Is the King[dom] Nu[de]? Almost, but not quite…

Right after discussing the intangibility of the Great Discontinued scent, here I find myself talking about two of them…

Kingdom and I have a history that goes two or three years back. I was in love with the bottle long before I smelled the scent. To me it is the most beautifully designed bottle, feels very expensive and has no flaws whatsoever. It is even extremely practical once you figure out how to make it stand straight and still. I must admit though that the first sniff was a shock, nothing like I imagined it to be. I loved the monumental dimension of Alexander McQueen’s clothes and the aggressiveness of his aesthetics but somehow I expected something cold and detached, something to rise above and look down as the name suggested. Instead I got a violently romantic scent, dramatic, intricate and unique. Exactly what I should have expected. Kingdom is usually classified as a spicy oriental but to my nose it is wood that stands out. A very thick, dark and polished wood, an intricate, artisanal chest that has just had the finishing touch from the hands of the master carpenter. Of course a lot more is going on here. The legendary cumin opening is there and is really breathtaking. No one has ever dared put cumin in the spotlight like this. What is surprising is that cumin coupled with the polished wood accord feels more like part of the lacquer than a spice. The initial phase of Kingdom lasts for quite long and feels very aggressive, thick and slightly metallic. In this stage it doesn’t come of as a feminine scent at all. It certainly isn’t soft and the intense red glass of the bottle and silver skin seems to me like one of the most successful pairings of perfume and perfume bottle. As cumin starts to integrate with the other materials a floral heart shines through. I can pin down neroli and carnation, a combination that creates a creamy heart that also manages to carry over the metallic theme of the opening. The drydown is creamy and soft but it has a rounded, impenetrable quality. It feels like a soft suede cushion.

Notes from orange, mandarin orange, mint, neroli, bergamot, lemon, carnation, ginger, rhubarb, jasmine, celery seeds, rose, amber, musk, oakmoss

Notes from my nose: cumin, mahogany, metal, neroli, carnation, suede

Two years before the release of Kingdom, another legendary perfume hit the market. Nu was the first YSL perfume launched under the creative direction of Tom Ford. It was the female partner to M7 which created more noise with its innovative use of oud and full frontal male nudity campaign (in Europe only). Nu however wore a breathtaking bottle that looked like a silver hockey puck, hugging a purple-blue glass container. The sensual, mystical theme of the bottle was also reflected in the scent itself. An opening of pepper segues into a sandalwood heart with  a delicate jasmine note. The base is creamy and rich, soft and warm.

Notes from  bergamot,cardamom, pepper, orchid, jasmine, sandalwood, musk,vetiver

Notes from my nose: pepper, sandalwood, jasmine, suede, coffee

These two fragrances felt immediately similar to my nose before I even knew that they were created by the same perfumer, Jacques Cavallier. Of course their similarities are as many as their differences but their common genes are masterfully manipulated to diverge to opposite directions. In the heart of both compositions a full bodied, succulent ball of leathery flowers with a hint of metal is the sensual centre of attention. For Nu, Jacques Cavallier chose to dress this sensual accord in a velvet night gown, chic but understated. Two years later he pushed the envelope by trapping it in a cage of barb-wire cumin and woods. Both fragrances are beautifully sculpted, compact and tactile. Their respective textures are stunning. Kingdom feels hard and shiny. Nu is soft, wet and rich. Suede is to Nu what vinyl is to Kingdom. Researching Cavallier’s work I realised that he is responsible for such iconic fragrances as Tuscany Leather, Rive Gauche pour Homme, Opium pour Homme, Midnight Poison, Bulgari pour Homme, Gautier Classique, L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey pour Homme and last but not least the misunderstood, avant garde masterpiece, Le Feu d’Issey. An impressive portfolio that shows that he is a master in creating three-dimensional perfume compositions, full of texture.

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. First I want to mention that I love your title!

    I remember your story about Kingdom so yes, you two do have a history 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever come across this perfume but if I do I’ll definitely try it. As to Nu, I just realized that somewhere I should have a sample sent by a friend but I haven’t tested it yet. If I find it, I’ll test it tonight.

  2. smellythoughts

    I need to try Nu – is the re-release un-messed with?
    Kingdom is a love of mine also, and something I desperately need to get a bottle of. I used to always buy my bottles of it at discount stores like TKMaxx where 50ml EDP would cost me £15! Now it’s like 5 times that price and I haven’t been able to bite the bullet yet! Killer. I wore Kingdom and Westwood’s Boudoir solely for about 3/4 years and regret selling my last bottle just before it got discontinued 😦 Nice to see it mentioned!

    • When I went to sniff the re-released version the sales assistant had just dropped and broken the tester so I do not know hoe it compares. People say it isn’t close. I think I got my Kingdom fr the original selling price, forgotten in a small shop, around 50 euros. I haven’t tried Boudoir yet nor My Queen

      • smellythoughts

        I didn’t like MyQueen – nothing particularly unusual about it. I adore Boudoir – but maybe because I’m so familiar with it and a bit attached. Having said that I don’t own a bottle any more but have owned tons.

        • I thought I should let you know that I did smell the current Nu formulation and it isn’t as different as most people say. I could still smell the same idea although it seemed less integrated, as if something is missing to keep all the notes together. But definitely worth trying.

  3. I’ve not tried Kingdom, but I love the original Nu in the eau de parfum concentration (which concentration are you reviewing, btw?). I can’t say that I perceive it quite the way you do — I don’t get the hint of metal that you mention — but close enough. Ohhhh, it’s so good … so quiet yet deeply sensuous! I can’t believe I never bought a bottle. (The re-released version I haven’t tried … and probably won’t.)

    I’d probably like Kingdom, as I’m one of those oddballs who enjoys the absolute heck out of cumin. I take it you do too, Christos?? (Say yes, so that we can sit together in the cafeteria at lunchtime.) 😉

    • Yes it is the eau de parfum, the same bottle you see in the photograph. I don’t get metal from Nu, just from Kingdom which is an incredible combination of classicism and weirdness. I also smelled the same floral heart in the latest Etro Paisley.

      I don’t know what’s wrong with people and cumin…. and body odour…. I think cumin is warm, earthy, slightly floral and tart. I love it in perfumes and in food. Actually cumin is not listed in the official notes but instead celery seeds are so I have to grind me some celery seeds to see how they compare with cumin.

  4. Recalling from my memory that afternoon, the espresso’s we had in that Monastiraki coffeshop, how calm you were, finding out you ‘ve been robbed and how angry I felt about it. What I also remember, are the thoughs I was making, watching you walk away in the subway’s tunnel : if I was in your place, I would be sad, miserable and devastated for more than a week, while (in my eyes) you were behaving as if you were holding a whole “kingdom” in your hands…
    Being the goodfather (in a way) of your Kingdom, I have to say that what Iike about it, is just “the castle” (meaning the bottle) which is truly a piece of art and ingenuity. The juice is weird. Garam Masala and roses are way beyond my tastes in fragrance.
    The old Nu is amazing. Creamy and warm as you describe it. Exactly the opposite from the new Nu, which is chemical, harsh and cheap.

    • I’m glad you chimed in here with your recollection of that day, apointofsmell … you confirmed two things: (1) my perception of the kind of person Christos is, which is why I think I gravitated towards him almost as soon as I heard his blogging voice; and (2) that the new Nu is probably not something I want to smell. Thanks for taking the time to smell it for us. 🙂

    • I am glad I found my bottle of Nu at such a good price and I am glad you fished Kingdom for me 🙂

      Today I smelled Secret Obsession on someone at work. I did not remember it so cumin-y!!! Dare I say it reminded me of Santal de Mysore…..? (within reason of course)

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