Nomade Absolu de Parfum by Chloé Review
“But I miss you most of all, my darling… when autumn leaves start to fall.”“Autumn Leaves,” a jazz standard based on the French “Les Feuilles mortes”
Forest glades and fallen leaves. Grass slicked with dew and trees overgrown with moss. Apple-plum-cinnamon pies baking in the distance, and a sandalwood incense stick waiting to be burned. This is the autumnal wonderland of Chloé’s Nomade Absolu.
Fresh. Clean. This is a more masculine sort of clean than that of the Nomade Eau de Parfum, but just slightly.
The EdP smells quite just-showered squeaky-clean in the opening. This one still has some of that, but it’s much more muted, perhaps more in the color of a men’s body wash than a women’s one.
That’s not to say it smells tacky or soapy at all. But, just like the original Nomade EdP, the Absolu does have a certain just-got-out-of-the-shower freshness about it. It doesn’t smell like shampoo or soap, per sé, but like the clean skin that’s just been washed with it and patted by with a soft white towel.
Whereas that shower product in the original was more feminine-fresh, all freesia flowers and clean fruity notes, this one is more traditionally masculine. It’s a shower gel with a name like “Enchanted Forest” or something, cool and fresh and clean, like an overly purified and perfumified idea of a cool night breeze.
It’s swiftly overshadowed by what comes next.
In a minute, a warmth comes. An almost cinnamon candle, almost fruity sort of warmth. Apple pie and cinnamon and plum, the rich comforting scent of craft stores in autumn.
Is it davana? It’s incredibly rich, almost woody, with an almost-sandalwood sort of timbre, like an incredibly dry, cinnamon-y, just slightly astringent sandalwood.
And, looking at the note pyramid, I now see that sandalwood is exactly what it is. Deep, pungent, dry sandalwood, spicy sandalwood, cinnamon-y sandalwood. My favorite part of it is that dry edge. It reminds me of the unexpectedly sublime sandalwood accord in Perry Ellis’s Perry Woman. It’s reminiscent of some other odd early-2000s floral perfumes’ sandalwood accords as well, like the one in Liz Claiborne’s Bora Bora. It’s the richness and texture of it, the dense, dry familiarity, a sandalwood of mysticism and incense.
It’s creamy as you breath it in, and at the end of the breath it hits you with an incredible richness, spiciness, dry astringency. This is sandalwood as a spice, as a powder, as an incense stick unburned — not smoky in the least. This is sandalwood dehydrated, concentrated, rich and dry and golden brown, slightly musty, not quite dusty, with a texture like sandpaper, dense and almost scratchy.
On my skin, the marriage of sandalwood and davana is the dominant accord in Nomade Absolu, and I love it. It’s the ultimate dry, rich incense with that almost-cinnamon quality brought out further by the addition of davana, that mysterious sensual material that smells like baking fruit pies and spices and musk. It’s a simple yet enchanting combination, dense and layered and deep.
(People sometimes see pictures of davana, that odd little artemisia-looking twig, in note pyramids and assume it’s something bitter or green or bitter-green. It’s none of these things. Reader, davana is a glory, a celebration of all things that don’t smell the way you expect them to. It may be a green thing, but it smells like baking fruit and cinnamon, spice cabinets and muffins and freshly baked apple pies.)
The hints of Enchanted Forest shower gel keep things fresh and light around the edges. That lightness keeps things from getting too dark and deep, and the freshness melts into the edge of the mirabelle plum note.
Whereas the mirabelle plum note in the original Nomade EdP was, to me, a striking, mouth-watering, jaw-dropping photorealistic fresh plum, the note is a bit more obscured here. It isn’t juicy-fresh like the original, but subdued, dried to a sweet and sticky golden syrup dripping from one’s fingers. It blends with the warm cinnamon-apple-plumminess of davana, melding into a warm, freshly baked plum pie, with more fresh plums standing in a bowl in the corner and sandalwood incense sticks everywhere. A cool autumn breeze brings the smell of the forest.
The original Nomade EdP leaned quite traditionally feminine for me, with the exception of a moment a few hours in when things are suddenly overpowered by a rather masculine patchouli-amberwood accord reminiscent of gel deodorant.
Nomade Absolu, on the other hand, feels much more unisex by societal conventions. Anyone can wear any perfume they like, but, within the context of society and culture, I can see man easily wearing this and no one batting an eye. It’s rich and woody, warm and cool, just a little fruity and spicy, and not at all too sweet.
One might say the Absolu has more femininity to it in that it has more richness and depth — where the original Nomade EdP is feminine in a pretty, fruit-and-flowers way, the Absolu is feminine in a richer, darker, woody way that feels to some people more womanly and grown-up. The Absolu’s got curves, you know what I mean? It’s softer and simpler, carrying a certain vintage confidence — not vintage from the age of oakmoss, but from the heyday of sandalwood, of incense and power suits and twirling the phone cord idly around your finger like you rule the world.
The EdP is pretty and charming, while the Absolu has more of an air of mystery and sensuality (to my nose, in my cultural context).
But of course, both perfumes have both of these ideas of femininity within them in different amounts. The lighter, airier EdP still has its stormy flashes and forested depths, while the more contemplative and serious Absolu still has its pretty and girlish moments of cinnamon and plum, its clean and fresh shower gel silhouette.
That’s always been the beauty of the Nomade line to me: the balance. The original Nomade EdP got fruity perfume lovers to step a little out of their comfort zone and try something much more mossy and earthy than their usual fare. And it made the chypre freaks curious about the fruity-flowery designer offering they normally wouldn’t look twice at. By and large, both groups came away pleasantly surprised, having found something new they enjoy in a genre of perfume they hadn’t known they would like.
“Liking things,” my boyfriend once sagely observed, “Is great. The more things you like, the more fun your life is.”
And he’s right. Liking and appreciating things is great.
I think there’s a bit of a bell curve to perfume appreciation. At first people are happy to smell almost any perfume or cologne, simply saying that they all smell good.
Then people get pickier. They learn what they like and dislike. They blacklist notes their mothers used to wear. They turn their noses up to particular corners of the industry. They get picky as they set out to find their favorites in an unending sea of smells.
And at some point, you come out the other side, tired. You just want to enjoy things, damn it. Get too critical and at some point it just isn’t fun anymore.
All this is to say that Nomade Absolu is fairly simple and straightforward. Yes, it’s fairly unusual for designer fare, far more woody and rich than most modern offerings, sans flowers or even much fruit, and refreshingly not too sweet. It doesn’t have as many complex moving pieces as the original Nomade EdP, which somehow balanced bitter, green, and woody chypre notes with a conventional feminine clean-citrus-fruity-floral accord.
It’s simple: a relatively linear mix of dry incense-stick sandalwood, cinnamon-plum pie, and musk, with a little bit of a forest-fresh clean breeze in the background.
And yet, I like it. Nomade Absolu is easy to like. And it’s a brilliant distillation of the core elements of the original Nomade EdP. Its cool clean notes, hints of chypre, fresh mirabelle plums, and sandalwood are all recognizeable here. And the inclusion of davana is a flourish of genius. It’s such an enchanting and underutilized plant. I’m always surprised we don’t see it more in perfumery.
As time goes on, Nomade Absolu gets muskier on the skin. The rich, decadent sensual facets of davana really shine here, melting into a musky accord that gets more prominent over time.
It isn’t musky in a way that’s at all dirty or sweaty or even too earthy. This is a clean musk, still colored with that light-watercolor-blue shower gel formulator’s impression of a forest, perfectly filtered to its coolest, cleanest misty facets without any of the earth and mess and rot.
Just as with the original Nomade EdP, I wouldn’t really call Nomade Absolu a chypre. At most it’s chypre-lite, a mix of fruit, spicy woods, and the faintest suggestion of oakmoss.
Perhaps the Absolu feels a little more like a chypre to me in its contemplative simplicity. I still don’t get much moss or earthiness at all here — this is a clean, sanitized, utterly palatable idea of a chypre — but the combination of cool forest floor notes, spicy plum pie, and deliciously rich dry incense feels a little more vintage, a little more conceivably classic to me than the original, which puts on more airs of conventional perfuminess with its floral and citrus notes.
That’s the beauty of releasing flankers and variations of a scent, I suppose. The most popular and palatable version of a perfume can be the main release, and then you can save the discarded drafts for special releases with less attention and a little bit more wiggle room for the unusual.
There’s a cinnamon facet to the sandalwood in the original Nomade EdP, but with the richer, drier sandalwood front and center and the addition of davana, it’s much more prominent in the Absolu.
That being said, this isn’t a cinnamon candy or air spray. There are moments when it comes across a little too cinnamon-apple-candle on me, but for the most part it’s spicy and restrained, a texture to the woody and fruity notes that doesn’t take the spotlight. It’s unsweetened, powdered and dry. It isn’t a sweet cinnamon, like cinnamon sugar or the sickly-sweet licorice-like taste of cinnamon tea. This is just the powder, just the bark.
Is there any oakmoss in Nomade Absolu at all? A little. I mean, there’s supposed to be. There’s an impressively light, purified idea of oakmoss present, a coolness without the requisite earthiness and light metallic tang.
Some two-dimensional representation of oakmoss, I suspect, makes up most of the cool-enchanted-forest-body-wash accord I’ve been mentioning. And sure, I can kind of see how it feels like oakmoss, cool and blue, like a moonbeam reflected off a placid blue lake.
But it’s a timid, light sort of oakmoss. Don’t come to Nomade Absolu expecting Mitsouko, or even Femme Rochas. This is the simple, 2D sort of oakmoss that occasionally makes it into the name of a candle or an air freshener, a cool blue impression of mist without bitterness, without tang, and utterly without heft.
(If the Nomade perfumes have made you curious about oakmoss, the two chypres I just mentioned are great classics to start with. Or, if you want to smell as close to a pure oakmoss note as you’ll find, walk into a Lush store and sample Devil’s Nightcap. Now that is an intense, bitter, metallic oakmoss.)
This declawed oakmoss is indeed much more prominent in Nomade Absolu than in the original Nomade EdP, but it still doesn’t feel enough like oakmoss for me to call the overall effect mossy — at least, not at first. This is a good thing for the mass appeal of Nomade Absolu, as heavy, bitter oakmoss is a bit of an acquired taste these days, and not one the industry seems keen on re-acquiring.
Rather, this is a very clean and fresh sort of forest-floor coolness, contemplative and reflective. This cool oakmoss-lite accord gets more dominant as time goes on. The rich spiced sandalwood and fruit accord seems to peak within the first hour, after which point the cool blue misty forest takes up more and more of my attention.
In warm weather the rich spicy sandalwood and davana are louder, while in the cold those cool oakmoss-forest-floor notes dominate a bit more. When it’s very cold, I can sometimes get hints of a metallic note that feels more like the tang of actual oakmoss.
For a long while I searched for my ultimate cozy apple pie perfume for cold weather. The trouble is I found so many of the offerings far too sugary-sweet for me, too intensely on the nose, too loud and unsubtle and saccharine.
It’s unexpected, but I think Nomade Absolu may be my apple pie perfume. The davana and plum notes give off the impression of baking fruit pies, apple pies with cinnamon, of warm, soft stone fruit flesh and spices and flaky sandalwood crust.
It’s subtle, it’s soft, it’s unsweetened. Just fruit and cinnamon and a watercolor-painting forest, all mist and tall blue mountains and dark shadowy trees.
And it sure is subtle and soft, alright. Somehow, despite being the supposedly more concentrated and intense version of the original EdP, the Absolu has weaker performance, projection, and sillage on my skin. It’s quieter, doesn’t last as long, doesn’t trail as far behind you. The EdP has more of that designer staying power, that trail of distinct perfume all around you. The Absolu feels more niche, and that includes the performance.
For the most part, I’m okay with this. I wish this pretty thing projected a bit more, but I’ll take what I can get. As it were, Nomade Absolu lasts around X hours on my skin. It’s an envelope of musk that stays close to the skin, exactly where you sprayed it. So spray strategically, or perhaps liberally, or perhaps both.
As time goes on, the oakmoss note expands and becomes more real. After two to three hours, now and then I get a little hit of something a little tangy, a little bitter, a little metallic. Glorious, glorious oakmoss, at last a tiny bit earthy and lush, is at the heart of Nomade Absolu after all.
At three and a half hours in, the boyfriend says, “I like that. Oceanic. Or, hm, maybe not. It’s almost like… plum.”
He’s really getting quite good.
Seven to eight hours in. You know what? I take it back. With time, Nomade Absolu becomes a proper chypre. It’s slow, incredibly slow, but with time a genuine oakmoss note emerges, rich and dark and green and just a little bitter, like the pleasure of the last tannin-rich tea squeezed out of the bag. Rich dark green moss, slightly bitter and almost metallic, dotted with an absolutely heavenly cinnamon-like davana note.
And I mean heavenly. It comes at me unexpectedly, here and there, in a deep breath that turns unexpectedly golden. It’s a kind of nectar, a syrup of melted-down apple pie memories, golden plums and golden days.
It really does remind me so much, at times, of overt spicy apple pie numbers like Hermes’ iconic Ambre Narguile and all the coattail-riders that followed it. It’s a startling resemblance between two perfumes that, on paper, share no notes in common. But note pyramids are little more than marketing anyway. This is Ambre Narguile’s gorgeous golden-plum chypre sister.
Rich, deep green flecked with gold. This is Nomade Absolu.
And it is delicious. I get my cinnamon apple pie alternating with gusts of glorious dark green oakmoss.
I love the original Nomade EdP. Don’t get me wrong. But the Absolu is everything I love about the original EdP, magnified over, without all the elements I could take or leave (the citruses, flowers, and the patchouli-and-amberwood men’s-deodorant drydown).
I’m a bit of a minimalist. I like to pare down to the few things I really love and keep coming back to, whether it’s clothes, perfumes, or projects (okay, still very much working on that last one). Nomade Absolu is one of the relative few I’d consider getting a larger decant of.
Why? It ticks a whole bunch of boxes in one.
It satiates my occasional craving for that original Nomade DNA (though this craving has been much reduced ever since the decant of Nomade EdP exploded in the mail and I got so incredibly sick of my entire apartment smelling like Nomade for a week).
It satisfies my warm-cinnamon-apple-pie perfume craving without being too overwhelmingly sweet, a tall order no more overtly spicy-fruity perfume has been able to fill. It even gives me a light hit of gorgeous bitter oakmoss.
And it’s simple. The original Nomade EdP has so many bells and whistles in its floral, fruity, and woody-green notes that feel like window dressing for the central oakmoss-and-plum idea. Nomade Absolu? This is that central idea, softened and enriched, reduced to a syrupy consistency and poured over a freshly-baked pie.
Actually, this particular sample was in one package with the exploding decant of Nomade EdP and a number of other rather loosely-lidded samples. Among them was Parfums de Marly’s Oajan, one of those Ambre-Narguile-lookalike cinnamon apple pie perfumes. I was so certain that the fruity-warm-cinnamon smell wafting prominently from the mess of leaky samples was Oajan, but I see now that it was predominantly Nomade Absolu.
Eight to nine hours in. There’s a musky-fruity undertone to the davana note here that’s so familiar, so nostalgic, a little bit mischievous. Try as I might, I can’t quite entirely pin what Nomade Absolu and this note in the drydown in particular remind me of. Its power grows with time, and by the late drydown it’s positively suggestive, laden with winking subtext. It’s flirty. And it’s flirty in an incredibly familiar way.
At first I thought it was just the smell of burst and mixed-up samples from way back when. But now I realize another perfume Nomade Absolu quite resembles in the drydown: Rochas’ Femme Rochas.
It’s got that warm, rich, stewy plum soaked in cinnamon and syrup, that rich green oakmoss undertone, the sandalwood and spice and the naughty sensual musky note that feels like it’s up to no good. This is that same flirty musky cinnamon plum stewing in spice at the heart of Femme Rochas. Like, they’re just about identical at this stage. It’s incredibly striking how similar they are.
At this point, Nomade Absolu has more noticeable oakmoss, even, than Femme Rochas (at least, the modern formulations). It lends a much-needed breeze of cool freshness tinged bitter that keeps it all from getting too stifling.
My story with Femme Rochas is this: I discovered it. I adored it. I wore it to a dance, the first dance in a long tim. I felt sexy. I kept wearing it all dizzying weekend long, and eventually I woke up feeling incredibly nauseous and then I never wore Femme Rochas again.
Nomade Absolu is a little less dizzyingly sweet, definitely less musky and spicy, missing the entire animalic or cumin element of any formulation of Femme Rochas. She’s a little less sickeningly potent, with a cracked-open window built in through the airy lightness of the oakmoss accord.
She’s less likely to get you perfume-drunk and then incredibly perfume-hungover. She’s a little more willing to listen to reason, to wake up before 10 am and put sensible shoes on, to step outside for a little air. She’s glam, she’s vampy (she’s glampy?) but she has a LinkedIn profile and a burgeoning candle collection. Where Femme Rochas burns everything she bakes, Nomade Absolu can turn out a charming soufflé.
She’s an airier, cooler, less intense Femme Rochas, with more oakmoss and an unquestionably modern freshness to it, with a gorgeously rich sandalwood in the opening and diaphanous davana sprinkled throughout. She’s versatile: day to night, summer to winter, office to dive bar. Sign me up.
I’m still not gonna spray myself wet with this one, though. Juuuust in case.
For a warm baked-cinnamon-fruity perfume, Nomade Absolu wears surprisingly well in warm weather. It flows golden in the sun, resplendent and light, snappy with cool moss and heady with plum.
Cool weather is, of course, where Nomade Absolu shines, though. This is an autumn perfume, a September, October, November sort of perfume, comforting and cozy and warm, reminiscent of both sweet treats savored indoors and the pleasure of inhaling the crisp morning air and walking through crunchy dew-frosted grass.
Since you went away, the days grow long…
This is a perfume that squeezes my heart the way Nat King Cole does, the way Frank Sinatra does, the way Nat King Cole does, the way the French woman at that art gallery did when I was a teen that I’ve never forgotten, the way any of the thousands of renditions of “Autumn Leaves” and “Les Feuilles mortes” have.
Nomade Absolu is fall in a bottle. It’s a simpler, cozier take on the Nomade Eau de Parfum, with more plum and more moss and way more davana apple pie. An absolute work of art by the talented Quentin Bisch.
It’s delicious. It’s Quentin-Bischous. It’s de-lovely. It’s divine. Nomade Absolu is an oversized cashmere scarf of a perfume, a comfort for a rapidly-darkening season.
Where to Find Nomade Absolu de Parfum by Chloé
You can find samples and decants of Nomade Absolu at Scent Decant.
These are affiliate links. If you click on them and buy something, the seller pays me a commission, at no extra cost to you. You can learn more about them here.