Majda Bekkali Tendre Est la Nuit : Perfume Review

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Patricia’s reading of Tender is the Night via scent, Majda Bekkali’s Tendre Est la Nuit.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of my favorite authors in high school and later as an English major in college. Tender Is the Night, begun in 1925 but not published until 1934, is the story of Dick Diver, an eminent psychiatrist, and his wife and former patient Nicole. Nicole was modeled after Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda, who suffered from alcoholism and recurrent bouts of mental illness. Fitzgerald himself wrote, “Gatsby was a tour de force, but this [Tender Is the Night] is a confession of faith.”

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Tendre Est la Nuit by Majda Bekkali was created with perfumer Delphine Thierry as homage to Zelda, who lived in the shadows, first of her famous husband, then of her own deteriorating mental state and subsequent institutionalization. Majda Bekkali “wanted to tell what may be the opposite of the noisy and turbulent world where we live…but when we extract ourselves from the noisy world, some danger lurks around and reason falters, the animality emerges.”

While I have some issues with a perfume that romanticizes the very real darkness of mental illness, that does not alter the fact that Tendre Est la Nuit is an exceptionally lovely fragrance in a stunner of a bottle. The top notes of immortelle and ambrette open a little roughly with a wine-laced fizz that almost immediately settles into a wood-rubbed leather worthy of such predecessors as Robert Piguet’s Bandit and Chanel Cuir de Russie.

With moderate projection, this fragrance continues to please relatively unchanged for a good five to six hours, gradually becoming increasingly woody in nature, reminiscent of the inside of an empty cedar spice chest. I don’t get danger from this perfume, it is all warmth and comfort.

The fragrance, though beautiful, is not especially innovative, but the quality of the ingredients is impeccable and the balance of them, perfection. I would love to have on my dresser the elliptical brown glass base with its oval rosewood cap, like two stones situated in a state of grace, one on top of the other. It is a true work of art.

Majda Bekkali Tendre Est la Nuit Eau de Parfum includes notes of immortelle, ambrette and carrot seeds, cabreuva, davana, pepper, Sichuan pepper, benzoin, leather, labdanum, oakmoss, incense, patchouli, castoreum. Available at LuckyScent. 120 ml/ $230

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25 Comments

  • yomi: Gosh! Lovely review. And I just love the bottle. I find it interesting to find inspiration from characters in a book- though like you said , I don’t find a mentally unstable person inspiring!

    I’m aware that the Danielle Steele line from the elizabeth arden group also features fragrances inspired by the characters in her book.

    I haven’t sniffed this and would definitely love to! I don’t mind uninnovative fragrances so long as they are well crafted and have a decent enough technical performance and aesthetic appeal.

    Lovely review! Well done. February 12, 2014 at 9:18am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, yomi! This is such a beautifully done fragrance that I had to give it four stars even if it doesn’t break new ground.

      The bottle is even more gorgeous in person. No expense was spared on this perfume in design or execution, which explains, I guess, its quite high price. February 12, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

  • Kate: I love your review, especially the comparison to my favorite Cuir de Russie. Is immortelle very strong here? I like it only in small doses or else I smell like maple syrup. Anyone else has this issue? February 12, 2014 at 9:34am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Kate, As I’m currently covered in fruity-floral fragrances (don’t ask…), I sprayed Tendre on paper to sample. The immortelle does fade, but is definitely a big presence in the opening.

      You will have to test it to see if it bothers you. (I like the smell of maple syrup!) 🙂 February 12, 2014 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Gerda: I already love love love Mon nom est rouge, so I definitely want to try this one. Great review. February 12, 2014 at 10:53am Reply

  • Patricia: Thank you so much, Gerda! Please let me know what you think when you try Tendre. I haven’t heard much about it from the perfume reviewers so am not sure what others think of it. February 12, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: This sounds lovely. I’m a sucker for immortelle, and that bottle, gosh, that bottle sure is a stunner! I also love the leather of Bandit, it’s one of my favorites, so that is certainly enticing. Thanks for the review, I’d love to give it a sniff. February 12, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Ashley, Please do give Tendre a try if you get the chance to do so, especially since you are an immortelle lover. February 12, 2014 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Elena: What a bottle! I just happened to re-read Gatsby this week for the first time in many years. I am going to pretend that the immortelle will be too much for me and not even sample this because I’m not sure I could say no to something you compare to Cuir de Russie, and in that gorgeous bottle to boot! February 12, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Elena, Gatsby the movie was a disaster, nowhere near as good as the book. Did you see it? Tender Is the Night was my favorite, however, and I love the perfume in its honor. February 12, 2014 at 6:20pm Reply

  • Isis: Wauw, this sounds divine. And what a lovely review, thank you! I had actually never heard of Majda Bekkali, and I can’t find many other reviews of her perfumes, not here and not on other blogs. Are they very new, or just very much under the radar? February 12, 2014 at 3:26pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Isis, Majda Bekkali launched her line Sculptures Olfactives in 2010, so it still is relatively new and also, I think, relatively under the radar.

      I’d love to hear from those of you who have tried either this fragrance or others from the Sculptures Olfactives line. Tendre is my first foray into Majda Bekkali perfumes, and so far I’m impressed! February 12, 2014 at 6:31pm Reply

      • Isis: I’ll see if I can find a webshop in the Netherlands that can send me a sample, I am super curious. To be honest, I don’t really care that much whether a perfume is very innovative. If it a scent is a variation on something that has been out there for some time, but a very good variation, that’s fine with me. Sometimes the little nuances and the tiny differences can mean that a perfume hits exactly the right spot. February 13, 2014 at 3:48am Reply

        • Merlin: Isis, I’m totally with you on that one. Perfume historians can clamor over the wonder of Angel, but personally I find many of the perfumes it inspired/spawned to be improvements – they just smell better to me. February 13, 2014 at 5:29am Reply

  • Alyssa: Awesome review! I love the origin of this and it does sound intriguing. But I can’t tell if I love or hate the bottle. It reminds me of tranquility and meditation but I feel like in person it would look like crud or a mess on my nightstand. I guess I’d have to see in person! February 12, 2014 at 3:53pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Alyssa, The bottle is even more beautiful in person than in the photographs. My husband gave it to me for Christmas, and I adore both the bottle and its contents! February 12, 2014 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Ann: Hi Patricia,

    Wow. That is so interesting. I smell the same notes you do in this fragrance, but I get a totally different vibe. For me, Cuir de Russie is butter-soft leather with iris root and makes me think of handbags that I can never afford (I do love Cuir!). Tendre feels just like its bottle looks–earthy, pebbly, woodsy… something I might find left on the dresser in a cabin by a lake. At first I get a hint of cumin and wool, which might be the castoreum. The fragrance quickly morphs into the smell of a person’s skin warmed by a fire, leather, and Sichuan pepper. On me, the drydown is a gorgeous mix of amber, woods, and, yes, just a wee bit of maple… which is perhaps why I didn’t make a connection between the scent and the Fitzgerald book. Food for thought! February 12, 2014 at 7:26pm Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Ann, I love your comparison of Tendre to something left on the dresser in a cabin by the lake. I don’t get the same cumin and wool notes you do, but agree with you on the drydown of woods, amber, and a bit of maple. Just beautiful!

      I look forward to trying some of the other fragrances by Majda Bekkali. February 12, 2014 at 8:30pm Reply

    • Isis: Oh dear. I need to start saving money. Cumin and wool? Skin warmed by fire and leather? And all that in a cabin nearby a lake? That’s just about the sexiest description of a scent I can think of. February 13, 2014 at 7:41am Reply

      • Patricia: I’m wearing it today, Isis, and it’s so beautiful on a snowy morning. Tendre is an interior, meditative scent, perfect when worn primarily for one’s own pleasure. February 13, 2014 at 8:20am Reply

      • Ann: I think it is a very sensual fragrance! Not raunchy or skanky, but…errr… how can put it? Warm and inviting. February 13, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

        • Patricia: Perfectly put, Ann! February 13, 2014 at 1:39pm Reply

  • Karina: Wow the notes sound very unusual to me and I agree the bottle is lovely, and conveys the meaning of the word tender to me. February 13, 2014 at 5:08am Reply

    • Patricia: One of the best bottle designs in recent memory, I think. I wouldn’t buy a perfume just for the bottle, but if a great perfume just happens to have outstanding packaging, all the better! February 13, 2014 at 8:23am Reply

  • Lisa Daisy: Sometimes having mental illness (such as schizophrenia in my case) goes hand in hand with being a perfumista. For that reason, I applaud Bekkali’s bold decision to use Zelda Fitzgerald as muse and inspiration. After all, why should we be ignored as inspiration, just because those without mental illness feel uncomfortable??

    There, I said my bit. Now, to score a bottle for myself!! May 30, 2014 at 4:59pm Reply

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