Cacharel Noa is a little gem that’s easy to overlook on a crowded perfume counter. The bottle with its plastic top is plain, and the perfume on the blotter is sharp and scratchy. But Noa was obviously created to be worn by breathing, living women*, and not just tested on paper, because on skin, the fragrance changes dramatically. It’s a cloud of white petals softly dusted with powder, and it wears like a favorite cashmere sweater.
Cacharel has an interesting perfume collection that fits well with the quirky aesthetic of its fashion line. When you wear the ultra-feminine Anais Anais or bubbly Amor Amor, you can imagine how it might be created by the same house that become renowned for its cheerful, bright prints and seersucker dresses. Noa is likewise lighthearted and unpretentious, and its charm lies in its combination of tenderness and sophistication.
How many scents can you think of that are simultaneously powdery and transparent? I think of very few, and I recommend smelling Noa just to see what I mean. It starts out with a fizzy, champagne like note that reminds me of crushed coriander leaves and the bitter white part of orange peel and smells astringent, metallic and sharp. And then it’s as if someone opened a box of face powder and filled the air with the glittering dust.
The sweet powdery notes settle on layers of petals–rose, lily of the valley and violet. When you finally reach the delicious drydown that smells of musk, violet scented lipstick, and a hint of incense, you will notice that the sparkling sensation of its top notes remains even in the drydown. While most powdery perfumes have a heavy opaque feel, Noa continues to glitter.
If you dislike even a fleck of powder in your perfume, Noa won’t be a good choice. On the other hand, if you like perfumes like Philosophy Amazing Grace or mourn the discontinuation of D&G Feminine, Noa will fill the void. It’s a perfume about which people say, “you always smell so good,” rather than compliment you on your choice of fragrance. Noa has a casual elegance that the fashion magazines the world over admire about French women, and I have to tell you that I smell a lot of Noa in Paris. In the US, it’s much less known.
The best part is that at around $25 per 30ml, this Cacharel is an affordable thrill.
*Although marketed for women, I have an adventurous male friend who wears Noa, and its soft layers of musk are devastatingly seductive on him. A good reminder that gender distinctions can be safely disregarded.
Cacharel Noa lists notes of pepper, coriander, peony, white musk, incense, and benzoin. Available at Sephora in the US and at most perfume stores, big and small, in Europe.
Image: a still from Cacharel’s commercial for Scarlett perfume, but I thought that it represented Noa perfectly.