Once upon a time women wore corselets & real silk chemises underneath their tailored dresses to work, painted their lips deep pink or coral and coiffed their hair à la choucroutte on a regular basis, before straight "blow outs" became the standard of westernised grooming. There was something equally mischievous and disciplined about their demeanor, reflected in their perfumes; as if beneath all the gentility and pronounced good manners there harbored untold family skeletons in the closet, secret trysts in the afternoon and a gambling streak hiding as socializing. Something is deeply attractive about that contradiction, not least because Mad Men made us believe so, thanks to stylisation to the point of art. It paid; not only people are hooked on 1960s fashion, they're hooked on 1960s-smelling perfumes as well, it seems. And here is where Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie comes into play.
Style & Comparison with Other Fragrances
Do you recall the opening of Van Cleef & Arpel's First? Everything denoting luxury, power, femininity, class and wealth was added into producing that powerhouse last-of-the-McAldehic clan; a fragrance as shimmery as the brightest yellow sapphires, as frothy as the sparkliest bubbly in iced flutes, as melodious as Jenny Vanou singing Dawn's Minor Key. I was instantly transported in those times, back when First's precious metal wasn't somewhat tarnished due to reformulations, upon testing Nostalgie. Laurie Erickson, the indie perfume behing\d that small outfit, Sonoma Scent Studio, operating off the Haldsburg hills in California, US, managed to produce an old-school floral aldehydic quite apart from the mass; as she says "fragrances today are rarely composed with so many fine naturals". Nostalgie smells more expensive than it is (it recalls Patou's classic Joy in the mid-section, with more woody accents), is full of vibrancy and came to me like a messenger of good news when the day has been nothing but gloom and no hope can be visible in the horizon.
The aldehydes are adding citrusy, waxy sparkle in Nostalgie but they're a bit toned down compared to classics such as Chanel No.5, with fine soapy overtones; an impression further enhanced by the discernible jasmine sambac. The peach lactone in the heart provides a retro vibe; lactonic florals have been byword for refined and graceful perfumery for many decades in the middle of the 20th century. The floral notes, ringing as wonderfully bright as little taps on a glockenspiel, are tightly woven together to present a tapestry of hundreds of tiny dots which, like in pointillism, seen from a distance blur into a delightful image.
The jasmine-rose-mimosa accord is classic (Guerlain Après L'Ondée, Caron Fleurs de Rocaille, Lauder Beautiful) and here treated as seen through a sheer green-woody veil. Erickson treats aldehydes with sleight of hand, as proven previously in her Champagne de Bois, but her every new release at Sonoma Scent Studio is more sophisticated than the last; I find more technical merit in Nostalgie.
The base of Nostalgie is all billowy softness, like most of the latest SSS fragrances, falling on a fluffy duvet, with subtle leathery nuances (probably from the mimosa absolute itself) and a musky-creamy trail which is delicious. However the aldehydic floral element is at no moment completely lost (if you're seriously aldehydic-phobic that might present a problem; if you're an "AldeHo" as Muse in Wooden Shoes calls it, you're all set). It is both long-lasting and drooling trail-worthy; it's parfum strength after all. This is a scent to get you noticed and to be asked what perfume you're wearing.
"Nouveau Vintages": A Trend to Watch
Aldehydic florals and retro "floral bouquets" (as opposed to soliflores which focus on one main flower in their composition) are knowing quite a resurgence, both in indie perfumers' catalogues (witness the stunningly gorgeous Miriam by Tauer Tableau de Parfums line, Aftelier's Secret Garden and DSH Vert pour Madame) and in niche brands, such as the divine Divine's L'Ame Soeur. It was about time; one gets a kick of fun out of something as frothingly tongue-in-cheek and sweet as Prada Candy perfume, but there are times when fragrance stops being an inside joke and should get its pretty rear down and start smelling ladylike & grown-up. In that frame, this rush of vintage-inspired fragrances is heartening. Nostalgie is part & parcel of this "nouveau vintages" clan and at the same time winks with the familiar Mad Men innuendo. Applause!
Notes for SSS Nostagie:
Aldehydes, Indian jasmine sambac absolute, Bulgarian rose absolute, mimosa absolute, peach, violet flower, violet leaf absolute, tonka bean, French beeswax absolute, natural oakmoss absolute, aged Indian patchouli, East Indian Mysore sandalwood, leather, vanilla, orris, myrrh, vetiver, and musk.
Available at the Sonoma Scent Studio fragrance e-shop.
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Sonoma Scent Studio fragrances
In the interests of disclosure, I was sent a sample directly by the perfumer.
Photo of Greek actress Melina Mercouri at the Kapnikarea on Hermes Street, Athens, Greece in the early 1960s.