Skip to main content

Une Voix Noire – Dark, beautiful, and fabulous - November 9, 2012 New Fragrance Listing


Image - Billie Hiliday, 1949 by Carl van Vechten, March 23, 1949 - Wikipedia

If you like jazz, you know Billie Holiday. Her strange languid voice belongs to no one else, and it has inspired singers for decades – Amy Winehouse, comes to mind. Billie Holiday’s huge talent was eaten up by booze, tobacco, and drugs, she was hounded by the legal system, and she died broken, penniless and way too early at age forty-four. The image of the beautiful younger Billie with the gardenias behind her ear is how our world sees her now, and it’s that Billie that I see, and hear, when I wear Une Voix Noire by Serge Lutens.

Une Voix Noire,  A Black (Dark) Voice. The SL website describes this new Paris Exclusives fragrance as “jazz, drinks and the night, and, beyond all that, a troubling line of white, gardenia-scented smoke.”  Lutens writes about how the white gardenia became part of her - read his story on his facebook page (scroll down for the English version) - and he’s created an EdP that truly does evoke the look, the sound, the scent of Billie Holiday.

If you dab this brown-tinged juice from its bell jar expecting a lush gardenia, you’re in for a big surprise - this isn’t Tubéreuse Criminelle, or Carnal Flower, or Fracas, which all sing the BWF (Big White Floral) notes at full volume from beginning to end. It starts with a tantalizing white gardenia - the notes listed are gardenia, rum and tobacco - but there is much, much more going on in Une Voix Noire, and it begins to sing a much darker, impassioned , soulful tune soon after the opening notes.

Jasmine, green and watery, and tart strawberry are right at the top, floating on sweet white gardenia.  It’s a fresh blossom, lush, creamy, velvety and slightly musky. After five minutes, I start smelling tobacco smoke and the boozy caramel note of dark rum. The edges of the gardenia petals darken and soon have a distinct narcotic indolic edge. In the heart, the tobacco transforms into stale cigarette smoke, the smoky smell of “morning after” hair and clothing, mixed with powdery floral notes, veering toward iris but still with the gardenia in the background. Une Voix Noire changes again in the dry-down, pushing the smoke back and revealing plums and woods, reminding me of the fullness of a Lutens “Bois de”, but not going that far. The sillage and longevity are perfection.

I love this perfume. White florals are never my first choice, but Une Voix Noire has totally captured my heart and imagination. Une Voix Noire unwinds in layers, telling a story. The metaphor of the beautiful gardenia that’s been admired, has charmed and seduced, been part of a jazz-filled night, and now is discarded and dying, parallels the life of Billie Holiday. There’s a dignity, and quiet melancholy which is revealed in the dry-down as Une Voix Noire darkens and deepens. I hear the wistful, sad and strangely beautiful voice of Lady Day.

Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake – the word genius comes to mind.

Une Voix Noire is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.