Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In this Light of Mars: Noir Epices (2000)


At some point early in this decade, before oriental became subsumed under oriental-woody – before, that is, the middle-finger of perfumery was lopped off – Michel Roudnitska created Noir Epices for Frédéric Malle’s Edition de Parfums. It was one of the series’ inaugural perfumes, and remains sans doute one of its best. While it is neither the shoulder-pad-clad career-bitch perfume that Opium and Cinnabar are, nor the opoponax and vanilla confection that Shalimar is, nor even the date-lipped arabesque of Serge Lutens’ Arabie, it is oriental through and through.

Luca Turin speaks to its medicinal character, a view which, on account of clove, I won’t discount; but Noir Epices is something more than a clove-studded pomander of orange and rose. For me, it is an abstraction of cinnamon – and a non-Lutens’style abstraction at that. It grows, I believe, from a moody cinnamon that eschews all that happy-homemaker/pie-in-the-oven suburban bunkum. It is the sort of cinnamon that would feel at home (indeed!) in a scene from Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie or a Genet television play. Sad, but with an abiding sense of the nourishing absurd.

It is a disorienting scent, one that leads you out into a barren desert place and then confronts you, like a woman approaching out of nowhere with a book which, when opened, cannot be read. You turn the page and hear a child’s voice (orange blossom), next the voice of its mother (geranium absolute). It seems then that the sun has been replaced behind your back. Instead of slanting light, there is a strange neon intensity (nutmeg) and the nagging feeling that (that) nothing (sandalwood) that ever pleases you is just nice.

8 Comments:

Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

You reminded me of El libro de Arena by Borges with your analogy. Something that put a smile on my lips on this busy morning!

January 28, 2009 at 2:04 AM  
Anonymous Thierry said...

C'est le premier parfum que j'ai acheté dans la collection de Frédéric Malle. J'apprécie en revanche nettement moins les jus créés par Michel Roudnitska pour Delrae...
Noir Epices me semble assez sous-estimé dans la blogosphère parfumée. Pourtant il s'agit de mon point de vue d'une grande réussite pour qui cherche un parfum éminemment confortable en hiver tout en gardant une structure forte qui jamais ne s'alanguit (pas de vanille ni de baumes). Bien que ne pouvant être considéré comme un chypre techniquement (pas de mousse de chêne) il s'en rapproche par ce caractère bien trempé qui permet cependant un va et vient l'orange du départ et les notes sombres du fond.
Encore toutes mes excuses pour mon intervention en Français... je suis votre blog de près et je vais ressentir bientôt Cuir pleine fleur (?) de Heeley qu'on ne trouve que dans un seul magasin à Paris (!)

January 28, 2009 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Thierry said...

"un va et vient l'orange du départ et les notes sombres du fond" Sometimes my English is worse than my French !!!!
I should say : "un va et vient de l'orange du départ aux sombres notes de fond"

January 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

E., I haven't dipped into Borges in a while. But I'm hooked, from "The Garden of Forking Paths" onward...

January 28, 2009 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Th., Merci encore pour vôtre commentaires provocatifs. Je préfère aussi ce parfum au-dessus de ses créations pour Delrae. Il semble y avoir plus de pensée ici.

January 28, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a thought provoking and lovely review, thank you. At the beginning of my happy descent into scent obsession I obtained a sample of Noir Epices and was charmed but my head was turned by its shouty cousin Bois de Paradis. I still enjoy sniffing my bottle of BdP but having rediscovered Noir Epices a few months ago I much prefer it. There is a warm clarity about it which I love. donanicola

January 29, 2009 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Donanicola, I register warm "strangeness" on this one. Still perfect, just strange, illegible in a way. Thank you for the compliment.

January 30, 2009 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger Parfum said...

Coincidentally I showed this perfume at a presentation to some investors just a few days ago, and one of my audience exclaimed that there are only a few things that immediately bring a smile to his face in this world, and he had just added Noir Epices to that list! He treated that smelling strip like the world's treasure lol ! NE is also one of my favourites :)

February 19, 2009 at 6:29 PM  

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