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Noir Épices - A Revelation (December 3, 2010 New Fragrance Listing)

A revelation happened today. Here’s the story............

Last year, Frederic Malle’s Noir Épices (Black Spices) was given to me as a gift, and I liked it a lot, but it never truly grabbed me.  I just didn’t think it lived up to its name - it wasn’t “noir” or “épice” enough for my nose – and this bothered me. I’d read The Guide, I’d read the reviews, and knew that this perfume by Michel Roudnitska is regarded as exceptional, but for me it wasn’t. From time to time, I’ve picked up the bottle and given it a sniff, but basically I‘ve ignored it. And felt guilty, of course. And kinda stupid.........

This morning was cold, with big fat snowflakes drifting down, and while layering on sweaters in my freezing bedroom (it was 16C /59F at 7 a.m.), the Perfume Manager voice said “It’s gotta be warm and spicy for you today, BUT - let’s step outside the box and try something different. What to wear, what to wear, too many to choose from, that’s the problem. Hurry up, make up your mind!”  So I pulled out the bottle of Noir Épices and gave myself two big spritzes – BAM! BAM!

Well, knock me over! This stuff is fantastic. Right out of the bottle comes a cloud of orange, not fresh-squeezed Tropicana , or orange zest, but orange oil with an unusual cold metallic note under it from the geranium, like a mechanical, industrial smell. The geranium, aldehydes and pepper make the top loud and sharp, which I think was what put me off from exploring Noir Épices the first time around, but they start to settle down when the orange sweetens from the rose note, and the whole opening accord becomes softer.

The spices roll out behind the orange, and they smell unusual too. The nose-tingling aromatics I expect from the nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove are muted, more like glowing embers than a raging fire –the extreme peppery vibrance of Comme des Garçons Original, or the lush exotic spiciness of Caravelle Épicée is not the story here. The spices in Noir Épices are different –dry,  restrained, subtle, darker – with a radiance that I seem to feel and smell from a distance, rather than up-close. The dry-down comes later than I expect, the patchouli leading the way to cedar and sandalwood, warm and inviting but understated. The fragrance stays close to the skin,the citrus and spice and wood notes merge perfectly into a soft sensuous scent that lasts for hours. It’s really beautiful.

Technically Noir Épices is an Oriental, but the big difference, and the thing that confounded my expectations, is that it has no vanilla or amber to sweeten and deepen the citrus, spices and woods. It isn’t lush or opulent or inviting, like a big cushy sofa with bright-coloured pillows – it’s a white leather steel-framed sofa in a city loft with big windows, cerebral and elegant and sophisticated. It’s a very modern take on an old formula.

Noir Épices starts out with a roar and ends with a soft caress – it’s full of contradictions and surprises, and I love it for those reasons, in addition to the fact that it is an absolutely beautiful fragrance. Why did I suddenly understand it? What triggered the revelation and brought Noir Épices into the light?

Well, the light of understanding went on in my little brain a few months ago that there’s a helluva lot more for me to learn about perfume, so I’ve started paying more attention. Reading, testing, trying to smell what is, instead of what I think should be, discarding old ideas, opening up to new experiences.

That, and the fact that it was so damned cold in our house – 16C (59F) is ridiculous. Or maybe it isn’t........

Noir Épices is listed in our Decant Store.  Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml. 

Photo - Wikipedia "Dried Peppercorns"