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Datura Noir – sweet and bitter and indolic - August 22, 2016

Datura Metel - Wikimedia Commons - David Dickerson 2005

I remember the day, some years ago now, when one of my dearest childhood friends announced he was getting married. I couldn’t have been happier for him, especially after I met his intended. Elizabeth was, and still is, a beautiful, smart, warm woman. Born into wealth and privilege in Haiti, her father was an outspoken critic of both “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” so her family sought political asylum in Canada. That’s how she came to meet her future husband – and me.

We became close friends very fast and shared lots of wine, shopping, recipes and in getting to know each other we shared our pasts. One evening, over a glass of wine, we started talking about our favourite TV shows.

“What’s with the fascination with zombies?” I said. “The Walking Dead, iZombie and World War Z. Vampires I get, werewolves I get but zombies are just slow-moving and unsexy. What’s the appeal?”

“Well, part of it might be that unlike vampires and werewolves, zombies really do exist,” Elizabeth said.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Oh, not the goofy half-eaten things in movies and on TV, I mean the zombies of Haitian folklore, where a bokor uses a powder or potion to make a person appear dead and then rises them from the dead and keeps them drugged on hallucinogenic plants so they are alive but stoned and delirious and completely under the control of the bokor. It is way to control people through fear, that’s why Papa Doc claimed to be a Vodou priest,” she said.

Later on, after Elizabeth left, I got to thinking about zombies and I wondered: what’s in that potion or powder the bokor uses? Turns out it’s likely dried puffer fish and datura.

Puffer fish contains tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that causes central nervous system damage like epilepsy and dementia, oh and death. Datura is a genus of nine speicies of poisonous flowering plants, and according to Wikipedia, “belongs to the classic "witches' weeds", along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. Most parts of the plants are toxic, and datura has a long history of use for causing delirious states and death. It was well known as an essential ingredient of potions and witches' brews.”

Maybe that’s why I love Datura Noir by Serge Lutens so much – am I a victim of enchantment? Naw. The only magic here is how good this EdP smells and how deliriously happy I am when I wear it.

It opens with a citrus sparkle from lemon blossom and juicy mandarin followed by apricot-tinged osmanthus and almond-smelling heliotrope. These are swept up in a heady, indolic note of tuberose making the florals swirl, kaleidoscope style, sometimes stronger and sometimes fainter. A note of vanilla adds a delicious sweetness while apricot adds a dimension of bitter almond. Somewhere in the mix is a note of creamy, fatty coconut oil. The effect is like turning a light on in a dark room – everything comes to life.

The odd thing is, I can smell each note distinctly but the effect is hallucinogenic and I love it! Where there’s heliotrope and vanilla, you’ll usually find bitter almond and it’s here at the base of Datura Noir – edible and succulent. That lick of vanilla sweetness? Oh, it stays until the end, counterbalanced by Tonka bean’s bittersweet almond facet and a note of bitter, balsamic myrrh. Musk adds warmth and the smell of skin.

Datura Noir dries down to a sensuous summer skin scent – narcotic, sweet, and bitter-balanced, it’s perfectly unisex.

 I asked Elizabeth if she wanted to try it. And when she did, she loved it.

“It’s a gorgeous interpretation of datura plants blooming at night. You know, this is the perfect way to enjoy toxic datura,” she said. “The only real danger is not wearing it and being boring.”

“Boring? Oh, that never happens here in perfumeniche,” I laughed.

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