What does midnight in Paris smell like? In spring and summer, the warm atmosphere heightens the scents of grass, earth, and flowers in the gardens; aromas of food and drink waft from bistros and cafes. Year-round one smells cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, cologne on passersby …and dog turds. I don’t remember midnight in Paris smelling like tonka beans, but judging by Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight in Paris Pour Homme, tonka beans perfume the Seine, the fountains, the air.
Tonka bean is on the verge of becoming the “new violet leaf” in men’s fragrances; it’s everywhere. I bought some tonka beans (Dipteryx odorata) from a local herbal apothecary and perfumery so I could smell the real thing (1 oz of tonka beans costs around $2.50). Tonka beans smell a lot like (musky-nutty) vanilla and are used in the making of desserts as well as in perfumes (when I smell tonka beans I think of nougats, frostings, sweet syrups, custards). In the U.S., tonka beans, which contain coumarin, have been banned from use in foods since 1954 due to their blood-thinning properties, but that hasn’t stopped chefs from using the fragrant beans.
Midnight in Paris Pour Homme is billed as a “floral-leather” fragrance and it was developed by perfumers Olivier Polge and Domitille Bertier. Midnight in Paris’ notes include black lily of the valley accord, bergamot, citron, matcha green tea, styrax/benzoin, tonka bean and incense.
Like an old-fashioned fireworks display, Midnight in Paris presents all its thrills at once. There are initial sparks of bright, fumy citrus, a streamer of styrax mixing with bursts of tonka bean, a glimmer of green tea, and then a tiny cinder of wood. (Any black lily of the valley accord is invisible in the glare of the other notes — and where’s the leather?)
All Midnight in Paris’ notes fade quickly, save one: tonka bean, and it’s this note that makes Midnight in Paris smell like lots of other fragrances on the market. Midnight in Paris smells good (I like the aroma of tonka beans) but it’s unexceptional, something midnight in Paris never is — at least for a Francophile like me.
Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight in Paris Pour Homme is available in 75 and 125 ml Eau de Toilette ($75/95) and 125 ml Eau de Parfum ($115); I’ve not tried the Eau de Parfum — the Eau de Toilette is strong enough for me.