According to Octavian Coifan's article about the history and composition of N by Lucien Lelong on 1000 Fragrances, the small extrait bottle I have is the one from 1936. I'm not sure when they stopped making it, but I knew had a treasure the second I held the still sealed box in its original paper wrapping in my hand. I unwrapped it carefully, for once managing to preserve the paper, opened the box (similar to design to the old Lanvin ones), and released the glass stopper from its cord and crackling onion skin-like seal.
At least two thirds of the content was gone and the old juice has darkened overtime. I have no doubt some of the potency and top notes were also lost. But N, as old as it is, opens up with such a zing that every time I dab it on I think of fresh ginger. A few seconds later it becomes more of the broken green stem of a flower, then a carnation note emerges, spicy and a little bitter. It almost bites. The striking thing about Lucien Lelong's N is how alive and present it smells even after all these years.
N dries down rather quickly (old perfumes often give the effect of crumbing or collapsing into themselves). It becomes a powdery iris that fades into a very dry and dusty vetiver. I call it the Miss Havisham Vetiver. It's still good, even if it's more like a diorama of a vintage scene than something you can actually wear the entire day (If I were to refresh it every 90 minutes I'd have nothing left in the elegant Lucien Lelong bottle). N was probably too floral for me in its heyday, but I'm thankful to it for another lesson in vintage fashion and perfume.
Lucien Lelong Parfums vintage ad: hprints.com
Fashion photos of Princess Natalie Paley, Lucien Lelong's second wife who might (or might not) have been the inspiration for the perfume and its name, from myvintagevogue.com.