Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
If Armani Privé Ambre Soie could be envisioned as richer, sharper, deeper, with the warmth of amber underscored by darkly resinous woods, Paco Rabanne Black XS might be the fragrance that such contemplation would paint. Ambre Soie veils its amber with a gourmand, chocolate-like layer that softens the final result, while Black XS sets amber in a frame that highlights its balsamic woods and fine tobacco facets.
Created by Olivier Cresp in 2005, Black XS is another fragrance from the recent masculine releases (like Dior Homme with iris and cocoa and Lanvin Arpège Pour Homme with jasmine and iris) that blends the gender line effortlessly. In the niche market, its gender specification might well be unisex. …
While it is not effeminate, Black XS is a fragrance that would not be jarring on a woman, since its woody warmth is accented by enough spicy sweetness to soften any of the masculine references. Many Paco Rabbane fragrances have attempted to play against the rules, beginning with Calandre (1969), the brief for which sought a fragrance that evokes a couple making love on the hood of a car. La Nuit (1987) is so savagely animalic that it is difficult to imagine an occasion fit for wearing it.
Black XS is less controversial, however like its predecessors, it is a sensual composition that plays upon the various facets of amber to weave a tapestry dominated by it, yet possessing enough depth to create an interesting olfactory experience. The citrusy notes create a sparkling prelude for the spicy sweetness of the heart. The dusky caramelized element is never allowed to assume a candy-like quality as the balsamic, pine-bark like richness begins to deepen. While hinting at the interesting dark fruity sweetness, the arrangement evolves to reveal the tobacco aspect of amber, underpinned by the facets of woods overlaid in mosses and warm musk. Where Ambre Soie has a hazy quality of a watercolor painting, Black XS is more like oil on canvass, its hues possessing vivid and distinct character.
Notes include Calabrian lemon, kalamanzi, tagete, sage; cinnamon, tolu balm, black cardamom, praline; rosewood, black amber, patchouli and ebony wood. Black XS is found from various online retailers such as Strawberrynet and Escentual. Wider US release is set for the next year.