Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Narcisse Noir

black narcissus 8-366 by sedgwic
black narcissus 8-366, a photo by sedgwic on Flickr.
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.

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At October 10, 2012 3:33 PM, Blogger melou said...

Wow! This sounds like my type of perfume. I really enjoyed reading your description of the fragrance.

At October 13, 2012 10:17 AM, Blogger JulienFromDijon said...

Which concentration have you been trying? EDT or perfume (vintage, of course)?
I recently got the chance to smell a mint small vial of the vintage EDT.

It brought me an Umberto Eco "The name of the rose" fantasy.
Because the orangleflower is so tied to honey absolute. It's so rich in ingredients, yet transparent.
Candlelights, luring and gloomy atmosphere, with long lost knowledge, mysteries, and beauty involved.

Nowadays, it would be a preppy sparkling orangeflower (ex : l'artisan parfumeur's), or one dipped in loukhoum sugar powder (sweet redemption's). So it's nice to see an orangeflower succeed in its sweaty, cuminy, animalic feature.
It also recalls me how vintage perfume can rely on jasmine carnal virtue, to not be full on musc&civet animalic compounds.

Now I understand why the actuel EDT is a relent of bad orangeflower and civet, they got the richness of the other ingredients away, and the actual EDT smells paradoxically off.


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