Last year, I received a curious email from a woman I’d never met. She was, she explained, a collector of seventies and eighties “drugstore” perfumes and was now selling her stash to fund a sex therapy course. There is only one correct reply to such a message. “How much do you want and where shall we meet?” And that is how I found myself in Waterloo Station one Thursday afternoon, waiting to hand over an envelope of cash to a complete stranger. She was lovely, incidentally.
My haul was quite literally a mixed bag – from a threadbare box of cheap and cheerful Coty Aspen to the incomparably wonderful and woefully discontinued Theo Fennel Scent. She’d even thrown in a complimentary bottle of Paris Hilton’s Siren, which disappointed me by not being awful. Among my new treasures was a vintage bottle of Chloé EdT, which debuted in 1975 and is a completely different creature to the 2018 fragrance of the same name. I am not a fan of the modern version. I can’t tell you why, because I’ve forgotten. Today’s Chloé is small talk in the lift with that guy from HR. Adam something? You know, with the glasses. Pleasant, but dull. But the 1975 vintage is all voluptuous tuberose and honeyed white flowers. It is your favourite aunt, suddenly announcing over Sunday roast that she’d worked as a nude model in the seventies before she met your uncle. You sit up and take notice.
This is all a very roundabout way of saying that I approached Chloé’s latest release, Nomade, with guarded optimism – hoping for the best but expecting the good-enough. My faith was rewarded. Nomade is more than good enough, it is wonderful.
On the surface, it is poised and refined, but with a promise that more will be revealed. It opens with an easygoing blend of Mirabelle plum, juicy peach and heady freesia, striking a perfect balance between sharp and sweet, breezy yet grounded, familiar but intriguing. That’s the small talk out of the way, now let’s go a bit deeper into Nomade’s darker heart of bergamot, bitter oakmoss and the merest hint of patchouli, just to dirty things up a bit. Together, these three notes form the basis of a chypre accord. Pop by your nearest Guerlain counter and try Mitsouko if you want to experience the chypre in its full-blown glory. The last time you smelled one may well have been on your grandmother. For better or for worse, chypres can smell old-fashioned to our modern noses. In Nomade, the young perfumer Quentin Bisch has breathed new life into the accord to create a perfume that somehow embodies both youth and experience.
Its only fault is that for an eau de parfum, Nomade does not last long on my skin. It was gone before lunch. On reflection, I’m okay with that. After all, perfect is boring and it’s always, always better to go out on a high note.
You can purchase Chloé – Nomade, 50ml, for £70 here.