An innocent candied confection, a warm gourmand inspired by thoughts of night falling on caramelized sticky oranges, lying next to a turquoise pool. That was the inspiration behind Une Nuit à Doha, a gourmand fragrance centered on immortelle and created by Stéphane Humbert Lucas.
Une Nuit à Doha is a brand new, 2014 parfum extrait from Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 (hereinafter just referred to as “SHL 777” or “777“). All the perfumes are created by Monsieur Lucas, who used to be the in-house nose for SoOud and Nez à Nez. Up to now, the 777 line was exclusive to Europe, Russia, and Middle Eastern, but there is excellent news. The complete SHL 777 line should be coming to America in a few weeks, including the stunning amber, O Hira, that was previously contractually limited to Harrods and to Printemps, along with such new releases as Qom Chilom and the Cambodian oud, smoke and leather, Oud 777. They will be carried at Luckyscent and Osswald NYC. I have samples of the complete line, thanks to the generosity and kindness of Monsieur Lucas, and I will be going through them, one by one (though perhaps with some breaks and perhaps not all in a row) so that you will be well prepared when 777 hits the stores.
Une Nuit à Doha is a pure parfum that Monsieur Lucas initially described to me as follows:
“A Mandarin against the light”
Fennel – crystallized Mandarin – Ginger
Immortelle flower from Corsica – Vetiver from Haïti
Brown Tobacco – Absolute of Vanilla.
After wearing the fragrance a few times, I knew that there was much more to Une Nuit à Doha (which I’ll just write from henceforth without the accent as “Une Nuit a Doha” for reasons of speed and typing convenience). I could detect copious amounts of neroli, as well as petitgrain, and perhaps a small dash of geranium in the sense of their fuzzy, piquant leaves. I also suspected some sort of benzoin enhancement underlying the immortelle, so I wrote back to Monsieur Lucas. He confirmed that, yes, Une Nuit a Doha contained more, particularly bitter orange petitgrain.
The complete note list therefore looks a little closer to this:
Fennel, Crystallized Mandarin, Petitgrain Bigarade, Neroli, Ginger, Immortelle from Corsica, Haitian Vetiver, Brown Tobacco, Coumarin, Opoponax [Sweet Myrrh], and Vanilla Absolute.
In talking to me about the scent, Monsieur Lucas wrote that he had been inspired by a specific mood and image:
j’avais envie d’un parfum chaud mais innocent, comme une bouffée d’oranges confites sur un banquet déserté au bord d’une piscine, vous savez ces odeurs crépusculaires le soir, la nuit tombant.
[I wanted a scent that was warm but innocent, like a big spread of caramelized oranges on a deserted banquet table by the side of a pool. You know, the aromas and sense of twilight, of night that falls.]
I think Monsieur Lucas has fully succeeded in his goal of creating a gourmand fragrance centered around “Hespéridé” fruits that have been turned into “confiture” or jam. Une Nuit à Doha certainly opens that way on my skin. It is a concentrated explosion of gingered, sticky, caramelized, and bitter citruses, ranging from juicy, sun-sweetened, bright oranges, to bitter, pungent neroli and the equally bitter petitgrain wood from the tree. The jammy, gingered fruits are thoroughly immersed in immortelle syrup, then dusted by immortelle the flower and by the most minuscule, microscopic hint of a woody-tobacco element. The whole thing is very dense in feel, but surprisingly airy and light in weight.
It all reminds me enormously of an immortelle cousin of Majda Bekkali‘s Fusion Sacrée, only less sweet, less thick, and less painfully cloying. As some regular readers may remember, the Bertrand Duchaufour creation sent me into a foetal position of misery from its sheer excess, its sweetness taken to such sacharine extremes and in such concentrated levels that it felt like orange goo designed to send one into a diabetic coma. Fusion Sacrée also had about 18,000 things going on simultaneously, bombarding you with a barrage of notes that I found utterly unbearable at the end of the day.
Yet, it is primarily the extreme sweetness — which begins as boozy orange caramel — that sticks in my mind when I think back upon the fragrance. I generally struggle with (and don’t particularly like) gourmands, but Fusion Sacrée blows the scale apart in that regard. On a sweetness scale of 1 to 10, I would place many gourmands at around a 6 or 7, and the Profumum Roma versions at about an 8 or 9. But I would assess Fusion Sacrée on my skin at about an 11. (Or a 12. Yes, I was and still am that traumatized by it.)
Une Nuit à Doha is not Fusion Sacrée in that sense — a fact for which I am eternally grateful — but it is still very sweet. Too sweet for my personal tastes, I must admit. Part of the problem is that I remain rather dubious about immortelle in its maple syrup form which is a definite part of Une Nuit a Doha’s opening and end phases. Fusion Sacrée may be all about the caramel, but Une Nuit a Doha on my skin is all about the immortelle syrup.
In fact, on me, Une Nuit a Doha is far more about immortelle than any orange fruits if you take it as a whole. The perfume is rather uncomplicated in its development, so this won’t be one of my traditional reviews that dissects the notes from hour to hour. One reason why is that Une Nuit a Doha is superbly well-blended, so some of the smaller nuances change from one day to the next, and it is hard to establish any one, set, definitive progression of notes. Yet, the perfume’s core essence is always the same and generally follows the same path:
I – Opening Phase: Extremely sunny, almost happy brightness with initially crisp, zesty, juicy, and bitter citruses, that very quickly turn into candied, gingered, bitter marmalade jam with immortelle flower in a tidal wave of rich, very sweet, immortelle maple syrup. It is all very airy and rather sheer, though also concentrated.
II – Middle Phase: the orange visuals all turn to brown, the ginger sticky neroli orange fades away, and Une Nuit a Doha is now primarily butterscotch with a touch of immortelle floralacy and an occasionally hefty streak of black licorice. To my surprise, the maple syrup aspect seems subsumed under actual butterscotch, perhaps because of the tobacco which is always an indirect presence during this phase. In fact, I have to say that the tobacco never appears as a powerfully distinct, individual note at any point on my skin. As a whole, Une Nuit a Doha feels like the middle or end parts of Dior‘s Eau Noire which is another immortelle licorice scent, along with a lingering dash of Fusion Sacrée. Yet, Une Nuit a Doha is also a drier scent than those comparisons may lead you think, at least in comparison to its opening burst of Seville bigarade marmalade. It’s a bit of a relative matter in this regard.
III – Final Phase: pure immortelle maple syrup, with the tiniest undertone of something vaguely and amorphously woody, dry, tobacco’d, and lightly spiced. The latter nuances are all extremely muted, minor and muffled. As a whole, and with one very noticeable exception, Une Nuit à Doha ends up as slightly dry maple syrup on my skin.
I found a few things about Monsieur Lucas’ handling of the immortelle to be interesting. I frequently find fragrances with the note to smell either of the flower or the maple syrup — but rarely both at the exact same time. For me, the floral part is the most appealing, as it has a strange, vaguely herbal, dusty, almost Marigold-like resemblance that feels very green and yellow at the same time. It often reminds me of the smell of a dried wild flowers, particularly the stem part, only much sweeter and almost spicy. As a side note, immortelle comes from the same family as marigolds, so there is some explanation for my mental association.
Most fragrances that I’ve tried reflect the immortelle’s floral side only briefly and/or in very muted form, but not Une Nuit à Doha. It is a powerful part of the fragrance’s opening, just as much as its caramelized, brown sugar, maple syrup aspects. In one test, the flower was present on my skin from start to finish.
Oddly enough, however, on another occasion, Une Nuit à Doha actually began with the maple syrup dominating the flower, before the fragrance eventually ended up in its drydown as the much drier flower with only a light touch of the syrup. It was as if the usual progression and pyramid had been up-ended, with the syrup that almost always appears at the very end somehow blooming heavily right at the start, while the flower appearing in a more prominent way at the finish. The majority of the time, though, both aspects appeared side-by-side on my skin which I found to be a little uncommon, and a sign of some technical skill on the part of Monsieur Lucas.
The part of Une Nuit à Doha that I liked the most was the middle phase. It is drier, though still sweet, and the perfume smells like butterscotch instead of the more usual, semi-burnt, brown sugar, maple syrup. The neroli disappears, though an occasional bitter woodiness from the petitgrain lingers noticeably at the edges. I tried desperately hard to detect tobacco in the mix, but I couldn’t. At no point does my skin emanate a distinct, separate tobacco tonality, whether pipe, dried, or anything else. However, I think the note is definitely responsible for Une Nuit à Doha consistently turning so brown in visuals.
The other reason is the licorice. On occasion, it is a muted and muffled note, but generally, its black chewiness always appears strongly in the middle phase, right next to the butterscotch immortelle. I know the notes mention fennel, but I think of that as having quite a different aroma that is fresher, brighter, more herbal, and definitely green. Une Nuit à Doha, however, reflects the candied version, much as it does for the other notes. As for the vetiver, I never once detected it, but then my skin amplifies sweetness to a huge degree and probably blocked it out.
In a nutshell, therefore, Nuit à Doha starts on my skin as an immortelle version of Fusion Sacrée — only lighter, fractionally less sweet, and much less ridiculously excessive or complicated — with notes centered on neroli and orange maple syrup. Then, it turns primarily into butterscotch syrup with licorice, abstract woodiness, some dryness, and an indirect layer of tobacco. In its final moments, it ends up as a sheer layer of maple syrup.
A lot of people adore immortelle’s sweetness, and those people should definitely look into Une Nuit à Doha. I’m simply the wrong person to rave about any gourmand fragrance, particularly one with maple syrup. I’m one of those odd loons who isn’t particularly moved by Etat Libre d’Orange‘s huge cult hit and immortelle-centric fragrance, Tilda Swinton Like This. I think I may like Dior’s Eau Noire, but the operative and key word is “think” — the uncertainty all stems from my ambivalence towards the maple syrup. And, I don’t think I need to discuss further my utterly horrified reaction at Bertrand Duchaufour’s Fusion Sacrée.
In short, you need to place my feelings here into context. If you like any of the fragrances that I’ve mentioned, you should try Une Nuit à Doha. If you adore gourmands above all else, especially orange gourmands offset by some bitter petitgrain and neroli, you should probably do a mad dash to try Une Nuit à Doha. It will be completely up your alley.
Plus, this gourmand entry into the SHL 777 line-up has some other positive attributes. First, it has moderately good sillage and excellent longevity. 3 small sprays from my decant, amounting to one spray from a bottle, generally gave me 2-3 inches in projection at first, which dropped down to an inch above the skin at the end of the 90 minutes. Une Nuit à Doha hovered there for hours, and never became a skin scent on me until the end of the 7th hour, though it was still easy to detect up close for a while longer. With a larger quantity, amounting to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the initial sillage was 3-4 inches, then dropped down again in the same manner, but only at the start of the 3rd hour. As a whole, Une Nuit à Doha consistently lasts over 12 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with a larger quantity giving me just over 14.75 hours.
The other good thing to Une Nuit à Doha is that it is one of the “cheap” fragrances from the line, relatively speaking. On the absurd, highly skewed pricing spectrum for niche fragrances, Une Nuit à Doha comes in at around $200 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum extrait. Well, to be clear, I don’t have the official American pricing rate, but, in Europe, Une Nuit a Doha’s retail price is €148 for a 50 ml bottle of pure parfum. At today’s rate of exchange, that comes to about $204. However, I know from prior experiences with European exclusives that the eventual U.S. price is always much less than the currency conversion amount.
So, I estimate the perfume will probably be around $195, though that is purely a personal guess. Roughly $200 for pure parfum isn’t too terrible in this highly skewed, crazy niche world, particularly given that the same sized bottle of Tom Ford’s Private Blend costs $210 — and that is only an eau de parfum, not an extrait.
Une Nuit a Doha is too new for me to provide you with comparative reviews, and it has no entry on Fragrantica at this time. In fact, at the time of this post, it’s not widely available outside of Harrods and Paris’ Printemps. That should change in a few days time when, I’ve been told, Germany’s First in Fragrance is expected to receive several of the new SHL 777 fragrances, including the older 2013 release, O Hira. I suspect it will be closer to next week in actuality. As for the U.S., as noted at the start of this post, I’ve been told that the complete SHL 777 line will be released here in roughly 2 weeks time. So, you may want to look for it at Luckyscent and Osswald NY at the end of April.
If you love gourmands, give Une Nuit à Doha a try. It’s a very smooth, soft, refined and supremely well-blended take on immortelle with caramelized orange marmalade that lovers of very sweet fragrances will probably find to be quite delicious.
Disclosure: Perfume sample courtesy of Stéphane Humbert Lucas. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.