Parfums de Nicolai L’eau Mixte : Fragrance Review

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Not just another simple cologne. Elisa on Parfums de Nicolaï’s L’eau Mixte.

If there’s one perfume category I’ve heard people call “boring” the most, it’s citrus. Perhaps it’s because there is less variation among citrus scents than, say, orientals or florals—a rose perfume, a tuberose perfume, and an iris perfume smell nothing alike, but lemon, orange, and grapefruit have a fair amount of olfactory overlap. Or maybe it’s because citrus scents don’t—can’t—evolve much on skin because they don’t last long enough to evolve; they are fleeting, volatile molecules by nature, destined to be top notes.

Raphaelle-Peale-A-Dessert

I must admit I have some of the same reservations about citrus-centric perfumes. I’ve got a few in my collection, and on a hot day, a few spritzes of a crisp citrus chypre like Clarins Eau Dynamisante or Monsieur Balmain hits the spot. But I don’t reach for them often, and I almost always end up putting something else on later. So to make me sit up and take notice, a citrus scent has to be pretty unusual.

L’eau Mixte, Parfums de Nicolaï’s eau de cologne release for summer 2010, was the first citrus to take me by surprise in years. Primarily a grapefruit perfume, it manages to be both refreshing and rich, hitting so many pleasurable notes at once—sweet, tangy, green, herbal—that it feels like getting out of a car to breathe in a big lungful of cool mountain air. Most citrus scents have a bracing quality, but L’eau Mixte is exceptionally bracing.

The complex top notes are tart and aromatic, like the sweet, fragrant oils on your fingers after you peel a grapefruit, along with the more bitter notes of dried orange peel or bergamot tea. A hint of mint adds a tingly freshness. There’s also a big hit of pungent blackcurrant, with its grassy, leafy, and sour-berry aspects. It’s the blackcurrant that turns L’eau Mixte pink, even sunset-colored in my mind, rather than orange or yellow. Like a great Campari cocktail—the Negroni is my favorite drink—it gets the mix between bitter and sweet just right. The floral notes, jasmine and what smells like green orange flower, are there just to fill it out, not to steal the show.

Citrus scents are traditionally associated with summer, but this one is full-bodied and long-lasting enough that it transitions well into fall, especially if you live in a climate with sunny Indian summers. The oakmoss in the woody vetiver base is not pronounced enough to make L’eau Mixte feel like a true chypre, but it does give the whole an earthy, rounded feel. There’s also a slight vanillic quality to the musk, so it gets sweeter as it dries down. (Some find grapefruit intimidatingly bitter; this might win you over.)

If you love grapefruit and blackcurrant together, as in Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune or Moschino Funny!, give L’eau Mixte a try—it’s beautifully done, especially at Nicolai’s temptingly affordable price point.

nicolai eau mixte

Parfums de Nicolaï L’eau Mixte includes notes of blackcurrant buds, peppermint, lemon, cinnamon, rose, jasmine, vetiver, oakmoss and musk. Available from Lucky Scent for $45/30 ml or $115/100 ml.

Painting: Raphaelle Peale, A Dessert (Still Life with Lemons and Oranges), 1814, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, via wiki-images.

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31 Comments

  • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for the review, Elisa. Citrus perfumes are great for giving an immediate boost. Recently, I received a bottle of grapefruit and cederwood cologne (I don’t know whether anyone has heard of a brand called Durance) as a gift from a friend and I’ve been wearing it in the evening after the shower to refresh myself after a tiring day. I love grapefruit and what I especially like is its slight bitterness. Mint is another note I like so it sounds like L’eau Mixte is a must try for me. How sweet is it compared to AA Pamplelune? October 31, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

    • Elisa: You know, Anne, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve smelled Pamplelune so I hestitate to give you a definitive answer, but in my memory, it’s a little sweeter than Pamplelune, but not as sweet as Funny! I feel that it’s in perfect balance, however, in terms of sweetness and tartness/bitterness. October 31, 2013 at 10:01am Reply

      • Anka: I get quite little grapefruit and much of the mint and oakmoss-vetiver, whereas Pamplelune is – for my nose – sweeter and more luscious.
        I often connect smell with colour, too and see L’Eau Mixte pink with different shades of green (from pastel green to dark green) and hazelnut brown whilst Pamplelune is orange and yellow. L’Eau Mixte is a wonderful autumn scent, so tangy, the comparison with bergamot tea is very appropriate. Thanks for the beautiful review! October 31, 2013 at 5:08pm Reply

        • Elisa: Thank you Anka! Glad to hear from someone who is more intimately familiar with AA Pamplelune.

          I also see L’Eau Mixte in shades of rich pink and green. October 31, 2013 at 5:26pm Reply

        • Anne of Green Gables: Thank you, Anka. Your description has compelled me even more to try L’Eau Mixte. November 1, 2013 at 9:00am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: Thank you, Elisa and thanks for bringing this perfume to my attention. November 1, 2013 at 8:53am Reply

  • zari: I’ll tell you why I don’t often like citrus scents: I can’t take them seriously. Not only are they fleeting, they don’t have any complexity or depth of emotion that many other perfumes that I love evoke in my mind. Often I am left to wonder, “okay, so what” after I’ve smelled one. Maybe I’m trying the right ones, but then again I tend to stay from them almost as much as I do from “sea” scents. October 31, 2013 at 4:15pm Reply

    • Elisa: I usually feel the same way! This one has so much character though. It’s almost piney. October 31, 2013 at 4:18pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely review of a lovely fragrance. I like all of the Nicolaï’s summer Eaux, L’Eau d’Eté is still my favourite but Mixte is a close second!

    Citrus perfumes and colognes are actually one of my favourite genres. I don’t find them lacking in any way. Just a nice pause between more demanding perfumes. October 31, 2013 at 5:52pm Reply

    • Elisa: I ordered samples of a bunch of the summer scents in the late spring — then got so distracted by L’Eau Mixte I barely tried the others. I need to revisit L’Eau d’Ete!

      Which is your favorite citrus or cologne? October 31, 2013 at 7:03pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Favourite cologne is without a doubt Eau de Guerlain. October 31, 2013 at 7:25pm Reply

    • Jillie: Yay, Austenfan, L’Eau d’Ete is my favourite too! I love the fact that it is peachy, green, zingy, fresh and mellow all at once. November 1, 2013 at 5:33am Reply

      • Jillie: Oh no, another muddled moment! I do indeed love L’Eau d’Ete, because it is so limey but sweet in a not foodie way, but it is really L’Eau a la Folie that is my favourite, for the reasons above. PdN did a d’Ete soap, which was so gorgeous and my introduction to the fragrance. November 1, 2013 at 5:35am Reply

        • Austenfan: I love your muddled comments!

          L’Eau à la Folie is a wonderful fragrance too. Did you ever try the Exotique and/or Turquoise? November 1, 2013 at 7:50am Reply

          • Jillie: No, sadly. November 1, 2013 at 8:18am Reply

  • Alicia: What an enticing review! To be remembered for next summer. For a very long time now, during the warm seasons, I have been stealing from my husband his Eau Sauvage. Perhaps this will stop my thefts. October 31, 2013 at 6:01pm Reply

    • Elisa: I love Eau Sauvage too, almost as much for the ravishing name as for the scent! October 31, 2013 at 7:04pm Reply

  • MontrealGirl: Though there are many citruses, only a few are REALLY good so it is always exciting to discover a new one. I’m constantly on the lookout. I’ve found my preferred lemon citrus (Chanel Exclusif Eau de Cologne), bigarade (Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree) and blood orange (Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine). All that is missing is lime and grapefruit. Thanks for the intro; I am off to order a sample from LuckyScent. October 31, 2013 at 6:22pm Reply

    • Elisa: Perhaps this will be your grapefruit! My recommendation for lime is Diptyque Oyedo — an intense green lime with enough mint that it actually feels cool on your skin! October 31, 2013 at 7:05pm Reply

  • annemariec: Darn, I’m on a path to get L’Eau a la Folie for myself for Xmas, and I don’t want to be distracted! Still, Folie is a different beast, quite fruity as well as citrusy, and the mossy feel is very pronounced as well. Calyx falls broadly into the same category (minus the moss, these days), and all claim Diorella as an ancestor. The fun is watching the fresh citrusy notes fight it out with the over-ripe pulpy fruit. L’Eau Mixte sounds different because of the sour berry aspect.

    Anyway, thanks for the review! October 31, 2013 at 6:52pm Reply

    • Elisa: Hi Anne Marie! I have not tried Folie yet, but it sounds delicious.

      I’m with you on Calyx — I love the fizzy vivaciousness of the tropical fruit notes, but the drydown on the current version leaves me cold. October 31, 2013 at 7:08pm Reply

      • annemariec: Yes, I’m so sad I came to Calyx too late to experience the original. But I can enjoy the current version as long as I think of it as a cologne. Colognes usually don’t have much of a base anyway (the Nicolais being an exception) so I’m not so disappointed. And I feel I can apply Calyx pretty lavishly, as with a cologne.

        Do try Folie if you get a chance – I think it’s really quite special. I’m nursing my small sample until Christmas, when I get my self-gifted FB. Yay! November 1, 2013 at 4:07am Reply

        • Jillie: Hi, AM! I agree with everything you say, and I am sad that you never knew Calyx in the old days …. But how wonderful to be getting L’Eau a la Folie for Christmas – it’s my favourite of all the PdN range. November 1, 2013 at 5:39am Reply

          • annemariec: Thanks, yes, I’ve heard a number of people say that! And I’m keen to get Folie soon because on the Nicolai website it is listed under ‘limited diffusion’. Apparently this is not a comment on the sillage – these are the perfumes that will be pulled from the line at some stage. Le Temps d’une Fete is also on that list. Sad face. November 1, 2013 at 5:56pm Reply

        • Elisa: I’ll definitely get a sample. I love those little 30 ml bottles PdN offers. November 1, 2013 at 10:19am Reply

  • solanace: Thank’s for this really nice review, Elisa, I’ve been on a citrus binge lately! I had avoided anything fresh for ages, being a Shalimar – Magie Noire – Chergui kind of person. But now I think, like Austenfan, that citrus can be great too. Now, my empty decants of Orange Sanguine, Eau de Guerlain, Eau d’Hadrien and Eau d’Orange Verte all tell me that I’ll need a cologne full bottle. :) Gotta try other Nicolai Colognes, I love many of her perfumes but really hated l”Eau d”Eté – that cinnamon felt so disturbing! November 1, 2013 at 3:42am Reply

    • Elisa: Cinnamon CAN be disturbing when overdone! Don’t fear the cinnamon in the notes for L’Eau Mixte — I barely noticed it at all. November 1, 2013 at 10:16am Reply

  • Figuier: Thanks for this review Elisa, it really helps me make sense of EM, which I have in sample format and have worn a few times, but find hard to get to grips with. It’s as though I can picture what I’m getting with a more ‘classic’ cologne (L’Eau d’Hadrien) or a green tea (The pour un Ete), but this, as you say, is something different, and tends to evade my attempts at assessment. I’ll definitely look out for that blackcurrant note, which I haven’t picked out before.

    I think citrus is a great genre, and actually quite hard to get right. In terms of complexity I guess one might pack a larger range of notes or effects into an oriental, but more is not always more, and elegant/playful simplicity is something I always appreciate. November 1, 2013 at 4:59am Reply

    • Elisa: I have felt that way sometimes with scents — often I can make sense of the thing if I try it in different weather or put on a lot more of it!

      “More is not always more” — very true, though I do tend to be drawn to big, baroque perfumes. November 1, 2013 at 10:17am Reply

  • Jillie: I really enjoyed reading this, Elisa, especially as I have bought a bottle already for my husband for Christmas. He has always been an Eau Sauvage fan, but is disappointed with the latest reformulation. Although EM isn’t going to exactly replace the ES, I am hoping he will enjoy the “smack in your face” citrus tang and grapefruit astringency; I think he will appreciate the blackcurrant note as he likes red berries, and sometimes wears Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir, which reminds me of blackcurrants! November 1, 2013 at 5:44am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, I hope he does enjoy it! Blackcurrant is one of my favorite smells. If Pulp were cheap I’d wear it all the time. November 1, 2013 at 10:18am Reply

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