Parfums de Nicolai Cococabana : Perfume Review

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Coconut

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

As much as I like Parfums de Nicolaï fragrances, from the vanilla turned into sultry darkness that is SacreBleu to the warm mulled wine tartness of Pour Homme, I have to admit that a few pose a frustrating dilemma—they smell far better on paper than they do on skin. The issue is not so much a matter of body chemistry, but rather that the warmth of the skin accelerates their development, forcing evaporation to occur quicker than one would have wished. My biggest disappointment of late is Mimosaïque—on the blotter, it opens up with a green milky almond tinged mimosa that recalls vintage Caron Farnesiana. On the skin, one enjoys fifteen minutes of mimosa glory before one is left with a sharp, thin musk redolent of inexpensive shampoo. The fact that the bottle resembles a hair care container does not help matters much. …

Unfortunately, the newest fragrance from Nicolaï, Cococabana, falls into the same category as Mimosaïque. On the blotter, it is a composition that manages to balance the overly rich elements such as the heft of coconut, the creamy opulence of tuberose, the sweetness of jasmine and ylang ylang with a transparent green note that cuts through the richness. On skin, it is a greasy smear of coconut over white flower petals.

The only way to prevent the harmony of the heart from unraveling is to spray the fragrance on fabric or a clean handkerchief.  Since I do not tend to carry handkerchiefs and I fear perfume stains on my clothes, I simply keep a small vial on hand and dip a blotter into it from time to time to enjoy the transition of accords. If on the other hand, I feel like wearing a sultry summer fragrance, Juste Un Rêve never fails the skin test.

Cococabana features notes of coconut, bitter oranges, ylang-ylang, tuberose, cedar wood and palm. The house has several boutiques, the locations of which can be discovered directly from Parfums de Nicolaï. Fragrances and ancillary products are available online at Beautyhabit and New London Pharmacy. European online stores that carry the line include First-in-Frangrance and Senteurs d’Ailleurs.

Update: Cococabana has been discontinued.

Coconut from kurma.net. Whatever one thinks about coconut notes in perfume, one cannot deny the beauty of coconut as a flavor. Especially when it is turned into the base of a green Thai curry or a cilantro tinged South Indian chutney.

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38 Comments

  • Evan: “On the skin, one enjoys fifteen minutes of mimosa glory before one is left with a sharp, thin musk redolent of inexpensive shampoo. The fact that the bottle resembles a hair care container does not help matters much…”

    Ouch!

    So true, on all counts, especially the bottles.

    Cococabana sounds ghastly, though I admit that I find the idea of predominant coconut notes dreadful from any perfumer’s hands. July 18, 2006 at 4:35am Reply

  • Marina: Most Nicolai fragrances, except for the drier, more “masculine” ones like New York, Maharadja and Vie de Chateau, have a “greasy” (oily, very buttery) undertone, I don’t know what it is. Sacrebleu is like that and Cococabana. Vanille Tonka has it too, but to a lesser degree, and thus it is more wearable. July 18, 2006 at 9:15am Reply

  • Judith: Wow! My comment disappeared! Did I forget to post it, or did it simply self-destruct?

    I said–I often like fragrances with a strong coconut note, e.g., Yosh Ginger Ciao, Ava-Luxe Viva, but this one was just too (and too exclusively) coconutty on me. I guess I should have smelled it on a handkerchief! July 18, 2006 at 10:00am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, whenever I am at the New London Pharmacy and I see rows of those unappealing bottles, I always think that it is such a shame. Of course, I still love Pour Homme and Just un Reve, but how I wish they decided to redesign the bottles. They do look like shampoo bottles I remember from the Soviet times.

    Dominant coconut notes are very difficult for me as well, although as subtle accents, they can be interesting. July 18, 2006 at 11:12am Reply

  • Ina: I was disappointed, too. It’s rather characterless. July 18, 2006 at 11:15am Reply

  • marchlion: I can’t get any of these to … work on me. I am not sure what the problem is. This one wouldn’t be right, in any case! I will have to re-try the ones you recommend. July 18, 2006 at 11:18am Reply

  • Elle: I love PdN and think she has enormous talent. That’s why, despite ample warnings from friends, I went ahead and ordered Cococabana unsniffed on a day I was struck w/ a sudden tropical scent craving. Well, live and learn – I didn’t. However, I’m going to have to try spritzing it on fabric now. Maybe I’ll have a Cococabana throw pillow. 🙂 July 18, 2006 at 11:34am Reply

  • Robin: Cococabana does nothing for me either, V, but have never tried it on a blotter. Not sure it is worth the bother at that…I don’t carry a handkerchief either. But I love many from this line, so will forgive a few bad ones. July 18, 2006 at 1:17pm Reply

  • trinity: Hi V!
    I feel exactly the same way about CocoCabana, its just blah.
    Coconut is a fave note of mine, but in this fragrance, it just doesn’t work.
    Juste Un Reve, now THAT’S a beauty! July 18, 2006 at 2:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, yes, the feminine fragrance are on the sweet, even syrupy side. The masculines are much more interesting. Pour Homme is beautiful, and so is Baladin. July 18, 2006 at 2:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, it looks like it was never posted, because if it were, I would have received an email notification. Sorry for the trouble nevertheless.

    Yes, perhaps, we should introduce a fashion for scented handkerchiefs. 🙂 Given some of the less pleasing NYC summer aromas, this may not be a bad idea. July 18, 2006 at 2:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, I did not feel that it was characterless, but the character it had simply did not do anything to sway me. 🙂 July 18, 2006 at 2:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, do try the masculines and especially Pour Homme. It is just excellent! I keep pushing it, because I rarely see it mentioned, but it is one of Nicolai’s best, in my opinion. July 18, 2006 at 2:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I am laughing at the idea of Cococabana throw pillow. I think that it is an even better idea than a scented handkerchief! July 18, 2006 at 2:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Robin, I am with you–I can forgive a few misses, but I just had to voice my disappointment over the lack of development in what would have been excellent fragrances. July 18, 2006 at 2:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Trinity, yes, Just Un Reve is lovely in all respects. The first inhale of its apricot tinged tropical flower notes simply causes me to forget that I am not indeed standing near a blooming tiare bush. July 18, 2006 at 2:22pm Reply

  • The Scented Salamander: I do see a discrepancy between the smell of Cococabana on an external support and on my own skin. It smelled simply ravishing out of the vial but then turned into an aroma reminiscent, on me, of Thai coconut curry. Even the savory note was in there. But I’ve tested it only once I must say.

    I did not like Mimosaique at first because of a grapey accord that I tend to develop but it turned out to smell great on my skin later and the second application was much better, benefiting from a certain cumulative effect.

    I didn’t think they smelled cheap. July 18, 2006 at 3:14pm Reply

  • Strange Accord: I did a positive review of Cococabana at MUA the other day. I also loved it, but alas lost it (so to speak). I just have my little sample vial. If anyone bought it and wants to swap with me, I’d love to carry a hanky with it. (Seriously.) I thought it was swooningly, langorously wonderful. I just read your linked review on Juste Un Rêve and now would love to try that too. July 18, 2006 at 3:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: TSS, yes, I can see the savory references in Cococabana. If it were an edible item, it would be a Thai sticky rice in coconut milk dessert. July 18, 2006 at 3:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Strange Accord, I am glad that you enjoyed it. I hope that someone can help you out with a sample. If you like tropical florals, you will definitely enjoy Just Un Reve. July 18, 2006 at 3:32pm Reply

  • Strange Accord: Objectively speaking, coconut is a splendid fragrance. It is every bit as splendid as tonka bean, oakmoss, or sandalwood. The brilliance of Cococabana is that it uses coconut with a light enough hand and with green and floral notes that perfectly complement it. I have a lot of respect for Patricia de Nicolaï work on this one. Most coconut fragrances are a travesty; this one is a beauty. July 18, 2006 at 4:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Strange Accord, coconut is definitely a great note, but I personally find it too fatty and heavy. The reason I do not like Cococabana is exactly that–it is a heavy, rich affair. It is far better on the blotter. However, for someone who does not mind these qualities, it might work. On the other hand, if only there were fragrances that captured the scent of fresh coconut water! It is heavenly. July 18, 2006 at 4:21pm Reply

  • Evan: I think de Nicolai is fond of using gamma nonalactone (the coconut “aldehyde”) to round out her compositions, which might account for the fatty, buttery quality of many of the feminines.

    If the perfumes were in simple, beautiful bottles, sold in the right places, they would sell amazingly. T and I thought that if the de Nicolai perfumes were bottled in the crystal bottles that the rather noxious JAR perfumes are in, imagine what a difference it would make. July 18, 2006 at 5:58pm Reply

  • Donna: I had a strange “buttered popcorn” experience with this one. I wanted to like it but the Ylang/butter combo was just awful. Now Vie de Chateaux and Sacrebleu!, those are my favorite PdN’s 🙂 July 18, 2006 at 7:11pm Reply

  • KRiSTOPHER DUKES: Ooh la love. Blogged about you: blog.thisnext.com July 18, 2006 at 7:35pm Reply

  • Strange Accord: What are some classic scents that are “fatty”? I like that term and it makes me wonder what other fragrances I know this audience and – its excellent leader:-) could point out to me. I’m curious now if I tend to like fragrances that could be categorized that way. I generally find lavender fragrances very uncomfortable, and that note, (do you think?) might be described as the opposite of “fatty”. July 18, 2006 at 7:43pm Reply

  • k-amber: I have been not lucky enough to try Parfums de Nicolai scents. Now I am so curious for above mentioned ones. I heard Vanille Tonka was quite dry and wearable.

    Kaori July 18, 2006 at 9:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, I think that you are right about gamma nonalactone. I do not mind it in some fragrances, but it is allowed to dominate, the effect can be unbearably rich. As for the bottles, you and T have a great theory! July 18, 2006 at 9:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Donna, you have inspired me to revisit Vie de Chateau. I have neglected it as of late. I recall that Eclipse was also quite lovely. July 18, 2006 at 9:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kristopher, thank you very much! I am glad that you enjoyed my post. July 18, 2006 at 9:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Strange Accord, lavender usually has either clean or bracing connotations, but I have a feeling that you might enjoy many classical aldehydic fragrances as well as those created in that vein. Moschino Couture is a very beautiful rich fragrance, with the orangey aldehydes in the top notes and a beautiful floral heart. Serge Lutens Datura Noir sounds like a fragrance you would enjoy, as do Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier fragrances (Vocalises, Fleurs de Comores, Secrete Datura). July 18, 2006 at 9:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaori, I hope that you get a chance to explore them. This is a very nice line (with few exceptions). In Paris, the fragrances are very reasonably priced, while it is definitely not the case for the US and other retail venues. July 18, 2006 at 9:46pm Reply

  • Strange Accord: BdJ, Thanks so much for the your fragrance ideas! July 19, 2006 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Diane: Yes, this was a disappointment. There was absolutely no development on my skin. It just sat there, this thin “smear of coconut” as you so well put it. And the coconut had this weird synthetic tinge that made me wish Mastey Traite, a coconut-scented shampoo, was released into a light coconut cologne.

    Now Juste Un Reve is a slice of tropical heaven. July 19, 2006 at 6:52pm Reply

  • CindyN: Victoria,
    Great review, as usual. I have only tried a couple of PdNs, however the 4 that I have, I truly adore: Vanille Tonka (winter for me), Sacrebleu (spring), Just une Reve (anytime), and the one that almost no one seems to talk about, yet my PdN favorite: Number One. It’s one (no pun intended)that, like Ormonde Woman, keeps my wrist/arm glued to my nose for the day. And, boy, does that make me look funny during my sales calls (pun intended) HA! July 19, 2006 at 8:38pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Strange Accord, you are most welcome! I hope that you will find something else to enjoy. July 24, 2006 at 12:31am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Diane, I love Mastey Traite shampoo and conditioner, and you are right about the scent. It is definitely a light, sheer coconut. July 24, 2006 at 12:32am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cindy, thank you. I like all of the fragrances you mention. Number One is excellent, and yes, you are right about it being rarely mentioned. It is one of those lush floral blends that are done with an interesting twist. July 24, 2006 at 12:34am Reply

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