Perfume Review: Nina (The New Version) by Nina Ricci



The new Nina by Nina Ricci was released in France in July 2006 and will start rolling out internationally in September. It will be introduced in the USA in a third stage, in 2007. The perfume was created by Olivier Cresp and Jacques Cavallier of Firmenich.

-- Whereby it is once more demonstrated that perfumery needs mythology otherwise it cannot operate --

Nina is an allusion to an "apple of love", as the story line goes, suggesting to "Give way to temptation..." thus conflating ancient stories or beliefs about Eve in the Garden of Eden as well as The Judgement of Paris. The latter, as you may recall or not, chose Aphrodite as being the fairest over Hera and Athena by giving her a golden apple marked with the words, "to the fairest" because the goddess of love had promised him he would be granted the most beautiful woman in the world, i.e., Helen, wife of Menelaus. As we know, in both cases, consequences were dire. In the first case, we had the fall of Eve and Adam, that is of mankind, and the archtypification of women as sinners. In the second case, we had the Trojan War. All these ideas are hinted at with a pretty figurative flacon of a red-pink apple adorned with silver leaves...

Nina is completely different from the former Nina, so please do not confuse them. The new scent is a mix of fresh, fruity, woodsy, and very, very gourmand notes. Top notes are, Calabrese Lemon and Lime Caipirinha. Middle notes are Red Toffee Apple, Vanilla Infusion, Moonflower and Peony Petals. Base notes are, Apple Tree Wood, Cotton Musk and White Cedar. According to Olivier Cresp, it is the first time that a perfume includes a caramel toffee note and probably by that he means in haute parfumerie because I would think that it's already been done in etailers' gourmand fragrances' lines. The use of this note seems to indicate that younger women, whom this perfume targets, enjoy or are encouraged to enjoy gourmand, sweet notes, and even milky ones.

The scent starts off fresh, airy, and fruity and becomes creamier making you think of mint cream for a few seconds and then turns quickly into a much sweeter, and more than creamy, I would say buttery concoction. The apple is there alright but as a candied, slightly tart apple rather than a fresh, crisp fruit and rightly so since it is red toffee apple that is hinted at. The perfume evolves into an extra creamy, vanillic gourmand and fruity scent with floral undertones. The moonflower and peony notes are popular in Asia (found in soaps) and I am reminded that the perfume was created with the Asian consumer in mind. It is reminiscent at this point of Message from Orchids by Shiseido, a smell I readily link to my trips to China where toiletries' items seem to contain similar notes. Finally, there is a sharp woodsy and musky drydown still enveloped by the ongoing toffee accord. The toffee recedes and we are left with a musky and woodsy drydown. If applied with a less than light hand the scent feels quickly heady. I find the dry down too sharp personally and a little unbalanced.

I am a little bit surprised by this take on a modern perfume for young women because I find the notes quite childish, especially for a generation that is supposed to be even more emancipated than the preceding one -- isn't it the direction we're supposed to be headed in principle at least? As it is, the gourmand aspect of the perfume is well done and I would probably taste it if it were a dessert. The base notes make me think of a stronger Noa by Cacharel.

When I was 15-16 and in high-school, I would wear Vol de Nuit and my friends likewise, perfumes like Après l'Ondée, Habanita, Shalimar... so I think it does not have to be the way of the confiserie and bonbons when you are very young.

The new Nina smells to me like the... immature (gasp, I said it) grand-daughter of Poison. The profound syrupiness reminds me of it, but it is girlier here and less complex. Of course, the immense success of Angel makes it a central reference so I would say that Nina, which is projected as a major launch by Ricci, is probably hoping to appeal to memories of childhood comfort. But in the case of Angel, the sweetness is subordinated to a more womanly seductive patchouli. In this case, young ladies, I fear you will be advertising your wares as if you were a candy store window display. But perhaps, it is more correct to assume that it is a comfort-blankie perfume rather than a seductive one.

The reason why in final analysis I would not wear it myself even when tempted to wear a very sweet perfume, as it happens sometimes, is that the base lack subtlety and is too sharp and agressive, even when applied lightly. And, gasp, I will say it, it even smells a little cheap or perhaps an even better word would be "common". The former is a no-no with me. I can wear fecal notes if their quality is good enough and as a matter of fact I do, come to think of Oropuro by Tonatto (civet), but this is a little too disturbing to my nose and it actually gives me a headache. The drydown does soften after a while but I already reached for my bottle of aspirin.

Nina is a perfume for a child-woman, someone who wants to be seductive yet remain protected, as in childhood. It makes me think of these young women who, on purpose, show part of their underwear emerging from the low waists of their jeans yet do not want to assume the sexual messages it might send to some. In this case, there is a sticky lollipop stuck in that underwear.

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18 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. H, why do I get the feeling that you really did not like this fragrance, lol? :):)

    After all of their classic, iconic fragrances, like Farouche, Capricci, Coeur Joie, of course L'Air du Temps and even the original Nina, shame on them for coming up with such a common, syrupy scent! What a letdown. :(:(

    Hugs and have a great weekend.

  2. R,

    I hate to be negative because I know that someone's trash is someone else's treasure, especially where perfumes are concerned, but, yes, I think both the message and the olfactory construction here are disappointing. I did not expect a masterpiece obviously because it's clear that it's viewed as a commercial scent, but I thought it would be a notch better. I don't think I'm put off by the newness of the toffee note b/c that's actually what I prefer in it. It's just overall a sweet, commercial perfume with a lovely packaging and advertising. And to compare it with Angel, I liked it immediately when it came out and thought it was an interesting perfume. Nevertheless, I suppose some people might still love it:)I might even start craving it, who knows, LOL? It's already happened in the past:)

  3. "In this case, there is a sticky lollipop stuck in that underwear." Hehe. Oh my.

    There's something profoundly disturbing to me about this trend towards innocent sexuality in fashion lately. And the fashion trend seems to perhaps be carrying over into perfumes, too. It seems infantilizing to women, somehow. What a pity.

    There's nothing wrong with gourmands, of course, I just wish that marketers and the general public were tiring of the girly foody/fruity stuff more. It's banal, sniffing new release after new release only discover they are all vaguely "girly," with little that's "womanly" in them. :(

  4. Katie,

    "Innocent sexuality" is so weird and twisted to me. That also means young girls undies faking not just women's but hookers'.

    I agree that there is a stereotypification trend and a push towards emphasizing girliness in perfumes which I find impoverishing and infantilizing. That's what you get from a society that is afraid of aging and privilieges prolonged adolescence. To me then also perfume becomes yet another means of controlling women's sexuality.

  5. "To me then also perfume becomes yet another means of controlling women's sexuality." OMG! EXACTLY! And we should all be annoyed and irritated with that trend... There's no reason a woman shouldn't be as forceful and powerful with her scent as she is with her life - but then, that presupposes that women nowadays are comfortable with being powerful, I guess. Sigh. Stupid anti-feminism backlash! GAH!

  6. Excellent review-

    I agree with you about the [fragrance] message it sends [and its applications]-quite disturbing...

    Younger woman CAN have discriminating taste, it needs to be encouraged and cultivated.
    I often find some of these perfumes insulting [perhaps that's a bit strong, but I'm sure you know what I mean].

    Thanks, as always, for taking the time to analyze ,and provoke comment among us

  7. Thank you for this interesting review. Gourmand notes could be nice but it could be smelling too "innocent" when it isn't combined with adult notes. Fragrances should complimenting yourself and I don't think you would like to smell like toffee. The smell of it could be nice just to smell it out of the bottle but not to wear it. I remember when I was about twelve years old I was addicted to Liplickers from village people (or something like that) It was a lipcream in all kind of smells, bubblegum, melon, peach, vanilla etc. I remember the whole class was sniffing at the liplickers, we just love the smell of it, but wearing this stuff made you smell like it what I didn't like, I just liked to smell the stuff right from the box.

  8. Katie,

    I think a feminist pamphlet on perfumes is in order:)

  9. Chaya,

    My pleasure. Run-of-the-mill fruity florals seem to make sense to the marketing folks. I am sure there is some data that support that view. On the other hand, we know perfume launches more often than not evolve into perfume graveyards so maybe some people are being taxed by the public for lacking imagination after all :)

  10. Jenny,

    I agree that a perfume that is too realistic, here smelling of toffee mainly, is not very exciting. I am personally fine with toffee perfumes as long as perfumers counterbalance the naïveté and simplicity of toffee with something more sophisticated and subtle. There might also be a difference between a toffee perfume that is based on memories and a toffee perfume that is based on a commercial argument or a simple search for newness. A little bit of soul never hurt a perfume:)

  11. after reading your musings on the new nina ricci, i must agree; somehow, the fragrances young ladies were into some ten years ago were simply different, i'd say not so plain. i can't imagine today's teenage girls liking some classy guerlain or lancome like they, all the 'young' fragrances are so syrupy, watery, unimaginative, or at least so it seems to me, hm

  12. After reading this review, I was devastated to find out that the perfume didn't smell like toffee at all, but cheap imitation perfume..

    • I am sorry. I thought the toffee note was alright, if I remember correctly, but I had an issue with the dry-down. In what country did you try the perfume, if one may ask? Sometimes, formulations vary according to markets, more or less glaringly so.

      Chant Wagner
  13. Crazy feminists trying to find an excuse to call anything "degrading". If you empowered wonder women do not like the scent, just buy the one that makes you feel like your sexuality is not being controlled and stop whining.

  14. wow! im 32...and i have my seductive scents...but...this is my fav everyday scent..its fresh and very nice..i always get people to ask me what im wearing! WOW! NINA IS GREAT! MEN LOVE THIS!

  15. I found several of the reviews of this fragrance unintentionally hilarious. Who knew that Nina Ricci was part of a conspiracy to control the sexuality of strong woman? Nina is a fun feminine scent perfect for everyday wear. Of course if you feel you are too powerful for Nina, you can always douse yourself in tiger's musk.

  16. I don't usually like fruity or gourmand fragrances, but a miracle has happened. I am too old for the target market (I mean WAY too old) and I hate syrupy scents, but this scent which I tried one day when I was feeling bored at the mall actually smelt really lovely and lasted forever. Sorry if this means that I am not as discerning or intellectual as some might like, but hey, I am not interested in the back story, I just likes the smell.

  17. Perhaps it doesn't fare well in the reviews but I quite like it! No, it's not something I'd wear out for an evening out/ when I'm wanting something more "sexy" but it is a nice fresh/sweet everyday scent. And yes, I do actually find the scent a little "comforting", but I don't see why that's such a derogatory concept. In my mind, that doesn't make me any less of a woman. (I'm in my 30s and am a mother of two). It just makes me feel content and strangely, I don't have a problem with that. I have other perfumes that are more "seductive" but this one is for me. And that is empowering.


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