Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps Eau Florale // Smell of a Brand New World Order (2017) {Perfume Review & Musings}


L'Air du Temps Eau Florale is the latest reinterpretation of the classic French fragrance L'Air du Temps, released the year Truman signed the Marshall Plan. It is still available today, in a brand new world order, in particular marked by Angela Merkel's historic speech pronounced only yesterday in a beer hall in Munich along the line of "we're on our own", "we" being the Europeans in a political - and accessorily cultural sense. Merkel said using an "us" vs. "them" in-group/ out-group opposition that "Wir Europäer müssen unser Schicksal wirklich in unsere eigene Hand nehmen"/ We Europeans must take our destiny into our own hands for real), while "natürlich" / "of course" remaining friends with the US and the UK. It's a long way from the mapped-out destiny of Europe at large, thanks to the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. Europeans are on their own...

Nina Ricci couldn't have known about what the Taormina G7 summit would yield, but it seems to have sensed and expressed the idea of effervescent times and unpredictable courses of events that have been a hallmark of 2016. Hence, a rapid slew of flankers (here too) in the limited amount of time that saw Trump become president of the United States and Brexit become reality, all composed by perfumer Calice Becker of Givaudan. An upcoming one is L'Air du Temps Nuit Pourpre. Marketing-wise, it appears as a strategic effort developed by the brand Nina Ricci to re-establish the old-school post-WWII scent as a perfume one never ceases to talk about in perfumed circles. It seems to be now inspired by Twitter feeds and the never-ending news cycle, as well as the idea of front-and-center visual media exposure.

To express all this political effervescence, perfumery, more generally, has been turning towards its fizziest of molecules, as we're witnessing aldehydes regaining mainstream popularity, just like Chanel No.5 marked the beginning of non-conservatives times in the 1920s with strange-smelling chemicals.

Coming out of a long spell of relative dormition, the reference aldehydic floral composition, so emblematic of the post-WWII order, has currently become a seemingly endlessly pliable material, one can knead over and over to make it espouse new olfactive contours - and speak and comment on present times in a renewed bubbly and bright voice.

How Does it Smell Like?

L'Eau Florale is a delicate tea- and peony-inflected rendition of the brightness of L'Air du Temps - and of its floralcy. You smell a pink peony at first soon followed by the scent of veristic tea leaves steeped in water - an Earl Grey blend. Light, fruity nuances seem to whirl around this main, initial accord.

The fresh-as-dew first notes give way to a fleshier white gardenia floral heart which blooms, smelling both powdery and fresh. The brand has named it a "green gardenia" accord. What it means at the start is that the gardenia suggests lusher textures but does not abandon the glassy, fresh facet that the new composition develops consistently. As the honeysuckle peeks through, you are inhaling a dewier gardenia than average, but not to the extent of smelling its photographic scent-capture. A more defined green nuance does indeed finally appear: it smells of shiso leaves, with their astringent, radish-like nuance -and also green Macha.

The roll-call of notes communicated by Nina Ricci does not mention notes of tea, nor shiso, but they are well-present to the nose. They are elliptically alluded to as "bergamot" and "green". They create a sense of transparency and dynamism against the more classical sensuality and femininity of the gardenia note, which becomes creamier and creamier overtime.

The lush eau de toilette blooms, projecting the effect of a majestic floral bouquet. If you love the impression of being a woman-turned-flower, you will love the theatricality of the jus in this respect. The drydown is subtly woody and soft with its "bois de violette" accord (violet wood), which seems to reference a Serge Lutens scent, but is more about proposing a commingling of fresh, woodsy, floral - and in particular powdery - nuances, without smelling too obviously woody. The long drydown is both powdery and mineral-y, with a nuance of sun-kissed dry pebbles.

Perfumery is an exercise in balance between what's in a bottle and what's outside of it, including not just the glass walls which encloses the jus, but also the times and mores it is permeated with, in principle. Perfumers are supposed to be knowledgeable about the Zeitgeist and translate it for us, for fear of offering scents that do not make sense to perfume wearers.

L'Air du Temps L'Eau Florale is an equilibrium exercise between pan-Asian and pan-American tastes mediated by an European signature, to make it a more global scent. We're meeting the new perfume somewhere in the middle, a virtue which seems to echo the values of political centrism we are experiencing today. Europe, as a commercial fragrance region is caught in the middle of giant external markets and is looking at both its West and its East, while offering a synthesis of its experience. If Europe is on its own now, it is for now also able to communicate olfactorily with diverse regions of the world - and keen in doing so.

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