Gone, But Not Forgotten Series Part 2: Beautiful Androgyny – Yves Saint Laurent Nu Perfume Review

Hurricane Grace

To me, Grace Jones is the Queen/King of androgyny, she tiptoes the line between masculine and feminine so perfectly and either way she is absolutely striking to look at. Like Ms Jones, Nu is androgynous, it is neither wholly masculine, feminine or unisex, it creates its own rules about gender and takes facets from both sexes.

I have no idea which fragrance(s) Ms Jones wears but if I were to pick a perfume just for her, I would pick Nu.

Nu (this review refers to the Eau de Parfum) was released in 2001 and was created by Jacques Cavallier under the art direction of Tom Ford. I mentioned in my review of Gucci Rush that everything Tom Ford did whilst at Gucci, YSL and Lauder was pretty much epic, and I stand by that. With Nu, he and Jacques Cavallier created something unique and way ahead of its time.

The Notes

Top: Bergamot
Heart: White Orchid and Black Pepper
Base: Incense Absolut, Woody Notes, Spicy Notes and Vetiver [1]

How Does it Smell?

Nu isn’t a typical incense fragrance, in fact it is a very atypical incense fragrance. The opening is a wonderful bracing blast of bergamot, and I really appreciate the fact that the bergamot is allowed to come through on it’s own, if only for a few moments, lots of fragrances attempt to tame the note but I love the smell of pure bergamot (I’m an Earl Grey addict, what can I say?). I wouldn’t say the opening is fresh, after all there is an underlying note of spicy pepper, but I would describe it as cool.

The pepper becomes stronger and spicier in the heart, and as the coolness of the opening fades, the incense comes along to warm things up. What makes Nu genius is the pairing of the warm incense and spices with a sweet, slightly sharp white floral note. I would swear that there is also a dab or two of iris within the heart, there is a soft powderiness with a mere hint of that earthy routines that is the signature of iris.

Nu’s base is one of my all time favourites, I could happily sniff it all day, every day, until the end of time. There is a lot going on in the base, but in a good way, there is strong cedar wood and incense (masculine) as well as a warm, powdery vanilla (feminine). I admire the fact that Cavallier has managed to create so many interesting facets within the base, it smells warm, sweet, powdery yet balsamic, which makes for a very interesting and almost addictive contrast. How could anyone not admire something that goes from cool to warm in such an unusual way?!

Nu has excellent longevity and projection, it lasts for over 24 hours on the skin and after each note finally gives up the ghost and leaves the skin you are left with a warm, slightly sour woody/vanilla hue that feels like a second skin.

The BottleNu

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a violet plastic hockey puck/compact with a cobalt blue inside. Cold, stark and unusual – the flacon (can we call it that?) for Nu is as androgynous as the scent it contains. Tom Ford has a knack for simple, yet edgy design and with Nu he pushes this to the absolute limit. Some would say that he went too far, and part of me would agree, but I love all that is unusual in this world, and this bottle certainly fits the bill.

Why Was it Discontinued?

We all know that the most common reason a fragrances is discontinued is due to poor sales. Nu is no exception.
Why didn’t it sell? I don’t think the world was ready for Nu, a lot of the fragrances released at the same time were light and fresh, everything Nu is not. Perhaps Nu was too heavy and intrusive for the mainstream market. I also think that the unusual hockey-puck like bottle didn’t help, and whilst I really like it for being striking and androgynous, I don’t think it was ‘pretty’ enough for most people.

Nu used to be available at a lot of the discounters but it now seems a lot harder to find, you can still find bottles on eBay but they also seem to be getting more scarce. Stock up while you can!


This review is based on a bottle of Nu EDP from my own personal collection.

[1] basenotes.net

Image 1 technodisco.net

Image 2 basenotes.net

* Nu was the first review specifically written for the ‘Gone, But Not Forgotten Series’, however I have since decided to add an earlier review of Kingdom by Alexander McQueen to the series. Kingdom becomes Part 1 and Nu becomes Part 2 (18 October 2011).