Le Nomade by Parfums D’Orsay (1974) is an obscure fragrance from an obscure house, itself having been rebooted once in 2000 to very little fanfare, as if anyone had missed it from before. What’s more odd than the scent itself is the choice of reviving it by then-owners of the house, who had painstakingly resurrected a cherry-picked selection of mostly masculine-market (or unisex) formulae, then oddly re-used names of old perfumes for entirely new unrelated ones for the smaller feminine-market selection. So while scents like Le Dandy by Parfums D’Orsay (1925) and Tilleul by Parfums D’Orsay (1955) were completely remade as then-modern fragrances, popular feminine-market selections like Intoxication by Parfums D’Orsay (1938) were completely ignored and left dead; yet fragrances barely anyone cared about like Arôme 3 by Parfums D’Orsay (1943) or Chevalier d’Orsay by Parfums D’Orsay (1911) were remade just as they were decades to nearly a century prior. If you’re one of the few people who loved D’Orsay’s more masculine-friendly yet obscure citrus aromatics, you might have been happy with the return of Le Nomade; but most folks (including other reviewers I see on Basenotes and Fragrantica) were left mostly scratching their heads, or suspecting some aromachemical blasphemy due to the prickly nature of the compositions. The absolute love for vintage styles we see now in online communities also didn’t exist back then when this was reintroduced. This mixed reception is more a taste issue than a quality or design competence one, and having a taste for this style is like acquiring a taste for quinine in the modern era.
Going all the way back to the original Etiquette Bleue by Parfums D’Orsay (1908), the citrus aromatics from the house have always had a certain harshness or powderiness to them, mostly because we had citrus oils over dry, powdery woods and herbs, without all the rounding and sweetening that other houses used to do by adding benzoin or any number of oriental-themed notes, since these were fashioned in a conservative 19th century motif. This starkness carried over almost as a house quirk to Chevalier d’Orsay as well, although that one was more of an early proto-chypre exercise built upon artemisia for even more bitter appeal. Eau Fringante by Parfums D’Orsay (1969) continued this trend with vetiver as a base, and then Le Nomade culminated the style by hearkening back somewhat to the herbal chypre nature of Chevalier d’Orsay. The difference is, Le Nomade works with lime and mint in ways people even nowadays do not expect, getting comparisons to floor cleaner or institutional products in the same way Green Water by Jacques Fath (1947) does. The rest is a chewy assemblage of muted spices and cedar similar once again to Eau Fringante, but heavier. Nutmeg, coriander, black pepper, and clove are lightened a bit by rose and jasmine, crossing vaguely into floral fougère territory with geranium, tonka, and sage before creamy labdanum musk, sandalwood, and oakmoss settle in with some vetiver and a touch of vanilla to dull the edges of the herbs. Performance is close to skin but decently long, although this is not a fragrance to wear for the attention of others.
Le Nomade sits somewhere in between contemporaries like Yves Saint Laurent pour Homme (1971) and the herbal bite of its higher-powered Yves Saint Laurent pour Homme Haute Concentration (1983) sibling, with arboreal facets of Caron Yatagan (1976) and Pascal Morabito Or Black (1982) as well, all while also recalling the brand’s own aforementioned citrus aromatic legacy which always seems to rub people raw if they don’t have a love of gin or lemon bitters in their fragrances. Once again, it makes me really wonder why the owners of the house at the time choose to resurrect this or Chevalier, but not surefire sellers like Divine by Parfums D’Orsay (1947) or the Henry Robert-penned original formula for Le Dandy; it’s not like IFRA was stopping them back in 1995-2000. Personally, I’m a sucker for herbal citrus aromatic chypres and I have everything from this house in that vein, alongside others from designers such as Chanel pour Monsieur (1955) or Moustache by Rochas (1949). Furthermore, I’m not the least bit afraid of mint or some lemon bitters, being a gin drinker and lover of juniper in fragrance as well, so this gets on well with me despite it not for so many others. You however, must be of particular kind like me to enjoy Le Nomade, even if you seek out nearly-extinct 1970’s bottles with the weird U-shaped caps. Outside of perhaps the usually mossier or more-ambery base and probable loss of top notes, your money likely won’t go much farther with deep vintage Le Nomade than it will with this format. Thumbs up