Nuit de Noël, the 1922 Caron perfume by Ernest Datroff, smells like a romanticized December night. It's very dark and you know it's bitter cold outside, but you sit in your warm cushy living room, snacking on seasonal pastries, drinking something spicy, maybe enjoying some tasteful holiday music. Of course, in reality it's very likely you just got home from the mall, your feet are killing you as is your back. You might have fought other suburban shoppers for that very last coveted item on the shelf, your ears are ringing from hearing every version ever recorded of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and you haven't had anything other than Starbucks eggnog latte since three in the afternoon. But Nuit de Noël will make you forget all of that.
I'm only casually acquainted with the EDT of the last decade and not well-versed in all the Caron reformulations. The flowers in the last bottle I sniffed seemed sharper and more flowery and the spices are spicier, though neither were in a good way. It was also quite aldehydic, which is not something I get from my very vintage extrait de parfum. My Nuit de Noël is a creamy and mellow floral with a sweet and spicy heart that's more anise fruitcake than gingerbread. I get carnation and ylang-ylang in spades, not much rose and jasmine other in the way Nuit de Noël rounds itself in that familiar vintage floral way (think Chanel No. 5 parfum when it still smelled the way it was supposed to be or even vintage Caleche). Then it's all wood, smoke and incense. The sandalwood base is gorgeous and just a little vanillic. Vintage bottles have the real thing and it's furry, complex and satisfying.
I have several "vintage" Caron perfumes in several formulations. My bottle of Nuit de Noël is most likely the oldest of them and it allowed me to understand the Caron magic much more- the not quite foody richness even though it evokes many treats of the season, the wood and smoke that feel like you're watching a winter landscape from inside a heated house. It's instantly festive and comforting even if you're the only kid in town without a Christmas tree.
Illustration: Chéri Hérouard for La Vie Parisienne, 1930