Perfume Review: Armani Privé Les Éditions Couture Nuances (Limited Edition)

There is a great irony in calling a perfume “Nuances” when, for the vast majority of its life, it has none. Such is the case with the new, limited-edition, super expensive, ultra exclusive, iris fragrance from Giorgio Armani called Nuances. It is part of the prestige Privé line, and the even more exclusive sub-collection called Les Éditions Couture.

Armani Nuances 2

Nuances is an eau de parfum for men and women which was released in May 2013,  and which takes refined elegance to such stratospheric heights that it’s practically bloodless and gasping for oxygen. It made me think of a perfectly coiffed, elegant, eighty-year old dowager doddering away in seclusion on her aristocratic British estate; or of a very pale, elderly gigolo immaculately garbed in Armani who tries to fade as unobtrusively as possible into the background at a cocktail party while his current patron makes the rounds. Nuances is bloodless, simply bloodless. It’s just there — except when it’s not, because it’s decided to take off for a jaunt for and act like a ghost until it decides to grace you with its presence again.

But let’s start at the beginning. In typical Armani understatement, his website barely bothers to discuss the perfume in any detail other than a brief, completely unhelpful paragraph that bleats on about nuances, prisms, and the “juxtapositions of light and colour.” Thankfully, other sources don’t believe in his obsession with minimalism. For example, The Moodie Report says that the inspiration for the perfume was a piece of fabric, and explains how iris is the olfactory thread that needles its way through all three of the Armani Privé Couture fragrances:

Armani NuancesThe scent was inspired by an Armani fabric print, which featured in the designer’s latest fashion collection. The origin of the print was a photograph, taken using optical prisms and mirrors.

Each of the 1,000 signature bottles is dressed in the organza print; every pouch is unique, and adorned with leather ties. The lacquered green bottle is topped with a marble-like cap, in different shades of black, turquoise and anthracite. 

Iris is the key ingredient that connects all three Armani Privé Éditions Couture fragrances (Armani Privé La Femme Bleue features black iris; Armani Privé Nacre musky iris). 

The press release quoted by Harrods adds even further information and detail:

Inspired by this season’s fashion collection, Armani Prive Nuances is a brilliant reflection of the multi-faceted world of Giorgio Armani. Each of the 1,000 signature bottles comes dressed in the organza print, specially selected from Mr. Armani’s workshops in Milan. Within the pouch, the bottle itself is a work of art. Its cap, reminiscent of smooth marble, is crafted in three colours of resin making each one of them unique.

The fragrance uncovers a woody-iris accord, build around Italian orris absolute. A juxtaposition of different notes reveal an enveloping fragrance, sophisticated yet radiant, with a light note of androgyny in its woody base.

Armani doesn’t bother to list the notes for Nuances, but the sum total — as compiled from the Moodie report and Fragrantica — seems to be:

Italian orris absolute, bergamot, cinnamon, heliotrope, vetiver, vanilla, cocoa, benzoin and sandalwood.



Nuances opens on my skin with a brief flash of bergamot, followed by iris. The latter is floral, rooty, earthy, and lightly powdered all at once. Within minutes, the iris is warmed by vanilla, but it is the louder, more dominant influence of vetiver which initially has the greatest impact. When combined with the iris, it creates an earthiness that feels almost like that of damp soil.

Heliotrope. Source:

Heliotrope. Source:

The iris keeps flickering and changing in these early moments. One minute, it is infused by fresh bergamot, the next by a light, musky vanilla, then by earthy notes. Once in a while, it feels infused by an amorphous woodiness. Generally, however, Nuances is merely different degrees of floral rootiness backed by vanilla.

The vanilla is interesting because it’s a very light, sheer, dry note, but whiffs of other elements lurk underneath. Something warmer, richer, softer and creamier. It’s not custard, cinnamon, or cocoa, but some indecipherable combination of all of them. A few minutes later, the vanilla is joined by heliotrope which adds a strong element of sweet almonds that almost borders on pate d’amande or marzipan.

At the thirty minute mark, Nuances starts to shift a little. Now, it is primarily a woody, musky, iris fragrance with lightly powdered, almond-y heliotrope and vanilla. The rooty, earthy undertones have become much less dominant, as has the vetiver. Taking their place instead is a light sprinkling of white cocoa powder with the faintest dash of cinnamon. Nuances remains this way for the next hour without any significant change — except in the base. It is always an amorphous, abstract, woody muskiness infused by vanilla, but there is something increasingly unpleasant about it. There is a subtle nuance that, in some indescribable manner, feels a little cheap and almost synthetic, but not quite. Perhaps, it is the musk which reminds me of the white version in a lot of inexpensive, mass-market fragrances. Or, perhaps, it is the vanilla which feels surprisingly low quality for such an expensive fragrance. Adding to the subtle flickers of something unpleasant lurking down below is a humming in the base. Luca Turin once described ISO E Super as a “low woody hum,” and that is precisely how it is here. Later, alas, my synthetic nemesis makes a far greater appearance, resulting in a charming 2 hour headache.

Right around the 90-minute mark, Nuances becomes a skin scent and, by the two-hour one, it is nothing more than a faded, muted, almost abstract, woody muskiness with a soft, lightly powdered, floral veil that just barely — barely — translates to iris. There are no concrete, distinct, individual traces of sandalwood, vetiver, cocoa, cinnamon, or anything else for that matter.

Then, three hours in, Nuances vanishes. I put my arm right to my nostrils, and sniffed like a man dying for oxygen. I sniffed like the very best German Shepherd K9 in a drug squad. Nope, caput, finito, basta. I thought to myself, “okay, so much for longevity,” and shrugged. Then, lo’ and behold, an hour later, Nuances decides to suddenly come back. I have no idea where it decided to go, or why it decided to flounce off, but it apparently decided to revisit my arm. A few of the Chanel Exclusifs like to play “ghost,” as I call it (31 Rue Cambon, I’m looking at you in particular!), and clearly, Nuances is the same sort of animal. But, once Nuances decided to stay, it bloody well wouldn’t give up! All in all, it remained — in a nebulous, abstract, musky, woody, slightly powdered, monotonous, faintly iris-y hum — for another 11.5 hours. Granted, I had to practically inhale at my arm like a rabid, frothing, deranged animal to detect it a lot of the time, but it was absolutely there, no question about it.

Normally, I would test a fragrance with these sorts of odd characteristics at least twice — but I really couldn’t muster up the energy for Nuances. It’s not just that the perfume gave me a headache at one point from the subtle flickers of ISO E Super in the base; it’s mostly because Nuances was driving me a little mad with its linear refinement. It is so well-coiffed, so perfectly smooth, immaculate, conservative, sophisticatedly dull and unobtrusive, it verges on the mundane. I kept thinking of George Hamilton or Giorgio Armani having all the blood sucked out and replaced by embalming fluids, until they lost their perfect tans and their lifeless corpses were propped up on a chair somewhere. In fairness, I think a hardcore iris addict would probably love Nuances. Of course, that assumes that they could easily and consistently detect it on their skin — something about which I’m highly dubious. Yet, I think even they would admit that there are, in fact, few nuances to the fragrance, and that it is rather limited in both depth and range.

All of this makes Nuances shockingly over-priced. Yes, I understand it’s not only Armani Privé, but also limited-edition with only 1000 bottles made. But it’s £500.00! Nuances is not listed at all on the U.S. Armani website, so if we’re to go by the current exchange rate, that’s $760! If you want to pay a small fortune for an iris fragrance with actual nuances, and which is just slightly less difficult to obtain, then may I point you in the direction of Ormonde Jayne‘s Tsarina from the new Four Corners of The Earth Collection? It’s a lovely, incredibly elegant, sophisticated iris scent with layers, and without the many, varied problems of the Armani one. Plus, Tsarina is cheaper, too. (Well, purely on a relative scale of things….)

As you can tell, I was not a fan of Nuances. If it were a $100 (or even $150) bottle of perfume, and you were a hardcore iris addict who didn’t mind a really conservative, boring, but elegant, iris soliflore, then I’d definitely recommend giving Nuances a try to see if the nonexistent sillage and peculiar longevity issues work out for you. As it is, however, then no. Simply no.

Cost & Availability: Nuances is a limited-edition Eau de Parfum that only comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. I can’t find pricing in U.S. dollars, but it costs £500.00 or Swiss CHF 690. Nuances is shown on the International Armani Beauty website and on its UK Beauty site (where it is currently sold out). However, neither Nuances nor the rest of the Privé Couture line is shown on Armani’s U.S. website somehow. Plus, I can’t seem to figure out if you can purchase the perfume from the non-UK, international website directly, as I don’t see a button to click and put the fragrance into a cart. Armani has an Index Website listing with versions for Asia, Italy, Germany, Spain and elsewhere that you may want to use to see if Nuances is listed for your location. In the U.S.: Nuances will undoubtedly be sold at any Armani boutique that carries the Privé Collection line of fragrances. Outside the U.S.: Nuances is currently available at Harrods. I know it is available in the Middle East. Normally, I try to provide as many online retail links as possible, but in the case of Nuances, it proved to be a little hard. And, to be honest, I wasn’t very motivated.

28 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Armani Privé Les Éditions Couture Nuances (Limited Edition)

  1. Great review! I have seen a lot of people at FFF talking about Armani Nuances but I didn’t know what the all fuss was about. I didn’t even know this perfume has an iris in its notes. Damn, I’m so ignorant for all those ultra-luxurious fragrances from D&G or Armani. There once were a couple of older Armani Exclusives at Douglas in Poland but not a chance I will see Nuances there within a decade.
    The perfume sounds a little bit suitable for me.

  2. …at least the bottle is pretty? This certainly doesn’t sound £500 good, or even really £100 good. But I suppose it’s fun to say you had the chance to try something super exclusive and high end, even if it fails to meet expectations.

  3. Sorry to hear you don’t like this one much. I do understand, for something in this price range you really have to be bowled over to splurge on it. Maybe I am lucky to not have smelled the famed, La Femme Bleue, because I adore this one. Unlike quite a few people, I don’t have a problem with the longevity although it is always a soft scent. Maybe the Dubai heat and humidity are good for it. My favorite part is the powdery almond, iris, sandalwood combo which seems to just go on and on. And of course, I don’t have the ISO E issue (I know, lucky me).
    And even though I know it won’t change your mind, a bottle of this costs $550 (yes USD) here in Dubai (exclusive to Bloomingdales). There were 170 here to start with and last week they said they had about 70 left. Apparently, quite a few people around here are willing to part with that kind of money for a bottle :-). Oh, and the SA tried to convince my mom and I that the top was real marble. We were not buying it, glad you confirmed that!

    • I’m sorry I didn’t like it, too. Truly sorry, my dear. 🙁 I would have thanked you in the review for the kindness of a sample, but since the review was so negative, I didn’t want to bring you into it. As for the fragrance on your skin, I’m glad the longevity works out for you. I was surprised at the 11.5 hours persistence on my skin, all in all. The perfume had no nuances on my skin, but it sounds like you got some sandalwood at least. All that matters in the end is that you love it. The world would be a terribly boring place if we all had the same taste! Plus, this way, there is much more for you! 😀 Again, I’m sorry for the negative review.

      • No need to apologize at all! As you say, we can’t all like the same things. That would be terribly boring and then we would all be fighting to get these 1000 bottles! And I figured you didn’t mention me because of the negativity, no worries. I actually thought you were quite diplomatic in the end 🙂

  4. Wow this perfume is expensive! I do love the bottle design though. Your descriptions make me smile sometimes like the part about the “charming headache” lol sorry for the evil ISO E Super attacking you again dear Kafka. Anyway I went yesterday to the mall to buy two Mac lipsticks and was passing by the Giorgio Armani counter and smelled Armani Aqua di gioia…for some reason I didn´t like it this time, something about it smells like detergent and I can say the same about some other fragrances I sampled. By far Ysl Manifesto was the better of the bunch of commercial scents I saw yesterday hmm. It seems like this perfume is not worth the price tag from what you say, I like iris but I´m not a fanatic.
    On a side note, elderly gigolo? Does that even exist? I always thought gigolos were 20-40 year old men going out with wealthy 60-80 year old women, why would anyone want a 70 year old gigolo for example? I’m confused 😛 .

    • Nuances’ bottle is lovely! As for Acqua di Gio….. *shudder* Please, you have no idea how much that fragrance is despised by some in the perfume world for launching the “fresh, clean” laundry detergent trend. I read somewhere once that a bottle of Acqua di Gio is sold every 8 seconds someplace in the world!

      As for elderly gigolos, LOL at your questions! *grin* Yes, I’ve seen a large number of them in Monte Carlo where I spent a portion of my younger years. And in NYC, there is something called “walkers” who are elderly men of a certain type, look and style who have non-sexual but often financially lucrative, symbiotic relationships with older society ladies who need a companion for big social events.

    • Love the pun! And, alas, it is a very “meh” perfume. It’s a three, maybe four note (max!) perfume that continues in one, very boring, unoriginal, linear line. But given how it lasted 11.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin, I have to wonder how long it would last on your glue-skin. Assuming, of course, that you could even detect it.

  5. Very nice review…, Armani Privé Les Éditions Couture Nuances is certainly a great fragrance , i love the entire Armani brand , but this one is different cause is a limited edition and it is normal to be so expensive… What i do not understand is why Armani doesn’t bother to list the notes for Nuances… it is a special edition still… i do not know probably they do not respect themselves…

    • Hi there. Thanks for stopping by. How is the sillage and longevity of Nuances on your skin? And what is your favorite part about the scent? 🙂

    • Hi Fenny. Thanks for stopping by. In terms of dupes, there are none that I can think of, right off the top of my head, but then I’m not an expert on iris fragrances. It’s not a category of fragrances that I cover in extensive detail. There are a few bloggers who are hardcore iris fanatics, but they haven’t tried this fragrance. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  6. I knew that this was going to be expensive, but when I got to the price, my jaw just hit the ground. That is quite a lot of dough to drop on something that isn’t knock-your-socks off spectacular. I also laughed at Dubaiscents comment that the SA tried to convince her and her mother that the cap was marble. Reminds me of how the SA at Bloomingdale’s here tried to convince me that the Coco Noir bottle was painted. On the inside.

    Boggles, doesn’t it?

    Speaking of Nuances disappearing and reappearing, that might also be thanks to the Iso E Super, which does have that tendency to go away and come back like some kind of olfactory phantom.

    • I’ve experienced ISO E Super disappearing like a ghost, but rarely all the *OTHER* notes that accompany it as well. It’s one thing if the ISO E goes away, but the iris absolute and the rest? The whole fragrance? I’ve only had that happen with some of the Chanel Exclusifs, and 31 Ruse Cambon in specific — which didn’t have ISO E in it. So, it’s a bit baffling to me.

  7. I have yet to find an Armani or D&G perfume that rings my bell. And I am the easiest to please perfumista as I like almost everything. They just seem like pale imitations of chanels other esteemed scents from well known houses. I am happy to be pointed in the direction of a good one though, any suggestions?

    • I’m afraid I don’t have extensive knowledge of either line beyond their mainstream, commercial outputs. And those perfumes don’t ring my bell, either, Killerrabbit, though I like D&G’s The One for Men to some extent. But the high-end, privé fragrances? I’m really not au courant in a way that would warrant a recommendation. I think the problem is that my opinion of the mainstream, more accessible, commercial fragrances has not motivated me in any way to seek out the less easily accessible, high-end versions. 🙂

  8. Last month in Paris I saw it but since I almost had to pry the bottle from the SAs hands I didn’t think of putting it on my skin and tested it on paper. I liked it but not enough to think about buying it even at the regular Armani Prive prices – leave alone the “special” edition. And I just have to say: those bottles look better on pictures then in RL.

    Liked the review, Kafka. And yes, I agree with Daisy: that disappearing – re-appearing act is a book case of Iso E Super.

    • Interesting about the bottles being better in photos. Even MORE interesting is the fact that you, as a passionate iris lover, wasn’t hugely enthused about the scent, at least on paper. I think the price pretty much demands that one is really passionate about it.

      Re. the ISO E Super, as I explained to Daisy, I’m very familiar with it disappearing and re-appearing, but not all the OTHER notes which accompany it. A single ghostly note is quite common, even for things other than ISO E Super. But not a whole bloody fragrance! That’s only happened to me with a few of the Chanel Exclusifs. Judging solely by my hazy memory, I don’t think 31 Rue Cambon had any ISO E Super in it, so that was another matter entirely.

      • Well… Since I, as an iris lover and a big fan of blue bottles has succumbed to the lure of one of their previous “special” irises – La Femme Bleue – I felt like I did my part for the brand 😉 And, actually, I think it’s wrong that they keep exploiting the same ingredient third year in a row for that special perfume: I feel kind of cheated.
        Anyway… I think it was less interesting than “my” perfume (but I heard that last year’s Nacre was nice).

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