If you merely looked at the note list for Nuit de Bakelite, the newest release from the Australian niche brand, Naomi Goodsir, you might quickly dismiss it as a fragrance that wouldn’t suit your taste preferences, particularly if you’re one of those people who has an intense loathing for tuberose. On the surface and from basic descriptions, you might conclude that it was a highly feminine floral with a greener take on what is perhaps the single most notorious, polarizing flower around, one whose indolic, heady, fleshy, and narcotic aroma has sent numerous people reeling ever since Fracas was released decades ago. Tuberose may be my favourite flower in both perfumery and real life, but I know its very name makes a lot of readers shudder and that several of you avoid any fragrance which includes it.
If you’re one of these people, then let me say right now that Nuit de Bakelite has nothing in common with the conventional take on either indolic tuberose or floral femininity, and that you might be surprised if you tried it. From a spiky, herbal, vegetal green floral to a softly smoked iris woody musk to a unisex, spiced, woody tobacco-leather velvet (and several points in-between), it traverses a range of fragrance profiles that you might not expect. The result is interesting, modern, and worth putting aside any preconceptions that you may have about the notorious flower because, in all honesty, I really wouldn’t classify Nuit de Bakelite as a tuberose fragrance at all, at least not in the sense of a tuberose soliflore. At most, it’s tuberose-adjacent in its early hours but, afterwards, it becomes another matter entirely.
Nuit de Bakelite is an eau de parfum that was released near the end of July. It was created by Isabelle Doyen who is best known and admired for her work with Annick Goutal. On her website, Naomi Goodsir describes the scent rather obliquely:
VESPERAL attraction […]
The premise of a
« narcotic lady »…
Naomi Goodsir doesn’t provide a note list for the scent, and the ones at several of her retailers differ in the ingredients that they mention:
Essenza Nobile: tuberose, angelica, artemisia, ylang-ylang, karo karounde, carrot seeds, cardamom, leather, styrax and green notes.
First in Fragrance: Galbanum, Saffron, Angelica, Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang, Davana, Karo Karounde, Storax [Styrax], Birch Tar, Labdanum, Musk, Juniper.
Luckyscent: Angelica, violet leaf, galbanum, orris, karo karounde, tuberose, leather, davana, styrax, tobacco, labdanum, gaiac wood.
Nuit de Bakelite opens on my skin with spiky and herbal greenness composed of green angelica herbs and bitter, Romanza-style artemisia that are layered with cold, peppery galbanum. Flickers of vegetal sweetness dart all around from the carrot and a very rooty orris/iris, while equally small flickers of dry woods and dark tobacco run through the base.
Moments later, the multifaceted greenness parts like a wave to reveal the tuberose emerging from within, but this is simply one more form of greenness rather than the typical floralcy. It’s a tuberose that is all venomous green sap, leaves, crushed stems, and even the cool green vase water in which the stems are placed.
Combined together, they waft a subtle aura of the actual tuberose flowers, but it’s the sort of floralcy that is merely a side accompaniment to the plant parts instead of a true, hardcore floral aroma. This is not a tuberose centered on the ripe, blooming buds at the top with their head-spinning narcotic heaviness, fleshy carnality, and syrupy lushness; this is the very bottom of the plant, the stems and crushed vegetation oozing out bitter sap into cold water that’s been turned green not only from their essences but also from bracing galbanum, spiky green angelica, and bristly woody-herbal artemisia.
Nuit de Bakelite changes quickly, even if some of those changes are merely a matter of degree. Roughly 15 minutes into its development, the tuberose grows stronger and more floral, but it’s an oddly diffuse, cool floralcy that is primarily vegetal rather than anything narcotic or heady. It most certainly isn’t indolic, sweet, or fleshy. It’s simply a sort of tuberose “aura” that is more noticeable than the purely herbal, bristly, spiky greenness of the first few minutes. As the two chords expand, the small flickers of carrots and rooty iris disappear, replaced by a subtle spiciness and tremulous wisps of smokiness. The latter sometimes feel woody, like guaiac, but occasionally hint at a woody tobacco instead.
More significant and much more noticeable, however, is the “Bakelite” note. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, it references a type of plastic commonly used in the 1950s or thereabouts. If you own vintage fragrances from that era, they may have a plastic cap or lid which is probably made from the same material. Bakelite plastic has a particular odor that is hard to describe but which you might compare to an almost aldehydic, formaldehyde-like, and subtly inky, plastic-y, smoky aroma. It’s the sort of thing that, if you encounter it, you’ll know it and it will probably take you right back to your high school days in the science lab.
The bakelite note is present in the opening phase, but its strength and prominence depended on how much fragrance I applied. With several smears equal to roughly 1 spray from an actual bottle, the bakelite was extremely noticeable during the first 15-20 minutes, wafting a faintly smoky, faintly aldehydic cleanness with a strong vein of science-lab plasticity running through it. After 15-20 minutes, it retreated to the background where it subsequently became more of a suggestion or “aura” of its own before fading away around the 45 or 50-minute mark. However, when I applied several smears equal to roughly 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the clean, science-y bakelite aroma was initially hidden, first by the multifaceted green accord, then by the burgeoning tuberose-stem-vegetation one. Then, about 45 minutes in, the bakelite slowly emerged from within the tuberose. The result isn’t a “plastic” tuberose, per se, not really or in a strong way.
In both cases, regardless of the quantity that I applied, the bakelite is more of a clean, minimally smoky, softly plastic-y, fractionally inky aeration effect that adds to the sense of a denuded tuberose that’s a semi-Frankenstein with its conjoined bottom parts (stems, leaves, oozing sap) glued together with prickly, mossy galbanum shrubs, spiky green herbs, and only a tiny handful of stray, sweet petals from the tuberose’s actual bud.
What’s interesting to me is how the strong, central green accord in Nuit de Bakelite’s first phase is simultaneously cool and slightly humid, and how that split subsequently affects the feel of the fragrance as a whole. The vegetal quality of the crushed stems bears a certain underlying humidity, while the spikier notes (particularly the galbanum) skew quite cool. I think if the tuberose were accompanied purely by galbanum or violet leaf, then the fragrance would harken back to the classic green scents of yore, like Chanel‘s cold, haughty No. 19. Instead, the crushed stems, leaves, and humid green vase water quietly echo the strains of Annick Goutal‘s Grand Amour for me. I’m not saying that Nuit de Bakelite smells similar, because it most certainly does not, but both fragrances share this strong vegetal humid quality running through their completely different takes on floralcy.
Nuit de Bakelite’s second stage begins roughly 1.75 hours into its development. The notes melt into an amorphous blur of cool, leafy floral greenness with only a vaguely tuberose-ish quality buried within. The flower is even more of an aura than it was in its first 15 minutes. Equally insubstantial is what the “Bakelite” has turned into: a sort of clean lift that isn’t aldehydic or plastic-y, but an impressionistic amalgamation of the two. The greenness is just as abstract. It’s no longer spiky and most definitely not powerfully herbal. To the extent that anything is clear, I suppose it’s the violet leaf which emanates a simple green sharpness. The overall effect nods to the old vintage green scents of the past, like, say, Chanel No. 19, but it’s only a small, passing nod because Nuit de Bakelite still isn’t clean, cold, or cutting; it’s less sharp, more vegetal. Its floralcy may be more faceless than it was initially, but it’s not the same sort of clean iris-like aroma that appears in scents like No. 19. There is just enough of a hint of tuberose that lingers on, impressionistic though it may be.
Roughly 3.25 hours, a new element appears within the abstract washes of green, although it’s as impressionistic and shapeless as everything else. It’s a nebulous cool, ashy iris reminiscent of the one in Naomi Goodsir‘s Iris Cendré, wrapped around vapors of smoke but always suffused within the larger cloud of greenness. Unlike Iris Cendré, however, the ash is minimal, the smokiness is muted, the campfire smoke vibe is nonexistent, and the iris’ surrounding greenness isn’t driven by sharp, citrusy violet leaf but the more humid, spikier, and herbal vegetation that I’ve already described. At first, the iris is a mere nub at their center, but the balance of notes gradually shifts, the greenness slowly recedes away, and a new scent profile takes over when Nuit de Bakelite enters its third stage towards the end of the 4th hour. In essence, the fragrance suddenly turns into an iris-y woody floral infused with guaiac wood, wood smoke, clean orris, and just a lingering touch of greenness.
The guaiac is my favourite part. Some types of guaiac smell like dried leaves being singed or burnt in an autumn bonfire. I don’t encounter it often, since the more intensely smoky, leathery, forest fire style of guaiac seems to be more prevalent, but the autumn leaves and wood smoke variety is the most appealing sort for me and, here, it’s on full display in Nuit de Bakelite.
If I had to guess the breakdown of notes at this stage, I’d estimate that:
- 75% of the bouquet was woody guaiac infused with an ashy iris;
- 10% was greenness with an occasional ghostly flicker of a vaguely tuberose-ish whiteness buried deep within;
- 10% was clean musk; and
- 5% was something suggesting a rather woody tobacco.
Roughly 5 hours in, all final traces of tuberose-flecked greenness disappear, and Nuit de Bakelite dissolves into a lightly smoked, clean floral-woody musk. There is wood smoke, guaiac singed leaves, some clean abstract floralcy (that is so abstract, it’s completely unidentifiable to me, not even as iris), musk, and the merest hint of tobacco.
One thing that I’ve noticed about a number of the recent Naomi Goodsir releases is that they have a very nebulous, amorphous shapelessness after their opening stage, and Nuit de Bakelite is no exception. It began to go blurry about 1.75 hours in, turned quite abstract at the 2.5 hour mark, then changed to a different sort of impressionistic blur in its subsequent short stages before ending up with this woody musk at the start of the 5th hour.
As time goes by, the woody bouquet shifts a little in its nuances. It grows quietly spicier with glimmers of saffron and something that is perhaps a little clove-ish in character, but it’s difficult to pinpoint the notes because the musk-like element is growing at the same time. By the start of the 6th hour, it fuses with the guaiac and turns everything into a blur without a wide range of nuances or much character.
The clean, quietly iris-y, floral woody musk eventually transitions into something more interesting when the drydown begins roughly 7.25 hours into Nuit de Bakelite’s development. In essence, the white musk retreats to the background, and the fragrance turns into a spicier, tobacco-centric woodiness. The dry, lightly spiced, woody, tobacco works really nicely with the saffron, guaiac, wood smoke, and the subtle undercurrents of labdanum resin and buttery leather running below. It’s a much less one-dimensional, flat, and bland bouquet than the previous one, although I wouldn’t call it riveting or head-turning. It’s simply nice.
What’s really appealing and lovely, however, is the second part of the drydown. This is full-on tobacco, albeit with leather and amber accompaniments. The tobacco is dusted with sweet saffron spiciness (possibly with a drop of clove and/or nutmeg as well?), licked by autumnal wood smoke, then spread across a thin layer of highly refined, buttery leather. The whole thing is then enveloped within a cloud of labdanum amber that wafts tiny trails of honeyed beeswax. Everything about the bouquet feels plush in texture, half velvety, half creamy, but all of it is warm, inviting, and cozy.
It’s a whole scent galaxy away from the spiky, herbal, crushed vegetation greenness of the opening, so much so that it feels almost as if that were another fragrance entirely. I actually liked the opening tuberose-adjacent bouquet and it kept my interest with its very atypical approach to tuberose, but I confess I shrugged my way through the transitional middle phases and wasn’t impressed. This final stage to the drydown, however, is thoroughly enjoyable and what I categorize as a “cozy comfort” scent. In this case, spiced tobacco velvet infused with silky soft leather, then coated with an almost creamy labdanum amber. It starts roughly 9.25 hours into Nuit de Bakelite’s development and lasts for a number of hours before the fragrance finally dies away as a wisp of sweet, spicy goldenness.
Nuit de Bakelite had good longevity, soft projection, and initially strong sillage. Using several big smears equal to roughly 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 3 inches of projection and about 4 inches of sillage. However, the latter grew to about 6-7 inches after 30-40 minutes once the tuberose kicked in more profoundly. The numbers dropped very incrementally over the next 3 hours. Roughly 3.75 to 4 hours in, the projection was 0.5 to 1 inch, while the scent trail extended about 2.5 inches, unless I moved in which case it suddenly expanded before dropping back down 10 minutes later. Nuit de Bakelite became a skin scent in the middle of the 6th hour, but it was easy to detect up close and without any significant effort until the 10th hour. In total, it lasted just shy of 14 hours.
Nuit de Bakelite is too new for there to be a ton of reviews at this time, but there are a few. In a Basenotes discussion thread on the fragrance’s release, the one person who had tried it, “StellaFlynnDiver,” loved Nuit de Bakelite, finding it a richer scent than past Naomi Goodsirs and bearing a vintage feel. Contrary to what she had expected, it wasn’t a tuberose soliflore but a green fragrance that turned into a floral leather chypre. She wrote:
I’ve only worn it a handful of times and am still trying to figure it out. Although I don’t recall the smell of bakelite, so far I haven’t detected any screechy plastic note.
I was expecting a tuberose soliflore, albeit a green one judging from the press release, which turned out, nope, not at all. Nothing buttery or camphorous like in most tuberose soliflore. Instead, it smells more like a green floral or floral leather chypre to me, and the tuberose here is in chameleon mode like how narcissus and jasmine blend in floral chypre.
It opens with bitter green galbanum, and when the floral heart soon joins in, it reminds me of the galbanum/green-naricussus pairing in Papillon Dryad and Masque Romanza. Later on, when the galbanum is more subdued, it dries down into a mossy floral chypre with a subtle leather and immortelle/tobacco undertone. The leather recalls the Bandit-style green type, but much much less butcher. The closest perfume to NdB’s dry down that I can think of is Zoologist Civet, but Nuit de Bakélite exhibits more green nuances.
So far, I love it! I find it much richer in composition than the previous four Naomi Goodsir fragrances. Nuit de Bakélite feels vintage to me, while I would argue that the sleek aesthetics of the other four, lovely as they are, align better with that of modern niche. I think it’s a very successful perfume to revamp the vintage green floral and chypre like Dryad does, well worths a try! [Emphasis to names and bolding added by me.]
Nuit de Bakelite also exhibited a leather heart for the one Fragrantica reviewer thus far. “YolkMedusa” says she isn’t a fan of leather fragrances, so the scent wasn’t her thing but she called it “original,” “well-done” and “unique”:
Big green notes, but the heart is a nicely balanced spicy, peppery leather. [¶] The leather is high-quality and modern. While the leather note takes the main role, composition-wise, it’s a mild/modern leather. (I.e. not a sinus-destroying vintage/vintage-inspired monster… Sorry to hate on vintagey leather frags but fwiw).
Original and well-done. I definitely get the faint herbal tinge of the whole composition as well. [¶] Not to my tastes (I’ve been off all leathers lately, even lovely ones like this). Again, a very unique and well-done frag nonetheless.
For Mark Behnke of Colognoisseur, Nuit de Bakelite seems to have followed a path similar to the one that I experienced. He writes that it started out as a stem-and-sap tuberose fragrance paired with a green accord of angelic and galbanum infused with the “faux-aldehydic lift” of bakelite. The scent then transitioned to a more “floral heart” of tuberose that had been “essentially scrubbed clean of the indoles.” Orris tempered things further. “Over time a base of leather and tobacco provide the final brushstrokes.” I’ll let you read the full review on your own if you’re interested, but he basically summed up Nuit de Bakelite as “a modern retelling of a vintage era.” He was a big fan.
As these accounts should hopefully make clear, Nuit de Bakelite is hardly Fracas or the indolic, heady, fleshy, and carnal scent that so many people think of when they hear the word “tuberose.” As “StellaFlynnDiver” wrote, the tuberose is a “chameleon,” and the fragrance falls into the green, retro chypre, and tobacco-leather genres rather than the feminine, floral soliflore one. I like to think of the opening phase as tuberose-adjacent with a semi-Frankenstein quality made up of “limbs” that are typically discarded in conventional tuberose fragrances: the vegetation, stems, bitter sap, and even the cool vase water in which the flowers might be placed. Sure, there are a handful of the sweet petals strewn on top of the accompanying galbanum-artemisia-angelic cloud, but they’re hardly the indolic, ripe, lush, heated, drug-like aroma of the proper flower in bloom.
While I love the latter, this version has an appealing elegance and is an approachable take on the old vintage green scents of yore. The middle phases of Nuit de Bakelite did nothing for me and I’m not a fan of the modern approach of abstract impressionism and broad, shapeless brushstrokes as a perfume structure, but the snuggly drydown was lovely, thoroughly enjoyable, and worth having a bit of patience.
In short, if you’ve always hated tuberose fragrances, then perhaps this might be the one to make you change your mind.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.