Parfums de Nicolai Eau d’Ete : Perfume Review

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“I don’t like colognes. They scream hygiene and wholesome, boring cleanliness to me,” said a friend the other day, explaining that she wants a perfume that feels fresh but still sensual.  Classical citrus colognes are very much about zest and refreshment, but it’s not hard to find options that do much more than this. For instance, Parfums de Nicolaï Eau d’Été.

eau dete

Eau d’Été has been around since 1997, but wearing it today I discover that it hasn’t lost any of its appeal. Yes, its blend of orange, lime and bergamot is as refreshing as a sip of iced lemonade, but the sprinkling of cinnamon and jasmine adds a sultry touch. There is nothing boring about it.

The top notes of Eau d’Été are the most classical part, and if you like your citrus sharp and zesty, you will enjoy the explosive opening. The sweetness of orange is contrasted with the bitterness of grapefruit. The green and floral accent of lime adds a rich layer. This introduction lasts but briefly, but it’s enough to set the mood and to give Eau d’Été a trademark cologne feel.

But the adrenaline rush of citrus is tempered quickly. Jasmine erases the sharp edges, and musk blots out citrus to the point that only a delicate sparkle is discernible. The most unexpected part is a touch of materials normally reserved for rich, opulent compositions–balsams. Many balsams smell of spicy vanilla, and in Eau d’Été they are set against the citrusy freshness so well that you won’t notice where one accord ends and another one begins. On skin, the perfume feels soft but bright; its character is playful but understated.

What’s more, Eau d’Été lives up to its summery name (it means Summer Water in French) by keeping the amount of spice moderate. There is just enough to create a pleasant fizz, without warming up the composition. The musk is used more generously, so if you like your colognes dry and woody (like Ô de Lancôme, 4711, or Acqua di Parma Colonia), then you’ll find the drydown too sweet. Your skin will determine the final effect.

Patricia de Nicolaï, the perfumer and creative mind behind the collection, has added several different colognes over the years, including Eau Soleil, L’Eau à la Folie and L’Eau Mixte, and many of them explore this classical family in new guises. We’re certainly spoiled by choice when it comes to cologne, but Eau d’Été easily holds its own.

Parfums de Nicolaï Eau d’Été includes notes of jasmine, lime, grapefruit, blood orange, cinnamon, balsam, and musk. Available at Luckyscent and New London Pharmacy. 30ml/$50, 100ml/$120.

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58 Comments

  • jillie: Well, what a coincidence! I was given a new bottle of this only yesterday as I had nearly run out of it and it is one of my favourites. But – shock! I was absolutely horrified to discover how diluted it has become. There is no mistaking the fact that it has now been very much weakened. Which version were you testing, V? The new one comes in the long rectangular bottle (a change which is probably a sure sign of reformulation), whereas the old was in the quirky curvy bottle with the blue plastic globe top. It is actually very expensive, especially now that it so fleeting – I am sad to say I won’t be wanting any more in the future. Big sigh. August 12, 2014 at 8:59am Reply

    • Aurora: Oh Jilly, I’m sorry, it is so disappointing when something you love is tempered with. Recently I had a similar experience with my beloved Cristalle (fortunately I have a half full 100ml bottle still but when this is empty what will I do?).

      It’s a lovely, lovely review Victoria, it makes me want to experience l’Eau d’Ete.

      Eau de Givency is a floral eau example I used to love in the late eighties I wonder if it’s still as lovely as I remember.

      On a positive note afterall perfumes are by nature evanescent there is the charming if not groundbreaking Noa l’Eau at a very affordable price too (I had discovered the original Noa thanks to Bois de Jasmin). August 12, 2014 at 9:54am Reply

      • jillie: Aurora – thank you for your sympathy! You and I must have very similar tastes as Cristalle was always one of my beloved fragrances and I also wonder what I will do now that it has changed (again). Victoria’s recommendation of Noa hooked me too on to that gem; I didn’t know about the Noa L’Eau, so now I shall seek that out! August 12, 2014 at 11:05am Reply

        • Victoria: I find that thinking about perfume as wine–it differs year to year–helps me get over the heartbreak of changes. But sometimes differences are too noticeable, and it’s really annoying. The hurdles that we perfume lovers face. 🙂 August 12, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

        • AnnieA: @Aurora, I too was crushed the the Cristalle reformulation. Give EL Jasmine White Moss a sniff – I ended up with a bottle as a pretty-good substitute. August 14, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

          • Aurora: Thank you Annie – it is so thoughtful of you to recommend an alternative that worked for you.

            I usually like EL fragrances very much, and they don’t reformulate their catalogue beyond recognition, so if Jasmine White Moss is a good fit, I know I’ll be able to have a steady supply.

            Thanks again and sending lovely chypre scents your way. August 19, 2014 at 8:06am Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you, Aurora! It’s different enough from your other favorites, Cristalle and Eau de Givenchy, but maybe, that’s all the more reason to try it. 🙂 August 12, 2014 at 12:47pm Reply

        • Aurora: Victoria, thank you. I will definitely seek out L’Eau d’Ete, your review is so tempting.

          So struck by your comparison of perfume and wine. So apt.

          Perhaps, I can console myself by keeping a few vintage bottles for reference, so as not to be blind to the changes that have occurred in the perfume world these last few years, and manage to be grateful for the infinite new offerings and the advent of niche perfumes.

          Jillie: Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply about Eau de Givenchy – Ouf, the relief to know it is not unrecognizable. I think I will try, investigate and hopefully get a bottle when I next go to France. August 13, 2014 at 6:01am Reply

      • jillie: Oh Aurora I should have said: I got a bottle of Eau de Givenchy last year because I too remembered how much I liked that in the 80s. It wasn’t very different (just a bit weaker!) and I have enjoyed wearing it in our hot weather. It’s very difficult to find though. Givenchy briefly had it in their Les Mythiques range but I suspect they have now discontinued it. If you can get a bottle, I would still recommend it. August 12, 2014 at 2:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Jillie, I just bought a new bottle at the boutique (couldn’t resist the smallest size), so that’s what I’m reviewing. I don’t have any other version to compare it to, but it smells wonderful to me and it lasts for the whole day.

      As for the reformulations, everything on the market today that’s older than a couple of years is reformulated. Absolutely everything. The only question remains how close the reformulated version stays to the original. Without comparing side by side, I can’t say what’s different about Eau d’Ete today. I still like it. August 12, 2014 at 12:26pm Reply

      • jillie: You are so right about reformulation, and I have to remind myself that every perfume throughout time changes each time a new vat is prepared.

        I think Eau d’Ete is lovely still and that I judge it harshly purely because I know it so well and am disappointed with it now. I am a “stick in the mud” and don’t like change! August 12, 2014 at 2:32pm Reply

        • Victoria: Believe me, I feel your frustration! The main problem for me is not so much the reformulation itself, but not knowing whether the bottle will contain the same or different juice. A friend bought Chanel No 5 parfum based on an older samples, and she was very disappointed to discover that the perfume didn’t smell the same. If she even suspected that it would be different, she wouldn’t have splurged. And imagine, No 5 parfum is not some cheap thrill. August 12, 2014 at 5:34pm Reply

          • jillie: Thanks, Victoria. Your poor friend. I was thinking only the other day how the Chanel No 5 I wore as a teenager seems to be so unlike the one offered today; years and years of tweaks and reformulations have mounted up to produce a quite different fragrance (in my opinion!). As you say, alterations now happen at an alarming rate (probably faster than at any other time) so we poor perfumistas can no longer know for certain what we will end up with when buying a bottle, even when we have only recently tried a sample. And of course the stores don’t always replace testers when the latest batch comes in. It really is a case of “caveat emptor”! August 13, 2014 at 3:37am Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, poor friend! hopely it was a 7ml bottle.
              I am thinking of a bottle of No5 pure perfume. Is it still woth buying?
              I was very disappointed by the new Edt, but still love the Edp. August 13, 2014 at 5:38am Reply

              • Victoria: I think that No 5 parfum is definitely worth buying. It smells amazing to me, and the quality is impressive. I don’t have a particular benchmark for No 5 and I liked all of the versions of it. August 13, 2014 at 11:16am Reply

              • solanace: Agree, the new EdT was so flat, and it disappeared withing minutes from my skin! August 13, 2014 at 12:23pm Reply

            • Victoria: Oh, the testers is another frustrating matter. And how often are they off having been baked in the bright lights? August 13, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

  • Sarah: My sweetheart bought it for me on a trip to Paris and I’m loving it. It’s not too heavy for our southern summers and smells great on me. August 12, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s definitely bright enough to work on a hot day, and it transitions nicely into the evening. 🙂 August 12, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

  • Sandra: This sounds fantastic-
    I will have to give it a try
    I am all about light colognes this summer-I am wearing Eau de cologne by chanel almost everyday and sometimes layering it with other perfumes.

    My favorite from Parfums de Nicolai is Juste un Reve- they have a nice collection at New London Pharmacy in NYC
    I also like their candles-though they are getting harder and harder to find. August 12, 2014 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Juste Un Reve is one of my favorites too. I also like her Odalisque in the summer, because it blooms especially beautifully. I spotted a big collection of home scents at their boutique, but I haven’t purchased any candles recently. August 12, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

  • SophieC: Thank you – I shall have to keep my promise to myself and explore the PdN shop.

    I found the opening lines really interesting – I used to think that too but find there is a real hidden sensuality in the drydown of O de Lancome, and I get endless compliments when I wear Eau Dynamisante. The fact I have to refresh it often actually means it refreshes me during the day. Would love to know what you think of this one? August 12, 2014 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I like Eau Dynamisante very much for its uplifting character. Wearing it is like stepping under the sprinklers on a sweltering day–instant refreshment. August 12, 2014 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Elisa: Sophie, I plan to review this one soon! Hopefully before summer is over. The drydown has a lot of chypre in it. August 12, 2014 at 2:44pm Reply

    • OperaFan: I had some Eau Dynamisante back in the ’90s. I loved it then but haven’t gotten any since. No doubt it too has changed…

      I’ve worn very little fragrances this summer because I’ve not been working. Applying fragrances have become such a part of my pre-workday prep routine that not working has really cut into my practices. The husband has gotten me into doing outdoor exercises at the local reservoire so between that and gardening, I’ve been wearing more eau de bug repellent than anything else. 🙁 August 12, 2014 at 8:18pm Reply

  • Patricia: I own this one and like the cinnamon, musk and balsam in it, which sets it apart from other summer fragrances I think. August 12, 2014 at 11:43am Reply

    • Victoria: It does! Those touches really play up the cool citrus part. August 12, 2014 at 12:32pm Reply

  • allgirlmafia: Random question- is Neroli synonymous with Orange Blossom?

    Speaking of colognes, I just received an order in the mail yesterday of Acqua Di Parma samples. The Colonia cologne was the first I tried. I found it nice, fresh and kinda ‘meh’. I’m wearing Iris Nobile today tho, it might be love…we’ll see. August 12, 2014 at 11:45am Reply

  • spe: The heaviness of d’ete bothered me each time I wore it. Might be the jasmine – balsam combo. It just got stronger and sweeter with every hour of wear. Your review is excellent! August 12, 2014 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s true! It does get sweeter over time, so that’s something to keep in mind. I know that many like their colognes as dry as a good martini. 🙂 August 12, 2014 at 12:35pm Reply

  • limegreen: Thank you for such a timely post. I was getting curious about Eau d’ete as I just placed an order for PdN L’eau Mixte (thanks for your review on this one, it was so helpful) because I love rotating citrus type fragrances as it gets warmer. (Victoria — your earlier post about AdP’s Colonia and recurring dreams re: acquiring citrus fragrances of similar dimensions, this resonated with me! Always looking for aromatic citrus fragrances in the summer!)

    Indulgent question for those who of you have tried Eau d’Ete and Diptyque’s cologne (l’eau) series — I was wondering about how the former compares with two that I have and enjoy: L’eau de l’eau (cinnamon spicy) and L’eau de tarocco (blood orange)? L’eau de l’eau lasts a while on my skin. (I know I can get samples but the 100 degree weather messes with my mail; with packages they get placed on my shaded porch. Last sample batch I got sat in the hot metal mailbox all day. The Durga boston ivy and other green fragrance samples I got all smelled the same — meaning no fragrance at all, other than smelling faintly like tap water.) August 12, 2014 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried Diptyque colognes recently, so I don’t remember them that well. I recall, however, that they vanished from my skin very quickly, but the start of Eau de Tarocco was very pleasant.

      Patricia wrote that review of Colonia, but I completely agree with her. It’s fun to explore all of the citrus permutations, which seem endless. August 12, 2014 at 12:46pm Reply

      • limegreen: Thanks for the response! How embarrassing, sorry about mixing up the reviewers! I love reading your blog and don’t always look at the header to see who is writing it. All the writing is elegant and fun at the same time. Apologies for the mix-up! August 12, 2014 at 5:13pm Reply

        • Victoria: Patricia is such a wonderful writer, so I’m flattered that you thought that it was my review. 🙂 Thank you for your kind words. August 12, 2014 at 5:29pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely review of my favourite of the Nicolaï’s summer eaux. It’s one of the few fragrances that I always bring on my holidays; it just never bores me. August 12, 2014 at 2:48pm Reply

    • Victoria: I just realized I’ve been wearing it since 2005 or so! Yes, it doesn’t bore either. 🙂 August 12, 2014 at 5:31pm Reply

    • AndreaR: It never bores me either. Eau d’Eté is my summer favorite. August 12, 2014 at 6:28pm Reply

    • Erin T: Austenfan and Victoria, we are agreed, as usual. I still always take it on vacation with me, as well. I love a few of the Nicolai Eaux – Folie, Mixte and Chic – but Ete is my first love. August 14, 2014 at 9:55am Reply

  • rainboweyes: My favourite Nicolaï is Violette in Love. As I’m not a big citrus lover, I haven’t explored the eaux yet. But maybe I should – they seem to be very special! August 12, 2014 at 5:19pm Reply

    • rainboweyes: My favourite cologne at the moment is Annick Goutal Vetiver, by the way. I prefer my colognes fresh but without citrus. August 12, 2014 at 5:23pm Reply

      • Victoria: AG’s Vetiver is one of the gold standards for me. The cologne version is lighter, but I still like it very much. August 12, 2014 at 5:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Eau a la Folie is probably one of my favorite fruity scents. It’s a blend of fruit and citrus with a dose of moss. August 12, 2014 at 5:30pm Reply

  • solanace: I gave a decant to my mom and she loves the cinnamony accent. Actually, I am a huge fan of Parfums de Nicolai, everything, literally every single thing I tried from them was a hit. Vanille Tonka, Sacrebleu and Le Temps d´Une Fête are among my all time favorites. How do you like their Rose Oud, Victoria, is it Epic-like? August 12, 2014 at 7:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: I didn’t like the oud series. Rose Oud was ok, a musky woody rose, but Amber Oud bordered on unpleasant. It seemed not quite there and not quite Nicolai. August 13, 2014 at 11:11am Reply

      • Austenfan: That’s a pity. I was kind of hoping they would be good. I will order samples, but you have “saved” me from blind buying them. August 13, 2014 at 12:24pm Reply

        • Victoria: I like Parfums de Nicolai very much, but these seem more to just follow the oud trend. The new Musc Monoi, on the other hand, is beautiful. August 14, 2014 at 6:41am Reply

          • Austenfan: Oh good, it sounded very tempting, and more in the De Nicolaï spirit.

            I recently had the occasion to (briefly) try the Cartier Ouds. It cannot be my favourite note, although I love M7, as I didn’t really enjoy any of them. August 14, 2014 at 1:07pm Reply

      • solanace: Good to hear, thank you for your straightfowardness, Victoria. There is no Parfums de Nicolai counter here, and I have to order my samples, which then might take months to arrive… And there are many others on ´the line´, including her other rose, several of the eaux, Maranih… August 13, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, if you have to mail order, then maybe something else will be more worthwhile. Honestly, with so many great ouds and dark roses out there, one can find better options. August 14, 2014 at 6:42am Reply

  • OperaFan: The cinnamon sounds intriguing, though I’m not sure about the prolonged sweetness of vanilla (balsams) and musk. I have Guerlain’s Cologne du 68, which I love – sort of like a softened and more flowery version of Jicky.

    My PdN cologne is L’eau Mixte – the one with the geranium and mint notes which I found to be rather unique. August 12, 2014 at 8:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you find the finish of Cologne du 68 ok, then you won’t have an issue with Eau d’Ete, but Cologne du 68 is probably even more complex.

      L’Eau Mixte is excellent too. I have a soft spot for minty, sharp notes, and it delivers. August 13, 2014 at 11:12am Reply

      • OperaFan: Oops! I meant L’eau Chic….
        🙂 August 13, 2014 at 11:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: I figured it out when I glanced at my perfume shelf. 🙂 I myself keep confusing the names of all these colognes. August 14, 2014 at 6:34am Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: L’eau d’été is a favorite of mine too! Rare are the perfume that have reached a daily use with me.
    Rare also are the perfumes that lives up to the “it feels too good” reputation of cologne and their “you can’t do it wrong” dosage.
    L’eau d’été fit with for almost all occasion, weather and state of mind.

    It verges on citric functional product to some nose, but I don’t care, it smells too good. Hedione and lime being very overused ingredients. Somehow here it feels natural. I like to spray it on fabric, where the hesperidic sparkle and the jasmine tinge hang on most of the day, it’s almost a little thunderbolt of dynamising pleasure on my clothes.

    After Jillie’s comment, I’ll try it anew in shop the next time I can, to see if actually it has changed. August 12, 2014 at 8:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also wear it year round, especially in the winter when one needs a boost and a reminder of warm summer days.

      Curious to hear what you think about the new vs older versions. August 13, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

  • Figuier: Lovely review, Victoria! I have samples of a few of the Nicolai Eaux (Ete, Mixte, and Soleil) and do wear them occasionally, with enjoyment. They’re great poppy compositions which feel kind of early 90s to me.

    Overall though I think I prefer my “eaux” more classical and drier, with no tropical fruit or mint or balsams. I love Bigarade Concentree, and have been wearing my sample to death; Clarins Eau Dynamisante and AG Eau D’Hadrien edt are other favourites. The martini analogy is a good one – I like those super dry too! August 13, 2014 at 6:51am Reply

    • Victoria: So true! I didn’t think about it at first, but you’re right about the early 90s feel. 🙂 August 13, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

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