Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vintage Rosine Nuit de Chine c. 1920s

Review: Vintage Rosine Nuit de Chine

Today am reviewing another Paul Poiret masterpiece from the long lost vintage house of Rosine. Not the rose garden Rosine of today,  but back when it was a high end competent French house that held its own with the likes of Guerlain, Chanel, Jacques Fath, and even Houbigant.

Upon first smell, I noticed much of the top is no longer with us, but that was to be expected from an 80+ year old perfume. At first blush, I would categorize Nuit de Chine as an oriental fougere and its similarity to Mouchoir de Monsieur is uncanny though not unusual as they were released within eight years of each other and probably of popular style at the time.

The opening is dull and unexciting, but the coumarin/tonka accord so cherished from MdM comes to the fore except that Nuit de Chine uses real—yes, that’s right—real civet and deer musk in the composition. I have smelled these tinctures before and can say with much certainty that this is so. The longer it sits on my skin the fecal yet floral nutty aspect of the civet becomes greater.

Nuit de Chine is also known for its resplendent sandalwood note—natural Mysore, of course. It is restrained and adds a light buttery texture and slight hints of Chinese incense.

I am not sure why Rosine chose to name their fragrance “Chinese Night”—perhaps it was to inspire visions of the Orient. Nuit de Chine was also a popular French song in the 1920s, though it was released after the perfume. Poiret had originally named his fragrance Nuit d’Orient as he favored Oriental perfumes.

It is difficult to give a note construction for such a long lost perfume that is so disconnected from what we know as fragrance today. I would guess that it contains an opening lavender-coumarin accord for the basic fougere effect inherited from Parquet’s not so distant Fougere Royale in addition to some florals and spices perhaps jasmine, tuberose, cinnamon, orris, and rose. The base is a coumarin haze augmented by civet, musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. There may also be traces of vetiver and cedar here.

Overall, if one has smelled Mouchoir de Monsieur, especially a vintage formulation, one is not missing much in Nuit de Chine. However, if artistry and the best ingredients available are important, Nuit de Chine is not to be missed (also note that Turn of the Century perfumers likely had easy access to the best perfume ingredients ever available). Unfortunately, Nuit de Chine and Poiret’s other masterpiece, Le Fruit Defendu, are probably the things of which perfume dreams are made—far outside our grasp.

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