Serge Lutens à la Nuit, 2000

a la nuit

Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake

A la Nuit, love it or hate it, is held out as the definitive jasmine soliflor. It conjures jasmine just come into bloom. It’s got indolic headiness, but it also has that dewy greenness of a jasmine vine just starting to hit its stride. It smells rich but crisp like jasmine flowers, not like jasmine essential oil.

A floral perfume is like a still life painting. It is a genre, an exercise, and a treatise on the complexities of representation in art. Perfume history holds Diorissimo as the the ultimate soliflor. It’s been measured by the same criteria as a still life painting. Representation, demonstrated by proportion, depth of field, light and shadow, is a part. But something more is needed, both in the still life and the soliflor. Enhancement, point of view, surprise, commentary, misdirection—artist’s choice. I’ve never smelled the original Diorissimo, but A la Nuit seems to create a floral perfume just as Diorissimo is said to have. Both start by creating the recognizable scent of a flower, à la Nuit’s jasmine and Diorissimo’s lily of the valley, and then doing the real work. The flower might be the subject of the work, but it’s also just the start of the discussion in a well composed soliflor.

Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake presents his jasmine still life as a lean floriental. Combining floral and oriental categories can lead to large, rich but often bossy perfumes. A la Nuit with its ‘young’ jasmine and a musky, honeyed benzoin anchor gives a beautiful high/low balance. The opening notes are manic (and a blast!) but once they settle this à la Nuit is hardly bossy. It remains rich but lacks the smothering hearnotes of some florientals.

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