Thursday, December 06, 2007

Caron Narcisse Noir

Caron Narcisse Noir (1911) is a legendary creation by Ernest Daltroff

(Click on his name and read more about the brilliant self-taught perfumer). It's often referred to as a film noir masterpiece because of its artful interplay between dark and light. Narcisse Noir (black narcissus) sounds like a macabre potion but actually, it's a beautiful blend of heady spring flowers and a wooded, musky base. It is Caron's star perfume, with celebrity-approved cult status since its successful launch. According to Caron Boutique in NYC a few years ago, Narcisse Noir was their best-seller, notoriously favored by men to buy for gifts. Narcisse Noir is smouldering seduction, a stunning showcase of the perfect balance between the clean, pristine quality of white flowers and the exotic allure of sandalwood. It's an undeniably riveting beauty: warm, intoxicatingly sweet with a soft, soapy overtone. It is unapologetically Floral Oriental: warm, smoky, musky and only slightly headshop, a mysterious kind of chic. It's the honeyed skin scent of goddesses, the quintessential "bombshell" perfume classic.

Narcisse Noir isn't an urn perfume exclusive to the boutiques, and there is an EDT (eau de toilette) version available. The EDT is of great quality but I recommend parfum over EDT because in EDT I can detect white musk and it bothers me (edited to add: I think what was bothering me was pronounced rose in the absence of denser sandalwood as in the parfum--EDT is also great). In the parfum, the sandalwood smells to me much heavier, unadulterated and of sublime quality. Many Caron perfumes have, implied or in reality, a confectionary or boozy character, but I find Narcisse Noir more incensey with a velvety aura. The sweetness of the floral heart is concentrated, an almost candied liqueur smell, but the musky sandalwood base and the soapy orange blossom effect are quite soft, refined in the way they caress the nose. Caron is often known for their signature Mousse de Saxe (Saxon moss), a dark, complex and inky base smell over which compositions are built. I find a hint of it in Narcisse Noir but not enough to steal the thunder from the main duet between narcissus (orange blossom) and sandalwood.

The narcissus together with the regal, "spiritually clean" (by that, I mean the kind that conjures images of Eastern meditation) sandalwood create one powerfully femme fatale perfume (that anyone can wear regardless of gender, particularly if you have "smoky eyes"...). Perhaps Narcisse Noir wouldn't be the femme fatale it is without some power (bold elements, olfactorily speaking) behind it: power which can only come from both yin and yang and their equally balancing energies. All in all, Narcisse Noir is bewitching but worn judiciously, it won't make anyone run in fear--quite the contrary in my experience.

Additional notes from Now Smell This blog: orange blossom, bergamot, petitgrain, lemon, rose, jasmine, jonquil, Persian black narcissus, musk, vetiver, civet, and sandalwood.

(Image: Narcisse Noir parfum bottle designed by Baccarat,