Norell is a beautifully-blended green floral that approaches chypre-hood but stops short, like a woman who removes the one accessory — a statement necklace or stiletto heels — that would make her outfit more formal.
It starts off bright and fresh from lemon, bergamot and the tartness of galbanum; moves into radiant floral mode with classic rose and jasmine, spicy carnation, and the difficult but beautiful screechy/pissy narcissus; and dries down to a slightly sweet and soapy/woody floral warmth like suntanned skin plus flowers.
Top notes: Hyacinth, galbanum, bergamot, narcissus, lemon
Heart notes: Carnation, jasmine, rose, orris, orchid
Base notes: Sandalwood, musk, cedarwood, moss, amber
(Perfumer: Josephine Catapano)
Speaking of summer, it's super-hot in New Orleans, and Norell seems like it would be a wonderful floral for this heat. If it blooms on your skin, you won't have to worry that it will misbehave, as an indole-heavy floral would. Its greenness would keep it in check.
Norell made me realize that I rarely review vintage florals. Lots of women, adhering (mostly without knowing they are) to Coco Chanel's dictum that a woman should smell like a woman and not a rose, find the floral category matronly, unsexy, or (gasp!) too conventional. I get that, trust me.
But I'm beginning to think that floral beauties like Norell and Fidji (another Josephine Catapano creation) are the little back dresses of the perfume world. Sometimes, you just want to smell good without thinking about it too much, or without putting on a "make it a night he'll never forget" kind of perfume, which was Luca Turin's amusing description of Poison in Perfumes: The Guide.
What distinguishes Norell from some of the flower bombs (ahem!) of today is its green opening and its development toward a soft, ambery/woody dry down. It does its dazzling thing for a bit, and exits softly and with grace.
For the person who thinks an animalic perfume might be too oppressive in heat, or that a predominately green fragrance is just too bracing, Norell's green floral is the summer bed that Goldilocks would feel comfortable in. Not too warm, not too cold. Just right.
I got a sample of the vintage stuff from the lovely Leslie Ann at Miniature Perfume Shoppe, a great place to indulge in vintage without breaking the bank.
Image of perfumer Josephine Catapano scanned from Michael Edwards' Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances