Christian Dior Eau Noire : Perfume Review

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Meninas

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Eau Noire is one of the fragrances from Christian Dior cologne trio. In contrast to the recent feminine releases, which seem to be partaking of the trend for fruity and sweet, the Dior masculine line includes a number of unusual fragrances launched under the guidance of Hedi Slimane. Like his menswear collections, the cologne trio is marked by the attention to quality and detail, from the understated elegance of the packaging to the intriguing compositions.

The most memorable fragrance from the range, Eau Noire was composed by Francis Kurkdjian, the creator of my other favorite, Cologne Blanche, a musky almond overlaid with orange and bergamot. Eau Noire ornaments dark woods with the bitter honey and smoky caramel. Its multifaceted quality resembles the richness of colors in Baroque paintings, where the golden hues merge into the vivid carmines against the textured interplay of light and dark. The initial floral sweetness of lavender is woven through the rich herbal mélange, reminiscent of the windswept hilltops under the blistering August sun. …

Helichrysum with its scent reminiscent of fenugreek and celery seed drizzled with dark buckwheat honey lends a surprising facet to the composition. Also known as immortelle, everlasting and curry plant, helichrysum (helichrysum italicum) indeed resembles a scent of masala, an Indian spice mixture used in curries, and its exotic spiciness lends a luscious, intoxicating element to the composition. As it darkens, the arrangement attains a subtle sensual quality and the herbaceous bitterness melts into the resinous sweetness of woods, taking one from the meadows and into the old castles, where the candle smoke has permeated the wooden panels on the walls and the flames of the fireplace have charred the polished stones.

Eau Noire is associated in my mind with one of the most remarkable of Velázquez’s painting, Las Meninas, both for its darkness, its ability to make the elements of the composition to fall into place with an effortless precision, and a poignant emotional aspect. Looking at Las Meninas, I am touched by the precocious dignity of the golden haired infanta and by the sullen presence of the court dwarfs who are there to amuse a little girl tired of posing for a painting. The lustrous trappings of the court life conceal the ambiguous undercurrents. Eau Noire is a far more abstract composition, however its baroque richness conceals an introspective quality and a gentle touch of vanillic sweetness balancing out the darkness, just like Velázquez’s compassion for the individual softens the deadpan realism of his work.

A woman who enjoys Caron Pour Un Homme, Parfums de Nicolaï Pour Homme and Annick Goutal Sables, will find Eau Noire appealing. In fact, it is less masculine than Caron in light of its sweeter tonality, and it is easier to wear than Sables due to the fact that lavender lightens the composition. Eau Noire is in the category of fragrances that I enjoy first and foremost for myself, given its comforting and warm quality that wraps around me like a blanket of sweet darkness. Although the initial stages of the composition are made rather masculine by the honeyed bitterness of helychrisum, the drydown softens considerably. An abstract patisserie note is swirled through the darkness of woods, which have nutty warmth that is between caramelized juices dripping from Tarte Tatin and antique cedarwood panels.

Eau Noire, like the other two colognes, Bois d’Argent and Cologne Blanche, is available in 4.2oz, 8.4oz, and 16.9oz bottles, and can be found at Neiman Marcus as well as Dior boutiques.

Painting (please click to enlarge): Diego Velázquez. Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor). 1656/57. Oil on canvas. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. From spanisharts.com

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43 Comments

  • Qwendy: I wanted to be the first to comment since I’m up at 12 here, and it’s too late on your coast for anyone to have commented yet! I have a very chic French friend who got Eau Noir earlier this year and I just loved it. It’s great, as usual to get your sense of the notes since all I got was woods spice incense I love it! It would be nice if it wasn’t in such a huge bottle, anyone want to split one? December 7, 2005 at 3:22am Reply

  • Håkan Nellmar: After a few wearings I realise Eau Noire is not for me. Curry and vanilla icecream is what comes to mind. I really like Sables though. December 7, 2005 at 5:31am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I love & own Eau Noire. It´s a wonderful composition! AG Sables is another favourite of mine 🙂
    Thank you for your review! What do you think about Bois d´Argent (You haven´t reviewed it, haven´t you?)? It´s also beautiful & a perfect scent for colder days, I think.
    I own all three colognes & don´t regret it. The word “cologne” always brings to my mind the picture of a rather cheap scent that won´t last long, but the Dior colognes are something special & the name “cologne” doesn´t do them justice 😉 December 7, 2005 at 7:26am Reply

  • Christina H.: I’ve been curious about these scents for awhile now and one of these days I’m going to have to break down and try them out! Thank you for an intriguing review. Wonderful as always. December 7, 2005 at 8:54am Reply

  • Marina: Eau Noire sounds gorgeous. I have been wanting to try the three new Diors for a while now, each sounds like something I might love. …mmm…”baroque richness”…that sounds good. December 7, 2005 at 9:36am Reply

  • Tania: I really like it, and Will adores it, especially that fantastic curried opening. The recent Dior masculines are so much better than the feminines and in such a different aesthetic. I really am convinced that Galliano is trying to turn women into candy colored outrageous dolls dressed in fin-de-siècle baroque decadence, smelling like five flavors of bubblegum. And I like Galliano.

    In other news, I just wanted you to know I’m wearing Iris Poudré this morning, having only sprayed it once on paper before, and I am so madly in love I don’t know what to do with myself. I can barely get any work done. I’m in a frenzy. I can’t think. I can’t get through my coffee. Holy Toledo. This is beautiful. I wish I hadn’t blown the last of my perfume budget this year. I want it so, so badly. Santa, are you listening? December 7, 2005 at 9:50am Reply

  • Laura: T, what do you think plastic money is for? V, gosh, I’ll have to retry Eau Noire! If it makes you think of Velasquez, it is definitely worth a second sniff. December 7, 2005 at 9:55am Reply

  • Robin: The whole trio is so nicely done, but this one was too curried for me. To T on the Iris Poudre: find 2 people to split the trio of 10 ml travel sprays — it is a cheaper alternative & 10 ml is better than none! December 7, 2005 at 11:49am Reply

  • Tania: Enablers, the lot of you.

    >:-\

    I’m supposed to be buying presents for *other* people! December 7, 2005 at 11:59am Reply

  • linda: Wonderful review, as always. I bought a small bottle of Cologne Blanche after reading your review a couple of months ago and I didn’t regret it. It’s such a cozy fragrance, although I like it best after an hour. I should try Eau Noire now. December 7, 2005 at 12:22pm Reply

  • cait: T,
    I had the same mania for IP a few years ago when I was underemployed and doing endless loads of laundry at the laundromat in SF. It was one of the bright spots that, along with the jasmine and box trees and dance classes, kept me enthralled with imperfect life. Perfume has a way of making life worth living, even in the dark times. P.S., I would think of rebuying IP, but I would hog my own giant bottle! December 7, 2005 at 12:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Wendy, you managed to be the first! 🙂 I love the woody-caramelized herbs aspect of Eau Noire, and while at first, it seemed a little too strong and masculine, on my skin, it manages to soften and sweeten considerably. I think that 4.2oz bottle is certainly big, but I hear that there are sets of all three in smaller sizes. Maybe, those could be split. December 7, 2005 at 12:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Håkan, that is actually not too far from what I get on the paper, although I cannot say that helichrysum is always associated with curry for me, because it is so multifaceted. It definitely has that fenugreek note, and fenugreek is an important spice in masala. December 7, 2005 at 12:57pm Reply

  • cait: I get maple more than curry. December 7, 2005 at 1:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, you are absolutely right! Cologne is a wrong word here, because it does have unfortunate connotations. These fragrances are rich, definitely not cologne fresh. Bois d’Argent is wonderful too, the woods over the warm musky base. I find Eau Noire to be the most unusual of the three, but it may not be the most wearable. So, I am glad to hear of someone else liking it. December 7, 2005 at 1:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, thank you. The fragrance is very unusual, and its herbal bitterness can be either intriguing or off-putting. However, it is worth trying. December 7, 2005 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Prince Barry: I am a big fan of both Caron Pour un Homme and Sables. When I first sniffed Eau Noire, I was smitten and had to buy it the next day. The strange thing is, since buying the bottle, I have not been able to re-capture the magic of the first testing session. For some reason on me, the vanilla in the base just seems to overwhelm everything else so hence, I haven’t worn it for an absolute age. the vanilla even brought on a headache on 2 separate wearings….oh woe is me!

    Barry December 7, 2005 at 2:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, it is an oustanding fragrance, and definitely worth trying. I love its darkness and the caramelized effect of the base. December 7, 2005 at 2:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, maybe Dior is convinced that women are not as adventurous as men? At any rate, I am very pleased with the masculines in the range and the feminines made before 1990s (with some exceptions).

    Oh, what a surprise about Iris Poudre! I did not think you might come around to it so quickly. It is beautiful, and the aldehydic opening hightens the effect. I love it too. December 7, 2005 at 2:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, Velazquez came to mind the first time I tried it. Maybe, it was because Eau Noire struck me as baroque. It is rather unusual. December 7, 2005 at 2:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I agree on the whole trio. The attention to detail was very impressive. December 7, 2005 at 2:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, hey, shifting the blame, huh? 🙂 December 7, 2005 at 2:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I agree on Cologne Blanche. It is very comforting. Eau Noire is very different in character, of course, but I find it comforting as well. December 7, 2005 at 2:38pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cait, yes, that is the beauty of perfume, isn’t it? December 7, 2005 at 2:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cait, do you mean in helichrysum, or in Eau Noire? I notice a very caramelized undertone in Eau Noire. December 7, 2005 at 2:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Barry, oh, I really dislike when this happens. I am sorry to hear that the moment could not be captured again. I can see how vanilla might be strike one that way, although it is exactly what makes it wearable for me as it balances out the bitterness.

    I can sympathize though, because this is exactly what happened with me and Acaciosa. December 7, 2005 at 2:42pm Reply

  • paru: The mention of masala and curry notes reminds me of my Mum’s kitchen. I wonder if this fragrance would just end up making me hungry? December 7, 2005 at 3:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, that is possible, but not because it smells like curry. It does not really to me (fenugreek is not enough for masala, afterall). However, it smells of caramelized burned sugar bits in puran poli. I think that you will really like it. December 7, 2005 at 3:14pm Reply

  • cait: V,
    i mean in helichrysum, more in Sables than in Eau Noire. Eau Noire was more wearable to me than Sables. December 7, 2005 at 3:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, yes, Eau Noire was definitely more wearable than Sables for me as well. Sables was a bit too bitter for my tastes, but it is beautiful, and I still have some which I wear once in a while just to experience its unusual changes. December 7, 2005 at 3:20pm Reply

  • paru: You mean I could walk around with the smell of puran poli all day long! Can’t wait to try this one! December 7, 2005 at 3:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Imagine this! 🙂 December 7, 2005 at 4:40pm Reply

  • Qwendy: V, I checked eluxury and they only had a 16 oz bottle of Eau Noire, perhaps they are out of the smaller sizes, hence my idea to split. 4.2 sounds fine to me, do you know who might have it? Hmm, I can call the CD store in BH or else I’ll have to contact Barry about his castoff!

    I love the Velazquez image! December 7, 2005 at 7:58pm Reply

  • michelle: Got to try the trio at NMs a while back, and just before I sniffed the Eau Noire, someone said “maple syrup” and that is all I could smell in it for the longest time. I still like it, but even now cannot escape the maple syrup bell that rings in my head. On the other hand, I immediately loved Cologne Blanche and had to have it. I feel as if I could spray it all over my body and it wouldn’t be too much. Not that it is weak – just that it is that pretty and soft and bendy and sweet and easy. The third member of the trio did nothing for me. December 7, 2005 at 10:49pm Reply

  • Miriam: I too love the helichrysum note in this scent. Thank you V, for sharing it with me! Have you read Foucualt’s famous analysis of Las Meninas in Les Mots et les Choses (The Order of Things)? It’s incandescent.

    Best,
    Miriam December 7, 2005 at 11:23pm Reply

  • Miriam: PS Sorry, of course I meant “Foucault” and not “Foucualt.” And I was always taught that “Las Meninas” means “The Dwarves.” Who also happen to be waiting on the little princess. An interesting title for a portrait of a princess whose royal parents are being painted in the other room! December 7, 2005 at 11:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Wendy, oh, I did not realize they were out. Neimans used to carry the line, therefore I would call them as well. 4.2oz is a reasonable size, although I would not go for 16oz. I love it, but I cannot see myself using up 16oz of anything. December 7, 2005 at 11:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Michelle, you and Cait mentioned the maple syrup, which is what I am getting too. However, I experienced marple syrup only after I came to the States, therefore it is not a ready association for me. Delicate caramel is what I think about instead. December 7, 2005 at 11:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Miriam, you are most welcome. I love that note as well, especially since it works so beautifully in the composition. I have not read Foucault’s analysis, however now that you mention it I know that I should. That is what winter break is for–reading for pleasure!

    I have always encountered the translation of las meninas as ladies in waiting. In most art criticism on the painting, the meninas and the dwarves are discussed separately. From what I understand of the Spanish court, the dwarves were only entertaining the family, while maids of honour (the ones surrounding the young infanta) were waiting on them, including the children. Of course, the painting itself is a great example of Velazguez’s work, and it provided inspiration for various artists, not to mention Picasso. December 7, 2005 at 11:56pm Reply

  • Miriam: Ah yes, V, you are right– I just checked in my Spanish dictionary and Meninas does mean “maids.” Still, how wonderfully subversive to make the painting’s title the ladies in waiting, and the subject everything else going around the little infanta, and not the princess herself. Even though she certainly steals center stage! December 10, 2005 at 3:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I cannot agree more! You put it in such a wonderfully precise way–infanta is the center of attention–the maids rushing about her, the parents looking on, etc., and yet the painting is not about her. Nor is it about the royal couple. Velazguez is such a master of making us wonder what is the truth. December 10, 2005 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Ivan: Its so good i could drink it …. December 10, 2006 at 3:47am Reply

  • YP: I get little curry, maple syrup and lavender. Not to appealing. November 22, 2011 at 4:57pm Reply

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