Down Comforter – Review: Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu

A year-round comforter that is both easy and intricate, rich and wearable, Sacrebleu is one of the long-time friends in my perfume closet. It has its place there, but the awful bottle has kept me from getting more than a decant.

(I know, I am shallow to the bone, but wouldn’t you say that Parfums de Nicolai could profit immensely from an image overhaul? Many brands invest too much in presentation and marketing, Nicolai does too little. Those great perfumes deserve fitting surroundings to thrive. Side rant over.)

Sacrebleu was created by the line’s founder Patricia de Nicolai (great-granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, niece of Jean-Paul Guerlain, by the way) in 1993 and includes notes of black currant bud, peach blossom, jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, tonka bean and incense, as Luckyscent informs us. The Parfums de Nicolaï website has a slightly different notes list: mandarin oil and red fruits in the top, carnation, tuberose, jasmine and cinnamon oil in the heart and a base of frankincense, patchouli, sandalwood, peru balsam, and tonka bean absolute.

Sacrebleu is an expression of surprise or wonderment in french, something like “Good Lord!” or “Holy Smokes!” (one of my personal favorite American expressions btw).

Sacrebleu starts extremely loud and tuberose-y on me, so much so, that I almost hated it on contact, but then it changes, rapidly. This first unfriendly blast only lasts a minute or two and then Sacrebleu‘s true character comes to the fore. A sweet, softly fruity warm oriental, plushly done with a broad and comfortable base of incense and balsams and tonka bean. It could be mistaken for a Guerlain any day.

As I said the top notes of Sacrebleu are strange on me, I get mostly tuberose (and we know how I “love” that!) and not a lot of the alleged fruit, but as soon as it calms and settles on my skin within minutes, I am smack in the middle of that lovely broad-backed base already, full of yummy tonka, smoky incense and creamy sandalwood. There is a hint of spicy, clove-y carnation and cinnamon to keep things interesting, but Sacrebleu is all about the base.

Sacrebleu is a grand perfume, a rich and satisfying composition, but it is not terribly heavy or overpowering. It reminds me of several Guerlain’s, like Shalimar Ode à la Vanille or L’Heure Bleue, but it is easier to wear than the others. Maybe a bit more relaxed, less dressed up and elegant and well-mannered.

Maybe because the legacy it has to carry is not as heavy.

Sacrebleu is warm and fluffy, cozy, but light, it is a down comforter of a perfume. I want to snuggle in and take a nap and forget the world for a while. Sweet dreams included.

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48 Responses to Down Comforter – Review: Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu

  1. Sombreuil says:

    That’s really interesting, because the top notes to me are like red sweets, then a little of the mandarin, followed by most of the notes listed, if I’m honest. It’s rare that scents live up to their description like that! I like Sacrebleu a lot, but it isn’t quite love in the way that I felt for other Nicolai beauties Odalisque and Le Temps d’Une Fete.

    A side to your side – Nicolai perfumes are Truly Great And Deserve Better Packaging (getting shouty). How else will they become the classics they rightly should be?

    • Olfactoria says:

      A side to your side to my side: Totally agreed! Please, if you can hear us (and we are quite shouty over here) overhaul your image!!! 🙂

      Odalisque is really beautiful too, and I’m just trying to get a sample of Le Temps d’une Fete, I’m very curious about that one.

      • Alnysie says:

        I’d be glad to send you a sample of LTD’UF! Let me know!

        You remind me that I have to try more of de Nicolaï’s fragrances… And I agree about the bottles! Actually I don’t mind my 30 mL square bottle of LTD’UF, I like its simplicity, but the name sticker kind of disappoints!

  2. Tatiana says:

    Thanks for reviewing this. This was one of the first niche perfumes I ever acquired. I had forgotten that I have it somewhere in the back of my shelf of perfumes. The weather is cold here now so I think it’s a good time to get reacquainted with it. I remember feeling like it had almost too much spice and incense for my taste way back then. But my taste in perfume has shifted slightly as I’ve explored more, so we shall see how I feel about it now.

    • Olfactoria says:

      It is so interesting to see how we perceive a scent differently after a few years. I’m curious to hear how you get on with it now.

      • Tatiana says:

        So I tried this again, just after my initial post. My bottle is older so it is of a slightly different design than the bottles used now. Hopefully, the formula is the same and only the bottle has been tweaked.
        Upon initial application it still smelled the way I remembered it. Intense and spicy with peru balsam. But this time I noticed it only smells that way when I put my nose up to my arm. When I catch some of the sillage as I move my arm, I notice more flowers this time. But that tuberose is very subtle on my skin, just slightly softening the spices, balsam and tonka.
        I realize I have quite a bit of this perfume left because it just doesn’t get cold enough to wear it all that often here in California. I like it very much, but it is still not one of my desert island fragrances.

  3. Tara says:

    You know, just the other day I was looking up my “To Try” list from my early perfumania days and Sacrebleu was one of the few not crossed off. I think I never got round to it because I was so disappointed by Le Temps d’Une Fete which was full bottle worthy with all that gorgeous narcissus right up until the base (my chemistry no doubt). Anyway I was fascinated to read your review and learn that Sacrebleu is one of your long time fragrance friends.

  4. Vanessa says:

    Lovely review, and I do so agree about the need for a makeover. This may actually be why I tune out to this line more than I should.

    I had a sample of regular Sacrebleu and the Intense version (a MUA swapper with a lively sense of humour!), but both were too “busy” and rich on me. I like orientals, but am easily overwhelmed as you know. I do also see the resemblance to Guerlain. It reminded me of L’Heure Bleue as well, but then that is another scent that is too much for me – or was when I last tried it. But if I can come round to Lyric, you never know…

  5. Alexandra says:

    Oh thank you for reviewing one of my absolute favourites, at this time of year I find it is in heavy rotation with Habanita. Perfume-wise I am already dreading the approach of Spring…

    And while I agree the packaging could be MUCH improved, I am willing to stick with the ugly bottles if the brand stays this affordable for such quality.

  6. Suzanne says:

    If I wasn’t trying to write about a perfume today, I run upstairs pronto and put on some Sacrebleu. It’s golden richness, those fruits, that base!!! I swoon just thinking about it.

    You’re right: the bottle isn’t the prettiest thing (and the round cap isn’t well made — I’ve had two bottles in which the cap separated, the metal from its plastic). But on the other hand, I’m grateful for the price point at which she sells these — and she offers those square 30-ml bottles, which is perfect for collectors.

  7. karin says:

    I love Sacrebleu! I’ve forgiven the packaging because improved packaging will only increase the price…and the prices are SO reasonable considering the quality of the fragrances. So, I say, splurge on that bottle, and ignore the ugliness of it. 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      Another fan! Lovely! 🙂

      I just think Nicolai is selling herself beneath her worth, a bit like displaying the Mona Lisa in a pigsty, or the New York Philharmonic performing in jeans and Hawaiian shirts. 😉

  8. malsnano86 says:

    You know, I should absolutely love Sacrebleu given its notes… but I don’t. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried it, but my memory of it was that it felt muddled and messy. I still have my sample and should retest.

    LOVE Le Temps d’une Fete. Love love love. It’s a lot woodier than you might think, given the notes list and the P:TG comparison to Chamade, and it has a LOT of patchouli, which I normally hate but which seems so beautifully blended with the narcissus and woods that I couldn’t imagine it differently. It’s the only bottle I’ve emptied since becoming interested in perfume in 2009; I’m now on my second 30ml bottle. And speaking of the bottles, I agree that PdN needs a marketing overhaul. I do really like the shape of the small rectangular bottles – they feel so nice in the hand!

    The other PdN I love is Vanille Tonka, which is more about frankincense and carnation and lime than straight-up vanilla, and my 10ml decant is nearly gone. I’ll need to buy one of those 30ml bottles of it.

  9. deeHowe says:

    The sample I have has been tested a few times, but to honest, I cannot really remember what it smells like! I do remember putting it on before work (a few months back) and feeling that it was a little too grande for my blue-jeans, but it sounds like it’s time to dig it out again.

    Those bottles are pretty awful, but as others point out, they probably help to keep the line affordable— which I will no doubt be very grateful for if I find a scent in the range to love 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      It might be a bit much for a regular jeans day (although I wear anything everywhere, I have no shame 😉 )

      Re bottles: I have a few more similes – like Nurejew dancing Siegfried in Swan Lake in drag. Like Rodin’s Thinker placed in a high-school courtyard. Like Chateau Petrus in a six-pack.

      I could go on… 😉

  10. Oh, I’m totally with you on the packaging, it’s god-awful. The store in London is odd too, it’s hilariously small!

    I only needed to read one word to get me interested in this one – ‘tuberose’ 😀

  11. Marie says:

    Hmm, I haven’t tested many of the Nicolai fragrances yet but Sacrebleu has sticked in my memory… not in a good way, I’m afraid. Sacrebleu was so much off-putting that I didn’t try any other scent of the line. It was not only unbearable sweet but also reminded me of über sweet bubblegum for children (like this cherry red hubba bubba) :-/
    Don’t know where that comes from as everybody else gets lovely wearing results. I got the same impression from L’Heure Bleue though, so it may be my skin chemistry.
    Still, I think I should overcome my scruple with the Nicolai perfume line and have a look at the other scents. Any suggestions for a floral or spicy perfume? 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      I think I know what you mean, since the top is a little bit like that on me too, but it is over after a few minutes and I am left with something more than worth the bubblegum phase.

      You might want to try Vanille Tonka or Odalisque from the line. Un Juste de Reve is also a very interesting tropical floral.

  12. dremybluz says:

    Is there much difference in the regular Sacrebleu or the intense? I like the notes listed on the intense better than the regular.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I’m ashamed to say I haven’t tried the Intense version yet, maybe somebody else can chime in?

      • Vanessa says:

        Afraid my recall of both is a bit hazy, but the Intense was a bit stronger as you would expect. Not massively so, as the original already packs a punch. The notes were a bit of a muddle on me too, so can’t say I spotted any clear differences.

  13. Naturally Polished says:

    Reblogged this on Naturally Polished ….. and commented:
    Amazing! ❤

  14. tomate farcie says:

    I absolutely agree about Parfums de Nicolai not doing enough marketing, but then again maybe they want it that way. I definitely want to try this one. I do love L’eau Chic and Odalisque.

    I think the expression is “holy smokes” at least that’s what I say 🙂

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  17. Safran says:

    After reading this “old” review, I just have to add my two scents. In packaging and marketing not much has changed with Nicolai since the early 90s, when I’ve first smelled some of their scents. And I think, that’s rather charming! The caps were only blue in earlier days. Most of the brands, who had a makeover took the chance to raise their prices drastically, which I found quite disappointing. Nicolai always had and still have decent prices, please keep it that way. I don’t want a different bottle or branding or label or large shop in an obscene expensive area, if that means, that I’d have to pay 30 or 40% more for the juice!
    Btw. Sacrebleu was one of my first niche scents as well and I still love it deeply.


    • Olfactoria says:

      That is a very good point, Safran and Nicolai’s line surely has a lot going for it.
      Sacre Bleu is a lovely scentc I should wear it again soon, thanks for reminding me. 🙂

    • Alice says:

      I agree completely, Safran. She does top quality perfumes at a price that rivals standard high street chemist brands…I can easily cope with the lack of flair, gloss and hype in the presentation (in fact sometimes its refreshing) Please, please don’t change!

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