Nomade Eau de Parfum by Chloé Review
At the risk of playing into clichés as well as the marketing of the fragrance and the brand, Nomade by Chloé really does feel like a sophisticated monochrome-outfitted businesswoman’s favorite Sephora selection. It’s fresh and fruity in a department store perfume counter way, but it also provides some interesting twists and turns. It’s a touch sweet in a fresh plummy way, but not ever overwhelmingly so.
Nomade is fresh and professional while being a little hoydenish, a touch ingenuous, and all-around generally pleasant. There’s a tomboyish fresh accord, a girlish fruity scent, and a general inoffensive and office-appropriate freshness to it. The particular mix of fruity and earthy and green notes is masterfully blended into one cohesive aura of scent. In short, this is an elegant, chic, designer perfume, composed with brilliant restraint by the skilled hand of Quentin Bisch.
On me, Nomade opens with a very fresh, lightly sweet plum note. The opening is sweet, fruity, and very clean, in a way that reminds me not so much of shampoo itself, but of the smell of clean hair fresh out of the shower, with the scent of the shampoo lingering faintly behind. If I smelled this opening on someone, my first thought would be to assume they just stepped out of the shower, and this is the lingering fragrance of some hair product.
I’m not a fan of fruity fresh, clean, shampoo-like scents, but the effect is more subtle here than in some other designer fruity scents. On first smelling Nomade, I’ll confess I started thinking about giving it to my mother, lover of fresh shampoo scents, but, after wearing it all day, I decided not to let it go just yet.
In addition to the cleanness of it, there is a general designer aura to the opening that makes me think “Yep, this is something they sell at Sephora.” There’s nothing at all wrong with this, and it so happens that this is one of the most inventive and pleasant designer scents I have tried. Still, if you’re someone from the niche crowd, looking for something photorealistic, gritty, or deeply bitter or inky with moss, don’t set yourself up for disappointment: Nomade has the same clean, fresh, sweet “perfumey” air as most other scents you’ll find on the shelf alongside it. Underneath this, however, the notes in play are interesting, and blended with a light and skillful hand.
In the first few seconds, I recognize freesia and various indistinct citruses making up the backdrop of clean freshness in Nomade. I happened to guess orange, lemon, and bergamot correctly, but the citruses all blend together in a general shape of gentle freshness, without any hard edges (no floor-cleaner lemon here!).
The next minute, I can recognize a clean, white, indolic jasmine joining the scene. It’s a high-quality, clean yet multi-dimensional and enchanting jasmine top note that feels a tiny bit warm in that humid-botanical-garden way. This clean and bright phase of pure citrus and florals lasts for less than half an hour, but it is like the first line of a song sung in a round: alone at first, then fading into a chorus of more layered voices, a faint but distinct thread one can still pick out of the composition by remembering the beginning.
All this sets the stage for the real star of Nomade: the supple, fleshy stone fruit. On me, the fruit at the center of the opening is overwhelmingly a delightful light plum. I’ve never had a mirabelle plum before, and was enchanted by the possibility of trying something of this mysterious yellow plum that’s largely illegal to import into the United States. By and large, this plum note feels to me like many other plum notes, but perhaps a bit lighter, with less of a deep, jammy timbre that brings out notes of baking, incense, and woods, and more of a light, delicate, fresh nature.
By the time the plum settles in, I don’t distinctly smell any particular citruses or flowers: they have all melded together into the background thread of light, feminine freshness: an indolic facet here from the jasmine, a refreshing aspect there from the citrus, a soft aspect at the center from the freesia. It’s a designer style of scent, but it’s masterfully blended, all becoming one uniform scent as more notes are folded in.
A few hours in, the plum fades and shifts. The fruity notes shift from plum to something that seems to me like a fig: still clean and fresh, but also a little sweeter, heavier, jammier, a thick dark amber color densely packed with seeds instead of a bright yellow. I’m surprised more people haven’t mentioned fig in describing this phase, because for me it’s dead-on. It’s too stewy, thick, and condensed in its sweetness to be a plum, particularly after the light and fresh plum opening, and it’s certainly nothing like a peach. It is not overwhelmingly saturated or syrupy like a dried fig: rather, it is fresh, pairing honeyed dense sweetness with fresh, almost green aspects.
Around the same time, I can still briefly smell a suggestion of gentle, mildly indolic florals, and they feel a touch more prominent for a second among the greenery. They’re doing that gauzy, warm thing that faint florals sometimes do on me, where they are just a suggestion of hazy, warm, comforting indoles within an opening dominated by fruits or other notes. Something about this effect always feels a touch like sunscreen or lotion to me, but only in a faint and comforting way, with a timbre like sun-warmed skin.
Around the same time that the sweeter, jammier fig note starts to expand, something fresh and green starts to bloom in the background. It’s a bit of a traditionally masculine accord, reminiscent of some fresh green and slightly earthy sort of aftershave. There’s a touch of the scratchy herbal earthiness of patchouli, along with another unidentified fresh-yet-slightly-bitter greenness. I guess it could be some particular blend of artificial oakmoss notes, at least in part, but it doesn’t quite smell like any oakmoss I know: it’s more fresh than it is bitter, a medium-light green rather than a dark one, more like springtime herbs than autumn forest floor. It’s fresh and green in a faintly perfume-y, generic men’s product way, but not like some overwhelming blue or calone note, just a simple and slightly old-fashioned fresh green scent. It is not wild or earthy or like anything in the woods, which are features I have come to expect of oakmoss. I see the davana note in the Nomade Absolu, and wonder whether some similar fresh but bitter green herb is present here, lending a lighter and snappier facet to the mix of green notes.
Perhaps that fresh green scent is partly an illusion borne of the fresh citrus-floral background mixed with just a hint of something truly dark, earthy, and bitter: oakmoss. Unlike other perfumes that call themselves a chypre, here the bitter oakmoss scent is less of a stable staple of the fragrance and more of a fickle note that comes and goes, winding in and out among the fresh green and fruity scents.
I’d hardly call this a chypre at all for this reason: at absolute most, it’s chypre-lite, with the faint oakmoss emerging at some moments and in some conditions to provide a complimentary bitter and grounded edge to this otherwise light and airy fresh scent. In moments when the light hits this moss on the forest floor just right, it is divine: fresh and green and mossy, with a hint of lingering plum in the background. Somehow, these moments make me think of Nomade as a feminine opposite for something like Lalique’s Encre Noir: a touch of the cool, wet forest bottled up in an accessible designer bottle.
On my chest and neck, the initial fruit phase lasts some six hours, transitioning from a fresh plum to a heavier, sweeter fig about three hours in. Oddly enough, on my arms the plum was gone in two hours, transitioning into the aftershave accord with no fruit over it, skipping the fig phase entirely, which was a bit of a startling transition, from sweet fruity scent to a sudden fresh green aftershave scent. My guesses are that lighter application and wear on parts of the body that are not as warm (such as on my wrists, compared to my chest and neck) risks not fully activating the full arc of fruit notes, leaving one suddenly abandoned by the plum in an odd masculine fresh world with no smooth passage from one place to another. On my neck and chest where the fig stuck around, the combination of this and the fresh, clean greens reminded me of Diptyque’s Philosykos in a pleasant, inviting, clean way, with a touch more sweetness, richness, and warmth.
Whether or not it is accompanied by the arc of gently fading fig, the fresh green aftershave scent that’s most prominent around hours three to four slowly becomes warmer from the fourth hour onward, while the hints of fruit fade further and further into the backdrop. Initially, all I can smell creeping up behind the clean green scent is the woody warmth of amberwood, which adds just a touch of wooded structure and some hardly-sweetened amber warm notes. Around the fifth hour, I become aware of sandalwood, with its lovely slightly sweet, slightly spiced texture, making itself known. It is spicy-sweet in a way that feels almost like honey, prickling at the back of your throat while filling your mouth with a gentle sweetness.
This is quite a cinnamon-y, warm spicy sandalwood, or perhaps there’s a subtle cinnamon note tucked cozily in between the sandalwood and amberwood at about five to six hours in. This is no in-your-face candy or candle cinnamon, no overbearing room freshener or over-sweet nargile: this is an impressively realistic and unruffled cinnamon, like a gentle waft of the cookies being baked all the way on the other side of the house. I find that cinnamon notes often tend to shout in abrasive, candied, over-saturated waxy tones to make themselves known, but Nomade is just the opposite: cool, clean, and gentle through and through, all the way down to her warmest and coziest corners.
After another hour, it becomes clear that the warmest spiciest facet is cinnamon after all. Indeed, this is one of the most delightfully subtle cinnamon notes I have ever encountered, and I’m not surprised it isn’t frequently listed in note pyramids or ad copy about Nomade. When people hear cinnamon, they often expect spicy-sweet pomp and circumstance, whereas she is cool and calm, delicately complex and utterly chic.
I’m impressed with the restraint and fullness of this fragrance: I always find it a heartening mark of the artistry when a perfume is full of subtle, restrained notes that all play together in different arrangements and harmonies, coming and going at different times, smelling a little different to each person. Like Mugler’s Womanity, Nomade is clearly a project of passion and art rather than just another designer fragrance churned out by marketers pandering to focus groups. (Unlike Womanity, I find the resulting scent is more pleasurable than it is disquieting.)
This mix of fresh, green notes, warm amber-toned woods, soft and warm cinnamon, a tiny hint of earthiness, and an occasional whiff of fruit continues fading away elegantly into the drydown. I’d say Nomade is entirely gone within eight hours. This final fading away is fairly linear, with no more twists or turns. All in all, she is one of my favorite department store designer fragrances that I have smelled, and I respect her deeply.
Stereotypically, this smells like a chic woman who has it all together, who has a tomboyish side and excels in her line of work, and who still loves a fruity designer scent with a touch of faint, fresh sweetness. The many storylines of Nomade feel, at times, disjointed to me, but the overall effect is distinct: what does this smell like? It smells like plum, and… Nomade.
For some reason, there is a very precise mental image in my head when I picture the Platonic ideal of a woman who wears Nomade. I don’t know whether this is a photograph I saw somewhere once, or perhaps a figment of my over-illustrative imagination: I can clearly picture a candid black-and-white photograph of a woman looking out onto a cobbled street for oncoming traffic, one leg extended elegantly in a confident step forwards. She is wearing dark stockings and a long coat. Her hair is of a medium length, hanging loose around her head in a way that somehow looks entirely put together even as a strand floats away slightly on the wind. On her feet are low heels, perhaps kitten heels, or something like the iconic T-strap heels of the 1920s, that classic subdued style that eventually evolved into today’s theatre and dancing shoes. The look on her face is intent and purposeful, and she is carrying something in her arms or hands, perhaps a leather briefcase or a simple high-quality handbag. This is a working woman, carrying herself with pride, but she isn’t serious to death: under her black-and-white exterior one can see golden swirls of playfulness and delight, the evenings spent packed into an apartment kitchen roaring with laughter with her friends, the wink she just might give you as you pass by.
Someday I shall find an illustration for this mental image, but for now you will simply have to try Nomade.
Nomade is one of the very few perfumes I think my mother and I could share. She likes fresh floral scents, perhaps a delicate slice of fruit, shampooey early 2000s designer affairs, not too sweet. I like all kinds of things, but most of all odd green and earthy notes, weird chypres, things that are damp and verdant and strange. Nomade is the beautiful place where those two seemingly disparate aesthetics meet.
When I first sampled Nomade, I was undecided whether this is a fragrance I’d like to wear more than just sampling another few times, but I was excited to explore further. It took a couple more wears to really figure her out.
And now, I’m comfortable with the way I adore Nomade. I crave her in a way that’s different from the way I long for the weirdest, nichest things. She is fresh, light, and fruity, with a common enough designer fragrance effect going on, and she is lovely. I’ve never enjoyed a fragrance that’s like this the way I like Nomade. Fruity scents just aren’t my thing, and neither are generically fresh ones… and yet, there are things in Nomade that enormously appeal to me. In a way, Nomade is a chic fresh fruity scent done right.
She’s also a gorgeous example of how to bring together two crowds with seemingly irreconcilable tastes.
Something I noticed in reading other reviews of Nomade is that the fruity fresh designer fragrance lovers sampling it are often skeptical about the oakmoss. The niche chypre fiends, on the other hand, bemoan a bland designer plum note. As a result, both groups are pleasantly surprised. They walk away smiling, their scent palettes expanded to something they never really thought they’d like before.
Finding something new you love but never would have tried without a gentle tapering introduction is one of the finest human experiences. Without a doubt, Nomade provides it. If one side of it looks appealing to you, give it a try. The other side is a new adventure, and it just might surprise you.