Les Parfums d'Isabey was founded in Paris in 1924 by Maurice Loewe - backed by the Rothschild family - to produce high-quality perfumes in luxury packaging. It was named after Isabey, an early 19th century artist. It became best known perhaps for its scents Gardenia, (created in 1924 and revived again in 2002), and Bleu de Chine, created in 1925.
Now, in 2009, Bleu de Chine has experienced a revival of its own, though now under the name Fleur Nocturne, as the original name has since been trademarked by another company. In 1925, the amethyst-coloured parfum flacon designed by Julien Viard and created by Ludwig Moser, was a much sought-after luxury item. The design was later re-realised in a cylindrical moulded glass eau de toilette presentation, reminiscent of a Chinese lantern with ornate embellishments in relief. This flacon is the basis for the modern 2009 interpretation which is rendered in smooth indigo blue glass. In 1941 the company was acquired by Marcel Guerlain (no relation to "that" Guerlain) and now Isabey is owned by Panouge Parfums, Paris.
French perfumer Jean Jacques is the nose responsible for appending and reinterpreting the olfactory markers of the original release, and giving it a modern-day vernacular. Here, Jacques presents us with a dramatic floral arrangement with semi-sweet, nectar-like accords. Whilst the opening of Fleur Nocturne is delicately perfumed with soft white peaches and apricot blossoms, it is the heart of white flowers that forms the decadently sumptuous basis of this scent. Magnolias feature here in a similar fashion as they do in Acqua di Parma's Magnolia Nobile, however the heady perfume of jasmine swells in the air, just as their star-shaped blossoms do on the vine just before nightfall. A very spectacular gardenia note serves as the red thread that ties this fragrance to Isabey's Gardenia: a scent that is cherished for its lavish and masterful portrayal of this flower. A tender vein of vanilla meanders throughout the composition which not only acts as a fixative, but also as a supporting accord to the flourishing florals. The press notes accompanying the perfume suggest that patchouli also lends itself to the framework of this fragrance, but my nose simply doesn't smell it.
There is no doubt in my mind that Fleur Nocturne is probably quite removed from the original Bleu de Chine. Whilst I feel it may flash a secretive wink at Isabey's esteemed best-selling perfume of the 1920's, I do feel it very much in the here and now. Still, one cannot fault the efforts of a perfume house that is willing to strike a balance between tradition and modern reinterpretation. Just as the beautiful flacon has evolved over the course of a century, I suspect so too has the perfume. Without the honour of sampling Bleu de Chine however, this is pure speculation.
Isabey Fleur Nocturne will appeal to those who appreciate twenty-first century splendour with a pinch of sentimental whimsy. It is available in 50ml size for €129, from www.ausliebezumduft.de. Direct link here.