Oh, Parfums de Nicolaï, perfume house of intriguing fragrances and hideous packaging. To me, this line is the Jan Brady of the perfume world. It’s smart, homely, and too easily overlooked in the company of the glamorous Marsha and baby-cheeked Cindy. Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque is a good example. It’s elegant and unexpected — and resolutely unfashionable. I hope it stays on the market forever.
Odalisque was created by Parfums de Nicolaï’s founder and Guerlain family member Patricia de Nicolaï. The perfume house’s website describes Odalisque as a green woody chypre, and its notes include mandarin, bergamot, lily of the valley, jasmine, iris, oak moss and musk. To me, it’s a light, spring-fresh floral with a kick of post-church luncheons and ocean breeze.
On skin, Odalisque launches in citrus’s soprano register, and it keeps to a feminine pitch as citrus gives way to a sheer, barely powdery lily of the valley and violet-iris. Think baptisms and dry rosé spritzers. Running through Odalisque is a mossy, clean musk that some reviewers have noted is more salty than soapy, and I agree (although I wouldn’t have been clever enough to think of it myself).
Many modern perfume wearers might classify Odalisque as “ladylike” — maybe too much so for them. I wouldn’t dismiss it as old-fashioned, though. To me, its light texture full of blues and whites is modern, just not the style these days. Odalisque doesn’t announce itself as “sexy” or “fresh” or “fun.” It’s simply a lovely fragrance in a classic mode that isn’t particularly vintage smelling but doesn’t pander to trends.
Odalisque wears as an unobtrusive veil with moderate sillage. It lasts at least half a day and sweetens slightly as it ages, but still stays clean. On me, it wears as if I'd showered with a nice quality lily of the valley and iris soap and lots of steamy, mineral-filled water.
Is Odalisque me? Do I need a bottle? No. But I appreciate it, just as I appreciate Degas and Renee Fleming and slick, sheer stockings. I want them in my life, just not every day.
Parfums de Nicolaï fragrances used to be screaming bargains. They’re still reasonably priced compared to many lines, and they often offer 30 ml bottles, but they’re no longer the great deal they used to be. Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque Eau de Parfum is $155 for 100 ml and $55 for 30 ml.
But I won’t quibble. Parfums de Nicolaï is still available, and that’s what counts. For information on where to buy it, see Parfums de Nicolaï under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is detail from Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres via Wikimedia Commons.