Parfums de Nicolai Eau Soleil : Perfume Review

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The first time I tried Parfums de Nicolaï’s Eau Soleil I was surprised. I expected a walk in a Sicilian orange grove perfumed with the zesty freshness of orange flowers and crushed green leaves, but instead of a gauzy, sunlit vision, the fragrance opened on my skin with a peppery, bitter tang. My orange blossom garden fantasy was nowhere to be found.

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The mark of a good perfume is its ability to hold your attention. However different Eau Soleil was from my expectations, it followed me throughout the day. I would catch myself stealing little sniffs from my wrist or else enjoying the herbal and green scent that hovered around me. The next morning, I reached for the same scarf I wore the day before and for a few minutes I stood with my face buried in the silk scented with white flowers and soft musk. Eau Soleil courted me successfully.

Part of the Eaux Fraîches Collection (L’Eau à la Folie, L’Eau d’Ete, L’Eau Mixte, and L’Eau Chic), Eau Soleil reminds me more of the mossy and musky L’Eau à la Folie than the romantic and sparkling Annick Goutal Néroli. It’s also a touch retro thanks to its fizz of unsweetned citrus and Provencal herbs. The bitterness that so shocked me in the beginning now seems like a perfect counterpoint to the lush sweetness of ylang ylang and jasmine. It smells like sun-dried grasses and leaves, with an occasional glimmer of soft white petals.

The longer you wear Eau Soleil, the more pronounced the white floral notes become.  Eau Soleil is based on neroli, steam-distilled orange blossom that smells green and tart, more like unopened buds rather than nectar filled flowers. You will also be showered with plenty of ylang-ylang. It’s a tropical flower that blends a wintergreen-flavored gum with apricot jam and green bananas, and it fills Eau Soleil with a languid sweetness. The earthy, damp patchouli  comes next, but after all is said and done, musk and cedarwood linger the longest. The cloud of musk mutes the floral notes until the fragrance becomes abstract and mellow; it just smells like clean, sunwarmed skin. (The tenacity is very good).

Though not my top favorite from the collection, Eau Soleil is well-crafted and polished. For a perfect fresh cologne, I still remain partial to Nicolaï’s Cologne Sologne, and compared to other floral gems like Number One and Odalisque, Eau Soleil is timid and simple. But it’s not meant to be a grand parfum; rather it’s a little number that you put on like a white t-shirt. It also has a fair price. These days when you can’t approach a niche perfume boutique without being prepared to spend at least $125-150 per bottle, this is especially refreshing.

Eau-Soleil-Nicolai

Parfums de Nicolaï Eau Soleil Eau de Toilette includes notes of bergamot, mandarin, lemon, petitgrain, thyme, artemisia, neroli, ylang-ylang, jasmine from Egypt, patchouli, and musk. It’s available in 30ml ($45)  and 100ml ($115) spray bottles from New London Pharmacy, LuckyscentBeautyhabit or Parfum1 in the US; Parfums de Nicolaï boutiques in Europe.

Photography (top image) by Bois de Jasmin.

Sample source: PR

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60 Comments

  • Andy: This sounds beautiful, and right up my alley. The fact that this is based on neroli and not orange blossom makes it sound even more appealing. I love the greenness of neroli, but have some trouble with orange blossom. When I was very little, I can remember smelling some perfumes on my grandmother and great aunt and thinking they smelled like grape flavored candy or grape Kool-Aid. Years later, I figured out that “grape candy” is not really a perfume note, and that, rather, the scent I was percieving is actually orange blossom (or other white florals). I finally figured out that methyl anthranilate and its related aromachemicals are the culprit for this mixup. But now, whenever I smell orange blossom perfumes, or other perfumes that use these particular synthetics, they end up smelling cheap and fake to me (kind of like grape flavoring, which I do not like!). Anyway, while I’m still trying to reckon with orange blossom, I adore neroli! June 28, 2013 at 8:59am Reply

    • Joanna: It’s funny, orange blossom doesn’t appeal to me, either. It smells like those cheap pez dispenser candies I tolerated as a child. That’s the predominant note I get whenever I smell an orange blossom fragrance. Weird. June 28, 2013 at 9:51am Reply

      • Andy: I agree on the Pez candies! I get that same impression too. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who can’t shake these associations. June 28, 2013 at 11:26am Reply

      • nikki: Oh, but do try Francis Kurkdijan’s APOM pour femme, that orange blossom is divine! June 28, 2013 at 1:00pm Reply

        • Andy: Thank you for the recommendation. I’m thinking that a really good orange blossom might be just the thing to get me back on track with orange blossom. June 28, 2013 at 4:43pm Reply

          • Victoria: There are lots of many great orange blossoms, and I think that you should also give Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier a try. It’s like sitting under a blooming orange tree. June 29, 2013 at 11:23am Reply

            • Mel: On the subject of orange scents, I recently tried Andy Tauer’s Orange Star and it was one of the happiest scents I’ve ever worn. Exuberant and bright but unique the way Tauer is and expertly tailored. June 30, 2013 at 3:09pm Reply

              • Victoria: I haven’t tried that one, but it sounds great. For me orange is associated with something sunny and joyful. July 1, 2013 at 5:39pm Reply

      • Victoria: It makes total sense, because they share the similar aromatic components! And the concord grape flavor does too, which is why many people get a concord grape note out of orange blossom or even tuberose. June 28, 2013 at 1:16pm Reply

        • Elisa: I find that note especially jarring in the original Alien. Smells like grape soda to me! June 28, 2013 at 3:10pm Reply

          • Victoria: I notice it in Poison too, especially the current formulation. It’s present in other perfumes too, but it was Poison that cinched it for me. June 29, 2013 at 11:04am Reply

        • Andy: Ah, now it makes sense. Thanks for clearing that up. I was unsure of why orange blossom was registering like something completely different on me! June 28, 2013 at 4:45pm Reply

          • Victoria: There is another interesting material called orange blossom water absolute, and it has a smoky note. Now, it’s so completely different from either neroli or regular orange blossom absolute! June 29, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m the opposite in that I adore the sweetness of orange blossom absolute and find neroli (same flowers, but processed differently) to be somewhat austere. But on the other hand, in a fragrance this doesn’t matter as much as the creator’s intent and how well the composition is balanced. Eau Soleil definitely has the solar feel, and I love the herbal touches. June 28, 2013 at 1:09pm Reply

      • Andy: That sun-washed, solar feel sounds gorgeous! It’s funny, green notes like those found in neroli (and I guess Eau Soleil) are often regarded as a bit austere, I suppose, but because of my love for plants and gardening, they are like a comfort scent to me. Anyway, Eau Soleil sounds just perfect! June 28, 2013 at 5:43pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s just that they seem more austere to me by comparison. But you’re right, neroli is a beautiful material, and it’s easy to achieve different effects with it, from a crunchy green bud to a dew-covered flower. It’s even used in flavors to give interesting green nuances. June 29, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

      • annemariec: Last summer I had large decants of AG’s Neroli and Houbigant’s Orangers en Fleurs, and found that they defined the difference you mention, the Neroli being dry and slightly bitter, and the Orangers sweeter and much juicier. I used both about equally, relishing the differences. The Neroli cuts through humidity very well too, not that our heat is all that humid, thankfully. June 28, 2013 at 6:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: I would agree though, if I were to compare those two. Orangers en Fleurs is downright syrupy to me. I know that Suzanna loved it, but I wasn’t all that taken by it in the end. June 29, 2013 at 11:30am Reply

  • Annikky: Victoria, your description is actually more appealing to me than the original idea I formed based on the marketing blurb – a mix of herbs, white flowers and sunwarmed skin sounds great, a straight-up neroli seemed a bit boring somehow. I would have sampled it anyway, as it’s by Patricia de Nicolai, but now I’m quite excited! Are there any parallels with Weekend or not really?

    I am repeating myself, but I’m constantly astounded by the quality of PdN perfumes at this affordable price. I would love it if they got rid of the current labels (I don’t mind the bottles themselves so much) and had a functional web site, but in the end of the day it’s all irrelevant.  June 28, 2013 at 9:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Annikky, I really wish they would hire someone for a modest sum to fix their website (having redone my own and spent weeks agonizing about font and location of various boxes, I now pay more attention to the look and function of other sites.) I can even live with the bottles and labels, especially since the 1oz that comes in a rectangular stock bottle is nice enough for me. I don’t mind that they choose to spend money on juice, rather than packaging.

      As for the fragrance, I don’t find it all that similar to Weekend a Deauville. It’s really much more white floral-musky, but the unexpected touches of woody and herbal notes give it a different feel from a typical summery floral musk. June 28, 2013 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Lucas: What a beautiful and evocative review dearest Victoria.
    I’m a great fan of neroli, I love its subtle, sometimes more citrusy, white floral scent that reminds me of clear things and soap.

    I NEED to try Eau Soleil! Too bad Parfums de Nicolai doesn’t offer samples, I would buy one without too much thinking.

    I don’t risk blind buys with my student budget, so… how do I get the sample? Will ask a Posse Perfume Fairy Godmothers for help? Or is someone here who could help? I’m open to swapping! June 28, 2013 at 9:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Definitely not a good candidate for a blind buy, in my opinion! Your skin will determine a lot how it plays out, so it’s best to try first.

      Maybe, you can find someone to swap a sample, or else Surrender to Chance might be a good place. I bet they will start offering samples soon, if they don’t already. June 28, 2013 at 1:15pm Reply

      • Lucas: Yes, I will try to ask for it and swap with someone at the July episode of Perfume Fairy Godmother at Perfume Posse. June 28, 2013 at 1:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: Keeping fingers crossed! 🙂 June 29, 2013 at 11:02am Reply

  • Joanna: Beautiful review! Parfums de Nicolaï is such a gem of a line. I’ve only sampled a few of the fragrances, and really need to try more of her work. The price point is astoundingly good considering the quality of the product. June 28, 2013 at 9:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, the quality/price ratio is impressive, considering the blatant price inflation in other niche lines. I smelled today Acqua e Zucchero by Profumum Roma at $240/100ml that smelled exactly like Aquolina’s Pink Sugar at $45/50ml. And I preferred Pink Sugar. June 28, 2013 at 1:19pm Reply

  • Austenfan: This sounds really gorgeous! Different from what I expected as I supposed it was going to be in the vein of Cologne Sologne.
    As you know I am very partial to this line so I will undoubtedly try this. My favourite of all her eaux is still Eau d’Eté, which is one of these deceptively simple scents that you find you are wearing a lot. I have a bit of a troubled relationship with orange blossom so the fact that it doesn’t dominate this fragrance seems a plus to me. Thanks again, and enjoy your weekend, people keep telling me that the weather is going to improve! June 28, 2013 at 10:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I admit that it’s not my top favorite from Nicolai, and if I were to select a favorite cologne, Eau d’Ete, Cologne Sologne or L’Eau a la Folie would be my choices. But there is something unexpected about this cologne rendition. It blends the classical austerity of neroli so well with the modern musky floral that I find myself craving a bottle whenever I pass by Nicolai’s boutique.

      Have a nice weekend too! I’m planning to do nothing one of these days, but read on my balcony. So far, this fantasy has remained unattainable. June 28, 2013 at 1:28pm Reply

  • Nina Z: I was just thinking yesterday about this very issue—that our preconceived notions of what a fragrance will be can make it difficult to evaluate a perfume on its own merits. So many things color our expectations, from our ideas about the brand, to the packaging, to the “story” behind the perfume, the list of notes, and the reviews we have read. So it’s very interesting to hear your story of expectations dashed turning into a surprising revelation. “It smells like sun-dried grasses and leaves, with an occasional glimmer of soft white petals.” Of course, now that particular sentence–which sounds like it evokes the golden summer grasses of Northern California (or the South of France)–has created some interesting expectations for me! June 28, 2013 at 11:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I was talking earlier today with a friend that it’s very hard not to be influenced by the visual marketing or stories. For instance, at the office, whenever we smell new launches, we smell them blindly–an assistant hands out scented blotters, and she tells us the names of perfumes only after we smell and discuss them. This method is my favorite, because it removes all of the minutiae of marketing, stories, images and lets me focus on scent. June 28, 2013 at 1:31pm Reply

      • Nina Z: That does sound like the best way to try a fragrance. I would like to experience it myself one day. For now, since I can’t do that, I’m trying to remember to test a fragrance several times before I rule it out. And also to keep more of an open mind. It took me some time to realize that Chanel really worked well with my body chemistry and my true preferences, and that if I had to live with just one line, Chanel would probably be it for me. But I like the idea of wearing Serge Lutens so much better or someone like Andy Tauer, or at least Guerlain.

        I’d love to hear about which of the fragrances you’ve written about and/or are written about you tested blindly and which you came to with expectations. What was the most surprising fragrance you fell in love with during a blind test? June 28, 2013 at 4:11pm Reply

        • Victoria: I test most of the new launches this way, and if I can’t do it at the office, I ask my husband to spray blotters for me. This way I notice that my responses are more intuitive and less affected by the visual cues. I need to think more of specific examples, but for instance, in the perfumery school we were often asked to describe the character of a fragrance (we smelled blindly), and guess what I wrote for Tommy Girl. “androgynous, luminous, casual, imagining it on a young man, someone who likes classical fresh themes, but wants them with a twist.” That’s when I realized that until then I’ve smelled Tommy Girl with my own ideas already formed. It was refreshing to smell it with an open mind. June 29, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

          • Nina Z: I’m going to try this with two or more friends! I figure we can each come up with an interesting set of fragrances for the others to smell blind. I think it will be really fun for us perfume nerds. June 29, 2013 at 12:52pm Reply

            • Victoria: I bet it will be! I would love to hear what you end up smelling and how you will describe perfumes discovered in such a way. It’s always fun to mix niche, mass, department store, vintage, especially if you want to make it into a game. June 29, 2013 at 1:37pm Reply

  • Gila: I would imagine you can get a sample from Luckyscent, assuming they’re carrying it. Good luck. Sounds like a perfect scent for my summer tastes. June 28, 2013 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s true, Luckyscent usually offers samples of almost anything they carry. June 29, 2013 at 11:03am Reply

  • noele: This isn’t exactly related, but I was wondering if you have any idea about how the design/marketing process in niche perfumery goes? I have a distant dream of someday working in that capacity, designing labels, packaging, brand, and what-not. Any comments appreciated, thank you. June 28, 2013 at 4:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: In fact, that would be a terrific project. The main issue for niche perfumery (and this is changing, but slowly) is that the industry caters mostly to the large quantities. If you want an interesting bottle, you have to either buy a very large quantity or pay a high fee per bottle or go with the uninspired stock bottles. The marketing and design is often done in-house, and of course, there are plenty of design firms too, but it would interesting to see something targeting small lines. June 29, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

  • noele: (this label looks like it was a graphic design afterthought, kind of like some of Goutal’s bottles, which reminded me.) June 28, 2013 at 4:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: I saw the new design of Goutal bottles and boxes, and I’m a bit on the fence about them. The changes make the design look more minimalist, but it also appears cheaper and less focused somehow. The knotted cord instead of a ribbon also didn’t work for me. June 29, 2013 at 11:21am Reply

  • Rachel: I just returned from Paris and one of the highlights of my trip was a visit to their boutique. The staff was gracious and friendly and they helped me select not only perfumes for myself but also for my SO and my sister. I selected Just Une Reve and Vanilla Tonka, my SO got New York and my sister Musc Intense. I tried Eau Soleil too and I liked it, I already have many colognes or else I would buy it too. June 28, 2013 at 5:32pm Reply

    • Rachel: Your photo captured Eau Soleil very well, I thought. June 28, 2013 at 5:33pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you! I wanted something sunny, but with grasses and hot stones too. June 29, 2013 at 11:25am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m glad to hear that you had such a nice trip. Which boutique did you visit? June 29, 2013 at 11:25am Reply

      • Rachel: I went to the place on Rue Richelieu. It was close to Palais Royal, but Serge Lutens’ boutique was closed that day. June 29, 2013 at 6:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t think I’ve visited that store, but I’ve passed by it several times. June 30, 2013 at 8:12am Reply

  • annemariec: Terrific review, many thanks! For ages and ages the major decant services have not carried L’Eau a la Folie so I could never try it. Luckyscent had bottles but were not selling samples. Now, FINALLY, Luckyscent is selling samples of Folie, and when they get Soleil in, as I’m sure they will soon, I should be able to try that as well. It is winter here so I’m in no hurry. I did contemplate a blind buy of Folie but international shipping almost doubles the price of a small bottle.

    Odalisque and Number One do have a certain hauteur abut them, especially Odalisque. Number One walks an interesting line between relaxed and formal, which makes it the more versatile fragrance (for me, at least). June 28, 2013 at 5:59pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your description of Number One as walking the line between formal and casual is spot on for me. It was the first Nicolai perfume I’ve tried, and I still find it one of their best. In general, Nicolai does the effortless elegance with a retro glamour twist really well. June 29, 2013 at 11:28am Reply

  • Lynn: I want to love this line, but every perfume has the same musk or something else that doesn’t agree with me. Does anyone find the same thing? June 29, 2013 at 5:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I would be curious to hear too, but for me, I don’t really find the identical finish on all of the perfumes. However, there are many similar elements in some of these Eaux Fraiches, and I can see how Eau Soleil, and for instance, Eau a la Folie can have something similar in the drydown. June 29, 2013 at 11:31am Reply

    • annemariec: Yes, I’ve noticed similarities between some. Going from memory now, I noticed a similarity between Maharani and New York (hot spices I think), and a tuberose link between Number One, Sacrebleu and Odalisque. And Vanille Tonka is somewhere in there, seeming in my mind to be to be a bit the same as several others but I cannot say which. The one that stands out for me as having nothing in common with the others I have tried is Le Temps d’une Fete. But I have so far not tried any other other of Nicolai’s summer fragrances.

      So what I am observing is not so much a common base, as ideas explored across different perfumes. Which is what you’d expect. June 29, 2013 at 6:08pm Reply

  • Moi: Thank you for your review of this as I was just considering buying a sample. PdN is one of my absolute favorite perfume houses, quietly putting out interesting-to-great fumes with little fanfare or purple prosed pronouncements. Quality juice at a great price, with a few reaching icon status IMHO (I can’t imagine a world without No. 1). Always tweaking the conventions, too, and this one sounds like yet another delightful riff on a theme. Sure, the bottles are awful, but perhaps smart: I’m always fighting the urge to display my beautiful bottles. PdN’s stay safely in the drawer, away from light and heat :o) June 29, 2013 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with everything you wrote! And if you travel, her 1oz bottles are ideal–a small enough size to stuff into a ziplock bag should you want to pack them in your carry-on. June 29, 2013 at 11:40am Reply

    • Austenfan: I actually like the 30 ml. bottles and the 100 ml rectangular bottles. The 100 mls for the women’s fragrances are not very appealing, I agree. As I don’t display any of my bottles I don’t really mind anyway. June 29, 2013 at 6:25pm Reply

  • mina: I am trying Eau Soleil for several days now. I was suprised by it. I expected something else but it grows on me. I love Eau Ete and Eau a La Folie. I wonder about the notes. On the website of Nicolai is written Sagebrush. I love sage and I think I can smell sage in it. But you write as a note thyme. I wonder about these herbaceous notes which are wonderfully interwoven in Eau Soleil. It is refreshing and calming to me. June 30, 2013 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: It could be sage, of course. It’s likely to be a mix of a couple of herbal notes, because you really get this full, nuanced impression. I can almost feel the stems and leaves as I smell Eau Soleil (for the first 30 min especially). Like you, I find it very serene and soothing. July 1, 2013 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Sunny: ‘The mark of a good perfume is its ability to hold your attention.’ Pinnacle of eloquence. Perfectly put. July 8, 2013 at 2:15pm Reply

  • LP: I wasn’t so sure about Soleil, until I hit the beach and VOILA! It was the perfect marriage of neroli, some kind of smokiness, and the ocean. After a couple of hours, I was just huffing my arm, trying to figure out if it was the beach or the scent. Some scents just need ocean, salt, and good old-fashioned sweat. August 5, 2013 at 8:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’ve put it so well! It’s a fragrance that needs some sunshine. 🙂 August 6, 2013 at 8:39am Reply

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