Le Temps d'Une Fête (The Time of a Celebration) smells like a spring perfume that would have been composed in the depth of winter. It combines the effervescence of green sappy notes with a deeper base composed of the stillness of a snowy landscape, the warmth of a burning fire in the hearth, and heavy velvet curtains hanging under very tall cold ceilings in an anciently built stone manor.
The result is unusual on a certain level, making one think of a green fur scent. It could be the scent of a woman naked under a mink fur coat taking a stroll barefoot in the early dewy morning of a spring day in her park. She walks towards the edge of a small wood and decides to rest and then falls into contemplation as the green incense-y notes of the perfume call her mind to mirror their tranquility.
Unfortunately, the more poetic, vital, and contemplative aspects of this perfume slowly fade into the less colorful region of, dare we say so, intellectual boredom.......
If you are a perfumer, you may want to offer your own interpretation of springtime or you may just want to issue a timely spring perfume. Patricia de Nicolaï derived her inspiration from both impulses. She opted for a less trendy rendition of the season of nature's renewal. Where we have come these days to expect effects of youth, freshness, and transparency, she proposes to use the much more original fresh and warm facets of green and warm resins (mastic, styrax, and opoponax) surrounding an indolic floral narcissus heart on a muted heavier sweet amber-y oriental base. The initial accents are interesting and all this strong green underbrush impression at the forefront of the perfume is unusually characteristic and profuse as the top notes include galbanum, lentisc, opoponax, and oakmoss. The heart has narcissus, hyacinth, daffodil, and styrax. The base rests on oakmoss, sandalwood, and animalic notes.
That last segment, that is the base notes, breaks, for us at least, somewhat the charm of the perfume, not because it is contrasted and heavier, but because it smells too much like a recognizable base used in other Parfums de Nicolaï compositions. It feels somehow that a shortcut was taken and a recipe applied to a greater degree than is good for a perfume to still stand as a work of imagination. Perhaps, if the base had been re-used in a more subtle manner this would have been less of a hindrance. But as it is, it takes over the more creative aspects of the perfume. The promising free brouhaha of green in the beginning, the subtle green resinous facets, the light dry green chypre accents, the strong showcasing of the leek-like nuances of mastic or lentisc (pistacia lentiscus) are, alas, soon drowned in an all-too familiar smell. Pity.
As 2007 appears as a historical turning point in the number of perfumes that have already been created and are still to come - we were told to expect around 800, but it could be significantly more than that at the rate at which fragrances seem to appear suddenly out of the blue this year - it seems that working faster and offering a plurality of perfumes all at once will create fragrances that needed to live more in the minds of their creators before seeing the light of day. The uneasy impressions derived from the perception of all-too similar bases in Les Exclusifs by Chanel and Private Blend by Tom Ford (see our Index of Perfume Reviews for more on Les Exclusifs) is made somewhat more acute in this case. Yes, sometimes perfumery is like fairly palatable home-cooking and one may love a certain basic bouillon to be re-used in several soups because it is tasty and the cook has to be practical-minded and the children love her/him anyway, but would we want to eat those soups all the time if we had the choice? If we have real choice, we want variety and even better, a surprise, the surprise of the chef. Of course, some people like to eat the same thing all the time, but even in this context, it is the chef's duty to surprise them from time to time, otherwise who else? This especially said in the context of niche perfumery where the perfumer is, theoretically at least, more independent from the cruel laws of the market.
You can purchase the perfume on the Parfums de Nicolaï website.
Note:This Le Temps D'une Fête perfume is a new creation bearing an older fragrance's name that was already issued by the house. They have kept the old name because it is already registered. As far as I can tell, the older perfume bottle has a blue cap and the new one, a golden one.
Photo of Alpine meadow by SWQ