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Noir Exquis – An olfactory dessert… – November 2, 2015

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Image - A 'Paris-Brest" choux pastry with praline cream - flickr 12/24/2009

It’s official - gourmand fragrance season is here! The temperature has dropped, and stayed dropped so it’s time to dust off those beauties with their edible notes and line ‘em up on the shelf.

I love wearing gourmand fragrances in late fall and winter, those times of bounty, feasting and indulging. Cooler temperatures means that rich, complex stews and desserts have replaced the heat-busting salads and sorbets of summer. And gourmand fragrances, with their edible notes of honey, chocolate, vanilla, sugared nuts, are like olfactory desserts - they echo the heavier foods I crave this time of year.

But gourmands can be a bit tricky – done well they are balanced, complex and familiar, swathing you in a comforting blanket of scent. Done badly and they fall into the trap of being cloying and sickly sweet like a child’s all day sucker.

It takes a nose with a deft hand to make the kind of gourmand I want to wear and the good people at L`Artisan Parfumeur know just the one: Bertrand Duchaufour.

One of the most prolific and talented noses of his generation, Duchaufour has created some of the most beautiful fragrances I know, including two of my favourite gourmand frags: Piment Brûlant and Traversée du Bosphore, both for L`Artisan Parfumeur. And, since he’s also the nose behind their latest release Noir Exquis, I guess that should be ‘three of my favourite gourmand frags…’ Yep, with Noir Exquis I’ve have been Duchaufour-ed….again.

According to the L`Artisan press release, the brief for Noir Exquis was: ‘an unexpected rendez-vous in a French patisserie. Two people meet over a coffee. In this delicious atmosphere of patisserie and coffee, hushed looks are exchanged. This delightful rendez-vous is the beginning of a new story with Noir Exquis.’ A rendez-vous with a Bertrand Duchaufour frag? Mais oui! 

Noir Exquis opens with a note of candied chestnut – those sweet, dense toothsome treats that show up in every Paris corner boulangerie and pâtisserie in late fall and winter when chestnuts are in season. Here the smell has been beautifully replicated – sweet enough to draw in you so you want more but not so sweet it pushes you away. The denseness of the chestnut is tempered with a note of fresh, juicy orange while a note of walnut adds a rich nuttiness to the opening. It smells delicious and passes my test for a gourmand fragrance: the urge to lick it off my skin. As it blooms, a sweet, floral note of orange blossom ushers in a light note of coffee. This is not an intense, deep dark roast because this is not a deep, dark coffee fragrance. The coffee smell here is more like the scent that rises up from a cup of coffee creme.

And, then it appears – a note of caramelic maple syrup. I love the sweet/savoury odor profile of maple syrup in a fragrance and in Noir Exquis it keeps the sweetness perfectly balanced as it moves to the base where I get a lovely hint of coconut, likely from Macassar wood, along with heliotrope, its almond and vanilla facets extended with lush, creamy vanilla. Tonka bean adds a bittersweet almond facet to the base, while rich, milky sandalwood adds a woodiness to it.

The drydown isn’t foodie or heavy, but radiant, refined and elegant. True to the brief, it smells like the air in a French pâtisserie in late fall or winter. Not the literal smell of pastry and coffee so much as the smell of the setting. It smells familiar, comforting and welcoming. It smells like you want to wear it.

Noir Exquis is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.