Narcisse Noir is a smoldering femme fatale. Once you succumbed to as much as a single dab on the wrist, you’re in for a big voice declaring unrecruited love with flamboyant stare of black-countered eyes and dramatic uttering of painted lips.
It takes about half an hour of full-on flowery menace, prowling orange blossom and high-pitched tuberose. Painted in oily strokes full of powder and grapey bittersweet salicilates redolent of old rouge compact, vintage lipstick and perfume-stained satin intimates that smell like peering between the sheets of a turn-of-the-century’s escort. But beyond all the dirty scandals and high-maintenance drama lies a surprising secret and her even more dangerous side...
Once the rather sickening flowers dissipate, Narcisse Noir becomes the code name of a World War I spy mistress. She lures the enemy into her bed, and the moment they are charmed by her chalky whispers and softened by her velvety gown – she flips around and becomes the master of torture in patent leather attire, with spurs in her heels that fill the dusty boudoir with incense smoke, cigarette butts and a mysterious, inexplicable animalic presence that is somewhere between a cat and lion. And on the not so rare occasion when her victim becomes aware of her betrayal, she will escape the gunshots with the nostril-pinching scent of burnt rubber tires, leaving long skid marks and an even longer trail of enigma.
Top notes: Bergamot, Petitrgarin, Lemon
Heart notes: Orange blossom, Tuberose, Jonquil, Jasmine, Rose
Base notes: Leather, Musk, Vetiver, Civet, Sandalwood
Narcisse Noir is an iconic scent, created in 1911 by Ernest Daltroff (Caron's founding perfumer). The Art-Nuveau bottle is just as legendary as the scent itself, with its squat jar reminiscent of ink vessle, and a black carved glass stopper with a flower motif of the "black narcissus". Legends could be told (or made up) about such flower, and the familiarity of it as well as the mystery and intrigue came well before "Noir" was so fashionable... Narcisse Noir is the kind of perfume that inspires intrigue, writing, and perhaps even films. It's not a perfume I often reach for, yet I don't think it will ever leave my collection.
As an aside note: I've heard mentioned time and over again, that Narcisse Noir or Black Narcissus is mentioned by Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard". This is the only reference I had confirmed from the film that refers to a scent - tuberose, to be exact: "She'd smell of tuberoses, which is not my favorite perfume, not by a long shot" (filmsite). This could be Narcisse Noir or could be from any number of other tuberose-laden scents of the era. And I won't be surprised if Gloria Swanson was overdosing on that perfume before that scene to get an authentic reaction from William Holden.
Which reminds me of another eccentric theatrical character of similar overbearing presence. Neither ladies might have worn Narcisse Noir; but they sure have the same super-imposing personalities of the perfume. It takes a long time to warm up to them - once you've discovered their volnurability; or in the perfume's case - it's leathery, deep and non-floral aspect.