Sunday, 24 January 2016

N-Cigale - Brief Review + GIVEAWAY

I was fortunate to spend my youth growing up in the emerald embrace of New Zealand... a far-flung Isle with a South Pacific lilt; one whose natural beauty is incomparable to any other country I'd seen before, nor seen since. Our small home used to back on to a national forest... a vast viridian thicket of curling 'punga' palms and countless towering pine trees. On summer days I would venture out with my friends and get lost in it's green. We would throw fallen pine needles scooped by the armful from the forest floor at one another; traipse through shallow creeks looking for eels, harvest hardened pine-sap nuggets from damaged tree trunks, and collect abandoned cicada husks in screw-top glass jars. All around us, the scent of the forest... damp soil, rotting leaf litter, fresh oxygen and the resinous green of pine. We would stay out well into the early evening until after the sun had gone, returning home only when the orchestral chirrup of the cicadas had ended for the day.

Now - some 35 years later - the smell of pine or the song of cicadas will take me straight back there. They are memories I cherish of carefree times, and I feel a life-long affinity with these two things. Cicadas and pine. Imagine my delight then, when I recently discovered N-Cigale, perfumers of Marseille who honour both with their exquisite olfactory creations.

Whilst regarded in many cultures as an insect of royalty, wealth and good fortune, cicadas have become a recurring theme in 'modern' perfumery over the past hundred years; their decorative form reproduced many times in flacons and boxes, particularly during the Art Nouveau age. Roger et Gallet and Molinard have arguably two of the most exquisite interpretations, the former rendered by Rene Lalique

Now, almost one century later, renowned decorative artist/sculptor Patrick Veillet has re-rendered the cicada for a modern age. Gone are the Arts and Crafts ornamental flourishes... instead, Veillet has conjured a stripped-back geometric interpretation that communicates all that is required with just a few lines. Veillet's illustrious career has seen him working with the world's biggest names in fashion and accessories, and he is credited with designing some of the world's most recognisable and beautiful perfume bottles - editions for Thierry Mugler, Gaultier, Chloe, and Alexander McQueen amongst others.... his wealth of experience has finally culminated in the realisation of his own perfume house N-Cigale, of which he stands firmly at the helm. N-Cigale is super chic, edgy and breaking new ground in design, perfumery and the decorative arts. 

To date, N-Cigale's approach to their perfume has been to explore 3 ingredients: fig, pine and lavender - but to elevate them to a whole new space. Frankly, what they have managed to achieve - in my eyes - is nothing short of spectacular. Three notes, each rendered two contradictory ways - one follows a lively, vibrant trajectory, and the other, a darker, unexpected one. These scents are packaged in exquisite lacquered shiny glass cicada flacons - each tinted with a different hue, and each with a stained ash wood cap. And, if these objets d'art weren't desirable enough, the perfumes they hold are truly inspired.

Below, a brief reflection on each fragrance in the N-Cigale collection.

Pin Mystique

The sharp (almost citrus) ecclesiastical perfume of resinous incense stones burnt in swinging censers... a whitewashed Greek church perched high on a pine and cypress-covered hill overlooking a sea of endless blue. A Mediterranean zephyr and the haunting wail of wind in the needles. Austere, yet summery - a sense of solar warmth and dappled shadows under the canopy of a majestic pine. Pin Mystique (Mystical Pine) is a bracing yet comforting olfactory journey - a sense of familiarity and timeless tradition.

Pin des Calanques

A fascinating study whose opening is resolutely citrus and camphor... it veers into a darker orbit with an underlying ribbon of precious woods, violet and husky iris, the sum of which evokes a sense of dwindling light at the end of the day. It is the hour just after sunset where the sky is a sweeping palette of pastel hues that run through the pink/purple/blue spectrum. The perfume of resinous pine remains as the evening wind picks up and sweeps the warmth of the afternoon off into the Aegean. The mosquitoes are out and its time to retreat indoors for a shot of masticha or feijoa vodka. Pin des Calques (Pine of the Creeks) feels devoutly nocturnal.

Figue Fresh

Brimming with a sense of broad, open spaces, Figue Fresh is a diaphanous interpretation of fig that feels somewhat weightless and ethereal. It floats under a sky quilted with clouds that are pregnant with rain. A sense of ozonic wetness and impending lightning. Static in your hair. This is a fig whose sun-soaked warmth is dwindling after a sudden drop in temperature. There's moisture in the air, and only minutes before the deluge begins.

Figue Orientale

An oriental reverie - the perfume of the Syrian souks at sunset - perfumed wooden boxes, sugared rose petals, tanned animal skins, sweet figs steeped in honeyed syrup, and the glint of hammered copper.

Figure Orientale (Oriental Fig) - to my nose - has a slight Middle Eastern slant, reminiscent of the beautiful perfume oils one comes upon when wandering the medinas and bazaars. A darker, more mysterious exploration of fig.

Black Lavender

A nostalgic glance back to a Golden Era - sequinned dresses and fringed hemlines, velvet smoking jackets and black shoes with a mirror-like shine... sheikhs and flappers dancing with abandon in the decorated jazz halls of the Art Deco age. This aromatic lavender is imbued with the smell of heavy mahogany furniture, face powder, floral corsages and a light film of sweat. A genderless, celebratory nod to times past where stuffy airs and graces were abandoned in favour of daring personal indulgences. 

Lavande Velours

Brisk and chilly, Lavande Velours (Velvet Lavender) evokes thoughts of crisp linen tablecloths on tables overlooking the Santorini Caldera... cloudy glasses of ouzo tinkling with ice sipped generously at nightfall. Whilst ever-present, the lavender here is blanched and crisp... almost unrecognisable under a freshly-ironed mantle of green anisic aromats and creamy tonka. The smell of clean skin, rubbed with light natural oils after a cold dip in the Aegean. Light, vivifying and cold.

N-Cigale is a welcome addition to a world rife with niche perfume houses and artisanal producers. Their beautiful boutique in Marseille is testament to Veillet's keen design sensibilities, and their vitrines are immaculately stocked with beauteous flacons, and cicada-shaped porcelain and jewellery. 

For more information, please visit their showroom at:

5 rue de la Prison


You can also find them via their website at or on Facebook and Instagram.


Whilst I'm reluctant to let go of these wonderful samples, I would like to offer them to another reader so that they too might experience N-Cigale
(I am sure with time, that I shall be purchasing full bottles of those scents that have moved me the most)! All six samples have been lightly tested.

To win, just leave a comment in the comments field below, telling me which of the N-Cigale scents intrigues you the most. One winner will be drawn at random on Friday January 29th, and their name published here!

Good luck! 


Grace Hummel said...


Oriental Figue sounds awesome. I never heard of this brand before but I am in LOVE with their flacons!!!! The cicada, the sound of my youth as well, when I would visit my grandparents home every summer in Maryland. I would stay for a month each time, and I would hear lots of cicadas which prompted me to collect their discarded exoskeletons that would be firmly attached to the tree bark on the trees around their property. The fragile remnants of the noisy little creatures used to fascinate me as I never saw them up here in New Jersey.

Jackie b said...

The way you write takes me staight to the Mediterranean, I can almost be there on a summer holiday.
The n-Cigale line is an amazing looking line, how on earth do you find these? I got a little frisson of delight when I read about Pin Mystique so I think I would try that first.
Thanks for the draw!

JEM said...

Whoah ... I am a lover of words and a lover of perfumes so your combination of the two has me mentally salivating at the prospect of Figue Orientale ... my collection is varied but my hand will usually reach for a warm rich velvety nocturnal affaire ... even during the daytime. Veillet's work for Mugler is among my favourite glass art too. Thanks for the evocative words on a rain filled dreary morning. Xxx

Sun Jae said...

Hey there and hello from rainy Belgium ;)

First of all, thank you for this contest. I absolutely didn't know that brand.

According to your descriptions, my take on N-Cigale perfumes would defo be "Pin des Calanques". What you wrote reminded me of our holidays at the Côte d'Azur a few years back. We went there at the end of September, and the weather was just perfect. I can still picture us watching the sunset from the Maison d'hôtes we were in, with a wonderful view overlooking the pine woods and the sea. I can also remember the mosquitoes which almost ate me alive (we indeed went back in but for a glass of iced cold Coke ^_^).

Have a great day!

Sun Fontaine said...

I've never heard of this line, but I like their approach to start with 3 simple notes and create their own visions with them. I can respect that. Based on your descriptions I am most interested in Figue Orientale - I'm not sure if I would love it, but it sounds compelling nonetheless.

The flacons are really sharp! I had never really had any experience with cicadas until moving to Maryland - and while I've seen a few I've heard there are summers where cicadas are basically drowning you. :) Unfortunately I don't think they're as attractive as these flacons.

Thanks for the generous draw!

Anonymous said...

I love how these bottles look! Thanks for the informative post on this brand. I think Pin Mystique is the one I's choose as I holidayed once in Greece and love the smell of incense. Keep the great reviews coming! Rhiannon K.

Unknown said...

Some of my most fond memories as a child were hunting for cicadas with my grandfather (my hero then, and now). I remember him talking about their life cycle in a mood and with an intensity that at the time I found startling and puzzling. I realize now, in retrospect, he likely was having an existential moment thinking about how he would not be there with me the next time they came around.

Your description of Pin des Calanques tugs at me in a similar way. My entire life I've found those moments when the air shifts from day to night are the most poignant. I've always lived places that are thick with pines and that first breath where you taste the cool and the resin in the air always make my heart beat just a little bit faster.

Anne said...

I have heard of this house but never have sampled. Pin Mystique sounds lovely.

Anonymous said...

Wow what an amazing story.
Your review is so depicting, its like being right by your side and sharing the experience with you.
Thank you for introducing me to this fragrance house