perfume review

Nuit de Bakélite by Naomi Goodsir (2017)

Naomi Goodsir, an Australian fashion designer, added a perfume line to her creative universe in 2012. The collection now includes five perfumes. Three of them are signed by Julien Rasquinet (Bois d’Acesse and Cuir Velours, 2012. and Iris Cendre, 2015.), one by Bertrand Duchaufour (Or du Serail, 2014.) and the latest one by Isabelle Doyen (Nuit de Bakélite, 2017.).

Goodsir’s palette has been multiply recognized and the latest perfume – Nuit de Bakélite (2017.) – has been multiply awarded:

In 2018. Nuit de Bakélite received the perfume Oscar – FIFI Awards France 2018: The best niche & independent brand fragrance – Experts AwardArt and Olfaction Award 2018. and Olfactorama Paris 2018 – Prix de l’emotion.

Though it is inadequate to compare different awards in separate fields of art, except maybe for just a tiny bit to mark matching significance, I will still do that. So, for those who are less acclaimed in the perfume community, here it goes: the number of awards to this perfume roughly corresponds to the situation when a new film is awarded OscarPalm d’Or in Cannes, and then also Venetian Golden Lion, or maybe BAFTA award instead.

In short: with Nuit de Bakélite, Naomi Goodsir and Isabelle Doyen nailed it.

In my first encounter, Nuit de Bakélite literally knocked me off my feet and did what only a few perfumes succeed: it made me turn on all my cognitive and emotional capacities and then, almost at the same time, only with a clear and loud: “Want!”, made me wish to turn them off as unnecessary translations of completely clear and comprehensive scent message.

This is what art succeeds to do:

“How you represent reality. How you transform it. How you frame a section of it to bring out unheard-of connections between its elements. How old materials can express new effects. How new materials can shed light on classic forms or create novel ones. How to give shape to an idea in a way that hasn’t been done before…These are not the questions asked by the artisan, a technician or an industrial designer. These are the questions of an artist …”

This is the quote form Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, from chapter 19, dedicated to the concept of perfume as art. In Nuit de Bakélite the synergy of Isabelle Doyen and Naomi Goodsir answered all those questions on artful and unique way.

Isabelle Doyen is mostly known as the in house perfumer for Goutal, a house full of beautiful perfume creations that at the general level have in common reinterpretation of the perfume tradition without significant shift or any radical twist. 

Doyen’s opus within Goutal’s aesthetics might seem completely different from Goodsir’s creative universe and modern and bold aestheticism, clear contours and highly stylized interpretations.

But, Isabelle Doyen is also known for her work for the LeNez, where she expressed her experimental and exploratory side. I see Nuit de Bakélite for Naomi Goodsir on the same track with Doyen’s LeNez opus.

Conceptually, Nuit de Bakélite has more in common with Doyen’s Turtle Vetiver than with any creation made for Goutal: as Turtle Vetiver grew out of the idea of ​​exploring the least favourable facets of the vetiver, Nuit de Bakélite was built around the idea of ​​merging and presenting the “impossible” or least favourable tuberose facets – the plastic/artificial one, represented by bakelite scent, and the vegetable green one, featuring timider and less explored “nature” of the flower, but stylized almost to the maximum.

I believe that this Goodsir-Doyen tuberose is a result of beautiful and creative synergy between two women with substantially matching artistic sensibilities.

Basically, Nuit de Bakélite is a breathable, moist and fresh, very green tuberose in the green and herbaceous environment, dressed in leather and latex, along with some heavy retro bakelite jewellery, and enveloped in charisma and wealth of powerfully deep and thick, milky-creamy musk.

On a first few inhales seems that Doyen created a fragile, somehow withdrawn, almost ethereal green tuberose – “virginal”, both in terms of “untouched naturalness” of her green face and in terms of her character, which in all likelihood deviates from boldly floral, intoxicating and indolic character we tend to associate with tuberose.

The green, fresh, non-indolic virginal face of this tuberose almost goes beyond any physical manifestation. This natural aspect is also different from the one which created Bertrand Duchaufor in Nuit de Tubereuse by combining green facets of tuberose with spices and earthy elements.

Tuberose in Nuit de Bakélite is not “a flower/plant in natural habitat”, but the opposite: this tuberose is an entity that keeps beeing natural outside of the environment created by nature as if such non-negotiable naturalness is a deliberate choice or even performance, which the only culture can create or provide.

Right when I got the impression of pure, delicate, shy and innocent tuberose flower covered by vividly green artemisia and galbanum, there comes a radical twist: a fulfilment of the promise announced in the name od the perfume – bakelite.

The twist is truly innovative and radical. I felt it almost on a spiritual level:

In a hypnotically intriguing way, the innocence and virginity of the flower are confronted and then twisted and darkened: while the lush, fresh and sharp galbanum acquires a distinctive leather note, there comes a plastic note, accompanied by some light smokiness.

This contrasting unnatural and unsettling layer clearly (but not overwhelmingly) creates the artificial smell of warmed bakelite, truly similar to the one coming from overheated handles of my older cooking bowls.

The input of unnatural and unsettling seems almost like some sort of performance: I started imagining no-make-up, natural look tuberose in the sense of not possessing any culturally generated gender codes or seductive-carnal connotations, starting the show of dressing up in the most un-modest and strange way.

Dressing up, tuberose pulls out some leather and latex, as a sort of cultural marker for radical, sub-cultural, avant-garde or decadent high culture.

While doing so, latex rubes with leather and they slightly smoke.

The overlap of natural and artificial is at the same time magically attractive and shocking: in the first few testings, I could not get rid of the impression that tuberose initially misguided me by its ethereal purity and led me to believe in her “spiritual innocence” only to show me that. 

Her bakelite.

In a reverse scope, her fresh, green natural self as perfectly performed start of a hypnotic show.

Her mature sophistication in managing to embody and present her virginal and seductively intoxicating opposites and avoid any tuberose stereotype. 

This collision of green fresh nature and unnatural exuberance literally knocked me over, and after about 15 minutes of perfume development, I stopped searching for the reasons for received awards and immediately dedicated a place for this perfume on my real scented shelf.

Nuit de Bakélite got me. 

This does not happen often.

Further into drydown, the fusion of a plastic-leather layer with the green, fresh floral facet somehow cease to be shocking and radical and becomes the expression of uncompromising self-awareness: not quite natural, not quite artificial, not quite innocent, not quite weird – unique.

This final result is thickly supported with creamy and milky musk, which acts as a moderator and bridge between extremes and significantly contributes to the final change.

Enveloped in musk, flowery green tuberose gains volume and a prolonged push into space, and the off-amazement of artificial plasticity that continues to lurk and tickle from the background smells complexly mature and classically grandiose.

This later twist is smooth and lasting. By the end of its existence on the skin, Nuit de Bakélite acts as a wearable haute couture creation, a charismatic and complex fragrance entity that, despite the shift, functions within the most classical olfactive framework.

Nuit de Bakélite has a statement attitude. In a charismatic way of the classical divas (Fracas included), this tuberose self-consciously presents a unique character:

Mature. Powerful.

Overwhelming.

Uncompromising.

Classically wearable and acceptable, but challenging in a way: “Deal with me!”

Fascinating.

This Goodsir-Doyen interpretation of the least appealing or most challenging aspects of tuberose, a very demanding floral note, has produced a perfume that manages to be avant-garde and completely modern but at the same time absolutely traditional in the way the old classics are.

Fully functioning inside and outside the mainstream frame, Nuit de Bakélite is impressive:

While being completely different from any possible reference, tuberose at Nuit de Bakélite possesses something of intriguing weirdness and off-amazement found in opening Tuberose Criminelle, presents the meticulous, almost intellectual study of green floral aspect of Carnal Flower, and shows the bold charisma and self-confidence of the classically dominant and grandiose tuberoses like Fracas or Poison.

Uniqueness along with a wide range of possible references is also immanent to all works of art, including perfumes.

I didn’t expect to meet my second tuberose “for forever” and yet Nuit de Bakélite got me and won my very personal prix de l’emotion, right from the very first sniff.

Notes – the description provided by Naomi Goodsir’s official web page.

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