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La Nuit – When the civet wakes up – December 14, 2012 New Fragrance Listing


Photo - Wikipedia - Paco Rabanne dress 1967

Cleaning out closets, finding and sorting through hundreds of pictures from the “olden days” as my daughter calls them, has brought back memories. She especially loves the shots of me at a conference in the 1980’s, wearing my black power-suit with the sky-high wide-receiver shoulder pads, dazzling green eye-shadow, and scary-massive curls. Seeing that picture has brought me back to La Nuit by Paco Rabanne. I bought this perfume at Selfridge’s on that trip to London. 

Paco Rabanne, of course, is the Spanish designer who ruled avant-garde high fashion in the 60’s and 70’s along with Kenzo and Issey Miyake – he did the costumes for Jane Fonda in Barbarella. I wore his Calandre in the 70’s, which was a fabulous woody-green frag with a light citrusy waft (recently reduced to dreck through re-formulation), which was perfectly suited for young 70’s women as we fearlessly walked into our new corporate lives. La Nuit was launched in 1985, and was a huge shift from the woody green-citrus of corporate ingénues. It was aimed at women, not girls.

Yes, Women. By 1985 I was a woman so I understood what La Nuit was all about. It’s a chypre, and what a chypre! It has fruit, floral, spice, wood, moss, leather patchouli notes  all on a strong base of…civet. Yes, civet, that animalic note that is so special, smelling of body parts and sex, that has the power to take any fragrance to a different olfactory level.

There’s bergamot and citrus and cardamom and artemesia up top, slightly sharp and nose-tingling, then a delicious spicy heart of lush rose mixed with peach and jasmine. Up to this point La Nuit is almost conventionally pretty in a grand parfum kind of way, but it becomes faarrr more interesting in the drydown. That’s when the civet wakes up.

The peach and rose become honeyed and rich, then take on a sweaty pissy nuance as the honey note deepens. The civet note has a downright fecal smell at first which softens, leaving the rose spicy and the peach jammy. Back comes dirty civet again with patchouli and cedarwood - herbal and resinous – and this strong accord mixes with oakmoss and leather which add rutty animalic complexity to the body-smells cocktail. Then miraculously, La Nuit transforms and blooms into a gorgeous rich lush scent, making me remember the smell of beautiful perfume notes on sated warm bodies.

At the end I get rose and leather and honey and civet, and it’s a rich, grown-up, sexy smell. I’ve read online somewhere that Luca Turin described La Nuit as smelling like Tabu sprayed on a horse. La Nuit is all about perfume on flesh, but definitely not Tabu, and definitely not horse flesh.

Today, we’re adding La Nuit to our decant listing. Decants are $5.00.