September 22, 2018
Since its creation in 1948 to commemorate the end of World War II, Nina Ricci’s iconic L'Air du Temps has graced untold numbers of vanities, medicine cabinets, and drugstore shelves. Its popularity has waxed and waned but never gone out of style despite countless reformulations and flankers.
Robert Ricci holding a flacon of L'Air Du Temps (courtesy Romano Ricci)
“When I create a fragrance, I begin by ‘sensing’ it in my mind. I have a very clear sense of the fragrance I want to smell on the shoulders of the woman I love. I created L’Air du Temps for a very feminine woman, perhaps for somebody just seen or met, but certainly dreamed of and idealized. For me, a fragrance is an act of love, whether experienced or imaginary. I am a romantic, and I cannot conceive of life without dreams.” –Robert Ricci (1905-1988). Robert Ricci’s creation of L Air du Temps with perfumer Francis Fabron (L’Interdit and Monsieur de Givenchy for Givenchy, Le Dix for Balenciaga) was driven not only for the celebration of peace and freedom but also as a means to push new business to his family couture house. The familiar dove-topped bottle created by Marc Lalique didn’t appear until 1951; the original 1948 cap being a half-rondelle with a rising sun and the dove of peace carved into the top.
Robert's bottle of Nina Ricci L'Air du Paradis
Considered one of the greatest perfumes of all time, Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps has had upwards of fifteen flankers and reformulations and the version available today at every Walmart and CVS is certainly nothing like the original carnation and clove heavy floral masterpiece from the late 40’s.The chance to smell an early version is something that everyone should pursue; it is a true fragrant revelation and a glimpse into a perfume creation universe we may never experience again.
Calice Becker VP Perfumer of Givaudan and Director of the Givaudan Perfume School (courtesy of Givaudan)
While in Paris this last Spring, I had the opportunity to snag the latest L’Air du Temps flanker; a 2018 tropical cocktail named Nina Ricci L'Air du Paradis created for Nina Ricci by perfumer Calice Becker and guest Creative Director Martyna Zoltaszek.
Passionfruit via flickr
Nina Ricci L’Air du Paradis is all about the passionfruit, a veritable overdose of passionfruit if you will. Passionfruit to me, has always been an acquired taste; there’s a bitterness and lip-puckering sour-ish thing going on which some folks find as disturbing as the smell of Durian. I personally love it but that comes from years of eating Lilikoi (passionfruit) in Hawaii. There is an acid and medicinal aspect also, and maybe that’s what shocks people who are eating or smelling it for the first time. At times it feels almost bitter/sharp in a rhubarb or unripe grapefruit with pith sort of way.
via Nina Ricci.com
L’Air du Paradis opens with a strong hit of this passionfruit sour/medicinal vibe but very quickly settles down to a tropical frangipani mixd with jasmine, and the deep floralcy helps to cut the initial teeth-baring growl from the pungent lilikoi. There’s also a slight leathery rubbery aspect, likely the barberry with its slight animalic barnyard scent. The drydown follows through with the passionfruit but by now it’s merely a suggestion and the cedar and woody notes take over. If you’re looking for a fragrance that smells like nothing else or anyone else, Ricci’s L’Air du Paradis might just be it.
1971 Vintage L'Air du Temps ad
The bottle is the standard swirly L’Air du Temps shape, but sadly the most common retail version available has the intertwined doves made from cheap plastic; a definite lowbrow step down from the Lalique crystal (which is available but costs hundreds of dollars), but one wonders if there weren’t some other material available that would have been better, perhaps a borosilicate product which is used in the creation of lab glass products and glass blowing? Better yet, why not buy a used Lalique L’Air du Temps empty bottle at auction, and simply decant into it. Mischief managed! Notes: Passionfruit, Kaffir lime, frangipani, jasmine, Japanese mahonia, barberry, cedar, woody notes accord.
Read the interview with Mme. Becker here (one of the first granted to a blogger).
Disclosure: The perfume and opinions are my own.
–Robert Herrmann, Senior Editor
-Art Direction: Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief