Lancome Magie Noire : Perfume Review

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Magie_Noire

Original:

Reformulation:

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

Of all the fragrances attempting to convey the idea of darkness, Lancôme Magie Noire stands out as particularly successful. The layering of animalic notes, the opulent florals like ylang ylang and tuberose and a lush dose of moss results in a fragrance of such mysterious, dusky and brooding character that I cannot describe it in any way but haunting. It is not easy to like as a fragrance since it is simultaneously quite dark, animalic and intensely green. Despite its rich floral accord, it is not particularly feminine either, and in fact, I can see it as an interesting, unconventional masculine scent. I cannot help being fascinated by the way Magie Noire evolves and goes from challenging to spellbinding.

Magie Noire was created in 1978, and several perfumers are responsible for it, including Gérard Goupy, Jean-Charles Niel and Yves Tanguy. The tone of the composition is set from the first accord and the first sensation as it seeps into the skin. Resinous, bitter, green notes of blackcurrant buds and galbanum that are a hair away from turning sulfuric lend Magie Noire its first dark layer, against which citrus, aldehydes and crisp lily of the valley notes seem like delicate sparkling embellishments. Magie Noire is built through the fusion of an oriental accord (amber, tobacco, musk) and a chypre (moss, patchouli, rose.) One is heavy, opulent, decadently rich; the other is moody, earthy, and dry. The tension between the sensations that they produce is what gives Magie Noire its sustained illusion of something that is yet to happen.

Over time, the fragrance settles into a rich, animalic composition, where honeyed-musky notes of castoreum, sweet-plush accents of musk (no crisp, sheer white musks here!) and the sensual breath of civet are balanced by the indolic sweetness of tuberose and ylang ylang, on the one hand, and austere dryness of woods, on the other. The green character that was obvious at the outset remains apparent, and it keeps Magie Noire from settling into the heavy-lidded languor of a typical oriental. She is beautiful, but she is not an odalisque, reclining on silk brocade. Magie Noire is not interested in being likable or in pleasing anyone in particular. It simply projects a powerful aura of confidence and strength, and this is what I find special about it.

Magie Noire shares as much with Robert Piguet Bandit and Clinique Aromatics Elixir as it does with Guerlain Vol de Nuit and Yves Saint Laurent Nu due to its combination of warm oriental and cool chypre facets. I much prefer the parfum version, which is heavier on both tuberose and leather, and yet somehow also darker, more androgynous. The EDT is thinner, crisper, greener. When I tried Magie Noire at the Lancôme counter earlier this winter, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it still retains its dark and mysterious character. It is definitely not as mossy and leathery, but it has plenty of rich, ambery and woody notes to compensate for the changes in other facets. It has nothing that today’s audiences would like, so the fact that it is still around should be taken as a sign that it nevertheless has a following.

Lancôme Magie Noire (fragrance family: green chypre/woody oriental) includes notes of bergamot, hyacinth, mimosa, galbanum, blackcurrant buds, raspberry, iris, jasmine, lily of the valley, narcissus, rose, tuberose, ylang ylang, honey, patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood, oakmoss, amber, labdanum, musk. It is not to be confused with Magie, an ambery floral fragrance from the same brand. In the US, the EDT is sold at almost any Lancôme counter, while the parfum is still available in Europe.

Sample source: my own 1980s bottle of the parfum and 1990s version of the EDT.

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41 Comments

  • Olfactoria: To my shame I have to confess, that I never smelled Magie Noire. It should be in the repertoire of every serious perfumista, though. So thank you for your lovely review and for reminding me. *runs off to find a tester* January 10, 2011 at 6:25am Reply

  • Nancy C.: This was my first signature fragrance back in the early 80’s and the scent I wore at my wedding. I love it because it is the very definition of confidence. Bandit and Aromatics Elixir are two of my very favorites today and I love that you point out how much they have in common with MN. Unfortunately I can’t get behind what they’ve done with it now especially when I go back and sniff the original. So sad. January 10, 2011 at 6:46am Reply

  • Scelfleah.blogspot.com: I swear, some year in the future, someone will find my trail in the data ether, and perhaps the one thread that unifies it all will be Magie Noire. For whenever it comes up, I am there, testifying.

    Somehow, I landed upon a vintage purse spray of MN early in my perfume descent. I sprayed, and knew right away it was more challenging than others I had tried, but I liked what was happening. It became what I suspected was beautiful. Spouse smelled, and within 24 hours, I had my first full bottles of perfume purchased at regular price. (I was NOT a perfume person before I fell down the rabbit hole.)

    I have both vintage and current versions; I agree with you, the current does not have all the depths/facets of an older formula, but is still quite enjoyable and recognizable. I am glad it is still available, and at non-luxury market prices.

    ScentScelf
    (TypePad has changed their sign in function…I can’t get my name to appear in the header. Sorry.) January 10, 2011 at 9:07am Reply

  • Irina: I had a bottle of MN in the beginning of 90’s. Never seen later, not in US, not in Russia. Does it still exists? January 10, 2011 at 9:47am Reply

  • Marina: I have always admired this like one admires someone undeniably beautiful, but who is not one’s type so to say. Which is strange, because MN is in theory as my type as them make them, and yet…I hate when it happens :( January 10, 2011 at 11:03am Reply

  • Anna in Edinburgh: I used to pinch this from my mum to wear around 1979/1980. Looking back, I don’t know how I had the audacity in my mid-teens to wear it but I loved it. I don’t know how she got it: she never bought or was given another bottle. Pity.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh January 10, 2011 at 11:29am Reply

  • Mimi: I once saw Lena Horne in concert. I was so close to the stage I could smell her perfume. I thought it was Magie Noire. My sense of that fragrance is intertwined with that amazing woman. January 10, 2011 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Astrid: Beautiful description. MN’s tied with the original Fendi as my personal favorite ever. The new version’s top is terrible, but fades almost immediately & the drydown is still quite nice – woodsy, mossy & incensey. I wish Lancome would be a bit nicer to MN – it’s their crowning achievement & it’s treated like the red-headed stepchild. How about restoring the top & intensifying the concentration Lancome? January 10, 2011 at 1:47pm Reply

  • Victoria: I will not promise that it will be an easy fragrance to love, but it will offer an interesting experience. However, your tastes are so wide ranging that I am not worried about first date with Magie Noire. January 10, 2011 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: Nancy, I can actually see how it can be a great wedding fragrance for someone, on whom it works perfectly. There is something very powerful, memorable and hypnotizing about Magie Noire. Plus, it is unconventional.
    Yes, I can see why you would not care for the new version. It is different now. January 10, 2011 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: I smelled the parfum extrait in Paris last year, and I liked it a bit better than the EDT. That being said, I always preferred the parfum. Rediscovering my vintage bottle recently gave such a strong flashback. I also admire the fact that Magie Noire is so polarizing, it is definitely love or hate fragrance.

    I see that you signed in with typepad, which automatically inserts your typepad profile name. You can change it to ScentScelf in your profile or you can just sign in with name, email address and url for your blog. It is up to you (email address is not published.) January 10, 2011 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, it does, but only in the EDT in the USA. Pretty much any Lancome carrying department store has it, but sometimes they do not display the testers and keep them behind the counter. Now, do not ask me why they would do that! :) January 10, 2011 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Victoria: This must be in the same category as Samsara for me, but I always associate Magie Noire with you.
    Is it too leathery or too aldehydic for you? January 10, 2011 at 2:39pm Reply

  • Victoria: Wow, Anna, what a sophisticated teen you were! I recall seeing Magie Noire on my mom’s vanity table, but maybe it was my grandmother’s or my aunt’s. My mom always wore florals and green florals when I was little, but I remember the scent of Magie Noire very clearly from those days.
    As a teen, I was hopelessly addicted to Poison, but my parents thought that it was far too bold of a fragrance and instead bought me Tendre Poison. I recall that I was pleased to have that beautiful green bottle, but I did not wear much of the perfume in the end. January 10, 2011 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: That sounds like a beautiful memory and a great association. I can definitely see Lena Horne wearing Magie Noire! January 10, 2011 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: Astrid, I also admire the original Fendi very much, what a beautiful, dramatic fragrance! I also miss other Fendi fragrances like Theorema and Asja…
    You know, when I approached the counter, I was completely prepared to hear that Magie Noire has been discontinued, so I was glad to see that it is still being sold. I doubt that it makes that much money for L’Oreal, so they would not invest into its relaunch. Or rather, the worst thing ever, they might discontinue it and relaunch Magie Noire as some gourmand oriental or floral.
    However, Lancome has not been as ready to cull their line of classics as some other companies, so I retain hopes for Magie Noire too. January 10, 2011 at 2:47pm Reply

  • Linda: Thank you for this lovely post! I bought some EDT a few years ago, and it was not too different from how I remembered in 1980 – I still have, and use, a charming little evening bag made of black velvet, with a tassle, which was a gift way back then. Truly a wonderful purchase… best wishes to you! January 10, 2011 at 2:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: Linda, oh, yes, I love that velvet bag and the tassel. I still have one of these bags from the early 80s that a kind ebay seller included with my purchase of another Lancome fragrance. What a great idea! Sure beats the tacky totes that Lancome includes now with their gifts with purchase. January 10, 2011 at 3:05pm Reply

  • kjanicki: I must try this! I recently fell in love with Jacomo Silences, released at around the same time and also by Gérard Goupy and Jean-Charles Niel! Magie Noir sounds like silences, but with an animalic-oriental twist. January 10, 2011 at 3:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: Krista, you should then definitely try it!  While the animalic and oriental notes are so strong that they may overtake anything that resembles Silences in Magie Noire, the fragrance overall is so well balanced and the green galbanum notes are so rich that it should be tried for these reasons alone. January 10, 2011 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Marina: It’s neither, it’s perfect really, maybe I am the problem. I am not brunette enough for it :)) January 10, 2011 at 4:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hmmm, and to think that I imagined you as a Samsara model…
      January 10, 2011 at 4:42pm Reply

  • flittersniffer: The was the closest thing I had to a signature scent in the 80s, given that I broadly indifferent to perfume back then and only owned half a dozen bottles of anything in the 30 years preceding “sudden onset perfume mania” in ’08. But I do distinctly remember feeling uncharacteristically vampish in this in my 20s. For some reason, the civet didn’t trouble me then, but I don’t care for it so much in the modern composition. Or maybe I have only tried the modern EDT, and the civet appears more prominent against a “thinner” backdrop? January 10, 2011 at 5:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: V, it is probable also that the civet in those formulations might have been natural. Even with the ban of many natural animalic materials, which started in 1979 with the protection of musk deer, civet until very recently was natural in many luxury perfumes. Now, natural civet is still available, but it is so expensive that most new launches cannot afford. Natural civet has a very warm, radiant quality, and when used in small amounts, it gives an incredible depth and complexity to compositions. Even my 1980s-1990s Magie Noire smells like it has natural civet in it. Civet replacements are very good, and some of them have interesting facets of their own, but in a fragrance that was originally built on natural animalic notes, they are always more obvious. Plus, as you say, the base is now thinner, less moss, castoreum, etc, so the note sticks out
    more.
      January 10, 2011 at 5:39pm Reply

  • flittersniffer: Hi V,

    That makes perfect sense – I might not have minded a hint of natural civet with a warm, radiant quality, but the civet replacements mostly have me running to the hills. A chemist chap on Basenotes said I might be hyperosmic to that particular molecule, as my civet sensors are as keen as luminol at a crime scene.

    I do own a tiny sample vial of Magie Noire from the 1980s (the time I would have owned my original bottle), which does feel more rounded and the civet there is unobjectionable. I should really do a side by side comparison with the latest variants, trying to match up EDPs if possible. January 11, 2011 at 2:48pm Reply

  • Victoria: V, makes perfect sense! You know, all of us have particular sensitivities. I am very sensitive to methyl anthranilate, a sweet-fruity note that is present naturally in tuberose, orange blossom, neroli. In the perfumery school, I would always pick it up from mandarin oil too, even though I was told that there is no way I could smell it, as it is present in very small doses. Yet, I pick it up in blind testings, so I guess, I am super sensitive to it. 
    So, keep on smelling, your nose is obviously very sensitive! I would love to hear more on your Magie Noire comparisons side by side. January 11, 2011 at 2:56pm Reply

  • OHap33: I read this blog from time to time and what a surprise to find a review on Magie Noire, since I just purchased an EDT bottle for the first time at some perfume store in an upscale outlet mall in Orlando, FL. Although I’m no expert, one of my favorite things to do is smell as many scents as I can, and maybe (rarely, really) I’ll buy something that gets my attention. That was Magie Noire for me this time, totally an impulse purchase since I hadn’t planned to get any scents, but I was drawn by it, perhaps because it smells so different from all the new lighter floral perfumes out there. I immediately associated it with the early 80’s, but couldn’t pinpoint where/how as this was not one of my mother’s signature scents. So far I’ve worn it twice and love it although when first applied it is a tad overwhelming. January 11, 2011 at 5:31pm Reply

  • sunsetsong: Hello Anna! I had my own bottle of Magie Noire in the 70s in Edinburgh when I was a student ( probably EDT) and also loved it. Must be something about the North Sea air. The current version does not do it for me – completely different now, sadly and I am looking for a ringer for old MN which is never an easy task. Jen January 11, 2011 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: Magie Noire is one of those fragrances that you remember for a long time. I also associate it with the 80s, and while I know that my mom would never wear it, someone in the family must have. I love how powerful and poignant those memories are. Being able to elicit such a strong emotional response is a mark of a great perfume. I hope that you will enjoy your Magie Noire for a long time to come! January 11, 2011 at 7:38pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Amber and anise- stomach churning. January 12, 2011 at 7:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am so surprised you do not like it, Lynn! For some reason, I thought that Magie Noire would be something you might like. January 12, 2011 at 7:12pm Reply

  • Vintage Lady: When I see Magie Noire I see my mother. She used to wear it many times. January 13, 2011 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is such a memorable fragrance! I can imagine how it would elicit vivid memories of someone close to you, if that person wore it. January 13, 2011 at 6:50pm Reply

  • Yelena: You have inspired me to seek Magei Noire out once again. I used to have a bottle of the parfum in high school that was given to me as a gift. The blend of black currant/moss/citrus/woods remains the epitomy of glamour for me. As I recall, Caron’s Montaigne and a Claude Montana perfume had a similar vibe. January 14, 2011 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is very elegant! I can just imagine what a glamorous high school girl you were! January 14, 2011 at 5:39pm Reply

  • Casey: I’ve been looking for a replacement for Ralph Lauren’s Safari for years and I think I’ve finally found an acceptable option with Magie Noire – it’s not perfect, but it’s very nice. Would you have any other not too expensive suggestions? February 23, 2011 at 11:51am Reply

  • Barb: Magie Noire has been “my fragrance” since 1982….. it has been my signature fragrance. I was just sick when Lancome stopped producing all of the extra products that accompanied it’s cologne and perfume…. like the bath oil balls… the talc…. bath powder…bath oil…bath wash….travel size everything. I think I was their best customer. Why would they eliminate such fabulous smelling products?? Now, all I can find is the spray cologne and the body cream…. sad…sad… I hope and pray they REMAKE all of the Magie products…the best smelling fragrance in the world!!! I have people stop me all the time and ask…”What fragrance are you wearing?”… My beloved Magie Noir!!!! March 6, 2011 at 6:48pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am with you, I miss those wonderful scented products as well. The talcum powder was great! March 6, 2011 at 8:45pm Reply

  • Greg: Magie !!! I am very fond of this . I remember my pastor’s wife wore it. She was a very beautiful lady, full makeup, hi arched brows in a soft way, and lovley black hair against the most pale complection. I still miss her as I live miles apart, yet I never forget her and her Magie. She was a heart of joy, yet silent, she was a mystery, yet somehow open to give comfort, in many way’s MAYBE LANCOME MADE IT JUST FOR HER-:} and shared my you who are somwhow in an elegant circle of Joy! August 20, 2012 at 10:11am Reply

  • EMILCE: MN Es un perfume muy especial ,pero Lancome lo tiene un poco olvidado,quisiera que vuelva a tener la misma intensidad y el envase que tenía antes.Creo que la empresa deberia mejorar sus perfumes y vender el producto que la gente pide. June 1, 2013 at 11:06pm Reply

  • Adriana Galani: I heard it has been discontinued! :-( Saw somewhere on Lancome websight I think, not too long ago. That would be a heartbreaking news and a reason to hate Lancome forever and a life time if they discontinued it in favor of that “La Vie est Belle” stomach turning angrily sweet stuff! Am happy I got my last bottle some time ago and using with lots of caution so it won’t be finishing, though I love it dearly. December 12, 2013 at 6:01am Reply

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