p-court is stunning! It’s good my credit cards got stolen in London, or I’d be ordering right now! Shocking addiction.

    I went to the PdN shop a few days ago (they’re only open limited hours for the French vaca.) But I did try a few, and predictably, found most too light for me (it didn’t help that I had just gone to Lutens and smelled Sarrasins-no, it’s not for sale yet). I still love the Figue Tea and Vie de Chateau, and liked, only liked the Maharanih on me. (and it didn’t help that I went to Montale next and doused myself in various aouds). I have Balkis at home (a big sample) and don’t yet love it enough to but a bottle. NY is gone in a flash, but I would find it male-neck-sniffing worthy for sure.

    I must have missed Temps d’un Fete; Sacrebleu is just meh for me.

    • March says:

      Nooo!!! Pickpockets? Your purse? What happened? Didn’t nick your passport, did they?

      Hey, that is not fair to PdN to wedge between Serge and Montale!:-w

    • Maria says:

      Oh, no, Louise! And the trouble one has to go through when that happens! And in a foreign country! I’d go bananas.

      So…..what was Sarrasins LIKE?

      • Louise says:

        Oh, those wily pickpockets-and I thought I was being verrrry careful. Well they only got my wallet, with little cash (I’d stuffed that in my jeans pocket, and would surely have felt something there (!)), but a girlfriend was holding my bag and it came back empty, except the passport. AmEx got me a new card the next day (they are great), but Visa really stunk. All in all, not so bad, and I’ve managed to buy quite a bit of fragrance, which is, of course, what counts.

        • Louise says:

          Sarrasin is stunning, and totally not me-but I can’t wait to smell it on others. Louve is really bland on me-almost Teint de Neige-y powdery.

  • CH says:

    Ahhh…more lovely scents to try. 🙂

    • March says:

      As Robin says down there, I wish they’d open a store over here. They’d get a lot more attention that way.

  • Christine says:

    The Perfumed Court looks LOVELY and I just want to buy everything now. Unfortunately the job doesn’t begin until September and there is no income here. Plus, it looks like I will be on a very tight budget considering current home improvement jobs. *weeps*

    Soon, though. Soon. Those sampler packs, be still my heart.

    • March says:

      Hey, Christine — congrats! It will be September before you know it, and then think of all the trouble you can get into.

  • carmencanada says:

    I’m only just discovering PdeN’s line, after years of meaning to try it. Her boutiques are kind of hard to find in Paris (or it’s me being my usual orientation-challenged self). Anyway, Eau du Lude was a very rare, for me, impulse buy: a light-hearted, non-indolic jasmine that somehow suits crisp white cotton perfectly. I’ve been nursing a sample of their latest, Le Temps d’une fête, a green chypre. And I was oddly smitten by Balkis in the shop, despite the fruity sweetness. New York, of course, is a tremendously gorgeous chypre and will be one of the few left now that Derby has been discontinued by Guerlain. And, despite a name that would suggest an oriental, Odalisque is a beautiful chypre as well. I could actually walk into PdN and buy 5 or 6 scents without batting an eyelash. Especially with those very reasonable prices.

    • March says:

      Her shop in London is so small we walked by it, I think, twice. And it’s set back from the street. You have to REALLY want to go there./:)

      Thanks for your list of suggestions — I know New York is a particular favorite of Lee’s (and many other people.)

    • Maria B. says:

      I second the positive review of Le Temps d’une Fete. It’s sparkling. Note to Louise: New York lasted about five minutes on my skin.

  • Marina says:

    March, I think you one of…I think you one person to love Maharanih so much. I haven’t tried it yet, was afraid after reading some reviews, but you are making me open my mind up a notch 🙂 My favorites Nicolai scent is probably Vanille Tonka.

    • March says:

      Well, Tigs up there likes it — so that makes two of us.


      I don’t have a great track record of predicting what you’d like, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut. But it’s not insipid, at least.

    • CindyN says:

      With your new-found love of white florals, you may like Number One. It’s my favorite from her.

  • Judith says:

    I love the Nicolais, and none of my faves is particularly light; they are Vanille Tonka (really a frankincense scent, lots of sillage, great for winter), Maharadjah (infinitely calming), and the often overlooked (though not by Gail):) masculine leather, Baladin.

    Congratulations to Maria and to the Court!!!:x

    • March says:

      Vanille Tonka is about FRANKINCENSE?!? 😮

      Well, why didn’t they say so?:(( :”> didn’t use “just” or “actually” in my response. Don’t want to think about whether I exterminated them from my post.:-w

  • Lee says:

    Congratulations Maria. We’re still doing the ‘happy happy’ dance at my house!

    March – great image choice. Though Wyeth is probably best known for that poor woman in the field (Christine? I should go check) I love some of his interior / exterior stuff too.

    And you’re never dense.:x

    • March says:

      I always thought he was a bit of a hack, based on Christina’s World and that dog snoozing on the bed — the Norman Rockwell of our time (although it’s not really fair to fault him on his draughtsmanship, is it?)

      But then I visited the Wyeth Museum in Maine, where they have three generations (N.C. and Jamie as well) and I was blown away. Andrew’s also as well known over here for the Helga portraits of his zaftig mistress/muse (? I believe.)

      • Katie says:

        OMG, you have no idea about the dog on the bed painting. I had to frame so many prints and posters of it that it became one of those images I would rather rip my eyes out than ever have to look at again*. It’s annoying that we end up being inundated by only the same few images he made over and over. There’s so much that’s more interesting than just that stupid dog. (I’m particularly fond of his “Public Sale.”)

        *See also, anything by Steve Hanks, Howard Behrens, Bouguereau’s cherubim, and that infernal Singing Butler.

        • March says:

          The singing butler!!! My god, who buys that dreck? I don’t wanna know. It’s not like I’m the arbiter of fine taste, but PLEASE. Although I think things in bad taste should be interesting…

          Seeing them in person (there have also been Wyeth shows in D.C.) is also better; I could appreciate his skills more. I’m not sure they reproduce that well.

  • Gail S says:

    I adore the Nicolai line! And their 30 ml bottles which allow me try lots of them! My current favorites are Baladin and Fig Tea. What I especially like about them (other than the size)is that they nicely straddle the line between the sexes. My skin tends to turn some scents masculinish and most of these walk right up to the feminine/masculine line and stop right there. Love them!

    • March says:

      Gail — well put — they DO straddle the line between the sexes. They’re very interesting that way. I kept feeling like I was short of descriptive words for the line, because “light” and “airy” aren’t really fair, and I can’t call them clean or uncomplicated, although I’d like to. It’s like she decided on a whole different approach, but I can’t figure out what it is.

  • Tigs says:

    First, Maria, congrats on the job – hurrah! What a relief, eh? Currently, my new job is not giving me the time I would like to blog, but when I get back to posting, I will surely do a “Scents I Am Obsessed with this Summer” post and it will be headed by: Maraharnih. And darn you, March darling, for bringing up that Balkis Light again. Since Robin’s enticing review, I had almost, almost forgotten about it (okay so I hadn’t forgotten at all, I was just trying). And now you like it. Sigh. Isn’t it one of those Paris-only types? Double sigh.

    Also, I must alert you all to a terrible thing. The De Nicolai site has been revamped (that’s actually good news…) But there is no Nicolai Pour Homme on the site!! And Beautyhabit has a suspicious “This scent backordered from manufacturer” message on the scent! I cannot use enough exclamation marks in this matter!! This is serious, people!!! What has happened to Nicolai PH?!? If it is discontinued we must riot in the streets!! To arms, my friends!

    • March says:

      Why didn’t I appreciate Maharanih more the first time? Too many competing scents?

      Well, now you know where I got the Balkis Light. It’s quite fetching, in that sheer veil way. I’m thinking of giving it a test drive on the Cheese. Yes, I think boutique-only.

      Hmmmm… wonder about PH? Hard to believe they’re d/cing it. On the other hand they’re getting rid of some others so it’s possible. I’ve got the SA’s phone # around here somewhere, trying to remember her name. She was very helpuful.

  • Maria says:

    First of all, I want my Posse friends to know that I’m not unemployable after all. I have a job!!!!!!!!!! <:-p I had the interview on Friday and walked away feeling very good about the people I would work with. A couple of hours later I got the good news e-mail. Wahoo! I'll be teaching three classes starting the end of August. The job comes at a most propitious time, since the Perfumed Court is turning out to be more temptation than my perfumista heart can stand. It's fabulous! I like Parfums de Nicolai a lot, and I'm very glad the company is getting more recognition. I think they should be rewarded for their considerate 30 ml. packaging. I looove Sacrebleu. It's a lighter take on L'Heure Bleue--not the same tune, but it's touching similar strings. Fig-Tea lasts hours and hours on me. Vie de Chateau is marvelously hayish and warm. Eau d'Ete is refreshing. Cologne Sologne evaporates without a trace the moment it hits my skin; it holds the record so far in a very large field of disappearance artists. I must try Balkis. I should have loved Maharanih based on the notes. I hate it. I can't quite explain why. It's strong on me in an unwelcome way, and there's a sharpness. It got on a wool sweater of mine, and drove me crazy. yes, I know, that's what dry cleaners are for. March, congratulations on not having said a single smutty thing in your post. :d

    • March says:

      Yay yay yay!!! Congrats on the job!! you’ve used the congrats emoticon, so let me just say …. (browsing) …


      There, does that do it?

      I was wondering about you and the PdNs. It’s funny that some of them last so well on you, proving they’re not really that “light” after all! I wonder if Balkis Light could even claw its way onto your skin…

    • CindyN says:

      Congrats on the job! PdN has been one of my fav lines. But no one ever seems to mention my top love frags of hers: Number One ?
      I initally purchased that one over Sacrebleu (but since then I have added it and VT and Just une reve). Beginning to think I’ve lost my marbles.

  • tmp00 says:

    The Perfumed Court? Totally needs a warning to it! I’ve already ordered twice (and am waiting with bated breath for the confirmation of my lutens order- the other is shipping). Can’t tell how pleased I am that not only do I get may fave eBayers in one place, but eBay is not getting a sou from it!

    I want to go and play with Lee (er, in a perfumey kind of way) in London too… :((

    • Lee says:

      Buddy – we must play sometime!

    • March says:

      I know, I’m still mad at them … @sshats. But look what we got out of it!! Although Patty’s typing skilz got her in trouble and she’s still recovering.

      Actually, maybe it’s decanting that’s aggravating her carpal tunnel? Man, I just thought of that, that’s terrible…:-?:o