That I’m obsessed with vetiver is obvious. If you select the note ‘vetiver‘ in Bois de Jasmin’s Find a Perfume feature, you’ll find around 20 reviews of perfumes sharing this earthy, woody leitmotif. Vetiver essence is distilled from the roots of a nondescript looking grass, but its scent is spectacular. It smells of milky hazelnuts, bitter grapefruit, licorice and driftwood. Every time I think that I have tried enough vetivers, something else comes along to tempt me. If I want dark and salty, I go for Annick Goutal’s Vétiver. If I’m in the mood for fresh and sparkling, Prada’s Infusion de Vétiver never fails to hit the spot. But if I had to wear a single vetiver perfume for the rest of my life, I would pick Lalique Encre Noire Pour Homme.
Encre Noire may not seem like an obvious choice, especially when we have vetiver gold standards like Guerlain Vétiver and Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire. Without a doubt, those are perfumes that must be sampled at least once, but what makes Encre Noire so compelling is its elegance and versatility. It’s also impeccably crafted and memorable.
Perfumer Nathalie Lorson, who created Encre Noire in 2006, took vetiver and fashioned the rough, scratchy roots into a piece of silk. Everything that makes vetiver interesting–the roasted, nutty, spicy bits–are still there, but there is a soft glaze of musk to tone down the sharp edges. The rich notes of woods give Encre Noire a suave, enveloping feel, and except for the delicate sprinkling of pepper and citrus peel, it’s a dark blend.
Like any well-crafted perfume, Encre Noire is beautiful from all perspectives. The playful shimmer of the top notes is an instant draw, but equally alluring is the drydown of musky wood shavings and smoked twigs. Encre Noire is bracing and uplifting, and its complete lack of sweetness means that it stays this way for hours.
So far, in talking about Encre Noire, I’ve implicitly meant “Pour Homme.” It’s an important distinction, because three years after launching Encre Noire, Lalique released Encre Noire Pour Elle. They must have reasoned that the ladies need fruit and flowers, and Encre Noire was refashioned by perfumer Christine Nagel as a soft musky scent. It’s pretty and coquettish, with a chic twist of violet kissed flowers in the heart of vetiver and cedarwood, but it’s closer to Narciso Rodriguez for Her (also created by Nagel) than to Encre Noire.
If you’re after musky petals, then Pour Elle is a good choice, but if you want whisky soaked woods and salty licorice, just go over to the men’s section. Like most vetivers, Encre Noire has great longevity and presence, but unlike rich flowers or gourmand ambers, it’s not distracting. It means business and helps me get mine done. Yet, when I’m ready to relax, nothing is more seductive than a few drops of this dark vetiver under a silk camisole.
Lalique Encre Noire Pour Homme includes notes of cypress, vetiver Bourbon, vetiver Haiti, woods, and musk. Pour Elle features bergamot, freesia, amber, osmanthus, rose, cedarwood, Haiti vetiver, and musk. Available at Sephora (Europe), Aedes de Venustas, and Neiman Marcus. Walmart sometimes has it among discounted perfumes.